Leon Wieseltier
Literary Editor

The Backseat American
May 05, 2011

Leon Wieseltier urges President Obama not to lead from behind.

'Osama bin Gotten'
May 02, 2011

Leon Wieseltier makes the case for jubilation at the death of Osama bin Laden.

Blossoms and Choppers
April 07, 2011

At the Tidal Basin the other day I was reminded that the most stimulating experiences are the unmediated ones. I was educated for mediation, for middle terms that unified logical or lived discrepancies and conquered them with a category. Contradictions were to be eliminated, like dissonances in music, or shown to be false, and in their resolution lay a release. But I have lost my confidence in single descriptions, and I am a little bored with the dream of release.

We Intervene
March 21, 2011

After only a few days of allied military action, the Libyan nightmare has been averted, and the rebels are now marching westward again. Like the invincible Serbian juggernaut of yore, the power of Muammar Qaddafi, which frightened Secretary Gates, has been shaken. President Obama has done an admirable thing. On March 18, he gave a speech explaining his decision. The speech was both ringing and baffling: as the poet said, I wish he would explain his explanation. What follows is a commentary on some of the president’s statements.

After Ecstasy
March 17, 2011

If spring comes, can winter be far behind? We are just concluding one of those rare hours when history could be viewed with something other than contempt. The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia introduced a new movement of freedom, and demolished the cultural pessimism that confined such longings to people like us. The revolt in Libya, also animated by a democratic aspiration, exposed not only the depravity of a dictator but also the cravenness with which he was received in the wood-paneled precincts of some of the immensely important people of Washington, New York, and Cambridge.

Darkness Falls
March 11, 2011

Barack Obama’s policy toward the Libyan struggle for freedom is no longer a muddle. It is now a disgrace. Here is what his administration and its allies have told the world, and the Libyan dictator, and the Libyan rebels, in recent days.

March 02, 2011

As the dictators fall, the clichés fall, too. Cairo and Tunis and Tripoli are littered with the shards of platitudes about what is possible and what is impossible in Arab societies, in closed societies. Civilizational analysis lies in ruins. Idealism, always cheaply mocked, turns out to be a powerful form of historical causation, as disruptive of the established order as any economic or technological change, and even more beneficent.

We Choose Consultations
February 25, 2011

“This violence must stop.” So President Obama declared the other day about the depravity in Tripoli. This “must” is a strange mixture of stridency and passivity. It is the deontic locution familiar from the editorial pages of newspapers, where people who have no power to change the course of events demand that events change their course. This “must” denotes an order, or a permission, or an obligation, or a wish, or a will. It does not denote a plan. It includes no implication, no expectation, of action.

February 10, 2011

Whatever the satisfactions of the liberal view of the world, simplicity is not among them. I do not mean that liberalism has a corner on complexity: there has been altogether too much liberal vanity of that sort. I refer, rather, to the liberal picture of existence. The picture is not of the one but of the many. Liberalism is a grand retort to the dream of oneness, which was a beautiful philosophical fantasy with sordid political consequences. From Parmenides to Marx—mystics and materialists have both propounded such a vision—the monist temptation flourished.

“With Our Eyes Wide Open”
February 04, 2011

There are two ways to think about the impact upon Israel of the collapse, fast or slow, but inexorable, of the Mubarak regime in Egypt. The first is to be concerned for Israel. The second is to be concerned about Israel. Until the peace treaty with Egypt was concluded in 1979, it was said about Israel, and rightly, that it was surrounded by “confrontation states.” The accord with Egypt, followed by the accord with Jordan, destroyed the monolithic character of the security threat to Israel.