October 26, 2011
There is a movement afoot in the land, but I don’t mean the one amid the tarps at Zuccotti Park. Instead, it’s a 148-person operation headquartered in a tenth-floor office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington decorated with sleek posters that proclaim, “Make My Vote Count” and “Open Up The Ballot.” Hanging in the reception area is a framed op-ed column praising the movement, written by the man who is its Marx or Engels: Tom Friedman. This is Americans Elect, the latest attempt to challenge the country’s two-party duopoly from the political center.
On Violence, in Chicago and in Afghanistan
October 12, 2011
The Interrupters Cinema Guild Hell and Back Again Docurama Film Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow Alive Mind Cinema Steve James, writer-director of Hoop Dreams, and Alex Kotlowitz, recognized author on racial problems, have co-produced a documentary about race and violence called The Interrupters. It runs two hours and five minutes. James says that every viewer will have to decide for himself whether the film is too long. This, I’d say, will depend on whether the viewer insists on new information or whether he is impressed by the commitment of the people involved.
Why Pakistan and the United States Are on a Collision Course
October 10, 2011
Pakistan and the United States have been engaged in a virtual war over the past several weeks. In a barrage of television and radio interviews in both the Pakistani and American media, top politicians of these “allies” in the fight against terrorism have hurled accusations at each other, issued warnings, sought out new alliances to replace the bilateral partnership, and even threatened military action. Television advertisements aired by a private channel in Pakistan show images of the Pakistan Army preparing for combat, and warn the United States not to challenge a God-fearing nation.
Why Negotiations With the Taliban Aren’t Hopeless
October 10, 2011
Are Afghan negotiations hopeless? In the wake of last month’s assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the country’s High Peace Council, the mood in both Afghanistan and the United States is pessimistic, to say the least. But negotiations are still possible, and understanding why that’s the case, as well as the difficulties of succeeding, requires understanding the history of similar negotiations, quieting Afghan suspicions, and abandoning myths that cloud public discussion. Saying negotiations are possible is a long way from saying that they will necessarily succeed.
September 28, 2011
In the good old days, they were called “the cardinals,” because the chairmen of the appropriations committee were so powerful. An insular group, they met behind closed doors, and, without wasting their time with input from anyone, they decided how the government should spend precious tax dollars. The most legendary example of the appropriator’s might is Charlie Wilson, the Texas representative who launched a covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, simply through canny use of the power of the purse. How times have changed.
The Indecency of Harvard’s 9/11 Commemoration
September 13, 2011
Harvard’s “Remembering 9/11” did no such thing. The events on the tenth anniversary of September 11 in Cambridge did little remembering of 9/11 and a whole lot of rehashing of the events in the post-9/11 world. Those people who did talk about 9/11 universalized it ad absurdum.
Why Is the Middle East Still in Thrall to 9/11 Conspiracy Theories?
September 03, 2011
The 9/11 attacks catalyzed a tremendous shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. Rather than prioritizing petrol, Washington targeted terrorist organizations, dethroned a dictator, and lobbied throughout the region for liberalization. Yet despite the billions of dollars spent policing Baghdad and protecting Benghazi, the unpopularity of the United States in the Arab world continues to be fueled by the belief that Islamist terrorists had nothing to do with 9/11, with many claiming the attacks were an American, Israeli, or joint American-Israeli conspiracy.
What the U.N. Can Do to Stop Getting Attacked by Terrorists
September 02, 2011
For years, the United Nations has taken pains to present itself to the world as an impartial, international institution dedicated to helping people around the world. But when the Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram detonated a car bomb at the UN’s compound in Abuja, Nigeria, last Friday, killing 23 and wounding at least 75, it was a stark reminder that, no matter how hard the UN tries to be neutral, many, especially in the Muslim world, see it as a proxy of Western powers. Indeed, for many groups bent on wrecking havoc, the UN has become synonymous with the United States.
Our Brave Ambassador to Damascus Puts Congress to Shame
August 31, 2011
While much of Washington was spending this past summer loudly conspiring to lower the country’s credit rating, one American official, in a far-off city, was offering a profoundly contrasting example of quiet professionalism. Robert Ford, America’s ambassador to Syria, has shown bravery, tact, and creativity in finding ways to bear witness to the protests and massacres occurring in that country over the course of this year.
What the Libyan Rebels Need to Do Now That They’re in Charge
August 30, 2011
In the wake of Qaddafi’s overthrow, two major questions now present themselves: What are the odds that the NTC leaders will actually succeed at what they appear to be attempting—a revolution of restraint and moderation? And what, if any, broader lessons about foreign policy can we draw from the Libyan revolution? To date, the National Transitional Council in Libya has defied conventional expectations about how a rebel movement should behave.