A Middle East Expert Explains Assad's Dangerous Charm, ISIS's Plans, and the Future of the Region
July 09, 2014
A conversation with former Syrian Ambassador Robert Ford.
The Novel That Frightened Hamas and the Arab League
October 19, 2012
Reading the controversial novels of Algerian writer Boualem Sansal.
Europe’s Other Crisis
May 04, 2012
Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of the Second Generation By Robert S. Leiken (Oxford University Press, 354 pp., $27.95) After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent By Walter Laqueur (Thomas Dunne Books, 322 pp., $26.99) In two separate incidents in March, Mohammed Merah, a French-born French citizen who thought he was waging jihad, ambushed four soldiers around Toulouse, killing three of them. A week later, he shot dead three children arriving for morning classes at a nearby Jewish school, along with a young rabbi who was father to two of them.
Genocide and the Fine Arts
April 20, 2012
The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir By Claude Lanzmann Translated by Frank Wynne (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 528 pp., $35) I. The film called Shoah runs for more than nine and a half hours. Its subject is the extermination of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis. It features Jewish survivors of the death camps, Poles who lived near the camps, and Germans who organized and ran them—and also its director, Claude Lanzmann, in the background, with his various interpreters. The languages in which these people speak include Yiddish, Hebrew, English, German, Polish, and French: a sound file of Europe.
The Thought Police
March 14, 2012
Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom WorldwideBy Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35) I.
There’s just so much press attention the Arab world can receive before even obsessives like me begin to tire of its frenzy, pitilessness, and perfidy. Yes, endless repetition of violence and violation can also seem routine. Which, to tell you God’s honest truth, they are. There is a great deal of exactitude behind this morbid fact. Still, the present upheavals in their cumulative impact are deadening. Not only to the victims of the regimes but to their observers, commentators, rapporteurs. Actually, many of these observers, perhaps most, are infatuated with the Arabs.
Libya’s Coming Insurgency
March 20, 2011
Today the world's attention is riveted by the U.N. strikes on Libya and the battle for Benghazi, as that nation's future hangs precariously in the balance. But whatever happens in the coming weeks or months, one thing is clear: The chances of a drawn-out insurgency in Libya are very high. History offers a number of sign posts that an insurgency will occur. Unfortunately Libya has almost all of them. At this point the political objectives of the government and anti-government forces are irreconcilable. Each side wants total victory—either Qaddafi will retain total power or he will be gone.
The Fourth Wave
March 14, 2011
Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote that all the great events of the past 700 years—from the Crusades and English wars that decimated the nobles, to the discovery of firearms and the art of printing, to the rise of Protestantism and the discovery of America—had the ineluctable effect of advancing the principle of equality. Political scientist Samuel Huntington went further and identified several historical waves of democratization. The First Wave began with our own revolution in 1776, which was quickly followed by the French Revolution.
Stop Calling It Egypt’s Revolution
February 16, 2011
The massive protests that forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s departure have been widely described as a revolution. And that’s fine. If there is an Internet revolution, a Reagan revolution, and even an Obama revolution, then there has certainly been an Egyptian revolution. But there is another meaning of revolution that applies specifically to events like the French, Russian, or Chinese Revolutions. In this sense of the word, Egypt has not yet had a revolution; and the success of the protests will depend ultimately on whether it does have one.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Spirit and Flesh
February 10, 2011
Of Gods and Men Sony Pictures Classics Carancho Strand Releasing A French film called Of Gods and Men has had an unusual effect in France. The subject is basically factual—the abduction and murder of seven monks from the Tibhirine monastery in Algeria in 1996, apparently by Algerian dissidents. Most of the picture takes place during the time when the monks decide whether to stay or leave after the dissidents have ordered them to go. The press reports that the picture has been a success in France, and the general reaction in editorials has been sobering.