American military

According to the tenets of current American military thought and practice—that is, “wars amongst the people” fought to win the hearts and minds of local populations—the capacity to have three cups of tea with a local sheik equals the ability to counter and coordinate artillery fires.

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The Warrior-Humanist

For more on Bernard Knox, please read an extraordinary report of his heroism in World War II and a collection of his best pieces for TNR. The death of Bernard Knox has impoverished not just contemporary classical scholarship but the humanities as a whole. In choosing him as its Jefferson Lecturer in 1992, the National Endowment for the Humanities could not have found a more ardent or eloquent spokesman for its mission.

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The Nowhere Bomb

Should Jerusalem bring its bomb out of the basement? Israel, for at least the moment, is the sole possessor of atomic weapons in the Middle East, with an arsenal that now includes approximately 200 warheads. But it is also the only nuclear-armed nation to hide its cache behind a façade of official silence–neither confirming nor denying its existence. Iran’s mounting nuclear capability arguably demands a reconsideration of this stance. Explicitly announcing its nuclear status would have its advantages. It would upgrade Israel’s deterrent.

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There is an old Washington adage that the ultimate “man bites dog” story is one in which a politician tells the truth in public. Chris Matthews pointed out on his show recently that there was something almost uplifting about the response of the new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, who, when asked whether he was demanding changes in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill to protect the interest of the Boston-based State Street investment firm, replied that, no, it wasn’t just for them.

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In the wake of the financial meltdown triggered by the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, and the deep global recession that the Lehman collapse dramatically worsened, the American financial sector is shrinking. Something similar is about to happen to American foreign policy, and partly for the same reason.

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Earlier this year, the relationship between Pakistan and the United States suddenly seemed to get a lot more productive. In the first two months of 2010, Pakistani security forces arrested six individuals touted as senior Afghan Taliban leaders. In January, administration officials claimed that CIA drones had targeted and killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in the tribal area of South Waziristan. And in February, American and Pakistani intelligence operatives netted Mullah Baradar, described as the Afghan Taliban’s military commander, in a raid in Karachi.

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Dumb Power

Washington–Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid? Start with taxes. In every other serious democracy, conservative political parties feel at least some obligation to match their tax policies with their spending plans. David Cameron, the new Conservative prime minister in Britain, is a leading example.  He recently offered a rather brutal budget that includes severe cutbacks.

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In September 1991, the president of Afghanistan, Muhammad Najibullah, a former communist secret police chief turned Islamic nationalist, delivered an emotional speech to the Afghan parliament. Najibullah knew the era of foreign intervention in Afghanistan over which he had presided was ending. The Soviet Union had pulled back from direct combat. Radical Islamist rebels covertly backed by Pakistan controlled much of the countryside. Before parliament, Najibullah begged for national unity.

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Awaken the Pashtuns

The war in Afghanistan is the revenge of the Iraq war. It was amid the great debate about Iraq that there was born the myth of Afghanistan as the good war of “necessity”—the September 11 war. We had erred, American liberals insisted; we had opted for the wrong war in Mesopotamia when we should have stayed the course in Afghanistan.

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Had the president chosen some one else, a cry would have risen up from the demos: why not Petraeus? In an age when generals are seldom heroes, David Petraeus was a true hero. Not because he catered to the press or to Congress or, for that matter, to the military intellectuals.

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