March 25, 2002
Last week, in the middle of the Battle of Gardez, theater commander Army General Tommy Franks expressed his condolences to the families of American soldiers who lost their lives “in our ongoing operations in Vietnam.” It was a strange slip. In truth, recent ground operations in Afghanistan have had exactly the opposite resonance: Never in the past 30 years has the specter of Vietnam been further from the minds of American military planners. The involvement of sizable numbers of conventional Army forces in sustained combat is a remarkable development in itself, one not seen since the Gulf war.
February 24, 2002
The bearded Hezbollah man, arms folded and half-smiling, stood alone at the border fence on his daily vigil, just across from the Israeli army outpost called Tziporen. Beside him was a large metal sign imprinted with photographs of dead Israeli and South Lebanese Army soldiers--including a severed head--and the taunt in Hebrew, "Sharon, don't forget your soldiers are still in Lebanon," a reference to three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in the fall of 2000, whom the army believes didn't survive. I moved toward the fence to get a closer view but was stopped by an Israeli officer.
February 11, 2002
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa translated by Edith Grossman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 404 pp., $25) "There are no limits to deterioration: it can always be worse." This observation by Alejandro Mayta, the disenchanted guerrilla fighter of Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, who returns to his birthplace after many years, freed of ghosts but devoid of hope, came to mind in March, 1990.
Force of Habit
December 17, 2001
Ever since the Berlin Wall fell, editorialists, politicians, and policy analysts have been pronouncing the United States military bloated, overpriced, mired in antiquated cold war assumptions, and unready for a "small wars" world. The exact critique varies according to its source--reformers on the left tend to focus on getting rid of large, expensive weapons systems as a way to reduce costs; those on the right see cutting overall troop numbers and deployments as part of a "transformational" commitment to high-tech weapons.
Hit the Ground
November 19, 2001
The case for using ground troops against the Taliban.
November 05, 2001
If you're scared witless by the anthrax horror spreading across the country, take heart: The government has an anthrax vaccine that will immunize you and let you chuck that recent Cipro prescription. There are, however, a few small drawbacks. There's only enough vaccine on hand for at most 4,000 people. The vaccine requires months of painful shots before taking effect.
November 05, 2001
It's not often that the White House holds a press conference to announce a demotion. But that's what happened on October 9, when Tom Ridge, President Bush's new homeland security adviser, and Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser, introduced the administration's newest anti-terrorism staffers. At a sterile ceremony in the fourth-floor briefing room of the Old Executive Office Building, Ridge and Rice announced that Richard Clarke, a pale, gray-haired man sitting on stage in an ill-fitting suit, would be the special assistant to the president for cyberspace security.
Sin Of Commission
October 08, 2001
Two weeks after George W. Bush's declaration of war against terrorism, a battle plan is taking shape. We are putting the screws to Pakistan to end its history of mentoring terrorists. We will now treat Afghanistan like the rogue state that it is. The Treasury Department will try to choke off Osama bin Laden's financing. Intelligence agencies, at long last, will share information with one another. And if the Bush administration has its way, the CIA will revert to its pre-1995 guidelines, which allowed operatives to recruit informants with sketchy human rights records. All sensible moves.
Under the Bridge
September 24, 2001
A reaction to September 11.
Tablets to Books
May 14, 2001
Libraries in the Ancient World By Lionel Casson (Yale University Press, 177 pp., $22.95) One of the inscribed clay tablets in the library of Ashurbanipal, who was the king of Assyria from 668 B.C.