A Completely Unpredictable Revolution
February 01, 2011
Only fools would predict the unpredictable, and thus with the course of the Egyptian revolution. Imagine yourself as a pundit in Paris at the start of the French Revolution, the mother of them all. In August of 1789, you would have celebrated the “General Declaration of Human Rights,” an ur-document of democracy, as the dawn of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” Yet, four years later, the Terreur erupted, claiming anywhere between 16,000 and 40,000 lives. In 1804, one-man despotism was back.
January 30, 2011
In early December, 1989, rioting broke out in the western Romanian city of Timosoara. Within weeks, the Ceaucescu dictatorship had fallen, the self-styled ‘Genius of the Carpathians’ and his wife, Elena, having been shot by an impromptu firing squad after a trial that was little more than a kangaroo court that condemned them for one of the things they were not guilty of: genocide. Before she was killed, Mme.
American Liberals and the Streets of Cairo
January 29, 2011
The contours and consequences of the uprising in Egypt—which, after decades in which Hosni Mubarak destroyed the civil society of his country and stifled the most elementary aspirations of his people, was perfectly inevitable—are still unclear. About the justice of the protestors’ anger there can be no doubt. But the politics of the revolt are murky.
Five Things to Understand About the Egyptian Riots
January 28, 2011
It takes some hubris to write about events unfolding as fast as the protests in Egypt, especially when it’s clear that nobody saw this coming. Mubarak is preparing to address the nation, and it's unclear what will follow. Here are five points that American observers should keep in mind whatever comes next, while consuming the blog posts, Tweets, and TV coverage of their choice. Revolutions often erupt with little warning. Explosions of popular anger on the “Arab Street” have become a cliché.
Sudan Dispatch: Can the South Reach Its Full Potential?
January 28, 2011
Malakal, Sudan—In the build-up to their historic referendum two weeks ago, all parts of southern Sudanese society united behind one goal: achieving independence from the north. Today, all signs point to this goal having been reached. The referendum’s success shows the promise of the soon-to-be nation of South Sudan: At its best, a diverse people can put their history of inter-ethnic violence behind them to pursue a common national identity.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Last Command’ (1927)
January 22, 2011
It’s about time for this column to look back for a moment and delve into our library of DVD treasures. The reason is obvious: Most people passionate about film now spend as much time with that library as with new pictures. I’m talking about 1928, a very good year. An odd, sentimental gesture attended the first Oscars—but only those top prizes. The awards were held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929, when awards were being delivered for the years 1927-28.
January 13, 2011
Washington: A Life By Ron Chernow (Penguin, 904 pp., $40) Modern biographers have sought to rescue George Washington from his monumental stature by revealing a lively and conflicted man within. In the latest and best of these recent attempts to humanize the great man, Ron Chernow offers a “real, credible, and charismatic,” a “vivid and immediate,” and, best of all, a “hot-blooded” Washington.
Should the CIA Turn Against Pakistan's Spies?
December 26, 2010
The recent chief-of-station (COS) cover-shredding brouhaha between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate marks an ironic and possibly important shift in the historic affection that Langley has had for Pakistan’s premiere intelligence service.
November 10, 2010
This year, the United States will spend at least $700 billion on defense and security. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than America has spent on defense in any year since World War II—more than during the Korean war, the Vietnam war, or the Reagan military buildup. Much of that enormous sum results from spending increases under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Since 2001, military and security expenditures have soared by 119 percent. For most of that time, of course, the United States has been fighting two wars. Yet that’s not the cause of the defense-spending explosion.
In the Name of the Mother
October 09, 2010
To the End of the Land By David Grossman Translated by Jessica Cohen (Knopf, 577 pp., $26.95) There are three major Hebrew novels that record the anguished way-stations of the Zionist experience: S.Y. Agnon’s Only Yesterday, a masterpiece published in 1945, which deals with the early settlers in the first decade of the twentieth century, when he himself came to Palestine; S.