The Special Case Of Roger Cohen
August 10, 2009
Roger Cohen has the Times beat in Iran. Well, not exactly. No one has the Times beat in Iran. I don't know how many Western newspapers have their own journalists in the country. I do know that the FT does but it is an Iranian who holds it. Anyway, the datelines from Iran are commonly from Arab capitals, mostly Beirut. But Cohen is a special case. He wrote several pieces from Iran early this year, and anybody reading them would be hard-put to call them other than suck-ups.
The Year of the Elephant
May 20, 2009
“YES, SOMETIMES I GO into the room with my advisers and I start shouting. And then they say, ‘And then what?’” The question hangs in the perfectly cooled air in Sa’ad Hariri’s marble-floored sitting room, where Beirut appears as a sunlit abstraction visible at a distance through thick windows. Hariri’s father, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, martyr of the Cedar Revolution, arches his black eyebrows from a giant poster near the sofa, looking out at his son with a sidelong, mischievous glance. “It hasn’t been a joyful trip,” Sa’ad Hariri is saying.
Delusional Optimism On Lebanon
July 18, 2008
The New York Times has found reason to be optimistic about Middle East, and not just on its predictable editorial page (after all, at that venue all it would take is for the Israelis to be reasonable) but on its news pages. This morning, in fact, on its front page. Michael Slackman, writing from Beirut, notes the "distinct change of direction" in the tone and even substance of diplomacy. Here is Slackman's litany: "Syria is being welcomed out of isolation by Europe and is holding indirect talks with Israel. Lebanon has formed a new government. Israel has cut deals with Hamas (a cease-fire)
Waltzing With Beirut
July 14, 2008
The Jerusalem theater lights came on, and no man between the ages of 25 and 35 moved. We had just watched Waltz With Bashir, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman's animated documentary about Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent Sabra and Chatila massacre. The film deals with Folman's struggle with the surreal trauma that many veterans of that conflict retain.
February 13, 2008
Caramel (Roadside Attractions) Woman on the Beach (New Yorker) The Silence Before Bach (Films 59) HOW SADDENING some films can be, no matter what their subjects are. In the 1950s and 1960s, when Spanish films by Saura and Bardem and others arrived here, their strengths were irresistible, but it was impossible to forget the dark contrast between the films and the country from which they came.
April 23, 2007
The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace By Ali A. Allawi (Yale University Press, 518 pp., $28) Say what you will about the American experience in Vietnam, that war was well written. A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan had a character who could have stepped out of the pages of Graham Greene. John Paul Vann was an even more arresting figure than Alden Pyle in The Quiet American. "The odds, he said, did not apply to him," Sheehan wrote of the unforgettable man who embodied the war'shubris and the war's undoing.
Smugged by Reality
February 12, 2007
Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York By Adam Gopnik (Alfred A. Knopf, 336 pp., $25) I SOMETIMES WONDER if Adam Gopnik was put on this earth to annoy. If so, mission accomplished. Mind you, he finds himself in fine company in my illustrious literary perp walk. Francine Prose, with her pinched perceptions and humorless hauteur—every time she brings out a new book (she is depressingly diligent), I find myself grumbling, “Her again?” I’ve never gotten the point of Paul Auster and his swami mystique and probably never shall, unless I move to Brooklyn and achieve phosphorescence.
Beirut Dispatch: Eau No
January 29, 2007
Last summer, during the war with Israel, Hezbollah's Al Manarsatellite TV channel ran an advertisement featuring Reem Haidar, anattractive Lebanese woman with a special request for Hezbollahleader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. "I want his cloak that he sweatedin while he was defending me, my children, my sisters, and myland," said Haidar, with a toss of her highlighted hair, as martialmusic played in the background. "I want it so that I can rub someof its sweat on myself and my children.
Ally with the Sunnis
November 27, 2006
The war in Iraq is lost--at least the original one, which was to make the place and then all of Arabia safe through democracy. The "democratic peace"--the idea that only despots make war while democracies are basically pacific--is as old as the republic itself. But not even Woodrow Wilson, the most fervent believer in the idea, went to war against Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 for the sake of democracy. That was the ideological icing on a power-political cake. The Kaiser's U-boats were sinking U.S.
October 16, 2006
I have liked John McCain ever since I met him almost a decade ago. At the time, I was writing a profile of then-Senator Fred Thompson, who was rumored to be considering a run for the presidency. I had been playing phone tag with the press secretaries of senators friendly with Thompson and was getting nowhere. I decided that, instead of calling McCain's office, I would drop by. I spoke to one of his aides, who asked me whether I had time to see the senator then.