Obama’s Moment of Truth
March 15, 2011
Each president of the United States enters office thinking he will be able to define the agenda and set the course of America’s relations with the rest of the world. And, almost invariably, each confronts crises that are thrust upon him—wars, revolutions, genocides, and deadly confrontations. Neither Woodrow Wilson nor FDR imagined having to plunge America into world war. Truman had to act quickly, and with little preparation, to confront the menace of Soviet expansion at war’s end.
Richard Holbrooke in Asia
December 20, 2010
While sitting in Istanbul‘s Attaturk International Airport waiting for a flight, I was stunned to hear a BBC announcer report that my colleague and friend U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had just died. I knew that he had been rushed to George Washington University Hospital with a torn aorta. But, despite the seriousness of his condition, it was still unimaginable that he would not recover. After all, had “Holbrooke,” as his friends and colleagues always referred to him, not always prevailed?
December 20, 2010
What can you say about a problem like Richard Holbrooke? You either loved him or hated him or both. Myself, I loved him. Most of the press did. There is no embarrassment in this. He took us seriously and we took him seriously. We knew how much he valued the platform that we gave to him, but we were not fools and he was not a knave: He plainly wanted the platform just as much, or most of all, not for himself but for his mission.
December 16, 2010
For a born diplomat, Richard Holbrooke was often lost in translation. Too blunt, too impatient, too American, too driven, too much. That was what his critics would say— within the United States and around the world. And yet rarely was a man of such fierce and noble attachments—to family, to friends, to country and cause—so easily and persistently misunderstood. The paradox of Richard Holbrooke was that there was no paradox—what you saw was what you got.
The Old New Thing
October 20, 2010
The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History By Samuel Moyn (Belknap Press, 337 pp., $27.95) In 1807, in Yorkshire, activists hit the campaign trail for William Wilberforce, whose eloquent parliamentary fight against Britain’s slave trade had won surprising success. “O we’ve heard of his Cants in Humanity’s Cause/While the Senate was hush’d, and the land wept applause,” they sang.
The Downsizing of American Foreign Policy
August 10, 2010
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.
Over-Learning The Lesson Of The Last War
August 05, 2010
Joe Klein, who has been extremely contrite about his extremely minor role in supporting the Iraq war, beats himself up again and pledges never to repeat the mistake: As for myself, I deeply regret that once, on television in the days before the war, I foolishly — spontaneously — said that going ahead with the invasion might be the right thing to do. I was far more skeptical in print. I never wrote in favor of the war and repeatedly raised the problems that would accompany it, but mere skepticism was an insufficient reaction too. The issue then was as clear as it is now.
Should We Intervene?
July 09, 2010
This is the most recent item in a debate about humanitarian intervention. Click here to read the previous contributions by David Rieff, Leon Wieseltier, and Michael Kazin. I’m always suspicious of blanket arguments, even—as with David Rieff’s recent post on liberal interventionism—when made by a writer whom I greatly admire. In a nutshell, Rieff has no use for American interventions (either military or non-military) on behalf of idealistic ends.
Over at the World Cup Blog, Stefan Fatsis is again full of soccer triumphalism: A poster named “Irishman” puts it nicely: “The USA has the extraordinary luck to be both Germanic and Hispanic, black and white and brown, African and European and Asian, all in one driven national character.” Progress is uncertain for every national side, but it’s highly likely for the U.S. Irishman quoted Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” To which JustinO replied: “First they ignore you (to 1989). Then they laugh at you (1990-2001).
Americans and Soccer
June 27, 2010
Every time the World Cup is on the same annoying question comes up: Will Americans accept soccer? Well, frankly, I could not care less. Yesterday I watched the US-Ghana game in a steakhouse in the suburbs of Nashville, with the game sound replaced by a country music selection so immaculately insufferable that they’re surely using it to extract bogus information in the Guantanamo Bay torture resort. Apart from me, there was a guy drinking alone, and some of the kitchen staff. Did I care less about the game because of that? No.