What Are Nukes Good For?
April 07, 2010
The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.
Something Much Darker
February 08, 2010
I. “Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to readers of The New Republic is not easy.” On June 2, 1944, W.H. Auden penned that sentence in a letter to Ursula Niebuhr. On January 26, 2010, Andrew Sullivan posted it as the “quote for the day” on his blog. Displaced and unglossed quotations are always in some way mordant, and bristle smugly with implications. Let us see what this one implies. Auden was at Swarthmore when he wrote his letter to his friend.
The Accountable Presidency
February 01, 2010
Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95) I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.
Did Obama Really Sidestep The U.N. At Copenhagen?
December 21, 2009
Analysts are still mulling over the Copenhagen accord, trying to figure out what it means for the fate of global climate politics. The humdrum answer is that it all depends—we'll have to see how individual nations tackle their CO2 emissions in the months and years ahead, and then watch how the next round of international talks shake out. But if it's specifics you want, check out Harvard economist Robert Stavin's analysis. First, a recap of the negotiations that led to the deal: From all reports, the talks were completely deadlocked when U.S.
December 05, 2009
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon By Neil Sheehan (Random House, 534 pp., $35) In late March 1953, a colonel named Bernard Schriever sat in a briefing room at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, listening as John von Neumann, the brilliant mathematician, and Edward Teller, the physicist, discussed the future of the hydrogen bomb, the far more powerful follow-on to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki eight years earlier.
Bad News for the Axis of Chavez
December 01, 2009
Francisco Toro and Juan Nagel write the Venezuelan news blog Caracas Chronicles. The Honduran crisis surely reached its Rococo stage this week after fresh elections organized by the coupsters' regime saw the election of a conservative rancher as president—while Brazil's nearly sainted left-wing president, Lula da Silva, promptly rejected the poll as undemocratic ... a scant few days after welcoming Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil with open arms. The election of President Lobo has split the international community, and in mostly predictable ways.
U.S., Egypt Co-Sponsor a Resolution on Freedom of Opinion and Expression. What the Hell is Going on? Only the A.P. Reported This: I Wonder Why.
October 05, 2009
This was the maiden sally of the United States at the U.N. Human Rights Council, a resolution under the rubric of "promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development." Phew! The measure was introduced by the U.S. and by Egypt, which, of course, has a long and sterling record as an insurer and defender of civilized liberties.
Deterred From Logic on Nukes
September 01, 2009
In the latest issue of Newsweek, Jonathan Tepperman has a very confused piece arguing that nuclear disarmament is a bad idea because “[t]he bomb may actually make us safer.” Taking a stand against Washington’s allegedly overwhelming “nuclear phobia,” he writes, “Knowing the truth about nukes would have a profound impact on government policy.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone suggest that they know “the truth” about nuclear weapons, but I’m quite certain that Tepperman hasn’t found it. The thrust of the article is that nuclear-armed states won’t fight each other because “all states are rati
The Cheney Fallacy
May 18, 2009
Former Vice President Cheney says that President Obama's reversal of Bush-era terrorism policies endangers American security. The Obama administration, he charges, has "moved to take down a lot of those policies we put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years from a follow-on terrorist attack like 9/11." Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney's criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong.