Department of State

The Birth of Antiperspirant, The Roots of Consciousness, and the Civilian Military Split: Today’s TNR Reader
August 06, 2012

Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy! The end of odor: Just how bad did Americans smell before Edna Murphey brought us antiperspirant? Smithsonian Magazine | 8 min (1,985 words) Could Germany’s circumcision ban be the worst attack on Jewish life since the Holocaust? Dissent | 9 min (2,233 words) Mutual Assured Ignorance: Can the Pentagon and the State Department ever work together effectively?

Smoggy Bottom
July 13, 2012

WHEN SHE first learned that she was being considered as President Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton reportedly e-mailed an aide her complete disinterest: “Not in a million years.” Happily, his determined wooing won her over. From a failed presidential candidate who kept her race alive well past the bitter end, and from a polarizing first lady as reviled as she was beloved, Clinton has turned into what one of the London papers recently called “a hard-headed yet compassionate stateswoman who has restored reason and credibility to America’s global mission.” Clinton managed to calm and

Why Scott Gration really resigned.
"Some people had to go to some real shit holes to escape him."
June 29, 2012

Updated at 3:03 p.m. When U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration resigned his position early this morning, he said in an emailed statement, “differences with Washington regarding my leadership style and certain priorities lead me to believe that it's now time to leave." That's putting it gently. A former State Department official with a long service record in the Africa bureau and a former ambassador told me that Gration’s tenure in Kenya was marked by constant friction with his superiors and a refusal to abide by State Department protocol and security measures.

Up in the Air
June 23, 2012

LATE ON THE MORNING of July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart climbed into the cockpit of her Lockheed Electra airplane on a small grass runway in Lae, New Guinea. She was 22,000 flight miles into her daring attempt to fly around the world, a journey that had captivated Americans since she lifted off from Miami a month earlier. Now Earhart was facing the most dangerous leg of the trip: a 19-hour, 2,556-mile flight to a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean known as Howland Island. Earhart’s celebrity had grown formidable in the decade since her transatlantic flight, the first ever by a female pilot.

Why Is The House Skimping On Democracy In The Middle East?
May 24, 2012

[Guest post by Nathan Pippenger] It’s fair to say that the United States was caught off-guard by the Arab Spring. But whatever the strategic consequences of that lack of preparedness, the financial consequences were hard for the State Department to ignore. New, unforeseen expenses were suddenly cropping up everywhere from Tunisia to Syria, and the instability of events made it difficult to predict where money would be needed next. Or perhaps the problem wasn’t so obvious, at least not to the House of Representatives.

Why Did Anyone Believe Bashar al-Assad’s Promises of a Ceasefire to Begin With?
April 10, 2012

The only real surprise about the six-point peace plan for Syria put forward by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan is why it took until yesterday, the eve of its proposed ceasefire, for the world to declare it a failure. Reacting to the latest violence throughout Syria on Monday, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Washington is “not hopeful” that Tuesday would see a cessation of hostilities. But any such hope was naïve to begin with. Among the things the past year has taught us is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a master of diversion.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Mendacious Charm Campaign in Washington
April 09, 2012

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a Muslim Brotherhood delegation in Washington last week to better understand how the Islamist group will govern Egypt. It was a noble attempt at promoting intercultural political dialogue—an engagement for which many in the American policy community, as well as academia, have long advocated. Yet the Brotherhood came to Washington with an agenda of its own: selling itself as a “moderate” organization to a highly skeptical American public.

Business as Usual
March 29, 2012

Since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year, the Egyptian military—which occupies a key role in the new government—has not exactly distinguished itself on questions of human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, security forces continue to assault and imprison activists who criticize the military. Protesters are regularly beaten and in some cases killed, and the government’s abhorrent treatment of women is becoming a major cause for concern.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Bites the Hand that Feeds Him
March 26, 2012

On March 15, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stood before nearly 100,000 of his fellow countrymen in Budapest and declared, “Hungarians will not live as foreigners dictate.” Drawing an explicit connection between the European Union, which Hungary enthusiastically joined in 2004, and the Soviet Union, which brutally crushed a Hungarian revolt in 1956, Orbán said, “We are more than familiar with the character of unsolicited comradely assistance, even if it comes wearing a finely tailored suit and not a uniform with shoulder patches.” This style of demagoguery is nothing new for Orbán.

Democracy and the Human Heart
January 26, 2012

The Village Voice gives out theater awards called the Obies (for Off-Broadway), and during the 1980s the Voice’s theater department voted to bestow one of those prizes on the distinguished absurdist Václav Havel, who dwelled in the faraway absurdistan known as the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In their New York productions, Havel’s plays ran at the Public Theater, and everyone who kept up with the downtown scene knew them well. The plays were splendidly mordant.

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