Department of State

Sweet Lew?
July 11, 2010

The search for Peter Orszag’s successor at the Office of Management and Budget hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. But it should. If the administration is talking about a policy change that involves spending or raising money, as most policy changes do, then the OMB director is going to be part of that discussion. As my colleague Noam Scheiber has reported, the two leading candidates to take over OMB have been Gene Sperling, a senior Treasury Department aide who held several positions in the Clinton Administration, and Laura Tyson, a Berkeley economist who also served under Clinton.

“… Syria Elicits Groans In Washington”
July 03, 2010

So says a headline in Wednesday’s New York Times. And the article by Mark Landler elaborates the cosmic kvetch brought on by the Obama administration’s courting of Damascus. I’ve written about this a few times myself. The courting of the Assad dictatorship was supposed to lure Syria away from its entanglement with the Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to consider the confirmation of the president’s nominee, Robert S. Ford, as emissary to the Syrians. My friend, John Kerry, loyally subbed for the putative ambassador.

How Obama Will Deal With Our Wayward Ally, Turkey
July 01, 2010

It’s a shock to see one of the pillars of American foreign policy start to disintegrate before our very eyes. That’s what seems to be happening to the relationship between the United States and Turkey, which policymakers in both countries have taken for granted for decades. I know it’s often said that formal alliances are losing their central place in international politics. If so, maybe the bad blood between Ankara and Washington is just part of a trend, something we wearily adjust to.

Is the Internet Making Americans More Willing to Intervene in Faraway Countries?
June 27, 2010

My colleague on ‘Entanglements,’ Adam Kirsch, posted a perceptive column a few days ago that asked both why we are—as we seem to have been since at least the advent of the middle-class newspaper-reading public in eighteenth-century London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam—so passionately interested in the affairs of “leaders and nations we don’t know, never will see, and certainly have no power over,” and whether this avidity for consuming news actually brings us closer to reality or instead makes it harder to “see things as they actually are?” It’s an excellent question, whether or not one agrees (I

Armchair Experts
June 27, 2010

My colleague on ‘Entanglements,’ Adam Kirsch, posted a perceptive column a few days ago that asked both why we are—as we seem to have been since at least the advent of the middle-class newspaper-reading public in eighteenth-century London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam—so passionately interested in the affairs of “leaders and nations we don’t know, never will see, and certainly have no power over,” and whether this avidity for consuming news actually brings us closer to reality or instead makes it harder to “see things as they actually are?” It’s an excellent question, whether or not one agrees (I

Imagine (With Apologies to John Lennon)
June 23, 2010

For the sake of argument, imagine, if you can, an American foreign policy based on interest alone. To begin with, to use the current Wall Street phrase, it would need to overweight Latin America and underweight the Middle East. For whether the Obama administration believes it or not (in fairness, they are no worse than their predecessors, though they are no better either), crises are brewing in Latin America that pose potentially greater threats to the United States than those posed by Al Qaeda.

One Silly Jewish Boy, Maybe Two Silly Jewish Boys...In Damascus
June 16, 2010

They're in Damascus, two State Department techies, at the head of a delegation of commercial techies representing American computer combines (Microsoft, Cisco, Dell and some others) in an effort to lure the ophthalmologist Dr. Assad away from the Islamist camp. You see: Bashar al-Assad loves computer games (sort of like my grandson) and the idea is to entice him into playing with our software and networking eqiupment which he can't have unless he behaves. The effort would have normally been led by Robert S. Ford, whom the president tapped as ambassador to Assad's court early in the spring.

I Am Appalled That TNR Has Published Why Some Nobody Doesn’t Want Elena Kagan Nominated To The Supreme Court
May 08, 2010

This nobody who is suddenly somebody is Paul Campos. He is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. Other than being an unremarkable law professor, he is known largely for trivial interests: obesity, the personality of judges, the origins of the chicken sandwich, the Notre Dame football team. He has also shown some knack for interdisciplinary work. For example, he wrote a piece, “Fat Judges Need Not Apply,” for the Daily Beast, which, as you know, is a very serious journal. But don’t underestimate Campos.

More On Syria, If You Can Stand It
April 29, 2010

This is real inside stuff. No commentary from me. Except to say that this is more proof that American diplomacy is going nowhere.

Killing in the Name
April 08, 2010

The following is adapted from a talk delivered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2010. One of the greatest ironies of the past decade's debates over political Islam has been that, on the whole, the most passionate and emphatic rejections of radical Islamism in this country came from President Bush and his supporters—that is, conservatives. This is peculiar because the various forms of radical Islamism represent the third major form of totalitarian ideology and politics in modern world history.

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