“The Unknown Known”: The scope and limits of documentary
As an investigation, The Unknown Known adds little to our memory of Rumsfeld’s press conferences and his lugubrious ruminations over what words meant. The marvel of the film (and of other Morris projects) is the cold lucidity of the light in undeviating close-up on the “witness.”
As the President addressed the nation about the crisis in Syria, I sat waiting for the Acela to Washington at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station when an old man walked past me, trailed by an entourage from the K-9 unit. The hard, squinting eyes behind the glasses, the pinched brow, and the pencil-line lips were unmistakable: It was Donald Rumsfeld, just shrunken and more frail.
A Hollywood screenplay is full of political notables. Who comes off looking best?
We've read the screenplay for the upcoming Hillary Clinton biopic. It's full of political notables. So who comes off looking best?
In the twilight years of the New Left, revolutionaries would regularly parse their adversaries’ statements for indications of “objective racism.” Even the slightest irregularity—calling someone’s thoughts “dark”—could unleash a volley of accusations.
In a speech Monday at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, John Brennan, President Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor, made a forthright defense of the drone war currently being conducted against Islamic militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. “As a result of our efforts,” he declared, “the United States is more secure and the American people are safer.” Brennan’s argument deserves credit for its boldness.
When President Obama unveiled his military budget earlier this year, it was clear that he was essentially putting a new defense strategy on the table. The Pentagon’s plan called for the ranks of the active-duty Army to be reduced from 570,000 to 490,000 troops over five years. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was supposed to shrink from 202,000 to 182,000. At the same time, drones were a high priority in the budget—not surprising, given that Obama has ordered about five times as many drone attacks as his predecessor.
“In America, and in Iraq,” Vice President Joe Biden assured an audience in Baghdad last December, “the tide of war is receding.” For its callowness, this observation was noteworthy. (The tide of war was not receding from Iraq; Joe Biden was.) President Obama, introducing his plan to cut defense expenditures a few weeks later, offered up this analysis by way of justification: “The tide of war is receding.” Opponents of Obama’s foreign policy, unwilling to credit the president with coherence in any enterprise apart from campaigning for reelection, will get nothing from these words.
The U.S. war in Iraq has just been given an unexpected seal of approval. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what he billed as his “last major policy speech in Washington,” has owned up to the gains in Iraq, to the surprise that Iraq has emerged as “the most advanced Arab democracy in the region.” It was messy, this Iraqi democratic experience, but Iraqis “weren’t in the streets shooting each other, the government wasn’t in the streets shooting its people,” Gates observed.