East Germany

An amazing trove of new pictures from the Stasi archives

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Dutch Dynamics

My first intense soccer experience was watching the 1974 World Cup, when I fell in love with the Dutch team and then rooted for them after Yugoslavia was eliminated. Rensenbrink, the left wing, was my hero. My mother sewed two parallel lines on the back of an orange shirt, so that I could pretend to be Rob Rensenbrink. (Rensenbrink missed only two penalties in his entire career.) The other side of that process of loyalty acquisition was hating the West German team.

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Berlin, Germany—When the Merkel government abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote on using military force against Muammar Qaddafi, many international observers were shocked. In the election campaign of 2005, Merkel had lambasted then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for damaging the transatlantic alliance by opting out of Washington’s plan to topple Saddam Hussein.

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History does not enable us to predict the future, but it does help us to prepare for it. It therefore makes sense that commentators are searching for historical precedents to the dramatic events in Egypt. History might help shed light on where the potentially revolutionary developments are heading. It is important to get the history right, however. Some commentators have suggested that the world might be witnessing a repetition of the events of 1979, when an Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran.

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It takes some hubris to write about events unfolding as fast as the protests in Egypt, especially when it’s clear that nobody saw this coming. Mubarak is preparing to address the nation, and it's unclear what will follow. Here are five points that American observers should keep in mind whatever comes next, while consuming the blog posts, Tweets, and TV coverage of their choice. Revolutions often erupt with little warning. Explosions of popular anger on the “Arab Street” have become a cliché.

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A certain kind of liberalism familiar to readers of The New Republic has been stirring in, of all places, Germany and Austria. To be sure, it operates on the margins. And, yes, the impulse to appease, run for cover and all the rest lingers there as well. So, too, does the mixture of irritation, indifference, and even outright hostility to Israel.

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The first time I saw Antoni Gaudi’s phantasmagoric Church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona it was unfinished. That was 1965. On another visit, perhaps two decades later, it was still unfinished. And when I returned there on Monday it was not yet completed, although I heard from the conversational buzz around me the years 2012 and 2013. One dour looking pessimist uttered “2017” as the first possible date that the cathedral would really match its dreamer’s vision.

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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.

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DPRK

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- I watched Brazil’s 2-1 win over North Korea in a bar in the hipsterish neighborhood of Melville, where my brother, nephew and I are renting a small house for two weeks. Brazil shirts abounded, as they always do. The run a distant second to South Africa’s ubiquitous shirt, but the two kits combined make yellow the dominant street color of this World Cup.  I like Brazil for all of the usual reasons -- grace, possession, elan, the inevitable jaw-dropping ball-on-a-string move or physics-defying shot.

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I see various groups are protesting a decision by a California government lawyer to teach a course with you that starts on Jan. 12, claiming he is legitimizing your unethical behavior. At Berkeley, protesting is an everyday activity. I am used to it. I remind myself of West Berlin--West Berlin surrounded by East Germany during the Cold War. Are you saying the citizens of Berkeley are Communists, reminiscent of those on the dark side of the Iron Curtain?

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