The Reality of Revolution
February 14, 2011
In both the euphoria and the apprehension that have accompanied the popular uprisings in the Arab Middle East that, no matter who succeeds them, have already resulted in the fall of two tyrants and the first credible threats to several more, there has been much talk about freedom and democracy and about secularism versus Islamism. Predictably, if also dishearteningly, there has been an avalanche of the usual cyber-utopian techno-babble about the emancipatory potential of the Bluetooth devices and Twitter feeds for which authoritarian tyrannies are said to be no match.
Flowers in the Desert
February 09, 2011
The wave of popular unrest that has spread across the Arab world in recent weeks, toppling the regime in Tunisia, creating the mass protests in Egypt, and leading other governments in the region to scramble to choke off similar eruptions, has evoked images of 1989, when Communist governments fell like dominoes in Eastern Europe. Like today, those earlier events unfolded with surprising speed, catching the West (as well as the oppressive regimes) off guard. But President George H.W.
Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire
February 08, 2011
When the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979, years of “peaceful” U.S. nuclear cooperation with the Persian dictator suddenly seemed like they had been a bad idea. In part as a result of this early assistance, Tehran is on the road to producing a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium in roughly a year or less. And with protests upending governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and the rest of the Middle East, this sequence is on the cusp of repeating itself to produce a nuclear domino effect.
Time for a Reset
February 05, 2011
President Obama is in a tight spot. The 2010 elections have sharply contracted his ability to achieve legislative victories, while his room to maneuver on other issues will be limited by the intrusive investigations which are almost certainly coming his way. Progress will be harder to attain than ever.
Is It 1989 All Over Again?
February 04, 2011
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.
Back to Basics
January 27, 2011
When an angry mob overthrew Kyrgyzstan’s autocratic president Kurmanbeck Bakiyev last April, one of the complaints heard most often on the streets of Bishkek, the country’s capital, was that the U.S. government had been complicit in propping up his regime. A former Soviet republic once known as the “Switzerland of Central Asia” because of its relatively strong civil society, Kyrgyzstan had suffered in recent years under Bakiyev from grinding poverty, widespread corruption, and government marred by cronyism and contempt for political opposition and independent media.
January 27, 2011
Giuseppe Arcimboldo National Gallery Franz Xaver Messerschmidt Neue Galerie When artists of earlier eras become subjects of renewed interest, you can be sure that big changes are in the air. All too often relegated to specialized studies in the history of taste, such shifts in an artist’s fortunes are among our most reliable guides to current attitudes and values, a look into the dark glass of the past that can also function as a mirror in which we see reflected some aspect of ourselves.
January 22, 2011
A new labor law in Romania has expanded the ranks of the self-employed; along with car valets and astrologers, witches will now be required to pay a 16 percent income tax. Is this persecution by another name, or a step toward legitimization for a long-maligned occupation? Believing the former, one group of witches responded to the news by throwing mandrake into the Danube and concocting protest in the form of a cat-poop-and-dead-dog potion.
Will States Default on Their Debt?
January 18, 2011
Will states soon begin defaulting on their debts, with further negative implications for localities and U.S.
Europe is Not Entitled to Hector Any Country
January 13, 2011
In the circles in which I move there are many people who are quite snarky about Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. I've never really understood why. Maybe it’s just because he wants higher taxes than they do. But as an explicator of economic realities he as good as they come. And in a New York Times Magazine essay about the grim financial status of contemporary Europe he has made it all crystal clear. Most of the members of the European Union have made a tremendous mess of their fiscal situation, and many are in desperate trouble or near- desperate trouble looking into the future.