December 20, 2010
What can you say about a problem like Richard Holbrooke? You either loved him or hated him or both. Myself, I loved him. Most of the press did. There is no embarrassment in this. He took us seriously and we took him seriously. We knew how much he valued the platform that we gave to him, but we were not fools and he was not a knave: He plainly wanted the platform just as much, or most of all, not for himself but for his mission.
December 17, 2010
On December 19, citizens in the former Soviet republic of Belarus will head to polls to vote in the country’s presidential election, the fourth since 1994. But Belarusians don’t have any real hope of unseating incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since winning the presidency 16 years ago. Widely known as “Europe’s Last Dictator,” Lukashenko has cracked down on independent media, routinely broken up public protests, and “disappeared” prominent opposition leaders.
December 16, 2010
For a born diplomat, Richard Holbrooke was often lost in translation. Too blunt, too impatient, too American, too driven, too much. That was what his critics would say— within the United States and around the world. And yet rarely was a man of such fierce and noble attachments—to family, to friends, to country and cause—so easily and persistently misunderstood. The paradox of Richard Holbrooke was that there was no paradox—what you saw was what you got.
Which Languages Should Liberal Arts Be About in 2010?
December 13, 2010
We are to bemoan that universities across the country are eliminating or scaling back their foreign language departments. Or, what seems to arouse critics most is the disappearance of French, German, and Italian departments—what with Goethe, Balzac and Dante being pillars of a liberal arts education and so on. Yet, former French major and great fan of foreign language learning as I am, I’m not feeling as bad about this new trend as I am supposed to. I have as deep-seated a sense as anyone that an educated person is supposed to be able to at least fake a conversation in French.
Being Winston Churchill
December 08, 2010
Seventy years ago, in the summer and fall of 1940, Western civilization teetered in the balance as Britain stood alone against Nazi-controlled Europe. Other major world powers did not lend aid; Russia supported Germany, and the United States remained neutral. After Britain resisted the assault of Nazi bombers, in what was dubbed the “Battle of Britain,” the country was saved and German momentum stymied. The whole course of the war then radically shifted.
The Charnel Continent
December 02, 2010
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin By Timothy Snyder (Basic Books, 524 pp., $29.95) ‘Now we will live!’... the hungry little boy liked to say ... but the food that he saw was only in his imagination.” So the little boy died, together with three million fellow Ukrainians, in the mass starvation that Stalin created in 1933. “I will meet her ... under the ground,” a young Soviet man said about his wife. Both were shot in the course of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937 and 1938, which claimed 700,000 victims.
As If We Needed Any More Proof That Obama's Courting of Turkey Was Another in His String of Failures
December 01, 2010
The courting was actually of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the personification of the new Turkey. And it wasn't as if Erdogan was an unknown quantity. In this morning's Financial Times, Daniel Dombey and Delphine Strauss report (through the horrible graces of WikiLeaks) that Eric Edelman, former U.S. ambassador in Ankara, had "described Mr.
Global Growth on the Orient Express
December 01, 2010
In the wake of the Great Recession, the recovery in U.S.
The Irony of Wikileaks
December 01, 2010
There’s no question that many of the Wikileaks documents are a great read. These diplomatic conversations between American officials and leaders from the Arab world, China, and Europe provide important insights about the subtleties of U.S. policy and the complexities of dealing with different personalities and governments around the world. But the disclosures are not just interesting; they are also ironic. That’s because they undermine the very worldview that Julian Assange and his colleagues at Wikileaks almost certainly support.
Abracadabra: A Brand New Arab Identity Via Andy Warhol, The Guggenheim, And Frank Gehry
November 27, 2010
The most intriguing and intricate cultural history I have read is Simon Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. There are many lessons in it, one of them that enormous wealth brings both opportunity and confusion, even—surprise!—also deterioration. This was what finally happened to Holland, and it happened also to Spain and Venice—three of the once richest and most powerful polities of Europe.