Gulf of Aden

When Somali pirates started making international news, journalists and politicians said, in so many words, “Forget the romance of eye patches and parrots. These guys are mean.” They are mean, and getting meaner—Jeffrey Gettleman’s terrifying piece for this magazine (“The Wages of Anarchy”) made this very point—but they’re actually not all that foreign: The seventeenth-century Christian pirates of the Caribbean resorted to murder and torture, too.

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The Wages of Anarchy

The Pirates Of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World By Jay Bahadur (Pantheon, 300 pp., $26.95) The monsoon winds are dying down and the Indian Ocean is getting smooth again. This happens at the end of every summer, and September marks a new season: pirate season. Somalia’s wily, indefatigable buccaneers are just coming off their summer break.

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Illuminations By Arthur Rimbaud Translated by John Ashbery (W.W. Norton, 167 pp., $24.95) I. Arthur Rimbaud wrote the texts known as Illuminations between around 1873 and 1875. In those years he lived in London, and in Paris, and at home with his mother and sisters in northern France, and in Stuttgart. In London, George Eliot was writing Daniel Deronda; in Paris, Henry James was writing Roderick Hudson. The majestic Nineteenth Century was everywhere.

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No, I am not deserting the president on this one either. Any country that is under siege by Al Qaeda is likely to have strategic and/or ideological interest to us. But it’s a big stretch to argue that we have a democratic interest in Yemen’s future. It will not be before hell freezes over that we may have such an interest in Yemen. That time is neither now nor tomorrow. And since history in the Arabian Peninsula moves in geological time, let’s stop deluding ourselves about another democratic ally. Our interest in Yemen is strategic.

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This is a bad season for those who still believe that international agreements, among nations constituted as at present, can prevent war. Let us look for a moment at the Italian-Ethiopian situation as an example. Italy and Ethiopia are both members in good standing of the League of Nations. As such they have made a solemn covenant to settle their disputes peaceably and to join in sanctions against any nation that declines to submit to such peaceable adjustment.

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