When Does Speaking a Foreign Language Get a Candidate in Trouble?
January 23, 2012

Every four years, it seems, one of the major issues in the U.S. presidential campaign is how many languages the candidates speak, the implication being: the fewer, the better. This year, we’ve seen Newt Gingrich knock Mitt Romney for speaking French, as well as general mockery of Jon Huntsman for his displays of speaking Mandarin Chinese. In 2004, it was John Kerry who was derided by George W.

I Studied Here, Then Was Forced to Leave. Will No One Fix America’s Insane Immigration System?
November 30, 2011

Jakarta—Despite the boom of recent years, Indonesia is still the sort of place from which young people seek to escape. Nearly all Indonesians who can afford it send their children to study in universities abroad, and my parents were no different. But where many of my former classmates have since become Canadians and Australians, I am again in Jakarta. Like most of the Indonesians I know who studied in the United States, I had trouble staying there after graduating. Many of these would-be Americans are now doing exceptional things elsewhere.

Early Enlightenment
October 12, 2011

The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages By Nancy Marie Brown (Basic Books, 310 pp., $27.95) A study of twenty member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (recently re-named the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC—the international body that represents Ummah al Islam, with a permanent delegation to the United Nations) found that between the years 1996 and 2003 those countries spent 0.34 percent of their GDP on scientific research, one-seventh of the global average.

China’s Jittery Leaders
March 03, 2011

This is the first in our package of articles about the Middle East revolts and the future of autocracy worldwide. Click here to read about the Muslim Brotherhood, here to read about Russia's deep despair, and here to read about Venezuela's lost generation. No one thinks about their own demise more than the leaders of China’s Communist Party. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, they have undertaken a massive effort to study why some one-party states survive while others fail.

TNR Boring Headline Contest Unfair
February 18, 2011

I would like to belatedly protest to outcome of TNR's "Boring Headline Contest" on Twitter. the Winning entry, "Chemist Doubts Hair-Straightener With Formaldehyde-Free Formula," is surely quite boring. But the best entry was surely this: Belgian King Extends Term Of Coalition Mediator  Now, I will disclose that this entry was submitted by my brother. But I believe it hews perfectly to the original spirit of the contest.

Transition Traps
February 16, 2011

After the peaceful mass uprising that toppled one of the world’s oldest autocracies, it is now possible to imagine the emergence of a genuine democracy in Egypt—the most important country in the Arab world. The very possibility of it marks an historic turning point for the entire region.

Egypt and Indonesia
February 02, 2011

As mass protests sweep through Cairo and Hosni Mubarak teeters, some U.S. observers have turned almost reflexively to the analogy of Iran and the Shah in 1979. “Just look at Iran,” Leslie Gelb wrote earlier this week: If the Muslim Brotherhood takes control in Egypt, which Gelb believes may be at hand, “it’s going to be almost impossible for the people to take it back.” At times of unexpected but momentous political change in distant countries, we grasp onto political analogies to help get our bearings. Even if we know they are imperfect, we can’t resist their tempting suggestiveness.

January 1 Is Not Yet Over. But The First Terror Killings Have Already Brought Death to Dozens of Men And Women
January 01, 2011

Yes, of course. The majority of Muslims are against terror killings of Christians. Maybe even a big majority. But the fact is there is little evidence and, in fact, almost no evidence of revulsion at what has become the distinctive imprint of Islam in the modern world. Alright, I'll note the most important caveat: it is not Islam but Islamists and Islamism that are at fault in this ongoing outrage. But still! Wouldn't you think there'd be a protest or two somewhere in the arc of Muslim faith that stretches from Indonesia to Morocco and southwards to the deepest reaches of Africa?

Fleeing The Democratic Disaster, Obama Makes Nice In Indonesia
November 11, 2010

There is no mystery as to why President Obama went half away around the globe shortly after the election. Actually, I suspect that he and his folks scheduled the trip precisely to free him from the inevitable (and certainly annoying) queries about his responsibility for the Democratic disaster. There is another reason, however, why he leapt into the arms of foreign leaders (even those who don’t especially like him).

Hillary Clinton's Naïve, Muddled Approach to Development
August 23, 2010

Does the Obama administration have any idea at all what it wants out of its development efforts? In a recent speech at SAIS at Johns Hopkins, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Washington’s new six-year, $63 billion Global Health Initiative. She was at pains to differentiate the administration from its predecessor—yet one more recapitulation of a by now familiar trope, but one that is particularly disingenuous in the case of global health, where the Bush administration’s record actually was very good.