Jefferson in Benghazi
June 09, 2011
The border crossing from Egypt into rebel-controlled eastern Libya offers few clues that the country is at war. The Libyan immigration officers wear ragged uniforms and carry on the routine of stamping passports, though with a friendliness and ease that is undoubtedly new. The eight-hour drive to the rebels’ de facto capital of Benghazi is dramatic only for its scenery—a rugged coastline with wide open beaches, then, surprisingly, green hills, crossed by deep gorges and adorned with beautifully preserved Greek ruins, visited by no one.
The U.S. Economy: Not Yet in the Clear?
June 08, 2011
After yet another weak jobs report came out last Friday—the U.S. private sector, it turns out, added just 38,000 jobs in May—economists have been groping for an explanation. One theory is that the economy is still in a deep, deep funk: As the IMF warned back in 2009, it takes a long time for the world to recover from a severe financial crisis.
Robert Gates Is Right About Iraq
June 03, 2011
The U.S. war in Iraq has just been given an unexpected seal of approval. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in what he billed as his “last major policy speech in Washington,” has owned up to the gains in Iraq, to the surprise that Iraq has emerged as “the most advanced Arab democracy in the region.” It was messy, this Iraqi democratic experience, but Iraqis “weren’t in the streets shooting each other, the government wasn’t in the streets shooting its people,” Gates observed.
May 25, 2011
In his State Department speech last week, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Benjamin Netanyahu. In the Oval Office a day later, and more fully in an address to Congress yesterday, Netanyahu picked it up and threw it right back. The question now is whether this clash can be turned into a new understanding between the United States and Israel that improves the prospects for the two-state solution both parties say they want. To bring this about, Obama will have to make further tweaks to his approach and rethink his declared stance on Palestinian refugees, among other matters.
The Problem With Obama’s Middle East Speech
May 24, 2011
Who is the forty-fourth president of the United States? After two-and-a-half years, we should have a pretty good idea. But we still don’t. Barack Obama remains a canvas for the mind—a wondrous, vexing projection surface. He is a rock star and redeemer to his devotees, and a left-wing Darth Vader to his enemies. Yet, above all, he is a man of too many qualities; take your pick. Or take his vaunted speech last week on North Africa and the Middle East.
Yes, We Can’t
May 20, 2011
Jerusalem—It was a nation of ambivalent Israelis that listened to President Obama’s latest Middle East plan—an interim agreement based on ending the occupation of the Palestinians while somehow ensuring the security of the Israelis. Israeli ambivalence is peculiar: It has nothing to do with uncertainty or confusion. Instead, to be an ambivalent Israeli is to be torn between two conflicting certainties.
The Great Democracy Meltdown
May 19, 2011
As the revolt that started this past winter in Tunisia spread to Egypt, Libya, and beyond, dissidents the world over were looking to the Middle East for inspiration. In China, online activists inspired by the Arab Spring called for a “jasmine revolution.” In Singapore, one of the quietest countries in the world, opposition members called for an “orchid evolution” in the run-up to this month’s national elections. Perhaps as a result, those watching from the West have been positively triumphalist in their predictions.
Wowy, zowy, Obama is doing his own thinking on the Middle East and here’s the even worse news: He’s taking advice from Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria. These pathetic tidings about the inner Barack Obama, who puts his very own twist on all things, particularly Arab and Muslim matters, and the other Barack Obama, who needs counsel from two political therapists, famous and even clever but not especially deep, come from the subtle and highly reliable journalist Mark Landler in The New York Times. These tidbits are not contradictory.
Room for Growth
May 16, 2011
Politicians in Washington are grappling with how to address rising gasoline prices, but most of their answers—from repealing tax breaks for oil companies to expanding offshore drilling—are unlikely to make much of a difference any time soon. The Arab awakening, coupled with Iran’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear weapons, ensures that energy prices will likely remain elevated for a long time. In the near- and long-term, those events are leading to less energy produced and exported from the Middle East and North Africa than there otherwise would be, as well as greater risk to their transport.
House Of Games
May 16, 2011
The conservative accounting of Hollywood types who express their political views comes in two forms. The first form -- the dominant type -- is when a Hollywood liberal pipes up about politics, and the reaction inevitably involves sneering at the idea anybody should care about what some Hollywood liberal thinks. The second form occurs when a Hollywood conservative speaks his mind, and it invariably entails rapturous, fawning gratitude at the emergence of a brave voice in the wilderness. Andrew Ferguson's lengthy profile of David Mamet in the Weekly Standard falls into the second category.