One Year Later: The Failure of the Arab Spring
January 24, 2012
I. A year has passed since liberal America and the liberal opinion class, in particular, went ecstatic over the Arab debut into the modern world. I know that my standing in that class is suspect. So, being a bit flummoxed myself by the not altogether dissimilar developments in the vast expanse from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia, I conquered my doubts and made a slight stab for hope. But I quickly realized that I was wrong and left the celebration.
Why We Need Détente With North Korea
January 14, 2012
Whatever Kim Jong-Il’s death meant for the people of North Korea, it did not change the fundamental strategic interest that the United States has in the country. The paramount issue for Washington remains assuring that Pyongyang never uses its nuclear arsenal, and that it never leaks or gifts its weapons material and technology to other nations or terrorists. But if Washington’s basic strategic posture remains, it should consider revising its current non-proliferation policies in the wake of Pyongyang’s change of leadership.
The Weakest Strongman
January 11, 2012
Alexei Slapovsky’s 2010 novel, March on the Kremlin, opens with a young poet being accidentally killed by a policeman. Not knowing whom to blame and what to do, the poet’s mother picks up the body and, cradling her dead son in her arms, walks almost unconsciously toward the Kremlin. Her son’s friends trail close behind. Across the city, just as the mother is starting her long trek in pursuit of justice, an aging drunkard decides that his brother, who died the previous night, deserves to be interred by the Kremlin walls. So he, too, heads toward the Kremlin.
Meet the Gun-Toting, Teetotaling, Jet-Skiing Russian Billionaire Running Against Putin
December 15, 2011
In the wake of rising dissatisfaction with Vladimir Putin and protests against irregularities in Russia’s recent parliamentary elections, Mikhail Prokhorov’s decision to run for president was greeted with a lot of excitement. But, soon enough, paranoia set in: Is he a freedom-loving democrat, an opportunist, or just another Putin stooge? While the jury is still out on that question, one thing is clear enough: He’s incredibly rich, and perhaps like most über-wealthy individuals, he’s cultivated quite a few … eccentricities. Here are just a few that stand out. 1.
Strategist and Scourge
December 14, 2011
George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.
Why Russia’s Post-Putin Future May Not Be Democratic
December 12, 2011
Vladimir Putin, rather suddenly, is shifting from Good Czar to Bad Czar in the minds of the Russian people. A telltale sign—even more startling than growing street demonstrations against his rule—was the jeers that greeted his appearance at a recent martial-arts fight in Moscow. Putin, as his image makers have incessantly reminded since their man scaled the Kremlin heights eleven years ago, is an ardent sportsman with a black belt in judo.
What Russia’s Election Was Really About
December 08, 2011
As far as the actual voting was concerned, the only real question in Russia’s parliamentary election this week was the winning margin of the “party of power,” United Russia (or, as it is known by much of the public, partiya vorov i zhulikov, the party of thieves and swindlers). Would it again receive around two-thirds of the votes or rather—despite ballot-stuffing, forced voting by state employees and students, manipulation of absentee ballots and, of course, the assistance of the Central Electoral Commission in tallying up the results—just miss the mark?
September 28, 2011
This past March, Natan Sharansky—the onetime Russian dissident and former Israeli politician—appeared at a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the Arab Spring. It was around this time that the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of force to help embattled Libyan rebels, the first signs of unrest appeared in the southern Syrian city of Dara’a, and Egyptians were preparing to vote on changes to their constitution.
Back In The USSR
September 28, 2011
The Bright StreamAmerican Ballet Theatre Anna Karenina; The Little Humpbacked HorseMariinsky Ballet, Metropolitan Opera House Incredibly, the hit of the New York dance season this spring was The Bright Stream, a restaging of a Soviet “tractor-ballet” from 1935, about a Caucasian collective farm complete with hammer, sickle, and happy farmers making merry in a sunlit workers’ paradise. The ballet comes to us directly from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, where it was first restaged in 2003 with new choreography by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.
The Libelous Truth
July 13, 2011
Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America By Alan Ackerman (Yale University Press, 361 pp., $35) Mary McCarthy preferred the old-fashioned way. You might not know this from her three divorces and the anatomical precision of her bedroom scenes, but she had a strong streak of cultural conservatism. She rejected feminism and lamented the disappearance of Latin from the schoolhouse. The modern fascination with technology annoyed her.