National Security Council
BY THE TIME Susan Rice withdrew her name from the running for secretary of state earlier this month, she had emerged in the media as one of Washington’s most nefarious personalities.
In the Jewish struggle around Zionism there were at least three strands in opposition so fierce that it was evident that the very meaning of “the people Israel” was at stake. The first of these was a vast religious cohort, at once immensely learned or purported to have such learning and having, as well, the authority of the sages. Or the ages. While ongoing study and “trust in the Lord” constituted their program, they practiced a politics that was fundamentally anti-political. God was both their instrument and their end.
Welcome to TNR’s 2011 list issue. Yesterday we named the most powerful, least famous people in Washington. Today’s installment: DC’s most over-rated thinkers. NEWT GINGRICH Maybe it’s the Ph.D., his extensive bibliography, or his constant appearances on Fox News, but Newt Gingrich has held on to his reputation as the “ideas man” of the Republican Party for too long. Last May, when Gingrich was contemplating a run in 2012, Eric Cantor swooned over his intellect and The Washington Post published a story headlined: “Newt Gingrich has Ideas.
With an economy seemingly on the precipice of a renewed recession, an angry conservative movement that regards him with disdain, and a disillusioned liberal base disappointed in his first term, Barack Obama’s bid for reelection next year will, by all indications, be a tough, maybe even uphill fight. But daunting as the campaign may seem, the president can at least take some solace in a precedent from 64 years ago: Harry Truman’s campaign for reelection in 1948—successful, despite a poor economic climate, and a polarized electorate—offers a promising path for Obama’s reelection.
On March 17, the U.N. Security Council voted to authorize “all necessary measures” to stop an impending massacre of Libyan civilians. Before long, a narrative had emerged explaining how President Obama had become enmeshed in another major conflict. According to this version of events, a heated debate had occurred between the administration’s realists—Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and his deputy, Denis McDonough—and its interventionists: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; the genocide scholar turned foreign policy adviser Samantha Power; and the U.S.
I found it interesting that the strongest voices for intervention in Libya are all female: The change became possible, though, only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity. Ms. Power is a former journalist and human rights advocate; Ms.
Last month was decision time for the many academics who left their tenured jobs to work in the Obama administration. Universities standardly grant leave for at most two years, at which point a professor must either return or resign. Some, of course, can hope to be rehired later, but prudence often rules. Many of my acquaintances made the choice to return to writing and teaching. A few have stayed on. For a long time I’ve been comparing my free and sheltered life to those exposed and difficult lives, with a mixture of relief and guilt.
Oilmen have feelings, too. Take the industry executive who lobbied the White House last year to lift the ban on U.S. corporations doing business in Libya. When National Security Council officials rejected his plea, he broke down and wept. The Libyans, he sniffled, were a gentle people. They deserved better. White House officials offered him a tissue. That was then. If proponents of warmer relations with Libya are shedding tears today, they are tears of elation.
History does not enable us to predict the future, but it does help us to prepare for it. It therefore makes sense that commentators are searching for historical precedents to the dramatic events in Egypt. History might help shed light on where the potentially revolutionary developments are heading. It is important to get the history right, however. Some commentators have suggested that the world might be witnessing a repetition of the events of 1979, when an Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah of Iran.