Obama in Seoul: My Problem with Foreign News
November 19, 2009
I used to be the foreign editor of In These Times in Chicago. I didn’t particularly enjoy the job, because I have never been fascinated with the world outside of the United States. I am not sure whether I could find Honduras or Liberia on a map, and I have never mastered the current spelling of Chinese names.
The Reinvention of Robert Gates
November 09, 2009
One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.
Uncovering Syria's Secret Nuclear Site
November 06, 2009
In case you haven't gotten your issue of Der Spiegel this month, the German mag has some very cool details on the intelligence work that led to the discovery--and eventual destruction by Israeli airstrike--of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor being built with North Korean help: In the spring of 2004, the American National Security Agency (NSA) detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea, with a noticeably busy line of communication between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and a place in the northern Syrian desert called Al Kibar.
Is the West Soft on North Korea?
November 02, 2009
I noticed over the weekend that the Economist is indignant that the West doesn't focus more on human rights atrocities in North Korea: At some point the West will need to address its shame of not facing up to the abuse sooner and more viscerally. In the meantime President Barack Obama hardly sent the right message by taking eight months to appoint his special representative for human rights in North Korea. Still, the question is what to do about the place. Regime change is out of the question.
In the Tank
October 28, 2009
The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President By Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster, 707 pp., $35) In her infamous first sentence of The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm swings for the fences and proclaims that "every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible." She means that journalists use their human subjects and then dispose of them; that we con them in person by "preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness"--it occurs to me to note that however bleak print's future seems
The Susan in question is Susan Rice. And, according to a New York Times article by Neil MacFarquhar, it's Stewart Patrick who gives her the good grades. Rice is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. So who is Patrick? He is one of those hundreds of I.R. wonks in Washington who moves from fellowship to fellowship, eating up foundation money, and ends up being an expert in what actually amounts to nothing or maybe, just maybe, the same thing: "multilateral cooperation in the management of global issues; U.S.
Sarkozy Pushes on Iran, North Korea
September 24, 2009
This morning the UN security council unanimously passed a resolution echoing Barack Obama's vision of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. It's hard to criticize this vision, but some conservatives have criticized Obama's vision for a world without nuclear weapons as naive. And, more specifically, some are complaining that the broad themes discussed here this morning amount to going soft on Iran and North Korea, who are not mentioned by name in the resolution approved by the council, and who went unmentioned in Obama's opening remarks.
Inside the Security Council, Cont'd
September 24, 2009
At the opening of this morning's special Security Council session on nukes, Barack Obama opened his remarks with this dramatic vision: As I said yesterday, this very institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man's capacity to kill had to be contained. And although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches. Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city -- be it New York or Moscow; Tokyo or Beijing; London or Paris -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people
The Problem With Obama's UN Proposal
September 22, 2009
At the UN this week, President Obama will finally move closer to closing the notorious "enrichment loophole"—a monstrous oversight written into the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that allowed North Korea and Iran to pursue nuclear-arms programs while insisting that their efforts were simply peaceful civilian research.
September 11, 2009
Obama announces two major, unpopular foreign policy decisions on Friday afternoon, when no one in the media is paying attention and the front pages are already reserved for 9/11 anniversary coverage. First, the administration plans to engage in direct talks over North Korea's nuclear program. By rights, this decision should be uncontroversial since, as Marty Peretz has pointed out on The Spine, it's exactly what neoconservative scholar Robert Kagan and others advocate.