November 28, 2005
A History Of Violence
In the spring of 2003, as the Iraq war got underway, I spent many hours learning about violence in a creaky lecture hall at the Sorbonne. It was a sensitive time to be an American in Paris. "La guerre" had made the city's formerly convivial atmosphere heavy and indignant, and I expected my new class--"Shattered Texts," a literature course about the effects of destruction on people and cultures--to be mired in contemporary despair and maybe even hostility. To my surprise, the news of the day was of little analogical interest to my professor.
The Shorn Identity
To the smoke rising from the Paris suburbs, the American press has been adding a generous portion of fog. Typical was the front-page story in last Friday's New York Times. A "significant proportion of the population," Craig S. Smith wrote, "has yet to accept the increasingly multiethnic makeup of the nation. Put simply, being French, for many people, remains a baguette-and-beret affair." Put simply, this is distressingly close to nonsense, and not just because berets have been far more scarce on French streets than baseball caps for many years.
The childhood mosque of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who has emerged as the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, is a modest affair. It lacks a proper minaret, and, unlike many of the other houses of worship in this hardscrabble industrial city, there are no green or blue neon lights to set it off from the corner bodegas and concrete apartments nearby.
November 14, 2005
Our Incompetent Government
When something goes wrong, we look for someone to blame, in the hope that by finding and punishing a culpable individual we can prevent a repetition. Sometimes this is little better than scapegoating, which is my reaction to the search for someone to blame for the failure to detect the September 11 plot or to discover that Saddam Hussein had abandoned his weapons of mass destruction.
In 1994, the eminent evangelical historian Mark Noll wrote a scorching polemic about his own religion called The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. The book lamented the "intellectual disaster of fundamentalism" and its toll on evangelical political and theological thought. All around him, Noll saw "a weakness for treating the verses of the Bible as pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that needed only to be sorted and then fit together to possess a finished picture of divine truth." While many evangelicals reacted angrily to Noll's description, they tacitly acknowledged his argument with their actions.
November 07, 2005
Equal Opportunity Offender
When rioting broke out two weeks ago in Clichy-sous-Bois, an impoverished Parisian suburb with a largely Arab and African population, France turned as usual to its triumvirate of top government officials: President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Chirac, still chastened by last summer's defeat of the EU constitution, provided little solace.
November 04, 2005
Should liberals be foreign-policy idealists? Suddenly, the question is everywhere. In his new book Power and the Idealists, TNR contributing editor Paul Berman argues that today's interventionists are the true heirs of the radical spirit of 1960s liberalism. In The Washington Post last month, Richard Cohen urged Democrats not to abandon idealism, writing that "Bush's soggy religiosity clearly should not be the basis of a foreign policy.
October 24, 2005
The End of Gay Culture
For the better part of two decades, I have spent much of every summer in the small resort of Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod.
October 17, 2005
Welcome To The Hackocracy
The events of the past months have awakened the press to the true nature of the Bush administration. It is overrun with hacks--that is, government officials with waifish resumes padded like the Michelin man, whose political connections have won them important national responsibilities. But, in the face of this rush to flay the Bush hacks, we should consider their achievements.To fully appreciate the virtues of this administration, we must first recall the administration that came before. Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton recruited a small army of Arkansans and Rhodes scholars to the West Wing.
October 10, 2005
Were Norman Mailer to pen a sequel to The Armies of the Night, his chronicle of a 1967 antiwar march on the Pentagon, his notes might read something like this: Good news and bad news to report from this weekend’s protest in Washington against the Iraq war—good news because over 100,000 demonstrators turned out to voice their opposition to war, racism, and inequality; bad news because the loudest voices belonged to pre-adolescents. Yes, as I traverse the Mall on Saturday, I cannot escape 13- and 14-year-old girls with peace signs (and the occasional Mercedes logo) painted on their cheeks.