Frankfurt on the Hudson
August 31, 2009
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the Frankfurt School in recent American thought. Philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists like Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Max Horkheimer—to name just the best-known members of the group—helped to develop a subtle and powerful way of thinking about the problems of modern society.
The Best and the Fastest
August 31, 2009
The End of Empire: Attila the Hun and the Fall of Rome By Christopher Kelly (W.W. Norton, 350 pp., $26.95) Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia From the Bronze Age To the Present By Christopher I. Beckwith (Princeton University Press, 472 pp., $35) The extraordinary reputation of Attila and his Huns requires an explanation, because they had so much competition.
August 26, 2009
On August 4, Haaretz reported that Benjamin Netanyahu called Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod self-hating Jews. A spokesman for the prime minister later denied this, but I have heard from Israeli friends that this conspiratorial explanation is quite popular in the prime minister’s office. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The accusation of ethnic infidelity is an old feature of the political culture of the Likud. The defenders of Greater Israel have values, but the critics of Greater Israel have motives.
Khamenei vs. Khomeini
August 20, 2009
During his August 3 speech formally endorsing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned protesters that “by imitation of Ayatollah Khomeini, they cannot deceive people.” Khamenei was mocking the opposition’s claim to be to reviving “the values of Ayatollah Khomeini”--the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Khamenei’s predecessor as Supreme Leader. Ironically, Khamenei made this statement while seated below a large, framed picture of Khomeini. This scene provides a stark illustration of the fact that politics in Iran are largely defined by attempts to claim Khomeini’s legacy.
The Politics of the Jackboot
August 20, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Try a thought experiment: What would conservatives have said if a group of loud, scruffy leftists had brought guns to the public events of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush? How would our friends on the right have reacted to someone at a Reagan or a Bush speech carrying a sign that read: "It's time to water he tree of liberty"?
No Muslims Here
August 17, 2009
For years, the Soviet Union and its successor, the Russian Federation, were active handmaidens to Arab and Muslim terrorism. Of course, the targets had to be Israel and Israelis or Jews, Westerners, capitalists and other people vulgarly associated with the United States. Terrorism now strikes everywhere. Russia is a target of some ideologically intoxicated band virtually every day. China is now also a more or less regular target. And Thailand, the Philippines, India and so on, wherever there are enough Muslims to have political ambitions for even an Islamic mini-state.
Washington in the early days of a new administration is a didactic, lesson-drawing place, but even so, it has been striking to see how quickly the commentary on the death of Robert McNamara, defense secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and architect of the Vietnam war, has turned to abstraction--as if it was not one exceptionally smart man being buried, but a certain kind of smarts itself. "What happened ... to Robert McNamara teaches a lesson to all those who talk of governments of all the talents," editorialized The Times of London.
Realism In Action
August 13, 2009
State Department European affairs chief Phil Gordon to visit Belarus, meet with "Europe's last dictator." --Michael Crowley
What Motivated The Mehsud Killing?
August 11, 2009
One interesting wrinkle in the story of Baitullah Mehsud's assassination-by-drone is that Mehsud has long been a higher-priority target for Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, than he has been for the United States. This may have been for personal reasons. Pakistan and the CIA both believe that Baitullah Mehsud was responsible for the assassination of Zardari's wife, Benazir Bhutto. And ever since, Zardari has feared that he will be the next target. The Bush administration, however, was reportedly unwilling to send drones against Mehsud.
Failure of Leadership
August 10, 2009
Last week, the White House released a list of recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that the United States government can afford a civilian. Among the 16 awardees are truly great figures: breast cancer philanthropist Nancy Goodman Brinker, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and Sidney Poitier, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.