Tel Aviv Journal: Notes on a Roiling Region
April 29, 2011
I. “The standard left-wing person never seems more comfortable than when attacking Israel.” This is the novelist Martin Amis talking to Ha’aretz when he was in Israel this past fall.“Everyone else is protected,” Amis continued, “by having dark skin or colonial history or something. But you can attack Israel.” Freely! Of course, it’s not only the standard left-wing person who is so empowered, but also those who belong to mainstream Protestant churches associated with the National Council of Churches on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.
All the Hill’s a Stage
April 07, 2011
Around 11 a.m. on Thursday morning, Nancy Pelosi fielded a question from a journalist who wanted to know the same thing everyone else wanted to know: How, exactly, are the talks over a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown faring? The former Speaker of the House paused—back when Dems had a majority, after all, she would have been smack in the center of those negotiations. But now?
March 07, 2011
As Americans became transfixed by the violence and chaos in Libya, calls for U.S. military action arose across the political spectrum. Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, among others, advocated the creation of a no-fly zone and arming anti-government forces. Meanwhile, opponents of military action have warned that the use of force is almost never as easy, quick, or cheap as it first appears; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and U.S. Central Command’s General James Mattis have noted that even establishing a no-fly zone would be difficult and dangerous.
March 06, 2011
“Fear Stalks the Streets of Gadhafi’s Capital”; “Rebels Plead for Help.” The two quotes above are from headlines over articles on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday and Friday. They tell you as well as anything does of the terror that rules Libya. President Obama had first given a morsel of hope to the popular insurrection in Libya by allowing Hillary Clinton to suggest, although ever so tenuously, that America might impose a "no-fly zone" on Muammar Qaddafi's increasingly brutal attacks on the populace.
Is It 1989 All Over Again?
February 04, 2011
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.
January 27, 2011
Each year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its affiliated organizations hold hundreds of meetings, at which officials from countries across Asia come together to issue bland, verbose communiqués about everything from agriculture management to the handling of spiny dogfish and to listen to interchangeable speeches by government officials. Along with an inevitable level of boredom, the meetings feature exaggerated, affected displays of courtesy that would not have been out of place at the Tudor Court.
January 08, 2011
Almost exactly three years ago, as the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was splitting the Democratic Party in half, we asked a group of eggheads and eminences—mostly liberals—to write short essays for the magazine announcing who they would support in the 2008 election. Now, with President Obama’s popularity suffering and many of his supporters expressing frustration with his administration, we thought it would be worthwhile to return to the same group and ask: Do they stand by their endorsements from three years ago?
Wikileaks and the Cyberwars to Come
December 14, 2010
The childish panic that has swept the policy establishment over the past few weeks over the Wikileaks revelations themselves will soon subside.
Everything Is Data, but Data Isn’t Everything
December 07, 2010
This bumper-sticker headline, borrowed from the sociologist Pauline Bart, speaks beautifully to the latest Wikileaks outpour and the question of what it does and doesn’t mean. The media theorist Lev Manovich has said that the definitive informational metaphor of our epoch is the database. The database is not just a metaphor, in fact—it’s a certification of what knowledge looks like and how it is to be gained. A metaphor is a carrier, a condensation of meaning. A database is a heap.
A Defense of Wikileaks
December 01, 2010
The Obama administration has condemned Wikileaks for its second release within a year of classified foreign policy documents. And some liberal commentators have backed up the administration’s complaints. And I am not going to argue that the administration doesn’t have a case. Governments rely on candid assessments from their diplomats; and if Americans in overseas embassies have to assume that they are writing for the general public and not for their superiors back home, they are not likely to be very candid. But there is also something to be said in defense of Wikileaks.