President Obama wants it both ways. His dreary international initiative to put finis to nuclear arms is seen as so unlikely and so impossible that Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has already sent the atomic arms reduction treaty, negotiated with the American president, to the Russian parliament, where it has no chances of failure. Obama sent the document to the Senate earlier this month.
May 22, 2010
Adam Mickiewicz: The Life of a Romantic By Roman Koropeckyj (Cornell University Press, 549 pp., $45) It was Poland’s peculiar luck to receive its literary matrix, its cultural subtext, the source of its national mythology, from the hands of a provincial genius, a Romantic poet and mystic, in the first half of the nineteenth century. Imagine the creative possibilities, and the inevitable perils, of such a provenance.
The Limits of Limits
May 05, 2010
Does the Constitution Follow the Flag?: The Evolution of Territoriality in American Law By Kal Raustiala (Oxford University Press, 328 pp., $29.95) In 1898, American and Spanish officials signed the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. Spain ceded Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and other colonial possessions to the United States. The Spanish-American War had been fought in the name of Cuban freedom, and sentiment in the United States favored Cuban independence.
The Prisoner Intellectuals
May 05, 2010
The key to understanding radical Islam and Communism? Prison culture.
April 21, 2010
The words most often used by the heads of oil companies to describe the boom are “revolution” and “game changer.” Industry historian Daniel Yergin calls it “the shale gale.” Admittedly, serious questions remain as to whether shale gas will pass the ecological test—critics say it can’t be extracted safely in proximity to groundwater, and the EPA is engaged in a two-year study of extraction techniques.
The Wild Heart
April 17, 2010
Why This World: A Biography of Clarice LispectorBy Benjamin Moser (Oxford University Press, 479 pp., $29.95) No one has ever known quite how to understand Clarice Lispector. Though she considered herself fully a Brazilian, having lived in the country since infancy, both her critics and her admirers often described her accent and her diction as “foreign”—perhaps unsure how else to characterize her unconventional wrestlings with the Portuguese language.
The government was Russia’s. So it shouldn’t be derided entirely. But its importance shouldn’t be exaggerated either. After all, Washington and Moscow are not currently in any world historical conflict—at least not one likely to lead to a nuclear standoff. There were several of these during the Cold War. But I conclude in retrospect that they were mostly bluffs. This is even true of the Soviet threats to Israel in 1956, 1967, and 1973. It is probably true about John F. Kennedy’s warnings to Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, as well.
Nightmare in Chechnya
April 07, 2010
When it comes to war, it is a natural human tendency to identify good guys and bad guys—and sometimes, it is a sensible one.
The Party Line
April 07, 2010
Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.
Administration Policy On Iran Is An Unmitigated Disaster
March 28, 2010
And it has been that since the beginning of the Obama presidency. Obama had started out with the quaintest belief that soft diplomacy would work with a rough tyranny that had even rougher ambitions in its dealings with other countries. This was obvious to everyone except the president himself.