Sahara

Doing pointless, pointless things sets us apart from other species. So go ahead, do them.

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Freetown, Sierra Leone—Twelve days ago, I rode on the back of a motorbike through the forests of Grand Gedeh County in eastern Liberia to a remote crossing point on the border with Ivory Coast. On the Liberian side were jumpy Bangladeshi peacekeepers who stood close by local security forces wearing blue fatigues and coalscuttle helmets. On the Ivorian side were the rebels of the Republican Forces, who support Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of Ivory Coast’s disputed presidential election last year.

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Qaddafi's War

The crazed colonel on the move in Chad.

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Today the world's attention is riveted by the U.N. strikes on Libya and the battle for Benghazi, as that nation's future hangs precariously in the balance. But whatever happens in the coming weeks or months, one thing is clear: The chances of a drawn-out insurgency in Libya are very high. History offers a number of sign posts that an insurgency will occur. Unfortunately Libya has almost all of them. At this point the political objectives of the government and anti-government forces are irreconcilable. Each side wants total victory—either Qaddafi will retain total power or he will be gone.

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Justice Undone

“Come stai…? Tutto bene…?” This had been U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's opening line since the early days of our professional relationship. I'd heard him use the greeting many times as he rose through the ranks, resorting to it whenever he met an Italian colleague (like me). Still, those words never failed to warm my heart. Walking around his desk Kofi smiled, hand stretched out towards the black leather sofa. It was early September 2006. Both Annan and I were about to leave the United Nations for good. He was leaving after two terms in office.

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An Apology

Nicholas Kristof and I do not see the world—and America's role in it—in the same way. I have sometimes expressed my disagreements with his opinions vociferously (vociferousness is my business). But in yesterday’s The New York Times, he quotes two sentences that I recently wrote—one of them genuinely embarrasses me, and I deeply regret it. The embarrassing sentence is: "I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse." I wrote that, but I do not believe that.

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It’s usually the case that any time a headline asks a question the answer is No. This post is no exception to that rule. The Americans were not robbed today and nor were they the victims of any anti-American bias. Sorry, Jesse, but that’s the sort of fanciful, solipsistic whingeing one normally associates with Notre Dame fans.  A friend has just told me that someone on ESPN has just said “Jo-burg has an international reputation for crime. There was a crime committed tonight in Ellis Park.” Really? Get a grip.

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Planet Doom

For most of the 2.5 million years that humans and their predecessors have been around, the Earth has been a volatile place. Subtle shifts in the planet’s orbit have triggered large temperature swings; glaciers have marched across North America and Europe and then retreated. But, about 10,000 years ago, something unusual happened: The Earth’s climate settled into a relatively stable state, global temperatures started hovering within a narrow band, and sea levels stopped rising and falling so drastically.

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The Furrows of Algeria

The German Mujahid By Boualem Sansal Translated by Frank Wynne (Europa Editions, 240 pp., $15) I. From the terrible Algerian slaughter, and its terrible silence, comes this small tale, told by an officer of the special forces who broke with “Le Pouvoir” of his own country and sought asylum in France. It is the autumn of 1994, deep into the season of killing. An old and simple Algerian woman, accompanied by two of her children, comes to the army barracks, to the very building where the torturers did their grim work, in search of her husband and her son.

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Angry White Man

Kirchick: Ron Paul's bigoted past.

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