Serbia

EVERY WEEK, thousands of Serbians bundle up in bed and flip on their televisions for their fix of “Evening with Ivan Ivanovic,” a cheesy “Late Show” knockoff complete with a live studio audience, a rock band, and an eager host clasping a coffee mug in front of a fake Belgrade skyline. One evening this spring, Ivanovic proudly announced that his guest would be the first American ever to appear on the show. With gusto, the band struck up a brassy rendition of “New York, New York” and Rudy Giuliani, wearing his familiar toothy grin, descended a bright, glowing staircase to wild cheers.

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When the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended with a victory for the United States, John Hay, U.S. ambassador in London, felt moved to celebrate. In a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, he described it as a war “begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by the fortune which loves the brave.” It was, in short, “a splendid little war.” The fall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya has inclined many contemporary commentators to similarly effusive bursts of cheer. But does the war in Libya deserve all the praise being bestowed upon it?

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Accept Serbia

In the aftermath of the arrest of Ratko Mladic, all eyes are now on Serbia’s application for European Union membership (see, for example here, here, and here). After all, the arrest of Mladic, whom Time described as “Europe’s most wanted war-crimes suspect”, was supposed to be the major remaining obstacle to Serbia joining the EU.

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Rejoicer Beware

What is it about international justice that impels so many intelligent and politically sophisticated people to spout so much utopian nonsense? Anyone doubting this needs to look at the statements that have been pouring like rain out of the United Nations, and out of the major human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, about the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the commander of Serb rebel forces during the Bosnian War and architect of the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered in cold blood.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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Best Player: Xavi, but not without Busquets. While Xavi orchestrates plays and controls the rhythm like no one I've ever seen, with a patience and precision of a miniature painter, none of it would be possible without Busquets. Busquets gets the ball, passes it to Xavi who passes it on to Iniesta or someone else, forever available--and they do that hundreds of times each game, over and over again, and everyone knows they will do it and they do it still.

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I wish I could read German so I could find out whether the press and soccer fans in Germany are blaming the referee after they lost to Serbia. Should Germans need any help in blaming themselves, I would be happy to step forth: Undiano the ref was a little card-happy, but was consistent. Klose's second foul was dumb and clearly cardable. He played little for Bayern last season and when he did he was poor. He might not be all that battle-ready as his slowness was visible in both of the carded fouls—both times he was a step or two behind the running man.

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One of the great things in watching the World Cup is a chance to appreciate a team like Paraguay. From a fan point of view, they're not all that fun to watch, for obvious reason--defensive gritiness, absence of big names, no spectacular plays, mind-numbing discipline. If it wasn't the obvious limits of the team's abilities, you could call them poor people's Germans. No one outside Paraguay rushes home to watch them, but it's hard not to admire the commitment and hard work and the fact they always make it hard for the other team to beat them.

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Building Blocs

Monday marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is worth pausing to recall just how momentous, and unanticipated, this event and those that followed were. My students today have no memory of the cold war; to them, Prague and Budapest, just like Paris and Madrid, are simply places to visit or study in Europe.

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