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.
As the international community continues to debate high-minded principles of national sovereignty, Syria continues its downward spiral into unmitigated chaos. The bitter truth is that the longer this situation continues, the deeper the scars will be once the nation has been freed of Bashar Al-Assad. Increasingly, crimes against humanity are being committed by both sides, as the Free Syria Army struggles to incorporate and maintain control over its armed rebel brigades. But as harrowing as the details of the current situation are, the basic principles at stake are very clear.
When interests meet ideals in the arena of states, ideals lose out. How shall we count the ways? In recent times, there were Somalia, Rwanda and Darfur—the massacres and the ethnic cleansing dwarfing anything happening in Syria or, last summer, in Libya. In more ancient history, the world allowed Japan to grab Manchuria and wipe out Nanking. Mussolini used poison gas to conquer Abyssinia while the League of Nations postured and then fell apart. The U.S. wouldn't even bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz, the reasons put forward being: We need the ordinance for the war against the Germans.
I. MY ROLE ON September 11 was to be a reporter for The New Republic. I was in downtown Brooklyn, and from my rooftop I watched the first tower crumble, and then I ran downstairs to the street with pen and notebook and plunged into the crowds fleeing over the bridges. I spoke with one person after another, asking what they had seen. They told me. I compiled my report.
Each president of the United States enters office thinking he will be able to define the agenda and set the course of America’s relations with the rest of the world. And, almost invariably, each confronts crises that are thrust upon him—wars, revolutions, genocides, and deadly confrontations. Neither Woodrow Wilson nor FDR imagined having to plunge America into world war. Truman had to act quickly, and with little preparation, to confront the menace of Soviet expansion at war’s end.
One can just imagine what the Wikileaks records of Richard Holbrooke’s diplomacy would have looked like. His salty, roustabout’s slinging of abuse when needed; his explosive pugnacity while negotiating in person and his relentlessly unsentimental drive towards a result—none of it would have looked pretty on paper. Yet he pulled off the impossible by imposing stability on the Balkans with the Dayton Accords.
In October 2000, Hillary Clinton was entering the home stretch of one of the most unusual Senate campaigns in American history. Although her husband still occupied the Oval Office, she had decamped to a Dutch Colonial in Westchester County to run for the seat of retiring New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To compensate for the fact that she had never actually lived in the state she intended to represent, she immersed herself in Empire State minutiae. Off the top of her head, she would describe in detail the virtues of the Northeast dairy compact and the rate of upstate job growth.
Four years, 466 hearing days, more than 300 witnesses, and over $200 million after it began in The Hague, Case Number IT-02-54, Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic, was officially declared over on March 14, three days after Milosevic was found dead of an apparent heart attack in his prison cell. There will be no verdict.
When the Rose Revolution began in the fall of 2003, there was little reason to hope for a happy ending. Twelve years earlier, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia had stepped from communism into civil war. The old Communist eminence Eduard Shevardnadze may have brought greater stability when he took over the government in 1992, but his corrupt rule also generated huge new pools of ill will among the populace. Some of this disgust manifested itself in small, peaceful street protests.
Most of the time in war, diplomatic machinations don't create enduring realities--events on the battlefield do. After World War I, the defeated, but not humiliated, German army that surrendered in France and Belgium provided the origins for the "stab in the back" mythology that fueled Hitler's rise to power. After World War II, by contrast, the shattered and shamed Wehrmacht in Berlin was unable to energize a Fourth Reich. George S.