Soviet Union

The Free World By David Bezmozgis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 356 pp., $26) To call a short-story writer Chekhovian is among the worst of the book reviewer’s clichés, a lazy shorthand that no longer means anything other than that the person writes very good short stories. But what is often forgotten amid the contemporary adulation of Chekhov as the master of the form—in fact he was the master only of a certain kind of short tale—is that, after a couple of early attempts, he declined to write novels.

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On China By Henry Kissinger (Penguin, 586 pp., $36) Henry Kissinger may be the most influential figure in the making of American foreign policy since the end of World War II, and he is certainly the most prolific. Since stepping down as secretary of state in 1977, Kissinger has written eight books, totaling more than seven thousand pages and several million words. And this is to say nothing of the five books he wrote before attaining high office, and the innumerable articles, essays, and speeches he has produced since.

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The Seventh All-Union Congress is in session. Chairman Molotov, of the People’s Commissars, is winding up a two-hour report: “…we can say to our friends that the Soviet Union is now greater than ever in its economic might and in the solidarity of the toiling masses around the Soviet power…. Our Stalin is leading the million-strong masses and we firmly know that this is the road to our complete victory.” Thunderous applause bursts forth in the great hall of the Kremlin. It turns into an ovation as two thousand delegates stand and shout: “Long live the great Stalin!

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Why Marx Was Right By Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press, 258 pp., $25) How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism By Eric Hobsbawm (Yale University Press, 470 pp., $35) An intellectual revival of Marxism is one of the predictable consequences of the financial crisis. In the twenty years before the storm broke, the Marxisant intelligentsia was more marginal in politics and culture than it had ever been.

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With Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh holed up in a Saudi hospital, Yemen has settled into a relative calm. But the situation is not so much improved as it is temporarily pacified by uncertainty. Saleh’s aides are insisting that he will return to Yemen soon; meanwhile, diplomats from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, the United States, and the European Union have swooped in to pressure Saleh, even in his hospital bed, to officially resign.

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Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa By Jason K. Stearns (PublicAffairs, 380 pp., $28.99) The history of Congo is the history of mass murder. What is going on today—with rebels, government soldiers, and armed groups from neighboring countries raping and slaughtering Congolese civilians—is a continuation of the ruthlessness that has been embedded in this country for more than a hundred years.

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Enemy of the State

In the stash of hard drives, thumb drives, and personal papers discovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound, one especially revealing find was his personal diary. According to an analyst privy to the frequent updates of translated material being posted to the intelligence community’s classified internet, the late Al Qaeda leader periodically recorded his amusement that U.S. drones were searching for him in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan while he was living comfortably less than a quarter of a mile from a Pakistani military academy.

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In October 2008, a month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers—with the United States’s financial system seemingly about to buckle and Washington in desperate need of cash to prevent a total economic collapse—a State Department official contacted his Chinese counterpart about China buying U.S. securities. To his surprise, the Chinese, who had previously displayed an insatiable appetite for U.S. Treasury bills, suddenly balked at lending a hand. The reason, the Chinese official said, was the recent announcement of an impending sale of U.S.

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In the debate over the House Republicans’ budget plan championed by Representative Paul Ryan, it's been remarkable to watch the contortions and contradictions in the GOP on the issue of health care. The cornerstone of the Republican critique of the Affordable Care Act over the past year or so has been that it would lead to rationing. While Republicans initially manufactured lies about this issue—anyone remember death panels?—they eventually focused on one provision in the bill that was focused on cutting costs: the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

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Swan Song

From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO’s future was in question. While it had been the most successful multinational alliance in history, partnerships of that sort seldom survive once their enemies are gone. As the Berlin Wall came down and Stalin’s empire shattered, NATO’s clock was ticking. Amazingly, though, the Alliance persisted, largely by transforming itself. It staved off a challenge from a proposed European Union Defense Force, which might have supplanted it; provided an institutional framework for continued U.S.

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