Almost no one in America cares about foreign affairs, especially not for Barack Obama’s foreign affairs. For he has made of almost his entire conduct of peace and war an amateurish mess, crude, provincial, impetuous, peaceably high-minded but stupid—and full of peril to the world, to its democracies, to the United States itself.
All Over the Map
July 28, 2011
On June 21, 2007, Mitt Romney delivered a speech at the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute in Beaver Creek, Colorado. To coincide with the address, his campaign released a statement explaining the candidate’s vision for fighting the war on terrorism.
The Freedom to Bumble
July 13, 2011
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.
The Unrealistic Realist
July 13, 2011
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.
The Soviets Take Stock
June 24, 2011
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!
The Return of an Illusion
June 23, 2011
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.
After Saleh: Is Yemen’s Opposition Willing to Settle?
June 13, 2011
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.
The Horror, The Horror
May 19, 2011
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.
Enemy of the State
May 19, 2011
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.
May 05, 2011
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.