Stoicism and Us
March 17, 2010
Marcus Aurelius: A Life By Frank McLynn (Da Capo Press, 684 pp., $30) A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy By William B. Irvine (Oxford University Press, 314 pp., $19.95) Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book, Bright-Sided, offers a damning indictment of the ideology of positive thinking, which she sees as the fundamental flaw in American life.
I’ve written myself about the Obama administration’s more-than-flatfooted policies on Syria (here, here, and here) and Iran (here, here, and here). So I am particularly gratified when I find myself in alignment with Barry Rubin, a truly brainy scholar with a slight polemical touch. His latest analysis is below. Syria is a galling instance of the president’s obsessions ... and for several reasons. A weak country, both economically and militarily, its only possible political sway is to exacerbate the hatreds of its neighbors towards Israel.
Another Hit Job By The Financial Times
March 02, 2010
Hardly a day goes by that the Financial Times doesn’t do a hit job on Israel. The otherwise sober pink sheet has such an obsession with the Jewish state that I’ve come to wonder what its views were on the rescue of Jewish children into England during the Nazi onslaught on them and on their parents. Tobias Buck is virtually on call full time to twist Israeli reality into his own jaundiced view of Zionism. Last week in the FT, he came to conclusions about Israel’s diplomatic isolation which he himself had trumpeted.
The U.S. “Continues A Strategic Thaw With Syria.” Syria Does Nothing. What Does Washington Expect? But, Yes, There Are Consequences For Iran, Grim Ones.
February 22, 2010
Continuing my last Spine… The A.P. reports in Sunday’s New York Times that the Obama administration has lifted the travel advisory that warns American not to visit Syria. It’s not too much of a sanction on Damascus, and there is no punishment for American tourists and businessmen who want to see the glories of Damascus, such as they are.
Really, I don’t care if there is an American ambassador in Damascus. It’s true, given the environment, that he might be shot by terrorists. But, otherwise, why not? We had U.S. diplomats in Tokyo, Berlin and Rome until just after Pearl Harbor. Of course, they did no good. But probably, they also did no harm—except prolonging the illusion that America was at peace with the host countries. Why doesn't the administration just say that we are returning to our embassy in Syria because Syria is a player in the Middle East?
January 29, 2010
“The cruel God of the Jews has you beaten too.”--Racine An interview by Joe Klein in Time magazine is hardly a historical event. But, when the interview is with Barack Obama, it lays claim to some newsworthiness. This is especially true when it is ballyhooed as a firstanniversary event. Since, moreover, (right after awarding himself good grades on Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia) it’s clear that Obama wanted to make a point: “The other area which I think is worth noting is that the Middle East peace process has not moved forward.
Shaking Hands With the Man Who Killed Your Father
December 21, 2009
Geopolitical realities force Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to visit Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who probably orchestrated a massive car bomb that killed Hariri's father in 2005. The recent rise in Syrian influence would be less galling were Assad doing anything visible to advance the Middle East peace process--one common view holds that untangling the Syrian-Israeli border could be a crucial first step towards a broader paece--as this Sy Hersh opus suggested might happen.
November 28, 2009
Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations By Avi Shlaim (Verso, 392 pp., $34.95) Avi Shlaim burst upon the scene of Middle Eastern history in 1988, with the publication of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. Before that, as a young lecturer at Reading University in England, he had produced two books, British Foreign Secretaries Since 1945 (1977) and The United States and the Berlin Blockade, 1948–1949 (1983), and several revealing essays on modern Middle Eastern historical issues in academic journals.
September 11, 2009
One remarkable thing about watching the Middle East is how what’s celebrated as brilliant in Europe or America is errant nonsense. Writing such stuff makes people successful and gives them an audience of millions.