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.
July 01, 2009
What Obama's Cairo speech got wrong.
The Year of the Elephant
May 20, 2009
“YES, SOMETIMES I GO into the room with my advisers and I start shouting. And then they say, ‘And then what?’” The question hangs in the perfectly cooled air in Sa’ad Hariri’s marble-floored sitting room, where Beirut appears as a sunlit abstraction visible at a distance through thick windows. Hariri’s father, the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, martyr of the Cedar Revolution, arches his black eyebrows from a giant poster near the sofa, looking out at his son with a sidelong, mischievous glance. “It hasn’t been a joyful trip,” Sa’ad Hariri is saying.
March 04, 2009
Baghdad, Iraq In December 2007, the Alpha Company of the 4-64 Armor Battalion of the Fourth Brigade, Third Infantry Division, arrived in the neighborhood of Saidiyah in southwest Baghdad. More than half of the onceupscale, religiously mixed neighborhood's 60,000 residents had fled to Jordan, Syria, or other parts of Iraq. Those who stayed rarely ventured out of their homes. Up until a few months earlier, human corpses had littered the street, where stray dogs feasted on them.
May 28, 2008
JERUSALEM--At first glance, Ehud Olmert and Bashar al-Assad have nothing in common. The first is a slick, media-savvy politico, while the second is an awkward, anti-charismatic, unloved and unlovable dictator. But Israel's prime minister and Syria's ruler have both concluded that the best way to beat the rap, respectively, on corruption and murder charges is to make peace with one another. That, at least, is the impression of many Israelis, prominent commentators among them, in light of last week's revelation of indirect talks between Syrian and Israeli negotiators in Turkey.
The TNR Primary: Part Twelve
January 25, 2008
I spent last May with a group of writers touring Arab universities, meeting with students in Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. Whenever we were able to speak informally, politics--specifically, American politics--came up again and again. At times, the anxiety among the students we met was overwhelming. They wanted to know why we had gone to Iraq, why we had reelected Bush, why we had squandered our opportunity to lead. Which brings me to this year's presidential contest. I've never voted with much enthusiasm, and, certainly, this year feels different.