Turkey

You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.

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The news was simple. It was leaked two weeks ago.

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Ever since George W. Bush massively cut taxes back in 2001, squandering much of the $5.6 trillion, ten-year surplus he inherited from Bill Clinton, liberals have assumed that the fiscal game was rigged. Conservatives had been explicit about their starve-the-beast strategy—the practice of creating large deficits through tax cuts in order to force future spending cuts. By playing along, the thinking went, Democrats would only further enable irresponsible behavior—a bit like negotiating with terrorists.

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The Party Line

Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.

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Ankara, Turkey Turkey may not be a totalitarian state, but the streets of its capital city are reminiscent of one. From tall buildings around Ankara hang enormous, colorful posters of the country’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, presenting an endless variety of noble poses and natty costumes. Here he is resplendent in a military uniform, there sporting formalwear with a white bow tie, here a dandy with a vest and a pocket watch—and always looming several stories above the street. His face also adorns every Turkish lira.

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I don't want to break President Obama's healthfest. And I also don't won't to distract you from Jon Chait's and John Judis' analyses of how all of us got there. The Republicans still have some games to play in the senate. But the real delays will come from postponements of entitlements and other time-lag provisions included in the legislation itself. Still, since it has been uniformly ignored in the United States and also neglected by the "progressive" media in the United Kingdom (including the BBC), I want to call your attention to a dictator's threat to 100,000 of his people.

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Greek Tragedy

Shortly after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou took office last fall, he learned that he’d inherited a massive booby prize: a budget deficit that was twice the amount the previous government had disclosed. But, when Papandreou came clean and promised to address the problem, the financial markets reacted violently. Interest rates soared, adding billions in debt-service costs to an already dire budget picture.

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We’ve had more than a few homilies from the president about how Islam is a communion of peace. And I don’t doubt that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who yearn for quiet and productive lives. May Allah be with them, according to their prayers. If they are a majority in Islam--and I’m not sure they are--they are a silent majority. In any event, the defining strain among many Arab and Muslim states is the reign of violence and the dread fear of it.

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A few years ago, few places on Earth were as hellish as Iraq’s Anbar Province. Spanning the country’s western desert, Anbar is best known by its major cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, both of which became home bases for Al Qaeda-linked terrorists who flooded across Iraq’s border with Syria and joined with Sunni insurgents to carry out bombings, executions, kidnappings, and torture across the country.

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Something Much Darker

I. “Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to readers of The New Republic is not easy.” On June 2, 1944, W.H. Auden penned that sentence in a letter to Ursula Niebuhr. On January 26, 2010, Andrew Sullivan posted it as the “quote for the day” on his blog. Displaced and unglossed quotations are always in some way mordant, and bristle smugly with implications. Let us see what this one implies. Auden was at Swarthmore when he wrote his letter to his friend.

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