Does the Name John Brady Kiesling Ring a Bell?
October 27, 2009

In case it doesn't and your memory needs refreshing, he's the career diplomat who resigned in protest from the State Department in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq War. I bring up Kiesling because, despite all the hubbub over foreign service officer Matthew Hoh's resignation in protest over our Afghanistan policy, I'd imagine he'll become a historical footnote like Kiesling and his action will have little impact on the direction of the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy.

A Propaganda Defeat in Afghanistan
October 27, 2009

I hadn't been aware of the uproar in Afghanistan over the alleged desecration of a koran by American forces until the Washington Post flagged it in passing this morning. It's a reminder that the Taliban can match our guns and helicopters with some equally powerful lies.

The Race Man
October 26, 2009

Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington By Robert J. Norrell (Harvard University Press, 508 pp., $35)   I. Once the most famous and influential African American in the United States (and probably the world), Booker T. Washington has earned at best mixed reviews in the decades since his death in 1915. Black intellectuals and political activists, from W. E. B.

End State
October 26, 2009

California is a mess, but I love it all the same--especially the Bay Area, where I lived for 15 years. I went to Berkeley in 1962--a refugee from Amherst College, which at that time was dominated by frat boys with high SAT scores. I didn't go to Berkeley to go to school, but to be a bus ride away from North Beach and the Jazz Workshop. In a broader sense, I went to California for the same reason that other émigrés had been going since the 1840s. I was knocking on the Golden Door. Immigrants from Europe had come to America seeking happiness and a break with their unhappy pasts.

October 24, 2009

It's some 400 miles from Harvard Square to Capitol Hill, but when Rory Stewart made the trip last month, he chose an unlikely mode of transport: He took a plane. Stewart is an inveterate, epic walker. He spent part of this past summer strolling the 150 miles from Crieff to Penrith in his native Scotland. More impressively, in 2002, not long after he quit his job with the British Foreign Office, he walked across Afghanistan, a 600-mile jaunt that served as the basis for his best-selling book The Places In Between.

Insights from TNR's Extensive Afghanistan Coverage
October 23, 2009

Barack Obama is currently mulling what will certainly be some of the defining choices of his presidency: Should he send a lot more troops to Afghanistan, as his commander there has recommended, and, if so, what should their objectives be? Understanding the issue is critical. So over the past couple weeks, TNR has commissioned a series of pieces examining various angles of our involvement in Afghanistan. Here they are: "Stalemate" by A.J. Rossmiller, October 13, 2009. The conventional wisdom that "we are at a turning point in Afghanistan" is wrong, he says.

AHIP Insists It's Still a Friend of Health Reform. Really!
October 22, 2009

Speaking beneath the twinkling crystal chandeliers of the Capitol Hilton ballroom this morning, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) president Karen Ignagni declared that the insurance industry is still on board with the Democratic health care reform effort, pushing back against the presumption that the two sides have declared war. “Our community was one of the first to position ourselves very actively to a massive overhaul of the insurance market,” Ignagni told the audience members, who were attending the organization’s conference on state insurance issues.

What Did Bush Bequeath Obama in Afghanistan?
October 22, 2009

Dick Cheney says the Bush administration left the Obama administration with a plan (and a good one) for Afghanistan: The President’s chief of staff claimed that the Bush Administration hadn’t asked any tough questions about Afghanistan, and he complained that the Obama Administration had to start from scratch to put together a strategy.

The Hard Sell
October 22, 2009

President Obama faces an enormous political challenge in figuring out how to respond to General Stanley McChrystal's request for more soldiers in Afghanistan. One the one hand, resisting troop requests from the military during a time of war is difficult for any chief executive--particularly for Democratic presidents.

Last Standish
October 21, 2009

Standish, Michigan It's two p.m. on a workday, and the casino parking lot is completely full. Hundreds of people have come for the $20 gambling coupons offered to those willing to donate blood. Turnout for the drive was "above and beyond" expectations, says Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians, who run the 800-slot complex. The nurses are already turning people away two hours before closing, and they will soon run out of blood bags. "We get free money!" one woman tells me, clutching her coupon as her friends nod in agreement.