War

"Hey, I Support COIN"
October 08, 2009

Picking the most damning bit from Rajiv Chandrasekran's Washington Post article on the fundamental disconnect between civilian and military officials during the formulation of the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy is tough. The article is full of details that, frankly, make the Obama administration look more than a little inept.

Seize the Pen
October 08, 2009

For years, I have been reading Michael Greenberg's remarkable column in the Times Literary Supplement and wondering what the English make of it. The New York Jewish quality of Greenberg's take on the writer's life, under the rubric "Freelance," is emphasized by the way he takes turns writing the column with an English poet, Hugo Williams, who is a writer of a wholly different species.

Ironed Curtain
October 08, 2009

After the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008, the European Union found itself in a difficult position. Moscow had not only invaded a neighbor for the first time since the Soviet assault on Afghanistan in 1979. In recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, it had also broken the cardinal rule of post-cold war European security: that borders in Europe would never again be changed by force of arms. Yet Georgia, too, had clearly made mistakes, not the least in embroiling itself in a military conflict with Russia that Georgia's own allies had repeatedly warned against.

Gates, McChrystal, and Some Really Cool Boomerangs
October 07, 2009

At this week’s Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington DC, Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered a startling blunt rebuke of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While the commentariat buzzed about rifts in the Obama administration and a potential  Truman-MacArthur showdown, I couldn’t help but wonder: What the heck is the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition?

The Colbert Report
October 07, 2009

The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System By Jacob Soll (University of Michigan Press, 277 pp., $65)   That resonant piece of verbal shorthand, TMI--or Too Much Information--would make a fine epigraph for our age. Anyone with an Internet connection today has access to exponentially greater quantities of writing, images, sound, and video than anyone on earth could have imagined just twenty years ago.

Truther Consequences
October 07, 2009

Alex Jones is a husky man with short sandy hair, weary eyes, baby cheeks, and the kind of deep, gravelly voice made for horror-movie trailers. And it’s horror he has in mind. "Your New World Order will fall!" he screams through a megaphone at the shiny façade of a nondescript office building. "Humanity will defeat you!" A syndicated radio host, filmmaker, and all-around countercultural icon based in Austin, Texas, Jones has long been one of the country’s most significant purveyors of paranoia.

Why Guinea is on the Brink
October 06, 2009

More atrocious details from the Guinean junta's recent crackdown on protesters—of women knifed, whipped, and raped repeatedly by soldiers—surfaced in the Times yesterday. Until recently, the former French colony of approximately 10 million had a reputation for being among the most stable of its West African neighbors. Stable yes, but democratic no: until December 2008, two strongman military figures had dominated the country since independence in 1958.

Deep Denial
October 06, 2009

Toughened by their frontier ethos, steeled by serial wars, Israelis are not prone to flattery. Most, in fact, eschew using the closest equivalent to the Hebrew word for flattery--chanupa--in favor of the derisive Yiddish-derivative, firgun. An Israeli joke holds that the word, slashed by a red diagonal line, graces the exit from Ben-Gurion Airport, together with the warning, "You are now entering a Firgun Free Zone." Not surprisingly, then, several Israeli commentators reacted unflatteringly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Kabul Notes
October 06, 2009

Return to Afghanistan with a group of journalists, escorted by the French defense minister, Hervé Morin. A limited view: We only see valleys in Surobi and Kapisa. But an invaluable glimpse, nevertheless, because it counters what is heard almost everywhere. First chapter, Tora, a small fort sitting on stones, some distance from Kabul. Welcome by Colonel Benoît Durieux, leader of the regiment and an intellectual, author of the excellent Rereading Clausewitz's On War.

Things Come Together
October 06, 2009

The Thing Around Your Neck By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf, 218 pp., $24.95)   In “Jumping Monkey Hill,” the most wicked story in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new collection, a group of young writers selected from all over Africa have gathered for a workshop at a fancy resort outside Cape Town--”the kind of place,” thinks Ujunwa, the representative Nigerian, “where . . .

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