Update: Hillary Backpedals in Pakistan
October 30, 2009

So much for getting tough. No sooner had I finished praising her tough talk in Pakistan than she began walking it back. Clinton carefully scaled back her comments from a day earlier suggesting that some Pakistani officials knew where al-Qaida's upper echelon has been hiding and have done little to target them. When the U.S.

Seeing and Believing
October 30, 2009

Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.

More On J Street's Choice
October 29, 2009

When I argued at the J Street Conference that J Street couldn't simultaneously appeal to people with Walt/Mearsheimer-esque views on Israel and a significant chunk of the American Jewish population, one of the names I cited as an example of the former was Phillip "The U.S. Without Israel is Like A Fish Without A Bicycle" Weiss, who writes for the Nation.

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.