Ethnicities And Bloodshed
February 13, 2007

The population of the Middle East may, in terms of sect and ethnicities, be the most diverse in the old world. But there is no rainbow over the region, and there is no rainbow coalition either. What there is is an arc of blood that suffuses the area --sometimes more here, sometimes there--and encompassing denominations, national communities and (among the Palestinians) ideologies. Right now the bloodiest locus is Iraq.

The Politics Of Spite
February 13, 2007

A few days ago, Matt Yglesias wrote the following about global warming: One doubts that any of these various rightwingers were actually humming along and then got bribed by energy companies to come up with the outlandish conservative arguments you here on this score. Rather, the money's just sort of out there ready to flow to individuals who make outlandish arguments and to publications and institutions that associate themselves with such people and such arguments. Under the circumstances, the human mind proves remarkably supple and creative.

Another Bombing
February 12, 2007

You go to your computer, and it hits you in the face. Again. Another bombing in Baghdad. The death toll is already 67, "at least," says the Times scrupulously. Not less than 155 maimed and wounded. "Four bomb explosions," writes Damien Cave, "charring families in their cars" in the largest market in the capital city. More than 500 people have been murdered in the Shorja market since August. The first anniversary of the bombing of a Shi'a mosque in Samarra. It's not even certain who the targets were today. Sunni, Shi'a.

Holy Sites
February 11, 2007

Let's ignore the paganism of millions of people going on pilgrimage to Mecca to throw stones at three effigies of the devil. Before Yom Kippur, after all, some pious Jews ring a chicken's neck around their heads three times: "This is my substitute, my vicarious offering, my atonement; this cock (or hen) shall meet death, but I shall find a long and pleasant life of peace." The chicken is then given to the poor for their meal before the fast.

Iranian Meddling
February 11, 2007

A fascinating and intricate story by James Glanz in Monday's Times details a previous dispatch about Iranian "explosively formed penetrators" that are the most lethal weapons in the Shi'a extremists' war against the U.S. and government troops, mostly Shi'a, in Iraq. Just wait until Jay Rockefeller and other Democratic opponents of an aggressive stance towards the Iranian intelligence forces, that are said to be the masters of the making and the deployment of these arms, begin publicly to doubt the evidence.

Foreign Policy Is Back In Hollywood
February 09, 2007

by Daniel Drezner Looking at movie trailers recently, I was struck that there are at least two films coming out that clearly address semi-recent episodes of U.S. foreign policy and national security. First, this spring, there's Breach, about the Robert Hanssen spy scandal. This film is written and directed by Billy Ray, who also wrote and directed a movie near and (maybe) dear to the heart of TNR staffers everywhere. Then, in September, there's The Kingdom, which appears to be about the Khobar Towers bombing.

Debating The Debate Debate
February 07, 2007

The New York Times editorial page doesn't like Harry Reid's approach to the Iraq surge fight, chiding him for dodging a vote on the GOP-backed Gregg resolution, which basically vows not to cut off funds for the war: We oppose that resolution, which is essentially a promise never to cut off funds for this or any future military operation Mr. Bush might undertake in Iraq. But the right way for the Senate to debate Iraq is to debate Iraq, not to bar proposals from the floor because they might be passed. The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, needs to call a timeout and regroup.

Turning To More Important Matters
February 07, 2007

Excuse my sparse blogging today, but I'm a bit preoccupied thinking about a certain sporting event that's taking place tonight. If you too are a bit preoccupied by said certain sporting event, you can't do much better than reading this preview by the excellent Will Blythe. I share Blythe's fears that not only was FSU's victory over Duke on Sunday a negative development for the Heels (in that it's hard to imagine Duke losing three in a row), but that Duke is even better equipped than N.C. State to execute the game plan the Pack used to beat Carolina on Saturday.

Risk Analysis, The Bush Administration, And The Constitution
February 06, 2007

by Sanford Levinson Would you gladly drive a car with slick tires and failing brakes simply because you haven't driven over a cliff yet? Or, as much to the point, would you give your children such a car? One suspects that the answer to the latter question is no, even if one might be tempted to take certain risks with regard to one's own life. Consider also the issuance by the U.S. government this past week of potential responses to a threatened repetition of the disastrous flu pandemic of 1918 (which killed almost as many U.S. soldiers as died in World War I itself).

Hasn't He Got Anything Better To Do?
February 06, 2007

Here's a dispatch from the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. An Iraqi parliamentarian has urged the Iraqi parliament to protest the building by Israel of a pedestrian bridge to replace the wobbly wooden walkway that takes visitors and worshippers to the Mugrabi Gate, the main point of entry to what Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews call the Temple Mount. (Apparently, it doesn't matter what Christians call the site.) One would think that this Iraqi politician would have more important matters to think about than this simple matter of access 1000 km from Baghdad.