When Will He Ever Learn
April 13, 2010
I don’t know whether I should have ended the headline above with a question mark or an exclamation point. The first of my options would suggest that the president might actually learn from his palpable mistakes. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. But, to tell you the truth, I felt that would be playing with my readers. My alternative would hint—more than hint, I suppose—at my utter exasperation with Obama’s foreign policy. I don’t really want to go there. Still, are you not really exasperated with him and with it? Or are you one of those who care only about domestic affairs?
Sometimes a journalist grasps an intricate situation and explains it in just one simple sentence. Here is what the distinguished Timesman John Vinocur has to say in today’s International Herald Tribune about Obama’s policy of sanctions: The United States’ notions of U.N. sanctions on Iran have devolved over the past months from crippling ones to ones that bite to the currently described smart ones, which, although packaged with the words tough and strong might not be hard-nosed enough to give the mullahs a half-hour’s lost sleep. Now what? As it happens, more of the same. David E.
No American Troops Should Die Protecting Israel
April 12, 2010
Almost before the celebrants at Barack Obama’s inauguration had gotten over their hangovers some 15 months ago, the president designated George Mitchell as his special envoy in the Middle East. I wrote then and several times since that he would be a flop, poor man. After all, it’s not the case that he had been a great success in any of his other high-minded missions, including the investigation into steroid use by baseball heroes.
The Palestinian Authority Can Do No Wrong
April 11, 2010
So the Obama administration seems to believe. It has not, at least in my memory, been struck by anything the P.A. has done or said that is inimical to negotiations and to peace. While it commands this and then that from Israel just to get the Palestinians to sit down and talk, the talking will not be between the parties at all but a three-way process with George Mitchell shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem and back.
The government was Russia’s. So it shouldn’t be derided entirely. But its importance shouldn’t be exaggerated either. After all, Washington and Moscow are not currently in any world historical conflict—at least not one likely to lead to a nuclear standoff. There were several of these during the Cold War. But I conclude in retrospect that they were mostly bluffs. This is even true of the Soviet threats to Israel in 1956, 1967, and 1973. It is probably true about John F. Kennedy’s warnings to Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, as well.
The TNR Primer: Kyrgyzstan
April 09, 2010
Earlier this week, the small Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan erupted in violence. Days after protests broke out in a few small towns, thousands of people opposed to President Kurmanbek Bakiev's corrupt regime took to the streets of Bishkek, the capital city, and clashed with government forces. At least 75 people have died and hundreds more have been injured. Several government buildings have been set on fire, and countless businesses have been looted.
April 09, 2010
In February, as part of a delegation from the Save Darfur Coalition, I met Mustafa Ismail in Khartoum. Ismail is the country’s former foreign minister and current presidential adviser to President Omar Al Bashir. He thanked us for our “timely visit,” then proceeded to speak almost uninterrupted for close to an hour about the Sudanese regime’s new commitment to democracy, peace, and development.
Killing in the Name
April 08, 2010
The following is adapted from a talk delivered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2010. One of the greatest ironies of the past decade's debates over political Islam has been that, on the whole, the most passionate and emphatic rejections of radical Islamism in this country came from President Bush and his supporters—that is, conservatives. This is peculiar because the various forms of radical Islamism represent the third major form of totalitarian ideology and politics in modern world history.
Crime and Excessive Punishment
April 07, 2010
MOSCOW—Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has been in court for so long that only the hardy, like the wall-eyed man haunting the courthouse in a Che Guevara-style Khodorkovsky t-shirt and the “Free Khodorkovsky” plastic shopping bag, have dared to follow his case. “I’ve spent seven years this way,” says Marina Khodorkovsky, the ex-tycoon’s mother, a bright-eyed former metals engineer. First, there was the year and a half of legal proceedings after her son’s dramatic October 2003 arrest, when special forces stormed his private jet in Siberia.
Nightmare in Chechnya
April 07, 2010
When it comes to war, it is a natural human tendency to identify good guys and bad guys—and sometimes, it is a sensible one.