Yemen

Independent humanitarian action, commonly if not entirely accurately thought to have begun with the so-called ‘French Doctors’ in Biafra in the late-'60s, was never as independent as either relief groups like Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, or the International Rescue Committee, themselves liked to claim or as the general public assumed them to be. U.S. organizations in particular, despite their efforts to develop an individual donor base, were always and remain too dependent on American government funding for the claim to stand up to scrutiny.

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In late July the Washington Post published an ambitious report on U.S. national security intelligence that we are told had taken the Post’s staff two years to complete. The project was led by two competent and experienced reporters, Dana Priest and William Arkin, and the report has received an enthusiastic press. Having written about national security intelligence in books like Countering Terrorism: Blurred Focus, Halting Steps (2007), I was looking forward to reading the Post’s report. The report is, in fact, a disappointment.

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Get Out Yesterday

From a policy perspective, I am not sure there is much to say about America’s war in Afghanistan that goes beyond the blindingly obvious. The invasion in 2001 had an intelligible goal—to destroy a regime that had become a kind of condominium between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, cemented in fine medieval style, according to some reports, by a marriage between one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters and one of Mullah Omar’s sons.

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Least-Bad Options

Commentators of many political stripes agree that the U. S.-NATO expedition, in Afghanistan since 2001, long ago foundered and continues to founder, especially in the embattled south. “America and its allies are losing in Afghanistan," writes The Economist. “A survey in 120 districts racked by insurgency, a third of Afghanistan’s total, found little popular support for Mr Karzai.

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Since Sarah Palin coined this imaginative slogan, it has taken on the function of analysis, inspiration, program for the Republicans and for their outlier allies. But, of course, it is not any of these. Like "yes, we can" in 2008, it is exhortative. As it happens, the Obama chant became a decisive and mortifying flop when the president failed even in his most easy symbolic chore to dislodge the Guantanamo SP prisoners from the big jail house at the southern tip of Cuba when his Democratic congressional allies simply wouldn't have them in their districts.

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Thus said Faisal Shahzad, in what seemed to be his profession of faith, characterizing himself, as Benjamin Weiser reports in yesterday’s New York Times, “part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.” Of course, he was confessing to a ten-count indictment in Federal District Court in Manhattan. In making his plea, Shahzad said the following: I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times forward because until the hour the U.S.

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Easy Target

In the past year, terrorists have planned to blow up the New York City subway system, an airplane over Detroit, and Times Square. These high-profile plots have reminded us that terrorists are as determined as ever to strike within the United States. They have also left an impression, pushed heavily in the media, that the next attack will be a massive explosion.

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President Obama wants it both ways. His dreary international initiative to put finis to nuclear arms is seen as so unlikely and so impossible that Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has already sent the atomic arms reduction treaty, negotiated with the American president, to the Russian parliament, where it has no chances of failure. Obama sent the document to the Senate earlier this month.

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It's official now. You cannot use "Muslim extremism" or "Islamic terrorism." Not because the words don't describe a real phenomenon in the world. An ugly phenomenon. And, alas, an abundant phenomenon. But because the president doesn't like the thought. And he certainly doesn't like the religious adjective. I myself don't mind calling Jewish extremists "Jewish extremists." In fact, calling them Jewish extremists neatly separates the very few from the very many.

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Waverley Avenue in Watertown is about half a mile from my house in Cambridge. Two Pakistani men were arrested yesterday in their apartment down the road. It was big enough news to persuade the Boston Globe to run two above-the-fold articles under the headline “2 held in local antiterror raids.” A third man was nabbed in Connecticut. Yet another was imprisoned in Pakistan. And good luck to him. So it turns out that, despite Janet Napolitano’s instinct to pass out Valium after every shock to public peace, the failed Times Square car bombing was no “one-off” at all.

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