Reasonable people will debate the likeliest ramifications of President Trump’s decision to order the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Revolutionary Guards Corps commander whose power in Iran was second only to that of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and whose power in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq was arguably second to none.
What shouldn’t be in doubt is the justice.
By far the best account of Suleimani’s life was written by Dexter Filkins for The New Yorker in 2013. It’s worth reprising some of the details.
In 1998, Suleimani assumed command of the Quds Force — the Guards’ extraterritorial terrorist wing — whose prior exploits included a role in the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.… Seguir leyendo »
Back when Donald Trump was running for president — and Republicans were still capable of feeling politically ashamed — a conservative friend made what was, to my mind, the decisive case against voting for him.
No, a ballot for Trump did not automatically mean that his voters shared his bigotries. Nor did it necessarily mean that they weren’t embarrassed by them.
It just meant that those bigotries weren’t deal-breakers. If their candidate was a birther, they could live with it. If he thought celebrity was a license for sexual predation, they could live with it. If he wanted to impose a religious test on immigrants; or discredit a judge on account of his ethnic background; or characterize the bulk of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” — that may all have been very unfortunate.… Seguir leyendo »
The past three years have been hard ones for the United States, especially for anyone who cares about good governance, democratic decency and the fate of open societies.
But there’s been one bright spot: an economy that defies expert predictions by continuing to deliver jobs, growth, dividends and higher wages. We were reminded of this again on Friday, with news that the economy added 266,000 new jobs last month, bringing unemployment to a 50-year low.
That being so, maybe now is not the best time for Democratic candidates to suggest we turn ourselves into an economic facsimile of France.
That’s my way of reading a useful report from The Times’s Jim Tankersley, who on Thursday described the ways in which Elizabeth Warren and other progressives are trying to upend decades of economic thinking by insisting that sharp tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy would accelerate growth, not depress it.… Seguir leyendo »
With the conclusion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary summit in London, it’s fair to say that Donald Trump thinks that most alliance members, starting with France and Canada, are a bunch of ungrateful and unhelpful freeloaders. Fair to say, also, that most of those members see Trump as an erratic, pompous, dangerous simpleton.
There’s no reason they both can’t be right.
The tone of the summit was set several weeks ago, when Emmanuel Macron gave an interview to The Economist, warning of the “brain death” of NATO and wondering whether the alliance’s mutual defense commitments still meant anything.… Seguir leyendo »
The Russian human-rights lawyer Karinna Moskalenko once explained to me how Vladimir Putin’s machinery of repression works.
“It isn’t necessary to put all the businessmen in jail,” she said. “It is necessary to jail the richest, the most independent, the most well-connected. It isn’t necessary to kill all the journalists. Just kill the most outstanding, the bravest, and the others will get the message.”
Her conclusion: “Nobody is untouchable.”
That was in 2007, when Putin still cultivated an image as a law-abiding, democratically elected leader. But that fiction vanished long ago.
Boris Nemtsov, the leading opposition figure, was murdered in the shadow of the Kremlin in 2015.… Seguir leyendo »
Reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency don’t usually make for riveting reading, so you may have missed last Friday’s latest, soporifically headlined “Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).”
Don’t be fooled. Buried in the report are two oblique sentences hinting at a mystery about which you may soon hear a great deal.
“Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran relating to Iran’s implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol require full and timely cooperation by Iran,” the report says. “The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran.”… Seguir leyendo »
World War II began 80 years ago this Sunday after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a “nonaggression” pact that was, in fact, a mutual aggression pact. Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Russia’s invasion of Poland, no less murderous, followed two weeks later.
On Nov. 3 of that year, Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, gave Hitler a report of his trip to Poland. “Above all, my description of the Jewish problem gets [Hitler’s] full approval,” he wrote in his diary. “The Jew is a waste product. It is a clinical issue more than a social one.”
For several years many commentators, including me, have written about the parallels between the prewar era and the present.… Seguir leyendo »
Boris Johnson has been Britain’s prime minister for not quite a day, and the reviews are in. He’s a disaster! A fraud! A Trumpy toff and shameless showman whose ego is inversely correlated to his merit and whose tenure of office won’t just be bad for the United Kingdom, but very possibly the death of it.
Johnson might be half-inclined to agree. As he once said of himself: “You can’t rule out the possibility that beneath the elaborately constructed veneer of a blithering idiot, there lurks a blithering idiot.”
I’ve always had a vague distaste for Johnson, based mainly on his history as a journalistic fabulist, as well as the unflattering testimony of friends who’ve dealt with him personally.… Seguir leyendo »
Over the past several years we’ve learned a lot about the unintended consequences of social media. Platforms intended to bring us closer together make us angrier and more isolated. Platforms aimed at democratizing speech empower demagogues. Platforms celebrating community violate our privacy in ways we scarcely realize and serve as conduits for deceptions hiding in plain sight.
Now Facebook has announced that it has permanently banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and a few other despicable people from its social platforms. What could possibly go wrong?
The issue isn’t whether the people in question deserve censure. They do. Or that the forms of speech in which they traffic have redeeming qualities.… Seguir leyendo »
As deal-making goes, Donald Trump’s approach to negotiating with North Korea has resembled nothing so much as his purchase, in 1988, of New York’s Plaza Hotel: Rely on personal chemistry, ignore the advice of experts, neglect due diligence and then overpay for an investment that delivers no returns.
As with the Plaza, the result is about the same: a fiasco. Trump only avoided personal bankruptcy over the hotel thanks to the indulgence of his creditors. Who will bail out the United States — and at what price — for a bankrupt policy on the Korean Peninsula?
Vladimir Putin, maybe?
The Russian strongman certainly seemed to be angling for the role when he hosted Kim Jong-un at a summit in Vladivostok this week.… Seguir leyendo »
Israel stood still for a moment this week so it could bring home the remains of Sgt. Zachary Baumel, a soldier who perished in battle in 1982. This was in the midst of the most bitterly contested election the country has had in decades, with important things at stake: the probity of government, relations with the Diaspora, the limits of the settlement enterprise, the possibility of peace.
There are things that matter more. Keeping faith with the fallen and bereaved is one of them.
Anyone who has lived in Israel gets this. It’s a young and improvising state resting atop an ancient and profound civilization.… Seguir leyendo »
*Unless Israel is to blame.
The people of the Gaza Strip are protesting again, and soldiers are shooting again, and civilians are being victimized again. Only this time you may have missed the story, because these protests barely rated a buried paragraph in most Western news accounts.
That’s odd: Some media outlets are prepared to devote months of journalistic effort in order to trace the trajectory of a single bullet that accidentally kills a Palestinian — provided the bullet is Israeli.
The difference this time is that the shots are being fired by Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, when it usurped power from its rivals in the Fatah movement in a quick and dirty civil war.… Seguir leyendo »
From its beginning 40 years ago this week, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed the generous benefit of the doubt from credulous observers in the West. History hasn’t been kind to their sympathy.
“The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” wrote Princeton’s Richard Falk of the Ayatollah Khomeini in an op-ed for The Times on Feb. 16, 1979. “Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.”… Seguir leyendo »
It happened again last month in Detroit. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators seized the stage of the National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force’s marquee conference, “Creating Change” and demanded a boycott of Israel. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” they chanted — the tediously malign, thinly veiled call to end Israel as a Jewish state.
They were met with sustained applause by the audience at what is the largest annual conference of L.G.B.T.Q. activists in the United States. Conference organizers did nothing to stop the disruption or disavow the demonstrators.
For Tyler Gregory, neither the behavior of the protesters nor the passivity of the organizers came as a surprise.… Seguir leyendo »
Conspicuous by its absence in much of the mainstream news coverage of Venezuela’s political crisis is the word “socialism.” Yes, every sensible observer agrees that Latin America’s once-richest country, sitting atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is an economic basket case, a humanitarian disaster, and a dictatorship whose demise cannot come soon enough.
But … socialist? Perish the thought.
Or so goes a line of argument that insists socialism’s good name shouldn’t be tarred by the results of experience. On Venezuela, what you’re likelier to read is that the crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
EN LA FRONTERA ENTRE ISRAEL Y LÍBANO — Salvo por la zona desmilitarizada de la península coreana, tal vez no haya ninguna otra frontera en el mundo con mayor posibilidad de que estalle la violencia de manera repentina que esta, conocida localmente como la Línea Azul. Ya que el presidente estadounidense, Donald Trump, piensa que la seguridad fronteriza es el tema de nuestros tiempos, vale la pena considerar cómo lo logra Israel, con sus controles fronterizos tan estrictos, amenazas reales y una actitud totalmente práctica hacia sus necesidades de seguridad.
Lo que vi el 9 de enero mientras viajaba a lo largo de la Línea Azul fue… una cerca de alambre.… Seguir leyendo »
In October 1939, as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were plunging the world into war, an American educational reformer named Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper’s magazine under the marvelous title, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.”
Noting the way in which the concerns of modern education increasingly turned toward worldly problems and practical vocations, Flexner made a plea for “the cultivation of curiosity” for its own sake.
“Now I sometimes wonder,” he wrote, “whether there would be sufficient opportunity for a full life if the world were emptied of some of the useless things that give it spiritual significance; in other words, whether our conception of what is useful may not have become too narrow to be adequate to the roaming and capricious possibilities of the human spirit.”… Seguir leyendo »
In 2002, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, was said to have given a speech noting that the creation of the state of Israel had spared his followers the trouble of hunting down Jews at “the ends of the world.” The Lebanese terrorist group has prominent apologists in the West, and some of them rushed to claim that Nasrallah had uttered no such thing.
Except he had. Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies tracked down the original recording of the speech, in which Nasrallah carries on about “occupied Palestine” as the place appointed by Allah for the “final and decisive battle” with the Jews.… Seguir leyendo »
The recent publication of the Fourth National Climate Assessment is being hailed as a potent rebuke to President Trump for his do-nothing approach to climate change. Meanwhile, another president is learning that perhaps the only thing worse than doing nothing about climate, politically speaking, is doing something about it.
Emmanuel Macron’s government was forced this week to suspend a planned 6.5-cent-per-liter tax increase on diesel and 2.9 cents on gasoline — collected for the purpose of speeding France’s transition to renewables — after weeks of protests and violent rioting throughout the country. French consumers already pay more than $6 for a gallon of gas, compared to a current national average of $2.44… Seguir leyendo »
In 2009, The Economist wrote about an up-and-coming global power: Brazil. Its economy, the magazine suggested, would soon overtake that of France or the U.K. as the world’s fifth largest. São Paulo would be the world’s fifth-richest city. Vast new reserves of offshore oil would provide an added boost, complemented by the country’s robust and sophisticated manufacturing sector.
To illustrate the point, the magazine’s cover featured a picture of Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue taking off from its mountaintop as if it were a rocket.
The rocket never reached orbit. Brazil’s economy is now limping its way out of the worst recession in its history.… Seguir leyendo »