Moammar Gaddafi leaned across the couch and surprised me with the question he posed, squinting as he searched my face for reaction: “Why do you drink poison?”
I could guess where the Libyan dictator was headed but asked him to explain. During a news conference, we had just engaged in a verbal confrontation over terrorism, and he had asked to see me alone — perhaps, I thought, to articulate his position better, or just to arrest me. “Alcohol,” he said through an interpreter. “You people in the West poison yourself with alcohol. You are fools.”
That 1973 interview in Tripoli and an even more venomous conversation with Gaddafi 14 years later accustomed me never to be surprised by anything he does.… Seguir leyendo »
The enterprising folk of this Adriatic island town now use the past to propel themselves into the future. As they do, they offer a glimpse of a certain idea of promise for all the Balkans.
Disregarding many histories that put Marco Polo’s birthplace elsewhere, or record it as unknown, Korculans claim the Venetian Republic explorer as a native son, industriously dedicating souvenir shops, cafes and a bare-bones nativity site to him without so much as an asterisk.
“This is brilliant,” a successful Latin American businessman and friend said admiringly as we trudged up the rickety staircase of “Marco Polo’s House” to discover it led only to a viewing platform looking down on other houses.… Seguir leyendo »
The Robert S. McNamara who helped lead the United States into defeat and shame in Vietnam would never have anticipated or trusted what I am about to recount. None of the computers he depended on to chart that war could quantify serendipity or instinct.
I’m not sure what the other McNamara — the remorseful , melancholy ex-president of the World Bank whom I came to know long after Vietnam had ended — would have made of this circumstance: Word of his death at 93 reached me as I was talking about the history and future of counterinsurgency in Asia with a 23-year-old Army lieutenant due to undertake a tour of combat duty in Afghanistan within a year.… Seguir leyendo »
Europe will be wrangled for the next six months by a lanky, no-nonsense Swede named Carl Bildt. His country chairs this semester’s cascade of European Union summits, procedural debates and other gabfests. As Sweden’s foreign minister, it is Bildt’s job to make sense of it all — a task akin to herding not cats but eels.
Well, he asked for it, didn’t he? When he was Sweden’s prime minister in the 1990s, the conservative politician relentlessly overhauled his country’s socialist economic policies and neutralist orientation to push it into the European Union. Now Sweden is stuck picking up the pieces of a deepening European economic crisis, paralyzed national governments and a constitutional stalemate.… Seguir leyendo »
“President” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s brutal clampdown on his opponents is a tragedy for Iranians. But the shredding of Iran’s pretensions of being a stable, democratic state may offer positive change in the Middle East in the longer term.
Such an outcome is far from guaranteed — and is likely to come only after sharp new regional tensions or even violence sparked by Iran, Israel or both nations acting separately in reinforcing fashion. The idea that the use of force can make things better has not been abandoned in the Middle East.
The election crisis has entered the all-important moment of interpretation by Iran and its neighbors.… Seguir leyendo »