Michael Gerson (Continuación)

The HEAL Africa hospital has a feeling of newness that is rare for this part of Africa, mainly because its previous facility was destroyed by lava from Mount Nyiragongo in 2002. One building holds people with bullet wounds — shot through the pelvis, the thigh, the jaw. Another ward contains women recovering from fistula repair surgery — the quiet victims of extreme sexual violence who tend to avoid your eyes.

In another room, families whose children have congenital defects such as clubfoot and cleft lip are gathered. A surgeon at the hospital introduced my group, «These are visitors from Obama country!»…  Seguir leyendo »

The setting of this city is all contrast and drama — nestled along a vast, placid lake but dominated by a volcano that steams by day and glows faint and red on a clear evening. A city living in the shadow of sudden violence.

Driving north from Goma, one passes through wide lava fields — black, broken and sharp to the feet. About seven miles along the rutted road, the uniforms of the soldiers change, from the solid green of the FARDC (the Congolese military) to the camouflage of the CNDP (the rebel forces led by Laurent Nkunda). For civilians, the colors of the uniforms often matter little — all the groups are capable of pillage and rape.…  Seguir leyendo »

The attacks have come like the steady rhythm of a clock — 171 dead in Mumbai. Tick. Fifty-two dead in the London bombings. Tock. One hundred ninety-one dead in the Madrid train attacks. Tick. Two hundred two in Bali, and 2,973 in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Maybe this is just the risk of living in the modern world. Or maybe it is the tick of a detonator.

Days after the Mumbai attacks, the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism claimed that a chemical, biological or nuclear terrorist attack is likely before the end of 2013. «Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing,» it concluded.…  Seguir leyendo »

A war that once seemed likely to end in a panic of helicopters fleeing the American Embassy now seems destined to conclude as the result of a parliamentary process. A landmark status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) — requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June and from Iraq itself by the end of 2011 — is headed for a final reading in the Iraqi parliament next week.

The approval of the SOFA would leave a chapter of history decorated with paradoxes. President Bush — who once called withdrawal timelines «arbitrary» and «unacceptable» — ends his term accepting them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Llegados a este momento de trascendencia nacional, siento profunda preocupación por el próximo presidente. Es probable que su victoria desate a un Congreso Demócrata ideológico y vengativo. Durante esta larga campaña electoral, Obama ha dado imagen de ser un hombre reflexivo, pero en ocasiones se ha mostrado dubitativo e inseguro sobre su rumbo. Promete diálogo y cierre de heridas, pero se aferra a un progresismo que no ve ninguna necesidad de innovación. Y como resultado de un episodio de pánico financiero que socavó injustamente a todos los republicanos, se ha encontrado con el tipo de victoria de naturaleza más peligrosa: un mandato para el cambio, pero sin ideas.…  Seguir leyendo »

A specter is haunting the presidential race — and it is not just the economy. It is the specter of a nuclear Iran.

Economic downturns are wrenching but cyclical. Nuclear proliferation is more difficult to reverse, creating the permanent prospect of massive miscalculation and tragedy. America’s next leader may be known to history as the president who had to deal with Iran.

This topic received glancing attention in the second presidential debate. Barack Obama called a nuclear Iran «unacceptable.» John McCain said it would raise the prospect of «a second Holocaust.» But neither man seriously confronted the choices ahead.

Days earlier, at an event at the Nixon Center here, the former chief weapons inspector for the United Nations, David Kay, delivered a bleak assessment of Iranian capabilities and intentions.…  Seguir leyendo »

The nation of Georgia is a place of inspiration and danger. I saw both in a single hour.

I was in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square during President Bush’s visit in May 2005, along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried. During the Georgian national anthem, the speaker system broke down and tens of thousands of Georgians movingly sang that song without music — a song that had been illegal to sing under Soviet occupation.

It is shocking to imagine those joyful people now bombed, fearful and occupied.

At the same event, an assassination attempt was made against President Bush.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a recent investigative profile, the Associated Press tells the depressingly familiar story of televangelist Kenneth Copeland. His ministry’s private jet and lakeside mansion. The complex web of ranching, oil and media interests that benefits his extended family. In this case, there is no taint of hypocrisy. Copeland practices what he preaches — a doctrine that God wants his followers to prosper in very material ways.

This prosperity gospel combines two of the most powerful forces on Earth: the profit motive and the power of positive thinking. At its best, it inspires hard work, generosity and the avoidance of life-destroying vices.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two polar bears, known in these parts as ice bears, amble and yawn on an iceberg. The mother and her 2-year-old cub stand out light yellow against bright white and glacial blue — these mascots of the global warming movement seem majestically content on an Arctic summer day.

Polar bears may be threatened, but they can hardly be called fragile. They are serene, cuddly killers, with curved claws that can pull a seal from the water by the top of its head in one smooth stroke. If the ice floes on which they hunt were to melt entirely, the bears could probably adapt by genetically rejoining their relatives on land.…  Seguir leyendo »

North of Oslo, north of Longyearbyen, almost as north as North itself, the National Geographic Endeavor breaks pack ice in endless daylight through a gray-teal sea. The expedition has been cruising near Svalbard, a group of high arctic islands larger than Denmark — in summer, a land of brown mountains streaked with snow-filled gullies, low clouds that blur distinctions of sky and land, and wide glaciers reaching the ocean in gashes of bright sky blue.

Ashore, this arctic desert is so harsh that the region’s natives wisely never settled here — only men digging coal, trapping arctic fox and polar bear, and hunting whales were foolish enough to come.…  Seguir leyendo »

For a children’s movie, «Wall-E» begins with startling bleakness: epic landscapes of the Earth buried under the waste of endless human wants. This is the way the world ends — not with a nuclear bang but with a closeout sale at «Buy n Large,» a cinematic hybrid of Target and totalitarianism. Humanity’s only monument the mega-mall and mountains of discarded rubbish.

One wonders what a 6-year-old on a summer afternoon makes of this post-consumer apocalypse. But this grim grandeur serves the cinematic purpose of highlighting a humble flicker of revolt — a lonely robot named Wall-E, pointlessly compressing garbage into neatly stacked cubes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Those of us who dimly remember the gas lines of the 1970s tend to view commodity price spikes as the temporary work of international villains. But anyone still expecting the return of cheap oil is in for a long wait. Rising energy prices are mainly the result of unprecedented global prosperity — a rising billion in China and India determined to own automobiles and air conditioners. This increased demand for oil, natural gas and coal has almost nothing to do with the policies of America or the designs of OPEC.

Given the strain on household budgets, it is impossible to call this a blessing, even a mixed one.…  Seguir leyendo »

High oil prices, like a walk under the summer moon, can drive normally rational people to do foolish things they later regret. For Barack Obama, it is a fling with a windfall profits tax on American oil companies — one of the most thoroughly discredited economic policies of the past few decades. A 2006 Congressional Research Service report found that Jimmy Carter’s version of the tax generated less than one-fourth of expected government revenue while depressing domestic oil output between 1.2 percent and 8 percent and increasing dependence on imported oil between 3 percent and 13 percent.

It is typical of a tired economic liberalism to look at the global energy crisis and see American companies as the problem — even if punishing them leads to greater dependence on foreign oil.…  Seguir leyendo »

A friend, the head of a major aid organization, tells how his workers in eastern Congo a few years ago chanced upon a group of shell-shocked women and children in the bush. A militia had kidnapped a number of families and forced the women to kill their husbands with machetes, under the threat that their sons and daughters would be murdered if they refused. Afterward the women were raped by more than 100 soldiers; the children were spectators at their own private genocide.

This is ultimately the work and trademark of a single man: Joseph Kony, the most carnivorous killer since Idi Amin.…  Seguir leyendo »

«Things on the ground,» e-mailed a friend from a groaning Zimbabwe, «are absolutely shocking — systematic violence, abductions, brutal murders. Hundreds of activists hospitalized, indeed starting to go possibly into the thousands.» The military, he says, is «going village by village with lists of MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] activists, identifying them and then either abducting them or beating them to a pulp, leaving them for dead.»

In late April, about the time this e-mail was written, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa — Zimbabwe’s influential neighbor — addressed a four-page letter to President Bush. Rather than coordinating strategy to end Zimbabwe’s nightmare, Mbeki criticized the United States, in a text packed with exclamation points, for taking sides against President Robert Mugabe’s government and disrespecting the views of the Zimbabwean people.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is a central argument of the Bush administration that the outcome in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terrorism — which is plainly true. When it comes to Sunni radicalism, the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are a single struggle. Al-Qaeda has latched on to local grievances, tribal conflicts and general chaos in all three nations to extend its influence.

But this argument, used to justify U.S. efforts in Iraq, cuts another way as well. Is America taking all three related insurgencies with sufficient seriousness?

Iraq, while consuming greater sacrifice, is now producing the most encouraging results.…  Seguir leyendo »