Almost everything we have been told about Libya over the last two years is untrue.
A free Libya was supposed to be proof of President Barack Obama's enlightened reset Middle East policy. When insurgency broke out there, the United States joined France and Great Britain in bombing Moammar Gadhafi out of power — and supposedly empowering a democratic Arab Spring. Not a single American life was lost.
Libyans, like most in the Arab World, were supposed to appreciate the new enlightened American foreign policy. Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech praised Islam and apologized for the West. A new "lead from behind" multilateralism was said to have superseded George W.… Seguir leyendo »
"Truth crushed to earth will rise again."
— Martin Luther King Jr. (quoting William Cullen Bryant)
Sometimes, oceans are not enough.
Usually, the fact that we are barricaded on both sides by great bodies of water gives us in this country a certain sense of remove from the awful things people with funny names do to one another in strange places on the far side of the globe. But once in a while, the thing is awful enough that you can't ignore it, or pretend that it is less real.
Such is the case with Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl whose shooting last week on a school bus in the Swat Valley sparked headlines and outrage here and around the world.… Seguir leyendo »
Adlai Stevenson once advised that "to act coolly, intelligently and prudently in perilous circumstances is the true test of a man — and also of a nation." In the face of Iran's potential for becoming a nuclear weapons state and a threat to Israel, U.S. leaders would be smart to follow Stevenson's advice and act prudently and intelligently.
There is little doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose dangerous challenges to U.S. interests and security, as well as to the security of Israel. There is no question of the seriousness of the problems presented by Iran's nuclear program or the need to consider the use of military force as a last resort.… Seguir leyendo »
"Give peace a chance."
In July of 1914, during World War I my grandfather, a career soldier in the Belgian army, was so severely wounded in his left arm that the surgeons couldn't determine if they should cut his arm off at the shoulder or at the elbow. He begged the doctors not to cut off his arm, and when he woke up from the operation, he slowly patted his left side: shoulder, elbow … hand. His arm was saved but, because there was no such thing as microsurgery at the time, his arm was a useless appendage hanging from his left side for the rest of his life.… Seguir leyendo »
The last time Jewish parents had reason to fear a knock at the door while celebrating the circumcision (brit milah) of their baby boy, Stalin and his communist goons were running the Soviet Union. Democratic Germany is a far cry from the Stalin era, but a ruling by a judge in Cologne banning circumcision and subsequent criminal charges brought against a German rabbi in Bavaria have unleashed forces in Europe that legislation alone cannot defeat.
In Switzerland — a country whose national character almost never allows it to invoke another nation's practices — a number of hospitals invoked the judge's ruling to stop circumcisions.… Seguir leyendo »
"No one murdered because of this image."
That was a recent headline from The Onion, the often hilarious parody newspaper.
The image in question is really not appropriate to describe with any specificity in a family newspaper. It's quite simply disgusting. And, suffice it to say, it leaves nothing to the imagination.
Four of "the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity," according to The Onion, and yet "no one was murdered, beaten or had their lives threatened, sources reported Thursday."
"Though some members of the Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist faiths were reportedly offended by the image, sources confirmed that upon seeing it, they simply shook their heads, rolled their eyes and continued on with their day."… Seguir leyendo »
I had heard about U.S. political polarization before I landed here. I read about poisoned political landscapes, two parties competing every day in a kind of political mud-wrestling contest, deep racial divisions.
After my arrival, it was obvious I had basically read the truth.
And you know what? I feel a little ashamed because I enjoy the fighting, the debates and the oddities, like an old man standing on a stage talking to a chair. For me, this is a huge dose of political stimulant.
Why? Because I'm tired of politics without fighting, without real differences in content, without tough scuffles from time to time.… Seguir leyendo »
There was nothing even vaguely resembling the Russian feminist punk rock band at play 31/2 decades ago when Anatoly Sharansky went on trial on a treason charge in Moscow's Proletarsky district. The government accused him of spying for the United States. He faced the death sentence.
It's important to reflect on this moment now as the young women facing a couple of years in jail take on the dusty role of dissidents being punished by a new authority that is as aggressive as the old Soviet one, this one represented by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Except it's not the same, not at all.… Seguir leyendo »
This miserable autocrat who kills his own people and bombs his own cities and has done so since March 2011 will fall. When? Who knows? Not today. Not tomorrow. But his fall will come. Then we will wish Bashar Assad were back.
We will wish he were back because the institutions of Syria, largely built by Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, will collapse along with the Assad regime.
Syria will become an anarchist's paradise. With no central state, the militias now fighting the regime will fight each other, seeking to control territory, expand their bases and control the center.
The most likely winners will be the Islamists.… Seguir leyendo »
Syria, a great and ancient land, is being ravaged by civil war, with government forces using heavy weapons against rebels in the major city of Aleppo. Here are some facts about a little-understood people and country:
1 Syria is commonly considered a Muslim country, but it's about 10 percent Christian. One Syrian in 10 is non-Arab, including large numbers of Kurds and Armenians.
2 The Krak des Chevaliers ("The Fortress of the Knights") near Homs is considered a wonder of Medieval military architecture and art. It threw off attack after attack during the Crusades, and even two earthquakes failed to dislodge the Knights Hospitallers.… Seguir leyendo »
It's hard to be courageous after you have died, but pioneering U.S. astronaut Sally Ride managed this with her posthumous coming out as being partnered with a woman for 27 years.
The news that Ride died at 61 years old, of pancreatic cancer, was felt particularly hard by the early generation of feminists who viewed her 1983 launch into space as a "sisterhood-is-powerful" moment. Ride was a hero for men, women and children. But it was the little girls who were the most transformed.
The Sally Ride Science website matter of factly listed Ride's survivors as including Tam O'Shaughnessy. When I saw that, I immediately went online to confirm Tam was indeed a female.… Seguir leyendo »
Fifty years ago today, we took a giant step in communications history with the first transatlantic live television broadcast connecting Europe and America. For the first time, Europeans saw the Statue of Liberty, the Chicago Cubs playing the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, President John Kennedy's news conference, buffalo roaming the Great Plains and a boy admiring a Sioux chief in North Dakota in real time. Americans saw the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and reindeer in the Arctic Circle.
According to "Cronkite," by Douglas Brinkley, Walter Cronkite said, "We had to keep telling ourselves it was happening."
It was happening because the United States had launched the first communications satellite, Telstar, in space.… Seguir leyendo »
For most Americans, the word "settlement" conjures up images of the Old West, of a small outpost with a post office, general store and a saloon. A dot on the map. A threat to no one.
The settlements in the West Bank of Palestine, however, are quite another story. Dotted across the territory occupied by Israel after the 1967 Middle East War and not recognized as legal by any international body, the settlements are developments of 5,000 to 30,000 Israeli citizens. While many look like the gated communities of South Florida or Southern California, others are concrete high-rise cities rising out of the desert floor where there are thousands of homes, stores and even industrial parks.… Seguir leyendo »
As news of Europe's wrenching economic crisis dominates the headlines and skeptics call into question the future of the European Union, we tend to forget that the creation of a united, albeit imperfect, Europe is one of the great triumphs of the post-World War II era. Indeed, it is one of the signal achievements of the past millennium and a half.
Europeans had been at war, with the exception of a few sporadic periods of peace, since the collapse of the Roman Empire. Wars of territorial expansion, dynastic succession and religion, and colonial wars (even a war over Jenkins' ear) punctuated their history.… Seguir leyendo »
The discovery of the presumed "God particle," or Higgs boson, apparently represents a once-in-a-lifetime observation of a fundamentally new type of matter. Is the discovery of this subatomic particle — that exists for just a fraction of a second — indeed that of the Higgs? If so, it portends a catastrophe that perplexes physicists, and suggests even more exotic particles. If not, the universe may be stranger still.
Discovery of the Higgs would resolve a 45-year-old puzzle. In quantum physics, to each particle there corresponds a field, and the Higgs field can give mass to other particles by interacting with them.… Seguir leyendo »
As economic sanctions on Iran tighten, we will find out if that nation's quest for nuclear weapons can be stopped. Sanctions worked on South Africa — so why not Iran?
Here's why not: Very few South African whites were willing to die for apartheid. Most aspired to a normal, bourgeois life and understood their system of racial oppression could no longer be legitimated or sustained.
In contrast, Iran is ruled by messianic leaders who believe apocalyptic struggle against the Great and Little Satans — "a war of Islam against blasphemy," according to Ayatollah Khomeini — is the path to utopia. The belief in the return of the 12th, or hidden, imam will not be undone by the falling value of the rial.… Seguir leyendo »
The poison seeps slowly into the future. No one notices.
"The Obama administration," The Wall Street Journal informs us, "plans to arm Italy's fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies ..."
I can't quite get beyond the name: Reaper drones?
"The Predator's manufacturer, General Atomics, later developed the larger Reaper," John Sifton wrote last February in The Nation, "a moniker implying that the United States was fate itself, cutting down enemies who were destined to die. That the drones' payloads were called Hellfire missiles, invoking the punishment of the afterlife, added to a sense of righteousness."… Seguir leyendo »
June 18 marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812, a conflict that may well be the last time most Americans thought seriously about Canada.
On this date President James Madison declared war against Great Britain and directed U.S. forces to attack British troops in Canada. The expectation, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, was that winning the war was "a mere matter of marching." The unfinished business of the Revolutionary War could be resolved with a few well-timed thrusts north of the border.
As it turned out, the thrusts were neither well-timed — word of the U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
The 2008 battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination produced the memorable Hillary Clinton TV ad with a White House phone ringing in the wee hours. The ad implicitly questioned what would happen if there was an international crisis and a President Barack Obama answered the phone.
It's time for Secretary of State Clinton to make that 3 a.m. phone call herself. She should advise President Obama that it's time to change course on Syria. On Tuesday, she accused Russia of sending helicopter gunships to Syria and said the shipment "quite drastically" heightens the conflict.
And there is no hope for a United Nations-sponsored cease-fire.… Seguir leyendo »
A few months ago a former British soldier made headlines for trying to sell part of the backside of the Saddam Hussein statue that was famously toppled in 2003. Though Saddam was long gone, the Iraqi government, happy to be rid of him, requested the return of the "artifact." Their interest in repatriating a symbol of their "dictator in hindsight" illustrates the unforeseeable significance of cultural property in foreign relations.
The example suggests that the U.S. might consider proactive protection of cultural property in regions of conflict as an underutilized opportunity for political diplomacy, if not outright negotiation.
The 1954 Hague Convention on Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the first (1954) and second (1999) protocols established responsibilities for military intervention.… Seguir leyendo »