Mandela's Dream for South Africa Is in Ruins
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Monday, July 19, 2021
Iran's Hollywood Kidnapping Plot Exposes Its Paranoia
At first, Masih Alinejad didn’t believe the F.B.I. The Iranian-born journalist and activist thought that she was safe after going into exile, in 2009, even as government propaganda continued to target her from afar. State television variously reported that she was a drug addict and accused her of being a spy for Western governments. Her parents and siblings, who remained in Iran, were harassed, threatened with loss of employment, and instructed to lure Alinejad to neighboring Turkey for a “family reunion,” so that agents could supposedly “just talk” to her. “Stalin would have been proud,” Alinejad recounted. Her brother, Alireza, warned her about a potential trap. In 2019, he was arrested, and the next year he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He remains in jail.
Friday, April 9, 2021
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
On Afghanistan, An Anguishing Choice about Withdrawing Troops
Five factors will influence the U.S. role and the prospects for peace after two decades of war.
By Robin Wright
There’s a prophetic scene at the end of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the film that chronicles a flamboyant Texas congressman (played by Tom Hanks) and a rogue C.I.A. agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) mobilizing what was then the largest U.S. covert intelligence operation in history. Operation Cyclone facilitated the training, arming, and empowering of the Afghan mujahideen—holy warriors—to fight the Soviet Union in the nineteen-eighties. America’s proxies prevailed, in the sense that the Soviets realized that their decade-long presence had become too costly—financially, politically, and militarily—and that they couldn’t achieve their goals. “What, are we going to sit there forever?” the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly told the Politburo in 1986. “Or should we be ending this war? Otherwise, we’ll disgrace ourselves in every respect.” In 1989, after losing more than fourteen thousand troops and spending at least fifty billion dollars, the Soviets withdrew. They just wanted out of an unpopular war. Afghanistan soon collapsed into a civil war that pitted rival warlords against one another, until the Taliban seized power, in 1996, imposed strict Islamic law, and welcomed other jihadis such as Al Qaeda. After Al Qaeda’s attacks in 2001, U.S. forces helped their Afghan allies to topple the Taliban. A new U.S.-backed government was ensconced in Kabul.
Friday, February 5, 2021
The World Likes Biden But Doubts the U.S. Can Reclaim Global Leadership
Joe Biden’s “first love,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, mused this week, “is foreign policy.” His lifelong interest showed on Thursday when the President, just two weeks in office, addressed the world from the State Department, on his first foray to a federal agency. President Trump only ventured the five blocks to the State Department once, in 2018, sixteen months after taking office, and only for the ceremonial swearing-in of Mike Pompeo, his second Secretary of State. Biden’s speech marked the beginning of his long schlep to repair America’s place in the world after Trump. “America is back,” Biden vowed. “We are a country that does big things. American diplomacy makes it happen. And our Administration is ready to take up the mantle and lead once again.”
Friday, January 22, 2021
The Awe and Anguish of Being an American Today
The lofty language and political togetherness of Joe Biden’s Inauguration made for a day to believe, again, in America and the idea of sharing power, even among people who disagree about almost everything. Listening to the enchanting young poet Amanda Gorman, I got a little weepy as she told us, “While democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith, we trust.” Lady Gaga’s powerful rendition of our anthem—pounding home the line “Our flag was still there”—was as relevant to the treasonous challenge to Congress this month as it was when British warships bombarded Fort McHenry, in 1814. On the very site of an insurrection that, two weeks earlier, threatened our union and resulted in five deaths, Joe Biden, our new President, promised that “democracy has prevailed.” His optimistic energy was infectious.
The problem, after any Inauguration, is all those other days. We need to be honest with ourselves about the health of our democracy. America has made gradual progress, no doubt. We are evolving, albeit with millions still denying the election results. On Wednesday, a woman born to Black and South Asian parents took the oath of office for the Vice-Presidency from a Latina Supreme Court Justice, another woman. “We dream. We shoot for the moon,” Kamala Harris said on Wednesday night. “We are undaunted in our belief that we will overcome.” Others will surely feel the same way. Biden has appointed the most diverse staff in history—men and a record number of women; Blacks, whites, and a Native American; a gay man and a transgender woman—who finally represent the splendid diversity of our land.
Yet we are still vulnerable to the selfish and voracious demands by many for more rights than others who are legally their equals. And to the belief in an alternative truth untethered to reality. During this sacred transition, some twenty-five thousand troops were deployed in my beloved Washington, D.C., in concentric circles, in an area of only five square miles—four times as many personnel as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria combined. On Inauguration Day, there was still spray paint on the Capitol’s marble columns—“A chilling reminder of what happened there just two weeks ago,” Senator Amy Klobuchar told NPR. Amid the calls to mend fences, the most striking images of the day were new fences, topped with prickly barbed wire, which prevented the public from participating in the celebration of their votes. Read on....
Monday, January 18, 2021
Biden Faces More Aggressive Rivals and a Fraying World Order
Friday, January 8, 2021
The World Shook as America Raged
Monday, January 4, 2021
Biden Faces a Minefield in New Diplomacy with Iran
Monday, November 30, 2020
Why the Assassination of a Scientist Will Have No Impact on Iran’s Nuclear Program
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Our Brains Explain the Season’s Sadness
I’ve been consumed this fall with a melancholy sadness. It’s different from the loneliness that I felt in the early stage of the pandemic, during the lockdown, when I took a picture of my shadow after a neighborhood walk failed to jumpstart exercise endorphins. Eleven months after -19 spread globally, and during what would otherwise be a joyous Thanksgiving, my sorrow, and surely the emotion of many others, is more complicated. Studies by health-care professionals show that our emotional challenges, from anxiety and depression to anger and fear, have been deepened by the pandemic. In June, just three months into a historic health crisis, a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that forty per cent of Americans were already struggling with at least one mental-health issue. Among young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, one in four had thought about committing suicide during the previous thirty days. By July, more than half of Americans over the age of eighteen said their mental health had been negatively affected by emotions evoked during the pandemic, the Kaiser Family Foundation found. In October, A.A.R.P. reported that two-thirds of Americans felt increased anxiety.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
What Will A Vengeful President
Do to The World in His Final Weeks?
Donald Trump, whose mood in his final weeks varies from sulking to spiteful, seems to be plotting to rescue his own image by derailing the Presidency of the man who defeated him. Joe Biden was already going to inherit a world far more dangerous than it was four years ago, but Trump’s final acts on foreign policy threaten to slow, complicate, or stymie Biden’s attempts to stabilize the country and the world.