On the final day of my expedition to Antarctica last year, ten of us set out on a Zodiac to tour dozens of icebergs in nature’s wondrous ocean museum. The frozen sculptures glistened in exquisite hues of blue and cyan; iceberg colors vary by the density of air bubbles. Each was formed after snapping off an ancient glacier. The iceberg that sank the Titanic in the Atlantic, in 1912, was considered a mere “bergy bit,” or a smaller piece of floating ice; it melted within a couple of years. The ones we saw around Antarctica were massive. Occasionally, we spotted blubbery elephant seals (which can weigh more than four tons) napping on icebergs, or Adélie penguins (so named by a French explorer, for his wife) leaping among them, or a Humpback whale’s blow unnervingly nearby. As we headed back to the ship, the naturalist steering the Zodiac suddenly turned off the motor. “Listen,” he said. Antarctica is usually a powerfully silent continent except for the gusting winds or the lapping waves on its coastline. He put his finger up, signalling to wait for it. We sat motionless. A thundering crack then ripped through the air, echoing across the water until it felt like it was going off inside my head. We watched a towering slice of the continent break off and crash into the Southern Ocean. It felt cataclysmic.
For almost a half century, I’ve covered wars, revolutions and uprisings on four continents, many for years on end. I’ve always been an outside observer watching as others killed each other. I lamented the loss of human life—and the warring parties’ self-destructive practices—from an emotional distance. In Antarctica, I saw war through a different prism. And I was the enemy. “Humans will be but a blip in the span of Earth’s history,” Wayne Ranney, a naturalist and geologist on the expedition, told me. “The only question is how long the blip will be.” Read on....
Ambassador Bill Taylor on Impeachment, Russia, and the Law of the Jungle
By Robin Wright
Ambassador Bill Taylor gained fame for a text message in which he challenged President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold aid to Ukraine until it announced an investigation into Hunter Biden. “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote to Ambassador Gordon Sondland, on September 9th. The text became a key piece of evidence in the impeachment of Trump on charges of abusing power for political gain. Taylor testified on the first day of the House impeachment hearings that he had adamantly opposed the decision to withhold aid. “I could not and would not defend such a policy,” Taylor said.
Among his colleagues, Taylor is also famed for a small notebook he carries with him, in which he takes copious notes on meetings and conversations. The notebook chronicled how Ukraine policy played out during the suspension of U.S. military aid after President Trump’s call to President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25th. Taylor has served the United States—as a soldier, in senior positions at the Pentagon and the State Department, and finally as an Ambassador—for a half century. He spent most of his life dealing with conflict or post-conflict environments. In the course of his career, he coördinated U.S. aid efforts to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republic, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The George W. Bush Administration deployed him to Jerusalem as the U.S. special representative to the Quartet peace process and to Kyiv as the U.S. Ambassador from 2006 to 2009. President Obama appointed him to coördinate aid to Middle Eastern countries in transition after the Arab Spring. In June of last year,Secretary of State Mike Pompeopersonally asked Taylor to return as acting Ambassador after Marie Yovanovitch was abruptlyrecalled. Taylor did so despite having serious doubts and a warning from his wife not to take the assignment.
For years, Taylor has been my guide on Ukraine and many issues in the Middle East and Afghanistan. We sat down on Friday to discuss the impeachment drama, Russia, the Ukraine crisis, U.S. foreign policy, and the dangers that the world will return to the law of the jungle. The text has been edited for length and clarity. Read on....