Profile of Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign minister of Turkey
“He is an extraordinary figure: brilliant, indefatigable, self-aggrandizing, always the hero of his own narratives. In the recent batch of State Department cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, one scholar was quoted as anointing the foreign minister ‘Turkey’s Kissinger,’ while in 2004 a secondhand source was quoted as calling him ‘exceptionally dangerous.’”
Profile of Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ great closer
“In his 16th year with the Yankees, Mariano Rivera, who is 40, has become a kind of living god of baseball. While his regular-season statistics are remarkable, in postseason play, where the pressure is at its highest, he is sui generis. . . . Rivera, when pressed, attributes his gifts to providence; people of a more secular bent say that he combines one of the single greatest pitches baseball has ever seen — his cutter, or cut fastball — with an inner calm, and a focus, no less unusual and no less inimitable.
Article on the counterinsurgency effort in one corner of Afghanistan
“Col. Guy Jones, who majored in nuclear engineering at Texas A&M, had a lot of theories, and one — just politically incorrect enough to flourish in a remote place like Arghandab — had to do with the role of key leaders in Afghanistan. “Compare the Afghan people to sheep,” Jones said to me in one of our long conversations. “You know if you just suddenly jump at sheep, they’ll fall over and have a heart attack? When they’re scared, they’ll just huddle with the shepherd. As soon as they hear the sound of his voice, they’ll calm down.” The Taliban were trying to terrorize people into fearing that their shepherds couldn’t protect them. The COIN fight was a fight over the shepherds.”
Profile of Vice-President Joe Biden
“Unlike Obama, Biden has spent virtually his entire life in politics. It is his medium: he talks about world leaders the way a grizzled baseball coach talks about the opposing lineup. I once heard him say, ‘Foreign policy is like human relations, only people know less about each other.’”
Profile of Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari
“Zardari has a special talent for maneuvering himself out of the tight spots he gets himself into. But the Pakistani people have grown weary of his artful dodging. Zardari’s poll numbers are dreadful. More important, he has given little sustained attention to the country’s overwhelming problems — including, of course, the Islamist extremism that, for the Obama administration, has made Pakistan quite possibly the most important, and worrisome, country in the world. Zardari has bought himself more time, but for Pakistan itself, the clock is ticking louder and louder.”
Article on the Goldstone Report alleging war crimes committed during Israel’s war on Gaza in 2008-9
“The fundamental question that lies beneath the dispute over what the IDF did or did not do is: Can Israel fight Hamas—or can any state fight such an adversary—without the means that the Goldstone Report insists that international humanitarian law prohibits?”
What is Afghanistan likely to look like in 2020?
“A likely 2020 scenario is an Afghan state whose writ is limited to the major towns and cities of the north and west; a region in the south and perhaps the east dominated, if not governed, by the Taliban; and perhaps a contested area in between. And all of those fluid and contested borders could lead to a civil war involving tribes, warlords, and proxies of neighboring countries—Pakistan, India, Iran. In the worst case, the violence might look more like central Africa than central Asia.”
How should liberals think about Afghanistan?
The central lesson many Americans took away from Vietnam, and from the proxy wars the U.S. fought all over the world during the Cold War, was that our political leaders exaggerated, or even fabricated, the stakes. . . . If Obama is right about the stakes, then he may be right about the strategy. Or is he hyping the danger, the way LBJ and Reagan—and George W. Bush—once did? And even if the fight really does matter, is victory, or however we choose to define success, even possible?”
Review of “The Violence of Peace,” by Stephen L.Carter
“Carter has written a book about “just war” theory in which he concludes that Barack Obama, a president he clearly admires, has prosecuted the war on terror with no more regard for the theory’s ancient principles than George W. Bush (whom many of Carter’s readers no doubt consider a war criminal). The really discomfiting part is that Carter doesn’t advance this claim as a criticism, but rather as an acknowledgment of the way America’s leaders fight wars, and are quite likely to continue fighting this one.”