January 20, 2014; Vol. 19, No. 18
Arthur Schlesinger posited the existence of cycles in American political history alternating between “public purpose” and “private interest”—his jaundiced labels for liberalism and conservatism. There are also cycles in American foreign policy alternating between interventionism and noninterventionism, the latter sometimes verging on downright isolationism. Normally when one trend backfires in some spectacular fashion, the other trend becomes dominant, until it too burns out and the cycle starts again.
As the country edges closer to civil war, much of the blame goes to Prime Minister Maliki—and the White House.
January 5, 2014
The climactic battles of the American War in Iraq were fought in Anbar Province, with U.S. forces at great cost retaking the city of Fallujah at the end of 2004 and Ramadi, the provincial capital, in 2006-07. The latter success was sparked by an unlikely alliance with tribal fighters that turned around what had been a losing war effort and made possible the success of what became known as "the surge." By 2009, violence had fallen more than 90%, creating an unexpected opportunity to build a stable, democratic and prosperous country in the heart of the Middle East.
There is no sign Tehran is willing to end its cold war with the West.
November 24, 2013
Analogies between Secretary of State John F. Kerry's negotiations with Iran and the negotiations the Reagan administration undertook with the Soviet Union have become commonplace. But is Hassan Rouhani really another Mikhail Gorbachev — another leader of a dictatorship with whom the U.S. can (and should) "do business," in Margaret Thatcher's phrase?
The current state of Iraq shouldn't take away from what American troops accomplished during the Surge.
November 1, 2013
Surge by Peter R. Mansoor, Yale, 341 pages, $28.
There have been many turning points in American military history. The Battles of Saratoga, Gettysburg and Midway and the landing at Inchon are some of the most famous. To that list should be added the 2007 "Surge" in Iraq, even if its consequences not as lasting.
‘Catastrophe 1914,’ by Max Hastings
October 25, 2013
Review of Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War. By Max Hastings. Illustrated. 628 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $35.
World War I continues to exert a powerful pull on the popular imagination, especially in Britain, France and Australia, which, although victorious, suffered much more heavily in the trenches than did the late-arriving Americans. (There is less appetite for remembrance in the states that lost — Germany, Austria, Russia, Turkey.) Its ravages formed a backdrop to the television series “Downton Abbey” and to the movie and play “War Horse,” and they are being recounted anew in a profusion of books tied to the war’s centenary next year.
Tom Clancy, 1947-2013.
October 14, 2013 • Vol. 19, No. 06
Tom Clancy’s premature death is rich in unfortunate symbolism, because the U.S. armed forces, whose renaissance he celebrated in the 1980s and beyond, may be heading back to the “hollow,” pre-Clancy days of the 1970s. Although he kept writing up until the end, and continued to sell scads of books and video games, Clancy is mostly associated with the Reagan years, and for good reason. He was part of a pop culture outpouring, which also included the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun and Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge, that marked an inflection point in American attitudes towards the military.