Has Obama Already Forgotten about Asia?

Last year was a tough time for President Obama. The health care roll-out was plagued by website malfunctions. His ambivalent approach to intervening in Syria satisfied neither hawks nor doves. Congress stalled on major legislation like immigration reform. And the leaks by Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on American citizens, a major embarrassment for the...
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Why North Korea 2014 Is Not East Germany 1989

Policy analysts, pundits, and politicians have long predicted that the North Korean government will go the way of East German Communism. Just as the seemingly impregnable Honecker regime rapidly disintegrated along with the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the Kim dynasty in North Korea has been expected to collapse at any minute. This minute, of course, has lasted for more than two decades. The...
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The Color Wars

I played for Green when I was growing up. That was my soccer team. We were divided up by color: Green vs. Red, Gold vs. Blue. The teams were chosen at random, but we became fiercely attached to our color. Friendships across color lines became strained. We talked of “Purple power” and the “Gold tradition.” For all I know, the league was run by psychologists testing the influence of...
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Asia: The Ghosts of 1914

On the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, Europe is at peace. There are no major border disputes. The countries form a unified economic bloc instead of a patchwork of jostling alliances. In the last 70 years, the only large-scale violence took place during the unraveling of Yugoslavia, which ended 15 years ago. In Sarajevo today, where World War I began with the assassination of...
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The Empire’s New Asian Clothes

In a future update of The Devil’s Dictionary, the famed Ambrose Bierce dissection of the linguistic hypocrisies of modern life, a single word will accompany the entry for “Pacific pivot”: retreat. It might seem a strange way to characterize the Obama administration’s energetic attempt to reorient its foreign and military policy toward Asia. After all, the president’s team has...
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The Sun Also Rises

  I passed through an enormous tori, the traditional gate in front of Shinto shrines. In the courtyard, white-clad Shinto priests walked quietly back and forth. A flock of white doves, specially bred on the site, pecked at the ground and then took wing at the prodding of a photographer. I visited the strolling garden and the sumo ring.  I examined the ema, the small wooden plaques that...
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