Authoritarian Symps

In the bad old days of the Cold War, the left and the right used to play a nasty game called “Who’s Your Favorite Dictator?” Right-wing ideologues supported authoritarian leaders like Augusto Pinochet of Chile while left-wing ideologues rhapsodized over Communist leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba. One side embraced the shah of Iran and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines as “our...
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The Kremlin’s Kool-Aid

We were nearing the end of dinner when the eminent personage leaned in my direction and began yelling at me. Up to that point, the argument among the five of us at the end of the long table at the restaurant had been heated but at a conversational volume. The fact that we were arguing at all was at least partly my fault. After all, I’d brought up the subject of Russia. Just before the entrees...
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Can Ukraine Gnaw Its Way out of Trouble

Animals caught in a trap will often chew off a limb to escape. Even the occasional human being has resorted to this nightmare option, as the hiker Aron Ralston did when a boulder pinned his arm in a remote area of Utah wilderness. He’d run out of food, water, and time. What he did have was a utility knife. You can imagine the rest (or you can see it graphically rendered in the movie 127...
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The Wall

I was at the library at Northwestern University, putting the final touches on the galleys of my first book, which addressed the topic of Soviet foreign policy. There was a FedEx box at the library, and my deadline was the last pick-up time. In a mad rush, I finished the remaining fact-checking chores, did one last proof, and dropped the manuscript in the box just before the truck pulled up to...
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Meet the Polish Activists on the Cutting Edge of a Possible Left Resurgence in Eastern Europe

Its corner location was unbeatable. But Brave New World cafe faced steep competition on Warsaw’s most fashionable thoroughfare: a pricey French bakery, a trendy sushi restaurant and the famous Café Blickle, which began serving coffee and pastries long before World War I. Moreover, as even its passionate defenders would admit, the food at Brave New World, though relatively cheap, was not...
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The Cold War Never Died

In ’89, it looked as though the war had finally ended. For five decades the conflict had ground on, and both sides had grown weary of it all. There had been previous pauses in the hostilities, even a détente or two, but this truce looked permanent. Sure, there were still tensions after ’89, and a few skirmishes broke out. But the peace held, miraculously, for more than 25 years. Then, as...
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