The Young Dictator Problem

The classic image of the dictator clinging to power, resisting the world’s entreaties to resign, and fending off internal attempts at ouster is that of an old man, stubborn and long past caring what others think. He’s been on the throne for so long that his name has become synonymous with the state — l’état c’est moi! — and his very longevity has become a stinging rebuke to his...
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Celebrating Destruction

Everyone on the Mall near the Washington Monument was looking up at the sky. I was there, too. But I wasn’t looking up, at least not that far up. On May 8, I was playing Ultimate Frisbee during the noontime game on a stretch of level grass behind the Holocaust Museum. This time we were joined by thousands of people eager to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany and...
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The Missing

There are several types of missing persons. Some missing people are missed so publicly that their absence is a presence. Vanished children reappeared on milk cartons and then later in amber alerts. American soldiers, killed in action or MIA, look out at us from rows of photos like headstones in the newspaper on Memorial Day. Mothers assembled with signs and photos in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires...
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Robot-in-Chief

To: John Brennan, Langley HQ From: Operative 650, McMurdo Sound Re: Politics 2.0 Greetings from Antarctica. It’s not so bad here, as long as you like tinned peas and snow blindness. But seriously, thanks to several months of sunless winter, I’ve been able to learn Urdu, top my previous high score in Spider Solitaire, and catch up on my Netflix queue. I’m the only spook here among the...
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Obama’s Triple Crown

It was only a couple years ago that I was bemoaning Obama’s failure to fulfill his promise to resolve major confrontations in the world diplomatically. “Smart power,” in the Obama lexicon, had largely been window dressing on the same old exercise of hard power — the widespread drone strikes, the surge in Afghanistan, the intervention in Libya, the Special Forces operations in Africa and...
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Iran: Deal or No Deal?

The full-page ad in this week’s Washington Post portraying President Obama as history’s favorite whipping boy, Neville Chamberlain, was wrong in nearly every one of its many strident particulars. It was wrong in suggesting that a nuclear agreement with Iran is appeasement. It was wrong in comparing Iran with Nazi Germany. It was wrong to argue that Iran “has control over five Middle...
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