Poland’s Tea Party Movement

On a rainy day in April 1990, I journeyed to the outskirts of Warsaw to one of those functional Communist-era apartment building complexes to meet with Antoni Macierewicz. The opposition leader’s apartment contrasted sharply with its grim institutional surroundings. It was an aristocratic enclave full of books, antiques, and prints on the wall. Macierewicz himself exuded an Old World kind of...
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Life in the Gray Zone

In the 13th century, the Italian town of Lucera was a Muslim island in a sea of Christendom. Here Frederick II, the head of the Holy Roman Empire, established his own shadow cabinet of scholars and advisors from among the Arabs that he invited to live in this walled city near the eastern coast of Italy. It was a bold, unconventional move during a precarious time in Christian-Muslim relations. The...
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Trump, the Islamic State, and the Cliche of Civilizations

I was listening to a German parliamentarian the other night. She was making some anodyne comments about transatlantic friendship and the importance of culture. And then she veered off to mention the recent attacks in Paris and the threat of the Islamic State. This issue, she said, required an urgent response from the “free world.” The audience murmured its approval. I never take my freedoms...
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Je Suis Encore Charlie?

Charlie was a pretty good musician. He played guitar, composed songs. Dennis Wilson, the drummer and co-founder of the Beach Boys, befriended Charlie and tried to help him make it in the music industry. He arranged for the young man to make a studio album, which eventually came out in 1974. But before that, the Beach Boys recorded a tune Charlie had written for them. The song, “Never Learn Not...
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Splinterlands: The View from 2050

Let me start with a confession. I’m old-fashioned and I have an old-fashioned profession: I’m a geo-paleontologist. That means I dig around in archives to exhume the extinct: all the empires and federations and territorial unions that have passed into history. I practically created the profession of geo-paleontology as a young scholar in 2020. (We used to joke that we were the only historians...
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Eastern Europe: Return to Normality?

IT HAS BEEN THE FATE of Central and Eastern Europe — that wedge of territory between what was once the Soviet Union to the east and the European Community to the west — to wrestle with its own “abnormality.” For nearly five decades, the region experienced varying degrees of Soviet-style Communism, from the relatively liberal version enjoyed in Hungary to the more Stalinist model endured...
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