The Games of Our Lives

You are a customs official. It’s the early 1980s. You are living in a grim East European country. Your job is to check the documents of visitors, immigrants, and returning citizens. You need the job because times are tight, and several of your family members are sick. Every day the rules change regarding the paperwork that the border-crossers need to show. You have to scrutinize the documents...
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Guilt as Destiny

Diaspora communities played a major role in feeding the fires of conflict in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As Paul Hockenos detailed in his book Homeland Calling, émigré communities of Serbs, Croats, Kosovars and others supported nationalist leaders, funded guerrilla armies, returned to fight in the wars and serve in the new governments, and even generated some of the more extreme ideas that...
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America Held Hostage

The United States recently conducted a raid in Yemen to free an American hostage. The raid failed. The Navy Seals killed 11 people, including a 10-year-old boy. The kidnappers executed the hostage, journalist Luke Somers. They also killed South African teacher Pierre Korkie. The South African was on the verge of being released as part of a hostage negotiation that the U.S. government didn’t...
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The Life and Times of Michael B

Economic inequality is a hot topic in America these days. It is the subject of hefty bestsellers, presidential addresses, and even Hollywood movies. The issue has even appeared on the radar screen of foreign policy pundits. In this Sunday’s Washington Post, former assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell writesabout how “income inequality undermines U.S. power.” Campbell writes about...
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The Fetishism of Economic Growth

Capitalism and Communism shared one important principle in common: an almost religious devotion to economic growth. If a Five Year Plan didn’t produce the expected “great leap forward,” Communist officials fudged the figures. If a capitalist economy dipped into recession, economists tried to put the best face on the resulting “creative destruction,” arguing that it would prepare the...
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Obama and the Gordian Knot of Politics

With the exception of a spike immediately after September 11, Americans don’t trust their government. Take a look at a graph of public trust from 1958 to 2014, and you’ll see the rate drop from around 70 percent half a century ago to the dismal 20-something depths of today. The government shutdown in 2013—the supreme expression of political gridlock—even further reduced that trust. With...
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