Features Archives


Victory Without Soldiers?

The futility of soft power in defeating militant jihadists
Oct 26, 2015

With the war in Syria becoming ever more complex and murderous, it’s worthwhile to revisit a guiding principle of Barack Obama: The use of American military power is likely to do more harm than good in the Middle East, and even in the region’s violent struggles, soft power is important, if not decisive, in resolving conflicts. If Islamic militancy is to be defeated, better ideas, advanced by Muslims, backed up if necessary by Muslim soldiers, must be the principal means. 

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Making It All Up

The behavioral sciences scandal
Oct 19, 2015

One morning in August, the social science reporter for National Public Radio, a man named Shankar Vedantam, sounded a little shellshocked. You couldn’t blame him. 

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A Failing Grade

Hillary Clinton’s Arkansas education record
Oct 19, 2015

For Republican presidential candidates planning to run against Hillary Clinton, the critique of her record these days often begins and ends with Benghazi and her email server. This is partly because these are so damning but partly because there’s a near-universal assumption that Clinton has no domestic record to run against. After all, her health care initiative famously failed.

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Why Do We Not Save Christians?

They need help, and they have no good place to go
Oct 12, 2015

The Yom Kippur liturgy, just followed in synagogues around the world, repeats several times references to God as one who rescues captives. The central daily Jewish prayer as well refers to God who “supports the fallen, heals the sick, sets captives free.” And throughout Jewish history, the redemption of captives has been considered an important commandment. This is the background to the repeated decisions by the state of Israel to free a hundred or a thousand Arab prisoners in exchange for one single captive Jew.

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The Kemp Era

When Republicans became the party of growth and tax cuts
Oct 12, 2015

In 1970, the year after Jack Kemp had retired as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, he was elected to the House from a district covering the Buffalo suburbs. He was 35. His chief concern was the suffering of his Rust Belt constituents, beset by plant closings and high unemployment. In 1973, he proposed a business-friendly tax cut, followed by another titled the Jobs Creation Act. Neither passed. Kemp, a phys. ed. major at Occidental College, had taught himself economics. He had read Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, the masters of free-market economics.

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Rather Shameful

‘Truth’ is out there somewhere
Oct 12, 2015

When CBS’s 60 Minutes Wednesday broadcast its lead story—reported by Dan Rather and produced by Mary Mapes—on the evening of September 8, 2004, it was given the anodyne title “For the Record,” as though it constituted little more than a disinterested historical footnote. In reality, the story was a bold fabrication about President George W. Bush’s long-ago service in the Texas National Guard, intended to damage him in his campaign for reelection against John Kerry.

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The Cocked Fist Culture

Crossing the microaggressions minefield
Oct 05, 2015

Seattle
Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you offended? I know I haven’t said anything yet, but it’s never too early to be aggrieved. Studies I’ve invented, since we’re all entitled to our own facts these days, show that 4 out of 10 Americans are offended by something at all times. Ten out of 10, if they’re taking a course containing the word “intersectional” at Swarthmore. 

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Our Iranian Interlocutor

Ali Khamenei’s dark obsession with Jews and Israel
Sep 28, 2015

Antisemitism has never been an easy subject for America’s foreign-policy establishment. Read through State Department telegrams and Central Intelligence Agency operational and intelligence cables on the Middle East and you will seldom find it discussed, even though Jew-hatred—not just anti-Zionism—has been a significant aspect, if not a core component, of modern Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and what usually passes for critical thought among sophisticated Arab elites. 

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Goodbye to the Shade Tree Mechanic

Cars are, like, so yesterday
Sep 28, 2015

Though I am an Apple user—phone and laptop—and happy with both, the tepid response to the latest Apple dog and pony show left me feeling a bit of schadenfreude. The digital revolution is pushing other technologies into the grave, and like a lot of people, I mourn that—in the way, probably, that an ardent lover of the old clipper ships resented the arrival of coal and steam. Something was being lost. Something beyond the mere ships.

From a recent Washington Post article, one learns that

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The Managers vs. the Managed

What would James Burnham make of our ruling class?
Sep 21, 2015

What is happening in the world? When one looks at recent news, one can’t help feeling a sense of bewilderment. A storied Olympian announces his new gender on the cover of Vanity Fair, the Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage a constitutional right, racial violence returns to St.

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The Next Justices

A guide for GOP candidates on how to fill Court vacancies
Sep 14, 2015

When Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to the next president, he will be flanked by three, and almost four, octogenarians: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83), Antonin Scalia (80), Anthony Kennedy (80), and Stephen Breyer (77). The next president will likely have the opportunity to appoint a replacement for one, two, three, or maybe even four of those justices. These decisions will reshape the Court and how it reads the Constitution for decades to come.

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On the Frontline in Ukraine

A Jewish community hangs on, despite the uncertainty
Sep 14, 2015

Mariupol, Ukraine
It is late evening as we approach the second of three checkpoints on the road to the frontline city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine. A vital port on the Azov Sea, Mariupol is heavily fortified by land and by sea.

“I try not to drive these roads after dark,” says Gena, who is taking me and my cameraman from Zaporizhia to visit the Jewish community of Mariupol. “It’s more dangerous at night.”

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Traitor to His Class

Nothing is more terrifying to the elite than Trump’s embrace of a tangible American nationalism
Sep 07, 2015

Donald Trump is not a serious candidate. Donald Trump is not a serious man. The truth of these statements is supposed to be self-evident. But one begins to wonder, are they true?

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What’s the Deal with Trump?

Cleaning up elections, beating up corporations
Sep 07, 2015

Of Frats and Men

Ganging up on the Greek system
Aug 24, 2015

Charlottesville, Va.

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Family Business

The difficulty with dynasties
Aug 17, 2015

The dynasty project is not faring well. Two relatives of three of our most recent presidents have faced early woes in their succession plans, despite layers of aides, networks of backers going back generations, and extravagant levels of cash. On June 11, a front-page story in the Washington Post described the first six months of Jeb Bush’s campaign as a “political operation going off-course, disjointed in message and approach, torn between factions and more haphazard than it appeared on the surface .  .  .

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Civil Whites

Why are critics so deferential to the radicalism of Ta-Nehisi Coates?
Aug 17, 2015

Maybe “Culture Belongs to Everyone,” as they say at New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park shows, but the works of Atlantic essayist and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates appear to exist in another realm altogether. In the weeks since the publication of Between the World and Me, Coates’s letter to his teenage son about the perils and promise of being black and male in America, critics have struggled to find adjectives to match his achievements.

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The Guns of August 1990

A quarter-century after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, we still haven’t learned the right lessons from that war
Aug 10, 2015

Just after midnight on August 2, 1990, an invasion force of approximately 100,000 Iraqi troops crossed into Kuwait. As mechanized and armored Republican Guard divisions breached the border and sped southward across the desert, Iraqi Special Forces commandos launched airborne and amphibious assaults into Kuwait City. The Kuwaiti military, outnumbered and taken by surprise by the well-coordinated offensive, was swiftly routed.

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Consistently Wrong

The president’s happy talk and sad results
Aug 10, 2015

President Obama is putting on the hard sell to market the nuclear deal he reached with Iran. On July 14, in announcing the agreement, he said: “This deal shows the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring—change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure. We negotiated from a position of strength and principle—and the result is a nuclear deal that cuts off every pathway to a nuclear weapon.”

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The Next Greece?

Unsustainable public debt closer to home
Aug 03, 2015

Is America, or Illinois, or Chicago the next Greece? The answers are “Yes, if .  .  . ,” “No, but .  .  . ,” and “Perhaps.” Greece joined what was then the European Economic Community even though it had no business applying for admission, and the existing members had no business allowing it entry, as the community’s finance ministers concluded, only to be overruled by France and Germany, whose leaders were hoping to construct an institution that would make another continental conflagration impossible: Full speed ahead, economics be damned.

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Crowded Field of Dreams

The state of the Republican race
Aug 03, 2015

Des Moines

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It Still Matters

The American Civil War, that is
Jul 27, 2015

Of the making of books, there is no end. Thus spake the prophet, and he may have had books about the American Civil War in mind. They come too fast for the amateur to keep up, but one does try. So when I saw, a couple of months ago, that James McPherson was out with a new collection called The War That Forged a Nation, I ordered it. I was late, a few weeks beyond the actual publication date, but didn’t think that mattered. We were not, after all, dealing with breaking news here.

Except .  .  . we were.

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How Will We Know?

The coming Iran intelligence failure
Jul 27, 2015

One might think that after the last Iraq war Democrats would be wary of allowing intelligence to dictate policy. Yet that is effectively what Barack Obama has done with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in Vienna on July 14. The agreement with Iran is strategically premised on the notion that greater commerce will transform the virulently anti-American, antisemitic, terrorism-fond, increasingly imperial Islamic Republic into something more pleasant. Tactically, the agreement depends on Western intelligence against the Iranian nuclear target.

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Free to Shut Up

The collision of religious liberty and gay rights in Oregon
Jul 20, 2015

"They have good days and bad days, but I will tell you they are resolute,” attorney Herb Grey says of his clients, Aaron and Melissa Klein, two bakers from Portland who are facing a $135,000 fine from the state of Oregon for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian commitment ceremony in January 2013. “They know that today it’s them, but that there’s nothing they can do to escape from it, and they’re willing to stand up, knowing what the potential implications are for other people.” 

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Giving Thomas His Due

The justice who stands alone
Jul 20, 2015

For political observers, the story of the Supreme Court’s recently concluded term was the clash of two great colliding forces. On one side stood the Court’s always-unified liberal bloc, fortified by the apostasies of Republican-appointed Justice Anthony Kennedy and sometimes Chief Justice John Roberts, most prominently in cases involving same-sex marriage and Obamacare. On the other side stood Justice Antonin Scalia, a lion in winter, caustic and witty in his dissents.

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Greece Monkeys

The European Union is bailing itself out, not the Greeks
Jul 20, 2015

A mass outbreak of syphilis, the radical economist and member of parliament Costas Lapavitsas told an interviewer, is about the only thing the European political establishment did not threaten Greece’s voters with before the country’s early-July referendum. 

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Are We Better Off Now?

Looking back at the Iraq war
Jul 06, 2015

Is the world better off than it was eight years ago? 

Is the Middle East? Is Iraq? These questions, echoing the one asked by Ronald Reagan in his debate with Jimmy Carter just before the 1980 election, should be posed by all Republicans until the polls close in November 2016. Added to these are a few other things .  .  .

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The Hillary Paradox

Pity the woman’s admirers
Jun 29, 2015

When news broke this spring about Bill and Hillary Clinton’s appetite for other people’s money and their indifference to other people’s rules, I was rereading my way through a shelf of old Hillary biographies. My memory thus was doubly stimulated. In the fresh revelations, as in the books, the traits of the Clintons were spread out for a new generation to marvel at: the furtiveness, the shifting accounts of hazy events, the parsing of language, the bald and unnecessary denial of often trivial facts (did she have two phones or one?).

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Dressing Up

The only commencement speech you’ll ever need
Jun 29, 2015

These commencement remarks were delivered at the
John Adams Academy, a charter high school in Roseville,
California, on June 5.

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Saving Atlantic City

A mayor who thinks small may be the answer
Jun 22, 2015

Atlantic City 
Just about every morning when the weather is nice, Don Guardian rides his bike along the boardwalk and digs into the beach sand. “They’re supposed to clean the top six inches of sand,” he explains. “And I check to make sure that they actually do it. .  .  . That’s what I’m here for: the small stuff.”

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