The Right Vote



The statesmanlike case for voting Yes on the congressional resolution to use force against the Assad regime has been made widely and well by conservative foreign policy thinkers. At the end, the case boils down to this: As a policy matter, a Yes vote may be problematic in all kinds of ways. But a No vote would likely be disastrous for the nation in very clear ways. Statesmanship requires choosing the problematic over the disastrous.

It’s true that Republicans on the Hill lack confidence in President Obama’s execution of the military action they are being asked to vote to authorize. So do conservative foreign and military policy experts, and so do we. But voting Yes doesn’t preclude criticizing—indeed, it makes it easier to constructively criticize—much of what President Obama has done and will do in Syria and in the Middle East. Indeed, if Republicans want to cast a broader vote of no confidence in President Obama’s conduct of foreign policy, there ...


I Came, I Saw, I Skedaddled

Decisive moments in Barack Obama history.


illustrations by gary locke

Chief Executive of Sparta,
Barack Leonidas Obama,
at the Battle of Thermopylae

Stand down, men. The chairman of the Greek City States Alliance Joint Chiefs of Staff has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission against Xerxes is not time-sensitive.  

Julius Barack Caesar Obama
Crosses the Rubicon

I am crossing the Rubicon. Brrr, the water’s chilly. Deep, too. I’m going for a walk along the riverbank to look for a bridge. And I will cross the Rubicon as soon as the weather warms up. The die has been cast. That is, the deck has been shuffled. Or the Wheel of Fortune has been spun. And I’ll buy a vowel.

Pontius Barack Pilate Obama,
Matthew 27:24

When he saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather ...

Announcing the plan for a congressional vote, August 31

Do It for the Presidency

Congress, this time at least, shouldn’t say no to Obama.


There is little reason to believe that President Obama’s decision to ask Congress for authorization to engage in military action in Syria is the result of a newfound fastidiousness when it comes to the Constitution and his constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be ...

A survivor of the Damascus gas attack, resting in a mosque, August 21

What to Do About Syria

Vital U.S. interests are at stake.


American interests in Syria are clear: preventing terrorists from acquiring chemical weapons; depriving Iran of its most important ally and staging-base in the Middle East; and preventing al Qaeda from establishing an uncontested safe haven in the Levant. Reasonable people can ...

Kerry on the Hill: testifying to the House Foreign Affairs Committee

Sorting Out the Opposition to Assad

They’re not all jihadist dead-enders.


Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry went against received wisdom—and against the assessment of the White House he works for—when he argued that Syrian opposition forces are not dominated by Islamic extremists. “I just don’t agree that a majority are al Qaeda and the bad guys,” ...

Obama contemplating a bust of Jimmy Carter

Hesitation, Delay, and Unreliability

Not the qualities one looks for in a war president.


War presidents don’t quibble. They don’t leak. They don’t go AWOL. They aren’t dispirited or downbeat. They aren’t ambivalent about the mission. And most important of all, war presidents are never irresolute.

These are a few of the rules for ...

Elbert Lee Guillory in the Louisiana senate chamber

The Louisiana GOP Gains a Convert

Elbert Lee Guillory, Cajun noir.


New Orleans
"Je suis un Cajun noir,” Elbert Lee Guillory, the 69-year-old state senator from Opelousas, Louisiana, tells me proudly. “I am a black Cajun.” To which he might ...


The Muddle East

Every idea President Obama had about pacifying the Muslim world turned out to be wrong.


thomas fluharty

If Congress refuses to support American military action against the Assad regime in Syria, and President Barack Obama declines to strike or strikes meekly, will American power—that marriage of will, resources, and perception—be diminished in the Middle East? If so, will the ramifications be severe? Could President Obama, like Iran-sanctions-supporting liberals and conservatives who don’t want to intervene in Syria, skip this Levantine war and nevertheless come out swinging against the nuke-seeking mullahs of the Islamic Republic? Might the triumph of Sunni jihadists in Syria actually be worse than Bashar al-Assad’s survival? 

When it comes to the Middle East, Obama’s presidency has largely been predicated on two ideas: A hegemonic America is a bad thing, and the second Iraq war was a serious mistake. We and Middle Eastern Muslims would coexist more harmoniously, so Obama has thought, if Washington were less bellicose. The fight ...

Getty Images

The Last 24 Notes

Tom Day and the volunteer buglers who play ‘Taps’ at veterans’ funerals across America


Berwyn, Ill.
Tom Day is not a man given to extravagance. He thinks he’s living high on a reporter’s nickel if he orders a beef sandwich to go at the local Buona sub shop. He shops at Goodwill every Sunday, hoping to pick up bargains, like his ...

Books & Arts

Winston in Focus

A great man gets a second look.


Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Yalta, February 1945

"Oh, Winston, why?” Field Marshal Jan Smuts is said to have remonstrated with Churchill over his war memoirs, which Smuts considered too self-serving. “Why did you have to do that? You, more than anyone in the world, could have written as no one else could have written the true history of the war.” Churchill’s retort about his six volumes is characteristic, but also perfectly reasonable: “These are my story. If someone else likes to write his story, let him.” 

Churchill must have guessed that, with Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini dead—and Stalin not a natural author—his only possible front-rank rival in the war memoir stakes would be Charles de Gaulle, who did indeed write excellent reminiscences but not ones that could touch Churchill’s for massive, international bestsellerdom. More ...

Albert Murray, 1974

Indivisible Man

Albert Murray, 1916-2013


Since mine is hardly a household name, I can count on a few fingers the occasions when I’ve been interviewed. But one encounter remains as clear as the day it happened.

To begin at the true beginning: It happens that, by a set of curious chances, I ...

The Franco Stella version

Classical Revival

Germany breaks from its past to embrace the past.


Visitors wending their way down the Unter den Linden towards the river Spree are nowadays suddenly brought up short by an oddly shaped, bizarre-looking structure that seems completely out of place

William Harvey explains the circulation of the blood to Charles I.

Living in Vein

Remember the man who invented modern medicine.


Science doesn’t make a splash in the news too often. But a year or so ago, when the CERN labs announced that they might have observed the “God particle,” everyone got very excited. A year of peer-review later, it appears they were right: ...

Robert Irvine

With a Grain of Salt

Who and what, exactly, is the chef du jour?


The show’s hero has huge muscles, wisecracking sidekicks, and a mysterious origin. In each episode, he performs feats beyond the abilities of mere mortals. He fights for values that just about everyone shares, and he dispenses common-sense ...

Lake Bell

Still Small Voice

Sundance gives birth to yet another meh-sterpiece.


It is said that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king—and when it comes to American movies, the land of the blind is the Sundance Film Festival. Every January, independent filmmakers looking for ...


Waylaid in Malta


david clark

Early in 1659, a strong-willed woman named Sarah Chevers and an even stronger-willed woman named Katharine Evans arrived in Malta. By chance—or, as they insisted, Providence—they had been diverted, their Dutch ship chased into the port of Valletta by rumor of pirates and bad weather. And since Malta is where they found themselves, Malta is where they would stay, preaching God’s true Protestant faith—the Knights Hospitaller who ruled the Catholic island be damned.

I’m not sure why I admire these women so. They seem, all in all, profoundly ignorant people—ignorant in that peculiarly British way that saw all other European cultures as willful and childish failures to be British. But maybe what draws me is what remains clearest in their story, for they were also brave beyond measure, with a strength of conviction that still takes the breath away. 

They were Quakers, members of the Society of ...


9/11: Never Forget

never forget

We’ll Take the Disposable Post

We’ll Take the Disposable Post

Readers will, we hope, forgive The Scrapbook for the undue pleasure we have taken in Washington Post stories about the impending sale of the Post to Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos. 

In one sense, it has been something of a ...

Unrehabilitated Bakers

Unrehabilitated Bakers

As the debate over gay marriage began heating up, supporters of the idea insisted that it was a matter of basic libertarianism. “Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t have one,” went the bumper-sticker-turned-rallying-cry. Of course, it was never going to be that simple with regard to ...

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

'Could this Labor Day mark the comeback of movements for workers’ rights and a turn toward innovation and a new militancy on behalf of wage-earners? Suggesting this is not the same as a foolish and romantic optimism that foresees an instant union revival. What’s actually happening ...

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

'I’m so pissed off after reading these books I can hardly type. But my ire begins with baseball—and the same is true for Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who lost a son in Iraq. Been to a game lately? Try to grab just a few hours of peace and fun, and what do you get? A ...

Department of Low Expectations

Department of Low Expectations

'Japan PM Abe shakes hands with China’s Xi at G20” (Reuters, September 5, 2013).


The March of Science

Our friends at the Free Beacon report the news that, despite the sequester, the federal government continues to be able to support important scientific research. The National Institutes of Health has been able to fund for another year a $2.2 million inquiry, begun in the ...


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