When War Weariness Wears Off



Arthur Schlesinger posited the existence of cycles in American political history alternating between “public purpose” and “private interest”—his jaundiced labels for liberalism and conservatism. There are also cycles in American foreign policy alternating between interventionism and noninterventionism, the latter sometimes verging on downright isolationism. Normally when one trend backfires in some spectacular fashion, the other trend becomes dominant, until it too burns out and the cycle starts again.

Thus the interventionism of 1917-1918—when 116,000 Americans died to “make the world safe for democracy,” and military regimentation was imposed on the home front—led to a quest for “normalcy” in the 1920s, which eventually morphed into isolationism in the 1930s. That retreat from the world, which ignored the rise of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, was followed by the all-out mobilization of World War II. After the defeat of the Axis ...

Corbis/AP Images

Gates at War


The memoir of former defense secretary Robert M. Gates has landed with a bang. Gates has harsh words for President Barack Obama’s wartime decision-making and quotes Hillary Clinton saying that her opposition to the surge in 2007 was political. There is more than enough to outrage ...

Abu Sufian bin Qumu

Defining al Qaeda Down


The fallout continues from the New York Times’s failed attempt to change the narrative on the Ben-ghazi attacks. The latest hit comes from an unexpected source—the Washington Post:

U.S. officials suspect that a former ...


Obamacare Drags Dems Down

Perhaps even in Oregon.


Gary Locke

In 2014, very few Senate Democrats are safe from the undertow of Obamacare. One who—surprisingly—may not be is Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Merkley, by all accounts, should safely win reelection in November. Elected in 2008 over incumbent Republican Gordon Smith, he’s a perfect fit for the state’s population center, the progressive hipster mecca of Portland. As the Oregon house speaker, Merkley advanced a liberal laundry list of items like an expanded indoor smoking ban, a ban on junk food in schools, and more laws to limit discrimination against same-sex couples. In the U.S. Senate, he’s been a hero to the grassroots left for pushing for filibuster reform but has otherwise been a loyal liberal in line with an increasingly Democratic state. Obama won Oregon in 2012 by 12 points, and in the GOP’s banner year of 2010, senior Democratic senator Ron Wyden won handily over his Republican challenger.

Despite all those advantages, Merkley’s race ...


Black Flags over Fallujah

The comeback of Al Qaeda in Iraq.


The United States is sending more military aid to Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki to fight al Qaeda in Fallujah and Ramadi. This is understandable. The resurgence of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is a clear threat to Maliki’s government and the Iraqi people, and its leadership of ...


Who Loves a Jury?

The Framers of the Constitution, that’s who.


As an institution, the jury—especially in civil cases—is having a bad run these days. Nobody likes that summons in the mail (even though clerks-of-court in the electronic era have figured out ways to make jury service less of a hassle). Experts who monitor medical-legal issues ...


The Day After

If Israel withdrew to the 1967 borders, what then?


Even with al Qaeda making gains across the Middle East and Iran still enriching uranium in its march to a nuclear breakout, John Kerry’s attention is focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He has visited Israel 10 times since becoming secretary of state. The aim of ...


Know Your Enemy

Al Qaeda’s grand strategy



In the summer of 2008, Barack Obama, senator and presidential candidate, toured the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama had endeared himself to the antiwar left by denouncing President Bush’s decision to topple Saddam Hussein and repeatedly claiming that the war in Iraq had diverted resources from defeating al Qaeda and its allies in South Asia. Obama did not tone down this criticism even as he spoke with CBS News from Kabul on July 20, shortly before proceeding to Saddam’s former abode. “We got distracted by Iraq,” Obama said. Afghanistan “has to be the central focus, the central front [in] our battle against terrorism.”

Some top U.S. military commanders, including General David Petraeus, then the face of the American war effort, disagreed with Obama’s assessment. And in Iraq, the general and the senator squared off. The contentious meeting between Petraeus and Obama has been recorded in The Endgame: The Inside ...

Al Qaeda

The Unmaking of the Middle East

Obama’s historic misunderstanding



The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish .  .  . the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, ...

Books & Arts

Is There a Third Way?

Challenge, not deference, to the majority.


J. Harvie Wilkinson, Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork

One of the government’s slyest powers is the right to grant licenses. As a piece of law, the license is rooted in the idea of communal interest: In areas of life where the general public can easily be harmed by bad actors, the government seeks to mitigate harm by credentialing certain actions. Hence the driver’s license, which ensures some minimal competency for operating an automobile. And the physician’s license, which upholds a reasonably high standard of competency for doctors.

But sometimes the license isn’t about general welfare. In Louisiana, for instance, the state requires a license to practice floristry. In order to earn such a license, applicants take a written test and then must pass a practical exam in which they create four floral arrangements to be graded, completely subjectively, by a panel of certified florists. Very few applicants pass this ludicrous exercise, suggesting that the Louisiana floristry license is ...

‘Le déjeuner sur l’herbe’ by Édouard Manet (1863)

Heroic by Nature

Émile Zola and the literary representation of art.


If this painting isn’t iconic, the term should be banished from the vocabulary of art. Forget, for a moment, Mona Lisa’s smile and the Sistine Creator transmitting the spark of life to Adam. Set aside what was to come, including Picasso’s

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson

Act I, Scene Two

Following George Washington was a complicated business.


The importance of this book stretches beyond the subject it addresses. 

That subject, the oft-forgotten presidential election of 1796, which pitted the candidacies of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams against each other, ...


Practice, Practice?

Great athletes are born, not made.


Few social scientists doubt that both nurture and nature contribute meaningfully to human achievement. But the balance among the cognoscenti has tilted in recent years toward the perfectibility of the body and mind through practice, even in athletics.

In this ...

President Obama and Led Zeppelin (2012)

Slighting Downhill

From highbrow to lowbrow, in black tie.


In its first 20 or so years, the Kennedy Center Honors—annually allocated to performing artists of purported preeminence—there were more than enough leading lights still living to assure that the well of meritorious honorees would not quickly run dry. While ...

Leonardo DiCaprio

Wild in the Street

Too much on the spending, too little on the getting.


The Wolf of Wall Street is three hours long, and you feel every minute of it. It’s not that it’s tedious; this filthy and foul-mouthed portrayal of young and crazy drug-addled securities crooks is far too garish and overheated to be boring. Instead, Martin Scorsese’s ...


Stars Fell on Auburn

Fred Barnes sees Auburn through Rose-colored glasses


Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin makes the championship-winning catch against Aub

We're a UVA family. My three daughters, two sons in law, and I are graduates of the University of Virginia. We have season tickets to UVA football and basketball games. We’re loyal UVA fans.

My son is the exception. He went to Auburn, class of 2008. This has had an impact on our family. Auburn grads have raised loyalty to one’s alma mater to a new height. They wear their loyalty on their sleeves and also on their hats, clothes, homes, cars—pretty much on everything. For them, Auburn is a deep, lifetime commitment. For many of the rest of us, the Auburn thing is appealing. And the UVA crowd in my family—some of us, anyway—have succumbed to it. 

So when Hugh Hewitt, the great radio talk show host, offered me two tickets to college football’s national championship game, Auburn vs. Florida State, I instantly said yes. Hugh had gotten them from Denis Binder, a colleague at Chapman University ...


Obama and Gates



This Thing of Ours

Before Chris Christie’s first scandal devolves into an obsessive quest to prove who knew what, when, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the wonderful, quintessential New Jerseyness of the incident itself. What happened, roughly, is this.

On August ...


Foolish Consistency

You would guess that an agreement between the United States and Japan to move a Marine air base from one location to another on Okinawa would be good news. And it is, for three reasons. First, because there has been opposition to relocating the base on the island, and negotiations ...



Things have been a bit of a mess at MSNBC lately. The network’s fortunes are tied to the fate of liberalism, and with Obama’s undeniable incompetence the preeminent political topic for the last few months, this has sent the network off on an increasingly desperate search for ...


Churchill Was Right (and Still Is)

These observations of his on the Middle East have easily withstood the test of time:

“The whole of the Middle East is intimately related. Beneath the smooth surface of British rule and the slender garrisons which normally sustain it are smouldering ...


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