‘We Don’t Have a Strategy Yet’


Obama in a Tan Suit

"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” President Obama told the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 26. He repeated the thought in his pre-Labor Day weekend press conference on August 28. A week before, the day after the murder of James Foley, Obama had remarked, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.”

These expressions of alarm at a malignant cancer in the Middle East are an improvement over Obama’s cavalier dismissal, earlier this year, of ISIL as the junior varsity of terrorists. But salutary alarm doesn’t automatically result in sound policy. And—not to make a mountain out of a metaphor—Obama’s comparison of the Islamic State to a cancer doesn’t give one confidence that he’ll come up with a sound policy.

Here’s the problem: ...


What Would Hillary Do?


Despite the attention paid to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy as lacking an “organizing principle,” there wasn’t much new in her interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. Mostly the exchange covered issues on which her ...


Small Ball in Wisconsin

After the high drama of a recall, Scott Walker runs a low-key reelection campaign.


Gary Locke

West Allis, Wis.
Scott Walker looked relaxed. Dressed in light blue Levi’s jeans, a navy polo shirt, and white and gray Nike sneakers, the Wisconsin governor had just finished speaking at a Sunday morning program honoring veterans, his fourth public event at this year’s Wisconsin State Fair. Walker lingered after the speech, shaking the hand of each active duty servicemember in attendance and snapping photos with well-wishers who had lined up to meet him. “I’ve had corn, and potatoes, and a cattleman’s sandwich, and a Saz’s sandwich, deep-fried chocolate chip cookie bites—just about everything out here,” he said, recounting all that he had indulged in over the past week.

During his last campaign, such simple acts of public politicking were nearly impossible. An angry mob hounded Walker wherever he went. “They shut things down so you couldn’t even hear us during the opening ceremony,” Walker ...

Tom Cotton, Mark Pryor

Democrats Take the Low Road

Going all-negative, all the time against Tom Cotton.


Conway, Ark.
"Tom Cotton voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola,” a TV ad in Arkansas declared last week. The ad came from Democrat Mark Pryor, who is running for reelection to the Senate. Cotton, a House member, is his ...

‘Journalist’ Vladimir Solovyov: accusing Ukraine of genocide

Derangement in Moscow

Russia’s virtual reality.


"Maybe it’s all a matrix and we’re all like programs written by somebody else. .  .  . And none of us really exists, just the matrix. The program works, you live your life and think everything’s fine. Here you are drinking coffee right now. But there is no coffee—it doesn’t exist.” ...

Does someone have the nerve to question my vision?

What If There’s No There There?

Obama’s ‘vision thing.’


Toward the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term, a friend of Vice President Bush encouraged him to think carefully about what a Bush presidency should look like. According to Time, Bush responded, “Oh, the vision thing.” Fairly or unfairly, this phrase came to characterize ...

Really, Mr. President, I think ‘shameless, reckless, and indefensible’ sums it u

Call It Impeachment-Lite

The case for censuring the president is being bruited about in Washington.


In case you’ve not been paying attention, an issue for House Republicans as the midterm elections draw near is what to do about a president they believe has offended the Constitution by usurping legislative power and failing to carry out his duty to faithfully execute the ...

Partying while the streets are still dry: Mardi Gras revelers in New Orleans

Slowing the Rise of the Oceans

It can be done, but not the way the environmental left proposes.


From Al Gore to the leadership of groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, environmentalists long have warned that global disaster is certain unless we do something about rising sea levels. The “something” that most on the left want is to remake our energy ...

Resort sprawl on Lara Beach, Antalya, Turkey

A Peorian Makes Sense of Turkey

Growth trumps (nearly) all.


In my quest to write an article about my family vacation to Turkey and thereby write off part of the cost, I came up with an observation I deemed worthy of David Brooks or Malcolm Gladwell. It turned out to be dead wrong.

I had taken my wife, children, and ...


September 1914

Before the trenches


Volunteers outside a British recruiting office, 1914

The Great War did not begin in the trenches, in rain, mud, and dark futility. At first, the fighting was out in the open under blue skies and late summer sunshine. There were bugles and drums, and sometimes the troops even sang when they charged. French officers leading these attacks wore white gloves.

On the whole, Europe welcomed the war. One of England’s finest young poets, Rupert Brooke, wrote in gratitude

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

At ...


‘The Fog of Cease-fire’

Who won the Gaza war?


For the moment, the Gaza war of 2014 is over. Anyone trying now to figure out who won and who lost should recall the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Then, Israelis had a great sense of letdown because they had not “won.” They had not destroyed Hezbollah, and the organization ...

Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi

On the Origin of ISIS

Why has a terrorist state blossomed in Syria and Iraq?


The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist army many thousand strong now rampaging through the Levant, embraces such an extreme, violent ideology that it makes even al Qaeda squeamish, argue many Western experts. On this reading, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri was forced ...

Books & Arts

Deep Frieze Meaning

What is the Parthenon telling us?


What is the Parthenon telling us?

The Parthenon represents, for many, a golden age in human achievement: the 5th-century b.c. Greek flowering of democracy, sciences, and the arts. But what if its chief ornament, the Parthenon frieze, turned out to be not an embodiment of reason and proportion—of stillness at the heart of motion, quiet piety, and enlightened civic responsibility—but (or, rather, also) something darker, more primitive: a representation of the critical moment in an ancient story of a king at war, a human sacrifice, and a goddess’s demand for virgin blood? 

That’s the argument at the heart of The Parthenon Engima. The plot involves not only ritual murder and burial, but fragments of a lost play of Euripides found on mummy wrappings. Even the title suggests a Dan Brown thriller. 

The downward trajectory of global prestige

Turning Against Israel

The downward trajectory of global prestige


When Joshua Muravchik wrote this book, he could not have known how timely it would turn out to be. He would not have been surprised, however, by the worldwide condemnation of Israel for its “disproportionality” and “lack of restraint” in ...

Harlem pedestrians (1940)

Where Was I?

The loss of distinction in the end of community


If ever a topic was born familiar, this book would qualify. The paradox is easily explained. The title of this collection of essays embodies a truth that would have been undeniable before the age of technology swept over us. At the obvious level, ...

Churchill in India (1896)

Jewel in the Crown

The sun never set on Winston Churchill’s allegiance


"Imperialist” is a dirty word, one of many clubs with which to beat one’s opponents beyond the margins of society. And it is too easy to forget, in our solipsistic age, that the language of empire once aroused pride and dignity rather than guilt and ...

The buzz about bees is not necessarily good.

Honey Trap

The buzz about bees is not necessarily good


Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, / And live alone in the bee-loud glade, wrote W. B. Yeats while living in London. ...


Goodbye, Colossus

The last chapter of Philip Roth’s fiction


"If we had a keen vision of all ordinary human life,” George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch, “it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart ...

Costanza Bonarelli (ca. 1636)

Florentine Frustration

The loneliness of the long-distance art lover


I live in Connecticut, and I don’t travel much outside of the Northeast corridor. But through a few strokes of luck, and some happy happenstance, I’ve been in Florence five times in the last seven ...


Fighting Irish

David Skinner, aging jock.


Dave clark

Twice now, as I enter my forties, I have picked up a new sport. First I took up tennis, which I have always enjoyed watching and is known to be a game one can play well into the gray-haired years. And a couple months ago I started playing Gaelic football, a bruising, I hope not bone-crushing, but definitely high-speed, um, melee more than an actual sport, which perhaps no one of any age should play and about which I knew almost nothing.

I would plead sentimental reasons for taking up an Irish sport, except that I am not at all sentimental about my ethnicity. And yet as I recently limped home from practice, foreseeing a bruise spreading across my ribs in the shape of my friend Tom’s arm, exactly as it had struck me during a ball-handling exercise, a popular saying about my ancestors came to mind. From a poem by G.K. Chesterton, it says the Irish are the ones “that God made mad, for all their wars are happy and all their songs are ...


Not So Innocents Abroad

Late Pizza Hut aficionado Douglas McAuthur McCain

One of the stranger episodes of recent weeks is the reported death of an American who died fighting in Syria with the Islamic State. Stranger still is the Washington Post profile of this homegrown jihadist, Douglas McAuthur McCain, whose unlikely name was probably the most interesting thing about him. 

McCain, so we learn from the Post, had led a life that was “one slice of Americana after another: He followed the Chicago Bulls, was a fan of Michael Jordan, watched ‘The Simpsons’ and developed an affinity for Pizza Hut. .  .  . ‘He was a goofball in high school,’ one classmate told NBC News.” 

But of course, not every fan of The Simpsons runs off to Turkey to join up with terrorists in Syria and kill infidels. McCain’s slice of Americana seems to have turned sour some years ago, Pizza Hut and the Chicago Bulls being traded for chronic truancy and ...


Kennedy Update

In the event of nuclear war, only three things are expected to survive—cockroaches, Twinkies, and the political ambitions of the Kennedy family. 

With the announcement that William Kennedy Smith is running for local office in Washington, D.C., ...


New Orleans on the Potomac

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported last week that Senator Mary Landrieu, currently fighting for her seat in a tough reelection bid, may not actually reside in Louisiana. In January, she told the Federal Election Commission she lives in Washington, D.C. But she ...


Annals of Spin

President Obama, at roughly 4:30 p.m. on August 28, referring to the terrorists of the Islamic State: “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.” Obama press secretary Josh Earnest, less than an hour later: “In his remarks today, POTUS was ...

gone golfing


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