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FBI director got it wrong on the Holocaust

April 19th, 2015

The Polish ambassador to Washington has protested, the Polish president has protested, the speaker of the Polish parliament (to whom I am married) has protested — and the U.S. ambassador to Warsaw has apologized profusely. Why? Because James Comey, the director of the FBI, in a speech that was reprinted in The Post arguing for more Holocaust education, demonstrated just how badly he needs it himself. Read on »

When it comes to politics, the U.S. and Britain could learn from each other

April 16th, 2015


Every once in a while, it’s worth pausing to ponder the relative merits of different kinds of democracy. Just consider: This week, Hillary Clinton published a two-minute video and launched what will be a grueling 18-month campaign. Also this week, the main British political parties published their longish, wonkish election manifestos and launched the final three weeks of a general-election campaign that began three weeks ago. Read on »

How to make the world’s madmen think twice

April 2nd, 2015

One friend of mine laughs when he remembers the nuclear “drills” of his childhood, which involved crouching under the desks in his school classroom. Another friend has a vivid memory of a lesson featuring photographs of mushroom clouds. On older buildings in some U.S. cities, one can still see faded yellow-and-black “fallout shelter” signs. Nowadays they look almost quaint, adding character to a street the way an old-fashioned gas lamp would. Read on »

The case for quitting e-mail

March 20th, 2015

There were a number of odd things about the Hillary Clinton e-mail debate, but to me this was the oddest: the widespread conviction that the secretary of state’s communications — personal or otherwise — would have been “safe” in the hands of the State Department. If we have learned nothing else over the past several years, surely it is that the U.S. government, while still devoted in principle to classifying a ludicrous amount of data, is in practice very, very bad at keeping secrets. Read on »

Britain retreats

March 6th, 2015


Red double-decker buses still cruise up and down the Strand, the guards stand up straight in front of Buckingham Palace and the queen rides her horse-drawn carriage to the opening session of Parliament every year. But beneath this seemingly immutable surface, Britain is changing with surprising speed. Read on »

The risks of putting Germany front and center in Europe’s crises

February 20th, 2015

It’s either an extraordinary coincidence or an act of fate. Over the past 10 days, two unusually dangerous crises have come to a head in Europe. One concerns Greece, where an unresolved economic disaster could lead to a European and even an international financial crash. The other concerns Ukraine, where a Russian invasion could lead to a European and even an international war. They are very different but in one sense similar: Both hang on the decisions and diplomacy of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Read on »

The long view with Russia

February 8th, 2015

In an ordinary year, not all that much happens at the annual Munich security conference. NATO defense ministers murmur earnest platitudes. Experts furrow their brows. But this is not an ordinary year.

This year, the normally staid audience laughed out loud at the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who seemed, at one point, to question the legality of German unification. Some of the room also applauded loudly when Angela Merkel, the German chancellor — just back from an apparently fruitless peace mission to Moscow — restated her view that “there is no military solution” to the conflict in Ukraine. But when Malcolm Rifkind, the former British foreign secretary, asked her how she would stop Russia without military force, another part of the audience applauded. Even watching online, the conundrum in the room was clear: Everyone agrees that the Russians were lying, and no one believes Russian promises of a cease-fire. But nobody agrees on what to do about it. Read on »

Europe has survived terrorist attacks before

January 23rd, 2015


In the more than two weeks that have passed since the murder of more than a dozen people in Paris — cartoonists, policemen, customers at a Jewish grocery store — a number of European countries have called for new countermeasures to fight terrorism. The French prime minister announced a whole raft of policies. The British want databases to monitor travel in and out of Europe. At emergency meetings, European officials have discussed what one British paper called a “new era of travel surveillance.”

But before any of these plans is adopted, it’s important first to ask a different question: Did the Charlie Hebdo murders really represent something new? Read on »

North Korea’s incomprehensible regime

January 5th, 2015

In the 1990s, a large group of prisoners was released from North Korea’s secret labor camps. These were not criminals, nor were they even political enemies. On the contrary, they were, in the words of a defector, the grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of “landlords, capitalists, collaborators with the Japanese colonial government, and other people with bad family background.” The Soviet Union once arrested the wives and children of political prisoners, and Russia recently sent the brother of a dissident politician to prison. But North Korea kept generations of families living in camps for decades on end. Read on »

Taking democracy for granted

December 25th, 2014

Imagine that you are a mother of a very poor family in Udaipur, India, and that you want to have your children immunized. But now imagine — as the economist Esther Duflo once demanded of a TED audience — that because you are very poor, you have an infinite number of small things to do, from fetching water to cooking food from scratch to running a small shop. In order to get your child immunized, you have to walk several kilometers to a health center that turns out to be closed. Would you bother to return again? Probably not. Read on »

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