Christopher Dickey

Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • Dickey: France's Crusading Foreign Minister

    France's new foreign minister is experienced, passionate and righteous. But his good intentions have led to disasters in the past—and could do so again in the future.
  • The Slow Luxury of Oman

    This is not an article about Dubai, which is a place you hear about all the time these days as a great tourist destination. Maybe sun lovers who are there for the first time still think it is. (Or maybe they’re the kind of people who like any place with sun, even if it’s a spoiled tourist trap like Marbella, Ibiza, Phuket or Cancun.) They don’t seem to see the pollution, the congestion: the relentless encroachment of property speculation on the sand, the sea and the formerly blue sky. The national bird of Dubai is the building crane. I’ll tell you, it may be a great place to get rich, but I wouldn’t want to visit there.No, this is an article about Oman, the place where people who’ve made their fortunes in Dubai go when they want to get away from all that. Its landscapes are still arid and pristine: iridescent mountains change color with the changing light of day, and the horizon stretches across open water toward faraway India. The sea is full of life, including spectacular game...
  • Dickey: France's Reality Check for America

    The Republican presidential debate shows just how much American politicians are out of touch with global realities. What the French can teach them about Iraq, terrorism and conflict.
  • The Rise of the Pilgrimage

    In 1986, the best-selling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho walked the ancient religious road from the French border to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. In those days, he recalls with a smile, perhaps 450 people made the famous pilgrimage each year. Today, that many do it daily. Some 100,000 pilgrims registered with the Roman Catholic Church in Santiago last year, after trekking along the 764-kilometer route—and European officials believe three or four times as many completed all or part of the journey but never formally presented themselves to be counted.This summer, the numbers are expected to be even higher. Indeed, during the peak months of July and August the sinuous tracks through the Pyrenees (where an English pilgrim died of the cold earlier this month) and the rocky trails along the hillsides of Galicia that are the Camino de Santiago—or "The Way of Saint James," as it is called in English—will at times resemble a carnival boardwalk as much as a...
  • Iraq: The Perils of Pulling Out

    Everyone is talking about whether the United States should withdraw from Iraq. But is anyone actually planning for that day?
  • French Election: Parsing Round 1's Results

    France now faces one of the clearest ideological choices it has had in decades. Exit polls show conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal with commanding leads over other candidates as first-round balloting ended in France today. Neither comes close to the majority needed to secure the top job, but as the two of them face each other in the runoff on May 6, the French will have to decide between two very different visions.Sarkozy presents himself as a partisan of freer markets, tighter law enforcement and warm relations with the United States. Royal—the first woman ever to make it into the second round—proposes a greater emphasis on social justice and education. She is also deeply skeptical of the policies pursued by the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.Sarkozy, speaking to supporters in Paris only 30 minutes after the first numbers were released, called the highest voter turnout in decades “a victory for democracy” and underscored the...
  • Who Leads the Middle East?

    Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah often has the weary air of a simple man who's lived long enough to see it all, and in many ways he has. He was born more than 80 years ago, into a world of desert warriors where his father had yet to conquer the holy cities of Mecca and Medina or found the nation that Abdullah rules today. No oil flowed from beneath the sands. No Israel existed. The whole of the modern Middle East, for better or worse, has been created in his lifetime.Yet now, say senior Saudi princes and members of the government, Abdullah has grown so angry and "emotional" about the disasters confronting the region that he's decided to take on a new role. No longer will Saudi Arabia play backup while its ally the United States fronts the band. Abdullah has grown frustrated, almost bitter, with the fecklessness of a divided Arab world. As if taking a line from Plato's Republic—"He who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one worse than himself"—the old king is now trying to lead on...
  • Hard Man, Tough Job

    On paper, Nicolas Sarkozy offers France its best hope for change. And that's what the French say they think they want. The elegant socialist Ségolène Royal, his rival for the presidency, would certainly be different: France's first woman head of state, who presents herself more as a listener than a leader....
  • The Last Word: Angelina Jolie

    Angelina Jolie began traveling as a good-will ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) some six years ago. She has visited the victims of violence in Africa, Pakistan and Cambodia—first as an observer in the background, then using her fame to draw attention to the plight of the helpless. Recently the movie star visited a refugee camp housing Darfur refugees in Chad. NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey spoke to her about her mission. Excerpts: ...
  • France's Sarko Is Too American

    Rarely has a foreign dignitary—especially a French one—gushed so effusively about what's right with America. When Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy spoke at the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington last September, he was Mr. Apple Pie—à la mode. He lauded Madonna, Hemingway, Hollywood movies, the New York art scene, American scientific research—even U.S. immigration policies. "Every parent in France dreams of sending his child to an American university," Sarkozy proclaimed in his paean to Yankee Doodledom. Sniping from French elitists is mere "jealousy in the face of your brilliant success," he said. "Nobody in France dares to say the truth: the United States is the greatest economic, military and monetary power in the world."...
  • The Power of Personality

    You are looking at the photographs of a grim refugee camp along the desert border between Darfur and Chad because the movie star Angelina Jolie was there. Her image catches your eye and, indeed, the world's attention.There's no use pretending otherwise. She doesn't. "If I can draw you in a little because I'm familiar, then that's great," she told NEWSWEEK after she came back from her late February visit to the 26,000 residents of Oure Cassoni camp. "Because I know that at the end you're not looking at me, you're looking at them." Well ... "As long as [you] end up looking at them, that's the point."The aid workers on the scene, at the edge of a conflict the U.S. government now calls genocidal, could not agree more. They live month after month in rough conditions amid constant danger as the war spills into their territory. "You can hear it and feel it," says Dr. Ashis Brahma, medical coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in the camp. Skirmishes take place within a couple...
  • Dickey: Kelly and Copycat Terror Fears

    The alleged plot to behead New York's police commissioner and bomb NYPD headquarters, however implausible, suggests the dangers of copycat terrorism.
  • The Third Man

    Jean-Marie Le Pen laughed, and then laughed some more. The right-wing scourge of French politics, now 78, wouldn't say, exactly, whether he thought he'd be up against the Socialists' Ségolène Royal in the final one-on-one duel for the presidency this May. But he clearly liked the idea. "Absolutely! Me, I have nothing against women. I am ... " Le Pen actually giggled as he talked over the phone from the European Parliament in Strasbourg. "I am pretty much a 'gynophile'." And he chortled some more.Does that strike you as funny? Maybe it was something in the air in Strasbourg. But the banter certainly was vintage Le Pen: mocking political correctness, presenting himself as more than a little misunderstood. Oh, no, he is not a bigot or buffoon as his critics charge, much less a fascist or anti-Semite or, in this case, a sexist. He's just speaking up for French values as he sees them.What's unquestionable is that Le Pen, for better or worse, is the driving force behind a major shift in...
  • Intimate Strangers

    The statue of liberty, in her curious way, helps tell the tale of America's long, complicated experiences and profoundly contradictory ambitions in the Middle East. The French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi wanted to build a colossus bestriding the entrance to the newly opened Suez Canal in the 1870s. She would be veiled, like a peasant woman of the Nile, and would hold aloft her torch as "Egypt (or Progress) Bringing Light to Asia." But the pasha whose largesse was supposed to fund the project went bankrupt, the British occupied his country to collect their debts and Egypt's light failed. Bartholdi rethought his plan, redrew the design, and the Orient's loss was America's gain: "Liberty Enlightening the World."This anecdote about the statue stands near the middle of Michael Oren's vast new best seller, "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present." It served as a metaphor for the mingled, often mirrored fates of two regions strangely bound by grandiose...
  • Dire Straits

    During America’s last and largely forgotten war with Iran, in 1987 and 1988, music meant a lot to those of us in the middle of the action. American warships had deployed in force to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Ostensibly they were there to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers from marauding Iranian frigates and speedboats, but in fact they were backing Saddam Hussein in the seemingly endless Iran-Iraq war. “Somebody’s gonna hurt someone, before the night is through,” The Eagles had sung in “Heartache Tonight,” which became a kind of anthem to reporters covering the war. “Somebody’s gonna come undone, there’s nothin’ we can do.”Then, as now, there was a vaguely surreal quality to the looming confrontation. Then, as now, the Americans were looking to reestablish their credibility in the Middle East after successive blunders and humiliations. As more frigates and cruisers moved into the area, the Iranians started laying mines—or letting them float free—up and down the Gulf and around...
  • Liar’s Poker

    Ever since I read an article last year by poker historian (and poet and novelist) James McManus about the Iranian art of bluffing, I’ve been re-thinking the confrontation between Tehran and Washington.McManus argues, most recently in the current issue of Card Player Magazine , that the Iranians actually invented poker, or a game quite close to it, which over the centuries made its way to France, across the Atlantic to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi with riverboat gamblers. His basic point is that chess, where all the pieces are visible on the board, is not a very useful metaphor for Middle Eastern politics the way the Persians play the game. It’s what’s hidden—what your opponents don’t see, and the way you make your bets on that—which gives you strength.President George W. Bush, with his instinct for throwing all the cards up in the air, appears to have been persuaded of this principle, only very slowly.  In 2003 he passed up a “grand bargain” offered by the mullahs, when they...
  • Blood And Memory: The Cycle Has Started

    Blood feuds flourish where family ties are strong and the rule of law is weak. Add the righteousness of competing faiths along with fierce memories of ancient wrongs and you have the makings of savage, seemingly endless conflicts from Northern Ireland to the Balkans, the lake regions of Africa to the arid Holy Land. And Iraq--well, Iraq is in a class by itself: a breeder reactor where explosive hatreds were both incited and contained by Saddam Hussein's brutality, only to become an uncontrolled chain reaction after the U.S.-led invasion liberated both the country and its vendettas. Arab culture cannot be solely blamed for the furies that have been unleashed in Iraq since 2003. But it guarantees they will not be soon, or easily, tamed.The tradition of "an eye for an eye" is so ancient and dangerously ingrained among the desert Arabs that 1,400 years ago the Qur'an called on good Muslims to forgo vengeance in order to expiate their sins. But the old codes of honor remained, and in the...
  • Death of a Tyrant

    President George W. Bush was sleeping at 9 p.m. at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when Saddam Hussein's body plunged through the trapdoor of a gallows in Kadhimiya Prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. It was dawn in the Iraqi capital, and the 69-year-old Butcher of Baghdad wore no blindfold. He had carried a Qur'an for the last few steps before his death, looking uncertain, even afraid, according to one of the witnesses close to him, but mouthing words of defiance. He sneered at Shiite guards--the warlord Moqtada al-Sadr's men, by one account. He praised God and, as he neared the gallows, proclaimed, "Iraq without me is nothing."Like the war that overthrew him in 2003, the hanging of Saddam Hussein did not turn out as planned. Instead of a study in modern justice, the tyrant's end looked more like the result of a sectarian show trial. From Crawford, the only comment was a muted, written statement: no proclamation of "mission accomplished," just of "an important milestone" after "a...
  • Dickey: Why Saddam Lynching Shames U.S.

    It is precisely because of the horrors Saddam committed that the trivialization of his death is such a shameful milestone on the road to American perdition.
  • SÉGOLÈNE ROYAL

    An "iron lady" might have been easier for France's old boys' network to deal with. Europe has seen a lot of ferrous females since Margaret Thatcher first appeared across the Channel in the 1970s. But in her rise to front runner in the French presidential elections, scheduled for next April, Ségolène Royal has caught her macho opponents completely off guard. After she announced her ambitions for the top job, Royal was dismissed as a lightweight; critics asked "who would mind the children" if she ran, and derided her glamorous style as "too much container and not enough content."Big mistake. Last month Royal won the Socialist Party nomination by a landslide, not least because of her style. For a country weary of the same moldering male politicians--current President Jacques Chirac began his political career while Mao was still convulsing China--Royal is the face of change.She is even something of a surprise to her closest associates. Royal has lived for decades with current Socialist...
  • The Syria Gambit

    Holed up in the grand Serail, the center of government in the heart of Beirut, five surviving members of Lebanon's cabinet have been living in fear. Just last year they were leaders of a mass movement that forced Syrian troops out of the country and seemed to open the way for a thriving democracy. But those memories now seem as old and fragile as shards of Phoenician glass. One by one, brutally and spectacularly, Syria's high-profile opponents in Lebanon have been eliminated. The most recent: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, the son of a former president, gunned down in November. Since then, no minister has been sure if, or when, he'll be next.As its enemies cower, the Syrian regime crows--even as it denies responsibility for the murders. "Our relations with Lebanon will be stronger than when we had our Army in that country," Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa boasted in the Arab press earlier this month. "Syria is on a roll," concedes Jonathan Paris, a fellow at Washington's...
  • Royal Touch

    The French have been watching sego-lène Royal's irresistible political rise with a combination of rapture and disbelief, if not downright wonder. Now it's the world's turn. Who is this woman who never held a senior cabinet post but rode a tide of "Ségomania" to overwhelm her opponents and seize the Socialist Party's nomination for president of the republic? How could a once rather drab junior minister suddenly emerge, in her early 50s, as a radiant public performer? Her supporters have embraced her as the incarnate image of change, a break with the past. But what sort of transformation can she bring to a nation where it often seems les jours de gloire are gone forever?For now, answers are elusive. But beginning soon, France's April 22 presidential election will become topic A for Europe--and much of the rest of the globe. Can she or her strongest opponent, right-wing Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, wrench the French out of their decades-long torpor and help turn the continent...
  • This Is the Way the War Ends…

    Not so very many years ago, Baghdad thrived with intellectuals and artists, a few of whom survived even during the decades of Saddam Hussein’s single-minded tyranny. The poets considered T.S. Eliot something of a god, and his iconic work, “The Waste Land,” a kind of scripture . They found hope in the notion that love and sacrifice might triumph over the despair and sterile devastation of their own “cracked earth.”Today, those I knew in Baghdad who remembered Eliot and wrote about him have died or, long since, abandoned a city that has become the epicenter of a widening civil war. But as I watched President George W. Bush give his press conference yesterday, I couldn’t help thinking of another Eliot poem. In “The Hollow Men,” there is that line about “paralysed force, gestures without motion,” and the famous conclusion about the world ending “not with a bang but a whimper.” And there was Bush: trying desperately to contrive some way to claim a triumph in a country he has turned into...
  • Past Newsweek Coverage

    Three people were responsible for the death of Princess Diana in the hot dark hours after midnight on Aug. 31, 1997, and all of them were killed that evening: Henri Paul, who drove the Mercedes that crashed beneath the Place de l’Alma near the Seine River in Paris; Dodi Fayed, who was riding in the back seat, and Diana herself, who was sitting beside him.A massive three-year investigation of conspiracy theories surrounding those deaths, to be issued in London tomorrow by Lord Stevens, may not put the case so bluntly. But the British press has reported that Lord Stevens will conclude, as the French police did very quickly after the fact, that Diana’s death was an accident. Reports that the CIA was bugging Diana’s communications (flatly dismissed as “rubbish” by an agency spokesman) and that the U.S. National Security Agency has files mentioning Diana’s name (which is hardly surprising) do not change the basic narrative at all.This is a story I have followed for a long time. I was in...
  • The Taliban's Book of Rules

    An extraordinary little document is making the rounds among the Taliban of Afghanistan.  As first reported in NEWSWEEK by Ron Moreau and Sami Yousufzai on Dec.3, the stapled pamphlet called simply “ Layeha ,” or “Rule Book,” is only nine pages long. But it speaks volumes about the Taliban: their strategy, their following, their potential virtues and their persistent vices, and the full text is well worth reading.At a moment when the Kabul government of Hamid Karzai is under increasing threat and NATO troops are engaged in ever fiercer combat, the rule book suggests what an elusive and mercenary concept loyalty is on the Afghan battlefield. Just as American power and money helped pull warlords and fighters away from the Taliban in 2001 to bring down their regime, the surviving followers of Mullah Omar are now hoping they have the momentum to win back defectors to their side. But the leadership clearly worries that Taliban recruits will start freelancing: the rule book cautions...
  • Closer to the Abyss

    On this the day of the Grand Plan, such as it is, let’s dream that a year from now there are a new set of givens in the Middle East growing out of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group: the United States, working with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, has trained up an efficient military and police force. Baghdad is secure. Tens of thousands of American ground combat forces are on their way home. (Many tens of thousands more remain for air-to-ground combat, intelligence, logistics, training, advising, embedding and such.)Meanwhile, the Palestinians and Israelis, prodded by Washington, are moving ahead toward a resolution of the issue that has bled the region like an ulcer for more than 50 years. Damascus is tilting away from Tehran and democracy is allowed to flourish once more in Lebanon. We’re still spending more than $2 billion a week on the Iraq adventure, but there seems to be an end in sight.RELATED CONTENTRead the Iraq Study Group ReportAnother...