Michael Hirsh

Stories by Michael Hirsh

  • Pakistan: America’s Dubious Ally in Terror War

    Pervez Musharraf has always been a dubious ally in George W. Bush's War on Terror—the kind of guy you avert your eyes from while patting him on the back. It's not that Bush doubts the Pakistani leader's sincerity—"He shares the same concern about radicals and extremists as I do and as the American people do," the president said at an Aug. 9 news conference—it's just that Musharraf is never going to make it into Bush's democracy club. And Musharraf's ability to stop his nation's Islamist radicalism from spilling over into terrorism has always been limited. A genial autocrat who seized power in a 1999 coup and has refused to relinquish his general's uniform, Musharraf has succeeded in keeping Washington on his side by regularly handing over second-tier Qaeda suspects and by keeping tenuous control over his increasingly Islamicized country. But now Musharraf may be losing his grip on power amid rising concerns by senior U.S. officials that a new safe haven for Al Qaeda has emerged in...
  • Pakistan Ambassador Blasts U.S. Intel

    Pakistani Ambassador Mahmud Ali Durrani, a scholar and former general, says the government of President Pervez Musharraf is being unfairly blamed for the failure of U.S. intelligence to locate Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. In an interview last week with NEWSWEEK’s Michael Hirsh at Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington, Durrani attacked as erroneous the recent National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Al Qaeda has “regenerated key elements” of its ability to attack the United States. The ambassador also argued that the agreement that Musharraf signed with North Waziristan’s Pashtun tribes in September 2006, which gave pro-Taliban tribal elders full control in the Pakistani region, is still intact, even though senior U.S. officials such as Homeland Security Adviser Frances Fragos Townsend say it hasn’t worked. Excerpts: ...
  • Meet the General Who Lends Gravitas to Obama

    Those who fall in with the Barack Obama campaign tend to fall hard for the man himself, and none more than Jonathan Scott Gration. A recently retired Air Force major general who voted for George W. Bush in 2000, Gration accompanied Obama on a 15-day tour of Africa last August and was, he says, simply bowled over. When the two traveled to Kenya, the homeland of Obama’s father, the U.S. presidential candidate directly confronted President Mwai Kibaki over corruption. "It was an incredible thing to watch," Gration later blogged on BarackObama.com. After the two of them went to Robben Island, the South African prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for almost three decades. Gration had something of an epiphany. "To see how Mandela saved his country by bridging racial, ethnic and in some cases cultural diversity, and turn a page from a turbulent time—I think that’s sort of what the senator’s doing," Gration told NEWSWEEK in an interview this week. "He’s using his experience to turn...
  • Why McCain’s Collapse Matters

    His campaign's sorry state isn't just a setback for the candidate. It's a sign that the country won't listen to a military man running for president—at a time when it matters most.
  • Iranian Diplomat: We’re Ready to Help in Iraq

    Mohammad Jafari isn't built like your typical diplomat. Stocky and square-jawed, with a thatch of close-cropped black hair, Jafari looks far more like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards general he once was, and he still carries the honorific title "commander." But that's precisely the issue: which role is Jafari playing now? It was Jafari whom U.S. Special Forces were after last January when they raided an Iranian outpost in Irbil, Iraq, according to a high-level Iraqi official who asked for anonymity in order to speak more freely. The raid netted five junior Iranian functionaries whom the Americans contended were members of the Quds Force, the arm of the Revolutionary Guards that is allegedly aiding in attacks on U.S. troops. Jafari escaped in a car.A few months after his dusty two-hour dash to the border, Jafari had a very different encounter with the Americans. In Sharm al-Sheikh, the posh Egyptian Red Sea resort that hosted a major regional conference on Iraq in May, he sat across...
  • Hirsh: Owning Up to an Intel Failure

    The new National Intelligence Estimate is an admission of America's strategic failure. Only by acknowledging that can we prevent a new 9/11.
  • Hirsh: Scooter and Bush's No-Fault Policy

    Given Bush's behavior on Iraq, his decision to keep Scooter out of the slammer isn't surprising. Nor is it likely to hurt the GOP at the polls either.
  • Hirsh: A New Way Out on Iran?

    U.S. and European officials are still very angry at Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for appearing to concede that Iran’s uranium-enrichment program is here to stay. “Every time he gets up there, he comes out with Iranian talking points,” snipes one Western diplomat. But NEWSWEEK has learned that the British recently drafted a proposal that shifts the West’s “red line” closer to  El Baradei’s position as a way of breaking the stalemate in the talks.The draft proposal, which is being circulated among the governments but has not yet been formally submitted to Iran, calls for a “freeze for freeze” rather than an outright suspension of enrichment. The “freeze” concept is similar to the “timeout” that ElBaradei first called for last January. In order to get talks started, both ideas effectively permit Iran to continue with the uranium enrichment it is doing already, but they demand that Tehran freeze further construction of centrifuges and...
  • Why Gaza Matters to U.S., the World

    The Israelis didn't want Palestinian elections back in January 2006. Even Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had been worried about them and kept asking for delays. As early as the spring of 2005, Abbas had warned American officials that he did not have the popular support to disarm Hamas, the Islamist party that turned suicide terror bombings into a standard tactic in Israel and which both Abbas and the Israelis saw was growing in power. But Bush administration officials insisted, confident of the curative powers of democracy. Later, after Hamas stunned the world by winning control of the Palestinian Parliament, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed: "Nobody saw it coming."The line could describe much of what has resulted from George W. Bush's efforts to transform the world—or at least one part of it, the Middle East. As long as the Islamists of Hamas refused to recognize Israel, the United States refused to deal with the Hamas-dominated Palestinian government. The...
  • Day Three: Telling Jokes in Iran

    The elites mock the president as a religious extremist with a lousy approval rating. Iran may be more like America than you think.
  • Hirsh: Tehran Diary, Day Two

    Washington's drive toward regime change in Iran is only rallying the country around its radical president.
  • Hirsh: Icy G8 Meeting for U.S., Russia

    It wasn’t like Harry and “Uncle Joe” at all. Or was it? Sixty-two years ago, here at Potsdam, Harry Truman and Joe Stalin seemed to get along famously, putting on a display of bonhomie that belied how fast their relationship was about to go into a deep freeze. During the conference after the surrender of Nazi Germany, the U.S. president quietly received a message that said, “Babies satisfactorily born,” meaning the world’s first successful atomic test had just occurred at Los Alamos, N.M. The cold war—and the start of a four-decadelong arms race—was just a year or so away. On Wednesday, representatives of the major powers met again in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam, this time for a G8 meeting. Such gatherings are typically relentlessly amiable, and so the delegates tried to make it this time. But beneath the forced grins, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchanged icy, even scary, words that suggested a new cold war is not...
  • Hirsh: Debunking Nuclear Myths

    These are not happy times on the nuclear proliferation front. Iran this week defied yet another 60-day U.N. deadline ordering it to stop enriching uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Wednesday. That could put Tehran within sight of a bomb in the next couple of years. Turkey, which fears being left out of the European Union, has recommitted itself to developing nuclear power. Several Arab countries, anxious over being left behind in the arms escalation between a nuclearized Iran and Israel, are beginning to do more than merely talk about developing nukes on their own. According to Western intelligence and the IAEA, nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are developing infrastructure, and hiring scientists, possibly from Pakistan.Pakistan itself, meanwhile, is engulfed in civil unrest aimed at toppling Western-friendly autocrat Pervez Musharraf, which may be an even more frightening prospect than what is happening in Iran. Since Musharraf summarily ousted his...
  • Well-Intentioned Wolfowitz's Rise and Fall

    He started out well. Conscious that he had image issues—he was the Ugly American architect of the unpopular Iraq War—Paul Wolfowitz, the now embattled World Bank president, ate lunch in the employees' mess hall rather than in the Bank president's palatial dining room. Always soft-spoken, he listened and encouraged e-mails from colleagues. Whether it was attacking tyranny in the Arab world or poverty in Africa, the last thing Wolfowitz ever wanted was to be seen as a heartless intellectual or a ruthless hawk. He "deeply, deeply cared" about making the world a better place, says Ray DuBois, assistant to Wolfowitz when Wolfowitz served as deputy Defense secretary. Andrew Young, the civil-rights activist and former U.N. ambassador, says: "If I ever got caught in a dark alley with [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld, I'd want to whip them. But Wolfowitz is a very sympathetic figure."He may also be the first president dismissed in the 62-year history of the Bank if its board of directors...
  • Hirsh: World Bank Saga Causes Political Rift

    It’s one of those musty, neocolonial traditions dating back to the World War II victors’ club. The two big institutions invented at Bretton Woods, N.H., to resurrect the global economy—the World Bank and International Monetary Fund—were supposed to be run by those winners, no questions asked. The Americans would get to choose the president of the World Bank, and the Europeans would pick the head of the IMF. So it went for 62 years, even as the rest of world emerged from colonialism, the Soviet bloc and poverty, developed powerful economies of their own, and joined the international system. But the monthlong scandal over Paul Wolfowitz, who on Thursday became the first World Bank president in history to be forced out, may now be casting a harsh new light on this hoary tradition.At least Henry Paulson, the U.S. Treasury secretary, seems to think so. Paulson is believed to have the main responsibility for selecting Wolfowitz’s successor. But early signs are that Paulson, the former...
  • Hirsh: The Problem with Bush's New War Czar

    Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute is by most accounts a formidable fellow: smart, efficient and expert in all aspects of nation-building—civilian and military. As the top operations officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he’s also intimately familiar with all aspects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “Lute is about as broad-gauged a senior military officer as they could find,” says Philip Zelikow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s former senior counselor, who’s known him since Lute was a captain. “He’s perfect,” adds retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a harsh critic of George W. Bush’s “surge” plan in Iraq.But Lute, who was named this week to be Bush’s new war “czar” for Iraq and Afghanistan, is also just a three-star general, and he’s still on active duty. What this means is that while nominally he’s the president’s man—his title puts him on par with national-security adviser Steven Hadley—militarily he’s still inferior in rank to four-star Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and...
  • Children of Iconic Republicans May Vote Dem

    Susan Eisenhower is an accomplished professional, the president of an international consulting firm. She also happens to be Ike's granddaughter—and in that role, she's the humble torchbearer for moderate "Eisenhower Republicans." Increasingly, however, she says that the partisanship and free spending of the Bush presidency—and the takeover of the party by single-issue voters, especially pro-lifers—is driving these pragmatic, fiscally conservative voters out of the GOP. Eisenhower says she could vote Democratic in 2008, but she's still intent on saving her party. "I made a pact with a number of people," she tells NEWSWEEK. "I said, 'Please don't leave the party without calling me first.' For a while, there weren't too many calls. And then suddenly, there was a flurry of them. I found myself watching them slip away one by one."Eisenhower isn't the only GOP scion debating if the party still feels like home. Theodore Roosevelt IV, an investment banker in New York and an environmental...
  • Hirsh: America's Angriest General

    If there's one rule that's sacrosanct in American political culture, going all the way back to George Washington, it's that civilians have clear control of the military. Yes, a few generals have bumped up against that line before. George McClellan ignored and mocked Abe Lincoln early in the Civil War, then ran against him for president in 1864. Douglas MacArthur brazenly disobeyed Harry Truman in Korea before getting fired, like McClellan before him. Until now, these have been the exceptions. But the Iraq War has so profoundly transformed the political landscape—and so angered a whole generation of generals who object to the way the conflict was planned and executed by civilians—that the line between military and civilian roles is being muddied as never before. The question is whether this is a good thing—or something very worrying.No, we're not about to experience a real-life version of "Seven Days in May," the 1964 John Frankenheimer thriller about a military coup in Washington....
  • Hirsh: Wolfowitz's Controversial Companion

    Only a few years ago, Shaha Riza was what is known in journalistic parlance as a flack. She was a media relations person, in other words—and a fairly junior one—whose job it was to reach out to reporters like me so that we would write about various World Bank activities. As recently as mid-2004, Riza was faxing and e-mailing PR releases to reporters around town, requesting that we contact her about exciting new Bank initiatives like a “$38 million investment loan to help the Government of Jordan develop efficient transport and logistics services,” or the “$359 million in loans for two projects aimed at helping the government of Iran improve housing conditions for poor and middle-income urban neighborhoods as well as expand access to clean water and coverage of sanitation services.” At the bottom of each missive she listed her number (202 458 1592) and her e-mail (sriza@worldbank.org). Guess what? Many of us never called.Now we’re calling and calling, and Shaha Riza just won’t pick...
  • Intel Agents Call For Tenet's Medal

    In his much-watched "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday, former CIA director George Tenet spoke passionately in defense of his former colleagues at the agency, saying they had been maligned and scapegoated by the Bush administration. Tenet said he wrote his book, "At the Center of the Storm," which goes on sale this week, partly to defend their honor. "The only people that ever stand up and tell the truth are who? Intelligence officers. Because our culture is never break faith with the truth," Tenet said in the interview. But on Monday a group of former CIA officials circulated a letter questioning Tenet's honesty, and harshly criticizing him for "failed leadership" that besmirched the agency. "We believe you have a moral obligation to return the Medal of Freedom you received from President George Bush," said the authors of the letter, adding that Tenet ought to donate "a significant percentage of the royalties from your book to the U.S. soldiers and their families who have been killed...
  • Hirsh: Joe Biden is Dead Right on Iraq

    For a guy whose presidential campaign was declared dead almost the day it started, Joe Biden sounds a bit too confident these days. Especially when it comes to Iraq. “If it were up to us,” says Larry Rasky, Biden’s chief campaign flack, “all 90 minutes” of Thursday night’s inaugural debate between the eight Democratic candidates would have been devoted to the subject of Iraq. Why? Because the six-term senator from Delaware is “the only one with a comprehensive plan for getting us out of Iraq without leaving chaos behind,” says Rasky.Of course his spokesman would say that. But in this case, Rasky has a point. When it comes to staking out clear, convincing positions on Iraq, the rest of the Democratic race resembles a bad day at the Demolition Derby. Even the golden-tongued Barack Obama, while waxing eloquent about the global leadership vacuum left by George W. Bush, had little to say about Iraq the other day in his first big foreign-policy campaign speech. (Obama reiterated his call...