Michael Hirsh

Stories by Michael Hirsh

  • Iraq: With Friends Like These ...

    It may have been the last time George W. Bush felt really good about Iraq. Last June, as the president flew back from a surprise visit to Baghdad--and his first sitdown with the new Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki--he was visibly excited. Bush was savoring a rare moment in his presidency: an unbroken string of great news out of Iraq. The U.S. Air Force had just knocked off Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi at his hideout north of Baghdad. The tough, plain-spoken Maliki had replaced Ibrahim Jaafari, Iraq's disastrously wishy-washy interim prime minister. And Bush had brazenly ordered Air Force One into a war zone in broad daylight so that he could shake hands with Iraq's first democratically elected leader under the new Constitution. The president wasn't disappointed. "I wanted to hear whether or not he was stuck in the past or willing to think about the future," a relaxed Bush later told reporters onboard Air Force One. "And I came away with a very positive impression." Maliki, Bush said...
  • Washington: A Dysfunctional Democracy

    Why are Washington policymakers so skeptical that George W. Bush’s surge plan for Iraq can work? In large part because they don’t trust Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The consensus in town: Maliki must get his act together, fix Iraqi governance and quell the out-of-control sectarian hatred in his country if America is to have any hope of success.What’s missing here is that Maliki and the rest of the world have every reason to be skeptical themselves about America’s own governance, not to mention our out-of-control sectarian divisions. And if they don’t think we can get our act together and speak with a common voice, they may cut separate deals (in Maliki’s case, with Tehran).All these problems were on display in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday as it debated a resolution opposing the president’s decision to send another 21,000 troops into what Sen. Chuck Hagel called "the grinder” of Iraq. “Don't hide anymore; none of us!” Hagel barked to his fellow...
  • Emptying Iran’s Pockets

    George W. Bush is clearly getting tough with Iran. He took aim at Tehran in his speech to the nation Wednesday night, stressing that he holds the Iranian government responsible for helping to destabilize Iraq. Within hours came reports the U.S. was arresting Iranian diplomats inside Iraq .But there's probably only one really effective way left, short of war, to put pressure on a government that has threatened a new Holocaust. And that is to adopt a strategy that Americans pursued a decade ago against the perpetrators and collaborators of the last Holocaust—the Germans and the Swiss.Stuart Levey knows this well. Levey, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, has been leading the U.S. campaign to isolate and slowly asphyxiate the Iranian economy. "Asphyxiate" is not a word he would use, but that is effectively the strategy being pursued by Levey and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson as they exert pressure on international banks and trading partners...
  • Gates Cleans House

    Air strikes this week on alleged Al Qaeda figures in Somalia may prove to be one of the last counterterrorism operations associated with a controversial Pentagon general who has overseen the deployment of secret U.S. Special Ops teams against suspected terror plotters, defense experts close to the Pentagon and intelligence community tell NEWSWEEK.Lt. Gen.William Boykin and his boss, soon-to-depart Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone, have guided or taken part in the planning of such covert operations against Al Qaeda-linked groups in several countries since 9/11. There is no indication that new Defense Secretary Robert Gates disagrees with the Somalia operation this week. But Boykin has long been a divisive figure. A devout evangelical Christian, he achieved notoriety in October 2003, when he was videotaped telling a church audience that the god of a Muslim warlord was "an idol" and that "my God was a real God." Boykin and Cambone have also generated controversy by...
  • 'All The Troops In The World Won’T Make Any Difference'

    Most top U.S. military officials—even members of George W. Bush’s administration such as national-security adviser Stephen Hadley—did not recommend a “surge” or escalation of U.S. troops into Iraq when they were interviewed by the Iraq Study Group last fall, says group member Leon Panetta, a former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton. Instead of a surge—which the president plans to announce in a speech to the nation tomorrow—these officials recommended at the time that more U.S. advisers be embedded in Iraqi units, Panetta says. That later led the bipartisan commission co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton to come to the same conclusion, he says. Panetta also says that the officials interviewed knew that one of the Study Group’s central recommendations—that U.S. advisory teams in Iraq be quadrupled—was largely incompatible with a ramp-up of troops. The reason? In order to increase the number of U.S. advisory teams to that degree, American combat brigades must be...
  • Bush Rolls the Dice

    For a mailman’s son who put himself through school working at a Campbell’s Soup factory in hardscrabble Camden, N.J., there must be a special poignancy to knowing that your task over the next two years is to rescue the reputation of a blue-blooded president who’s gotten himself into a bind in the Middle East.But that’s going to be William (Fox) Fallon’s job as commander of CENTCOM—the first admiral ever to be named to head the traditionally land-oriented regional command, which covers Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, as well as a new trouble spot: Somalia and the Horn of Africa.Fallon’s nomination is part of a flurry of major appointments coming out of the Bush administration ahead of the president’s speech on a new Iraq strategy next week. The reshuffling of Bush’s top command is about much more than Iraq, Pentagon insiders say. It will set the course for the remainder of Bush’s presidency in the entire Mideast.The appointment of Fallon, a former Navy aviator who commanded an air wing...
  • Ford: A Model Bush Should Test-Drive

    It was a time of terrible weakness. We were a nation kicked in the gut by Vietnam and Watergate and stagflation. Gerald Ford—who was a strong and honorable man but who had no mandate or electoral legitimacy—was an emblem of that weakness. And yet somehow, by the time he left office, Ford had “rescued a cohesive American foreign policy from the carnage of Vietnam and Watergate," Henry Kissinger wrote in the final volume of his memoirs, “Years of Renewal.” Indeed, Ford helped to steer the United States back onto a course that led to ultimate triumph over the Soviet Union. It is a lesson in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat that George W. Bush needs to learn, especially when it comes to the biggest threat Washington now faces, Iran. And there is no time to waste.Ford, who died Tuesday, accomplished this by first acknowledging, with admirable courage and honesty, that America had taken some blows and was not on top of its game. He banished the “imperial presidency” and the...
  • 'The 172nd Was Special'

    Just a few weeks ago, Capt. Brad Velotta was kicking in doors in the most dangerous city in the world. Now he's kicking back with his wife, Jodi, who can hardly believe he's home from Baghdad at last. "He is my buddy, my pal and the love of my life," she gushed in an e-mail. "I never once second-guessed that. This deployment was tough, but it made us stronger."The Stryker Brigade's tour of duty, chronicled in a series on NEWSWEEK.com, did not end with overwhelming success. There have been badly strained marriages, struggles with alcoholism and therapy sessions for troubled kids. Some, like Cpl. Alexander Jordan, didn't come home at all; he was killed by a sniper in September. The 172nd Stryker Brigade "had the toughest challenge of any unit in Iraq," says U.S. Army Secretary Francis Harvey. Brigade Commander Michael Shields praised the 172nd for coping with the 450-day deployment in a way that was "legend." Despite its brutal tour, the 172nd had one of the highest re-enlistment...
  • A Little-Lamented Departure

    Perhaps the signature moment of John Bolton’s tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations came last summer, when the No. 2 official at the U.N., Mark Malloch Brown, had the temerity to suggest some helpful hints to Americans. He said that Americans were acting against their own interests when they bashed the world body. Malloch Brown’s message was simple: you can’t depend on the U.N. for so much—using it as a forum for legitimizing action against Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Syria, for ending the war in Lebanon and keeping Syria out of Beirut—while at the same time dismissing it as a useless, corrupt institution. A Briton who has lived most of his adult life in the United States and is one of the most devoted friends Washington has at the U.N. Secretariat, Malloch Brown warned Americans they could “lose” the organization if they continued “the prevailing practice of seeking to use the U.N. almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool while failing to stand up for it against its...
  • The Last Man Standing

    It's been a rough season for neoconservatives, the group that has dominated U.S. foreign policy since the attacks of September 11. They've been largely run out of the Bush administration, beset by infighting, and mocked by a foreign-policy establishment that hailed their power just a few years ago. Last month was particularly brutal. They looked on helplessly as Democrats took both houses of Congress. They had to grit their teeth when President Bush met with Washington dealmakers James Baker and Lee Hamilton, whose bipartisan group is charged with extricating America from the mess the neocon-influenced policy created in Iraq. Then, insult to injury: they watched their cold-war nemesis in Central America circa 1986, Daniel Ortega, rise again to be president of Nicaragua.The neocons are reeling, but they're not dead yet. A few stalwarts are digging in their wing-tips. And there's already a small backlash against the backlash. At the State Department, supposedly the bastion of realism,...
  • A Bust in Bakersville

    The forthcoming report by James Baker's Iraq Study Group has enjoyed the biggest public buildup since the Segway. And it is likely to be just as big of a bust.Here's why the Baker-Hamilton report is destined to land with a thud, after weeks of messianic hype. According to sources who have seen the draft report introduced this week, the group will recommend deeper engagement with Iran and Syria in hopes these countries can help us quell the violence in Iraq. But George W. Bush, who remains a true neocon believer—"It's the regime, stupid"—is very unlikely to cut deals with such evil states, except in the most foot-dragging way. In any case, with each passing week Iraq's sectarian fratricide makes these neighboring countries less and less relevant. One doesn't have to be trained by Hizbullah or the Iranian secret service to grab a few Sunnis off the street every night and shoot them in the head. But until those killings stop, the yes-it-is-a-civil war-no-it's-not-a-civil-war in Iraq...
  • Get Ready for the ‘Biden Report’

    Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware is poised to retake the chairmanship of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, after the new Democrat-controlled Congress is sworn in. Biden discussed his plans for stabilizing Iraq by creating a federal system of three autonomous regions—Kurd, Shiite and Sunni—and for addressing Iran’s nuclear program, among other issues, in an interview with NEWSWEEK’s Michael Hirsh. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: I understand you’re planning to hold hearings on Iraq in January as your first act as chairman.Joseph Biden: I am. We’re putting it together now. It will probably amount to six weeks of hearings. We’ll have experts who are left, right and center, neocons, internationalists and isolationists, to come in and dissect the various elements of our Iraq policy. For example, the never-examined premise upon which we say we’re going to stand up Iraqis and stand down ourselves. It’s not a question of getting them to stand up; it’s getting them to...
  • The Change Agent

    Milton Friedman was a tiny, balding man who would have looked at home wearing green eye shades in an accountant’s cubicle. But he was a giant of the 20th century whose impact, good and bad, is still reaching every corner of the globe in the 21st. He was also a big enough man to admit that his ideas may have occasionally overreached in helping to generate a free-market revolution.Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek is invoked more often than Friedman as the patron saint of modern laissez-faire capitalism. It was Hayek who mainly inspired the twin free-market revolution in Great Britain, where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan’s ideological soulmate, launched a historic campaign to privatize nationalized industry at about the time the Reagan Revolution was taking off. But Hayek’s main impact was as a political theorist who delivered a powerful critique of the fallacies of socialist central planning. It was Friedman and his Chicago School, whose prominent disciples...
  • North Korea's Kim Jong Il

    The weird and scary saga of how an isolated, bankrupt nation went nuclear--and how the United States failed to stop it.
  • Let's Calm Down

    While visiting Asia this week with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, I stopped in to see my old Tokyo neighborhood, where I last lived 12 years ago. I was astonished at how little had changed: there was my house, its yellow stucco walls still stained the exactly same shade of brown; there was the same McDonald's and Mr. Donut at the train station, and the same koban , or police box, with a blue-jacketed, white-hatted policeman drowsing over his battered desk.It seemed an apt metaphor for Japan itself, where the debate over military readiness is not much more advanced than it was 15 years ago, during the first gulf war. Yes, the threat from North Korea is far more immediate to Tokyo than the menace of Saddam Hussein was. And yes, the Japanese have moved beyond the sort of meek debates they had back then over sending minesweepers to the Gulf. Today, to deal with the threat from North Korea, new nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is inching his country toward aggressive...
  • Asia's New Reality

    Whatever the success of North Korea’s nuclear test this morning—and one U.S. official suggested it might be “more fissile than pop,” meaning it may have been a small device indeed—Kim Jong Il has created a new strategic reality in Asia. Yet it may not be the one he wanted. By the accounts of many Asia analysts, the North Korean leader sought respect above all—geopolitical acceptance of the kind that Washington ultimately accorded to India after it exploded a nuclear device in 1998. Kim wanted to ensure his regime’s survival. What he may now get instead is an increasing determination, not only in Washington but elsewhere, that he has to go.Indeed by late last week, when U.S. officials grew increasingly certain that North Korea would detonate a nuclear device, there was a sense of resignation in Washington—almost a feeling of relief that, at long last, strategic clarity had arrived. “At least there would be a unified front against North Korea” if Pyongyang tested, one senior official...
  • Ike Was Right

    He was a Republican president from Texas at a time of great peril for America, a moment in history when the conservative base of his party was dominated by radical thinking about how to take on the nation’s mortal enemy. It was an election year, and the GOP was making political hay by mocking Democratic weakness. Among the most radical Republican critics was one of the president’s own top cabinet officers, who called for pre-emptive war.But Dwight D. Eisenhower said no to that. In some of the most important yet little appreciated decisions ever made by any U.S. president, Ike faced down both his own advisers and his base in the early to mid-’50s and embraced the containment policies of the other party. And he did it for a simple reason: he knew they were right. His only litmus test was competence.It’s important to remember this relatively obscure chapter of American history today, a time when the GOP—the supposed party of adults—is being accused of incompetence on almost every level...
  • Clinton Loses His Cool

    Even Bill Clinton, who never met a camera he failed to charm, couldn't keep his rage out of public view any longer. Ever since ABC television aired its riveting but risibly fictive docudrama “The Path to 9/11” earlier this month, former Clintonites have been seething. The miniseries had laid much of the blame for the failure to get Osama bin Laden on Clinton and his supposedly wimpy national-security team. The Bush administration, meanwhile, is portrayed mostly positively, seen gearing up to take on bin Laden when 9/11 hits. No surprise there: “The Path to 9/11” was scripted by a conservative screenwriter named Cyrus Nowrasteh, who once took part in a panel at the right-wing Liberty Film Festival entitled “How Conservatives Can Lead Hollywood's Next Paradigm Shift.”So when Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace gently asked the former president “why didn’t you do more” to put Al Qaeda “out of business,” he sparked an unexpected blast. Clinton, who had granted Wallace an interview at his...
  • How to Avoid War

    America is in the middle of a giant mess in the Muslim world, and there is one country—just one—that holds the key to solving the whole problem. There is only one country that has the ability, and the interests, to help us confront the out-of-control Shiite militia movement in Iraq, the terrifying Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and the still-dangerous Hizbullah presence in Lebanon all at once. There is just one country that stands between the unsettling situation we're in now and the far greater horror of a nuclearized Islamic world in which Israel is permanently locked into an existential battle with both Arabs and Iranians, and Americans must live in fear forever. There is just one country that, if it were brought into the community of nations, could stop this downward spiral before it is too late—indeed reverse it.That country is Iran. The only man who can bring Iran around is George W. Bush. And the only way he can achieve that is by wiping the table clean and proposing a...
  • Where’s the Clarity?

    Terrible as they are, wars can be clarifying events. Like thunderstorms, they purge the diplomatic air. They force people to take sides and, if they are total wars, they leave one victor standing. This is what happened during World Wars I and II (the latter being mainly an extension of the former) and the cold war. In the end, fascism and totalitarianism were vanquished—with the exception of a few redoubts, like North Korea—freedom was left the sole victor and America was seen as its champion. George W. Bush would have us view the "war on terror," which turns five years old on Monday, in this light as well. "This is the great ideological struggle of the 21st century—and it is the calling of our generation," the president said this week in a dramatic rendezvous-with-destiny speech timed to the 9/11 anniversary. "Freedom is once again contending with the forces of darkness and tyranny"—the terrorists who would seek to impose what he called a "totalitarian Islamic empire."The president...
  • Dangerous Days

    This is as dangerous an August as I can recall, at least since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait 16 years ago. The Europeans are dithering over contributions to a peacekeeping force while a dangerously unstable Lebanon slips into a "security vacuum," in the words of United Nations envoy Terje Roed-Larsen. Iran is stringing along the West in negotiations as it rushes to perfect the nuclear fuel cycle—which could occur as soon as the next several months—while bidding skillfully for regional hegemony. North Korea is hinting darkly at a nuclear test after firing off missiles. And Iraq is, well, say no more.It is the sort of moment when peace and history could be hanging in the balance for a generation to come—the kind of tipping point when American presidents can no longer leave the negotiating to underlings. They must take the world stage themselves to find a new way out, simply because no one else has the globo-oomph to do so. There is a grand American tradition behind this sort of...
  • Pounding the Keys

    There she was playing her Brahms sonata, while 5,000 miles away the Mideast burned. It was all too tempting for columnists to make snarky references to Nero and his fiddle, and a few did. But Condoleezza Rice clearly had more on her mind than the annual song-and-dance show put on by ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum, a sideshow conference Rice had skipped just the year before. She knew she would very shortly return to the Mideast-- after giving the Israelis a little more time to inflict damage--to play a central role on perhaps the biggest diplomatic stage of her life. And she knew she had directed her top aides--Nicholas Burns in New York, Philip Zelikow in Brussels, David Welch and Elliott Abrams in Jerusalem--to prepare for her main act this week while she played the piano in faraway Malaysia.Why did Rice, elegantly attired in a red batik dress, choose a somber Brahms piece for the ASEAN show? After all, last year her deputy, Robert Zoellick, sang "My...
  • Making Enemies

    Reading "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks's devastating new book about the Iraq war, brought back memories for me. Memories of going on night raids in Samarra in January 2004, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, with the Fourth Infantry Division units that Ricks describes. During these raids, confused young Americans would burst into Iraqi homes, overturn beds, dump out drawers, and summarily arrest all military-age men—actions that made them unwitting recruits for the insurgency. For American soldiers battling the resistance throughout Iraq, the unspoken rule was that all Iraqis were guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings were arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis had no recourse whatever to justice. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have one furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.As most U.S. military experts now acknowledge, these...
  • The White House: The Legacy On the Line

    The Bush team didn't see this one coming. Maybe it was simply that too many other volcanoes were erupting at the same time. Iraq was tipping closer to civil war, Iran was getting more brazen by the day and North Korea's missiles were roiling East Asia. The president, meanwhile, was preoccupied with what would likely be a testy G8 summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. True, the two top U.S. Mideast envoys--David Welch and Elliott Abrams--were in the region when hostilities began. But they had been reassured by Lebanese contacts that Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, didn't plan to "stir things up" while Hamas and Israel contended over a kidnapped Israeli corporal, according to a senior U.S. diplomat who would divulge the details only if he remained anonymous. "You had six and a half years of, if not calm, basically a stable deterrence between Hizbullah and Israel," the official told NEWSWEEK. "I did not expect this at all."If so, he was badly misled, and so was the...
  • Going Ballistic (Sort of)

    Is Kim Jong Il wacky? No American diplomat has talked to the North Korean dictator for years. But there have been moments when he's appeared quite sane, even sharp-witted. Six years ago the then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stood next to the diminutive "Dear Leader"--he's about her height--at a stadium in Pyongyang. In front of them thousands of acrobats and dancers performed feats of synchronization that would have made Barnum and Bailey envious. As part of the show, which was intended to impress the visiting Albright with the glories of the North Korean "revolution," a mass of performers held colored placards that showed Kim's Taepodong I missile lifting off in a 1998 test."That was the first launch of that missile," Kim said, turning toward Albright. Then, alluding to a 1999 deal with Washington that placed a moratorium on missile tests, he added, "And it will be the last."But it wasn't. Since then, Washington has refused to sit down with Kim one-on-one (the '99 missile...
  • Passing the Buck

    Good foreign policy should be metronomic in pace—measured, steady, dependable. That's especially true when you're the world's only superpower, and you want to keep things that way.  The key is to inspire respect, trust and faith in your judgement. That’s called leadership. But for six years now, George W. Bush's foreign policy has resembled a pendulum swinging out of control, lurching wildly from hubris to "help us." Despite the "stay the course" rhetoric, there's been little that is steady or dependable about it, and not surprisingly it has inspired little respect or trust around the world. In Bush's first term, the pendulum swung too far toward in-your-face unilateralism. Now, in his second term it has swung dramatically back toward the most squeamish sort of multilateralism—the kind of thinking that says, "Without partners, I don't dare make a move."We probably don't have to rehash the problem with too much unilateralism, the subject of a Time magazine cover story this week,...
  • The Myth of Al Qaeda

    The capture of Ibn Al-Shaykhal-Libi was said to be one of the first big breakthroughs in the war against Al Qaeda. It was also the start of the post-9/11 mythologizing of the terror group. According to the official history of the Bush administration, al-Libi (a nom de guerre meaning "the Libyan") was the most senior Al Qaeda leader captured during the war in Afghanistan after running a training camp there for Osama bin Laden. Al-Libi was sent on to Egypt, where under interrogation he was said to have given up crucial information linking Saddam Hussein to the training of Al Qaeda operatives in chemical and biological warfare. His story was later used publicly by Secretary of State Colin Powell to justify the war in Iraq to the world.The reality, as we have learned since—far too late, of course, to avert the war in Iraq—is that al-Libi made up that story of Iraq connections, probably because he was tortured by the Egyptians (or possibly Libyan intelligence officers who worked with...
  • Gaming Bush

    It was just an offhand comment, but the families of Pan Am Flight 103 victims were stunned. When State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was asked recently whether Libya would pay out the final $2 million it pledged to each family in compensation for the 1988 terror attack, he dismissed the question. "We're not party to this," McCormack said, before moving to the next subject. While technically true—the Pan Am 103 lawsuit has been a private matter for the courts, not the executive branch—his comment was disingenuous. Until last month, when Washington announced it would take Libya off its list of terror-supporting states, U.S. officials had forthrightly linked Muammar Kaddafi's return to international good graces with justice for the families of Pan Am 103 victims. (As recently as May 15, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said flatly that the U.S. "did support those efforts" by the families.) Now, it appears, the families of the 189 Americans blown out of the sky by Kaddafi...
  • Diplo-Dancing With Iran

    A month ago Condi Rice was in deep trouble, and she knew it. The secretary of State's strategy for stopping Iran's nuclear program--by uniting major nations against Tehran--was in danger of falling apart. During a dinner meeting on May 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed anger over Vice President Dick Cheney's awkwardly timed blast at Vladimir Putin a few days before. The Russians, essential to the U.S. tactic of isolating Iran, seemed to be jumping ship. Even America's European allies were voicing doubts about Rice's approach. In April, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier openly called on Washington to reverse its quarter-century-old refusal to hold official talks directly with Iran, endorsing a British suggestion. In private the French signaled they agreed.Rice faced a separate mutiny from the rear: mounting skepticism in the White House that diplomacy could work at all, along with tough resistance to direct...
  • A Chance for Healing

    To the Bush administration’s credit, they’ve learned humility when it comes to touting breakthroughs after the killing or capturing of insurgent leaders. After Saddam Hussein was nabbed in his spider hole in December 2003, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno of the Fourth Infantry Division declared that the insurgency was "on its knees," adding: "In six months you are going to see some normalcy." That prediction was dead wrong, as were so many others, like Marine Gen. John Sattler’s claim that the 2004 siege of Fallujah had "broken the back" of the insurgency.This time around, everyone from the president on down was careful to note that, as Bush said today, “the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues” even after the death of the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. Gradually, as the subtle truths about counterinsurgency have begun to seep up and down the ranks—you don’t “break the back” of an insurgency, or crush it or rout it, instead you slowly drain it of life—the...
  • Our New Pen Pal

    Americans and Iranians don't talk to each other--officially, anyway. Apart from a furtive arms-for-hostages deal in the Reagan era, the two sides haven't sat down since Ayatollah Khomeini incited his youthful Islamist radicals in Tehran--among them Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president--to confront the Great Satan in 1979. So the question arises: what was Mohammad Nahavandian, a close adviser to Iran's top nuclear negotiator, doing wandering around Washington last month? U.S. authorities say they had nothing to do with his visit. In fact, they claimed to be a bit shocked to learn that Nahavandian had a green card entitling him to enter and leave the United States freely. Nahavandian himself, who had taught economics at George Washington University before he joined the government in Tehran, said he was here on private business, including showing his son some sights of America, according to U.S.-based Iranians who met him.But that's not the whole story. During his several-week...