Michael Hirsh

Stories by Michael Hirsh

  • Washington's New Watchword: Containment

    An old word is gaining new currency in Washington: containment. You may be hearing a lot more of it as the Bush administration hunkers down for its final two years. Containment of Iraq’s low-level civil war, which shows every sign of persisting for years despite the new government inaugurated this week. Containment of Iran’s nuclear power, which may lead to a missile defense system in Europe. Containment of the Islamism revived by Hamas and Hizbullah, by the Sunni suicide bombers in Iraq, as well as by the “Shiite Crescent”—as Jordan’s King Abdullah once called it—running from Iran through Southern Iraq and into the Gulf.During the cold war, containment doctrine was based on the premise that the Soviet Union was a powerful force that was going to be around for a long time to come. Containment’s chief author, George Kennan, concluded that the best Washington could do was to keep the Soviet bloc penned up in its sphere of influence until it expired of its own internal problems (though...
  • An End to The Pain?

    It was a triumph for U.S. diplomacy. A last-minute intervention by Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick may help end the genocide in Darfur, an arid region of Sudan beset by civil war. Khartoum agreed to permit U.N. peacekeeping troops to replace the ineffective African Union force. But who will supply--and pay for--the U.N. troops? A senior administration official, anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media, says Bush "personally wants a NATO role, but we're not seeing a lot of troops coming with that--more limited advisers." Without a sufficient force, the deal will likely fall apart.
  • Iraqi Nukes: Fallout From U.S. Strikes

    The administration may be making contingency plans to bomb Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy fails. Apart from the geopolitical fallout of such a strike, there's reason to worry about the environmental impact. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Tehran's activities, is raising questions about dangers stemming from U.S. strikes on Iraq's biggest nuclear site during the 2003 invasion. In a report to be posted on the IAEA's Web site this week, the agency states that about 1,000 Iraqi men, women and children in a village near the former Tuwaitha nuclear research facility are living inside an area contaminated by radioactive residue and ruin. "I can only guess that a lot of the damage at Tuwaitha was from bombing," Dennis Reisenweaver, an IAEA safety expert, told NEWSWEEK. "Any time you damage a facility that uses radioactive material, you have potential for spreading contamination." He said the agency was looking at other damaged Iraqi sites as well, but did not yet...
  • A Radioactive Dilemma

    In the minds of some Bush administration officials, the solution to America's new foreign-policy crisis lies with people like "the Larry King of Iran." That's what Ahmad Baharloo's executive producer, Maryam Velgot, calls the ruggedly handsome host of the Persian-language show "Roundtable With You" on Voice of America. Baharloo, an Iranian exile in Washington, will soon be a prime instrument of the administration's new democracy-promotion campaign in Iran. Of the $85 million President George W. Bush has requested from Congress for the campaign, about $50 million will go to expanding Farsi television programs on VOA, and Baharloo is a star performer.Beginning in June, Baharloo's interview-and-call-in show will be beamed into Iranian homes seven days a week instead of just one. The goal: to blanket the repressive, cleric-run state with open dialogue and glad tidings from America. Asked whether any Larry King-type character--even the real one--could do much to engender democratic...
  • 'Compassionate Colonialism'

    When most Americans look at Iraq, they see a frightening faraway chaos, howling on the horizon like a desert dust storm. But U.S. Army Spc. Rocio Lucero has been in the eye of the storm, and she knows its nature as well as anyone. As we sit in an Iraqi police station in the Bab al Sheikh district of Baghdad, she looks around and notes casually, without a smidgeon of nostalgia, that this dingy office was her home for a year. From the beginning of the invasion in March 2003 until March of the following year, her military police unit was based here 24-7, ducking mortars and regularly taking fire.Now her platoon comes here to check on things every few days. Their mission has been narrowed to backing up Iraqi police patrols that drive out in front, 100 yards ahead, while trying to persuade the locals that their own government, not Washington, now supplies their guns and uniforms. The insurgents and the Shiite death squads still grip many neighborhoods, but in between bombings and...
  • Clash of Ideas

    There are presently two sectarian wars under way that will decide America's future: one in Iraq, and one inside the Republican Party. The issues are intimately related. If Iraq erupts into full-blown civil war or breaks up, the war within the GOP will be effectively settled. The last ounce of credibility will be drained from George W. Bush's great revolution over the use of American power. The neoconservative program that Bush adopted will instantly become an odd historical footnote, going the way of the Know-Nothings and the Mugwumps. Bush will find himself lumped in the rankings with Warren Harding, or worse. America will go through another post-Vietnam-like period of drift, overhanging debt and self-doubt. And the GOP, having exorcised the alien neocon demon that possessed it, will pretty much revert to its origins, adopting a Jeffersonian caution about world affairs that will hand the reins back to the realists (who, in truth—with the possible exception of Henry Kissinger—were...
  • Real and Surreal

    There’s nothing like roaring into Baghdad aboard a Rhino. A Rhino is a giant, heavily-armored bus that can withstand IEDs (small ones), and it is now the favored means of keeping Western visitors from getting blown to bits by these homemade bombs on the dangerous road between Baghdad International Airport and the secure Green Zone at the city’s center. “Rhino” is an appropriately Disney-ish name for these wheeled monstrosities, adding to the surreal feeling one gets in moving from the howling chaos outside the Green Zone into the theme-park-like confines within. You drive through several checkpoints, leaving behind tracts of litter and rubble and the desperate, dark faces of ordinary Iraqis trying to earn a few dinars. There, behind high concrete blast walls and razor wire, you find quiet streets and the heart of the American occupation: a double-sized Olympic pool with a palm-fretted patio restaurant, food courts and a giant coffee lounge where lessons in belly dancing and martial...
  • Breaking the Silence

    Andrew Natsios has taken a lot of flak over his role in Iraq. The longtime director of America's foreign-aid program has been pilloried for his April 2003 remark, in an ABC News interview, that the U.S. government would spend no more than $1.7 billion to rebuild Iraq. In the ensuing three years, Natsios, a lifelong Republican, has played the loyal soldier for the administration. He regularly defended the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq even as he was lumped with other errant prognosticators like Paul Wolfowitz (That's “wildly off the mark") and Dick Cheney ("We will be greeted as liberators"). After Natsios resigned in January to take a teaching post at Georgetown University, he maintained his silence about Iraq.But this week, for the first time, Natsios publicly gave vent to his long-suppressed frustrations over the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq occupation. In an interview with NEWSWEEK on Tuesday, he harshly criticized the Coalition Provisional Authority led by L....
  • New Rules for Nukes

    George W. Bush doesn't seem to have many friends in Pakistan. To greet him on his visit last week, Islamic and secular political parties came to an unprecedented agreement to paralyze the country with a strike. Thousands of people rallied at what Urdu newspapers called "Bush Dog Go Home" protests, and a suicide bombing killed a U.S. diplomat in Karachi. Pakistani authorities virtually locked down Islamabad in order to protect the president, emptying the streets and detaining some 4,000 people.Bush still has a devoted ally in Pervez Musharraf, who hung banners along the vacant motorcade route showing the two leaders smiling side by side. But even the Pakistani president's loyalties may soon be divided. The day before Bush flew to Islamabad in the dead of night, with his wing lights off and the window shades down, Musharraf delivered an address in his native Urdu to Pakistan's National Defense College. He had just returned from a trip to China, Pakistan's old cold-war arms supplier. ...
  • What’s Putin’s Game?

    Why, it was almost like being back in the U.S.S.R. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sat down with President Bush for a half hour in the Oval Office on Tuesday, talking about all manner of issues, his boss Vladimir Putin must have been smiling with satisfaction in the Kremlin. U.S. presidents very rarely deign to see mere foreign ministers from any country, certainly not for more than a quick grip and grin (the last such meeting Bush had was in June 2005, with Pakistan’s foreign minister). But Bush is suddenly very interested in what Russia is doing in a lot of places.It’s been a long slog for Putin, the ex-KGB colonel who came out of nowhere in 1999 but who now enjoys an almost Soviet-style personality cult, all built on his promise of resurrecting Russia’s greatness. When the Bush team came into power in early 2001, they barely had time for Putin, quite consciously snubbing him on their first trip to Europe and all but branding Russia a rogue state. Now Bush is having...
  • What To Do?

    As the leading powers meet in Vienna today and tomorrow to address Iran's nuclear program, the most serious problem they face is not what is going on in Tehran. It is that no one on the Western side seems to know what to do about Tehran. The major negotiators at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting are now looking to the United States, which convinced the Europeans to take a harder line against Iranian enrichment a year ago. Washington is touting its diplomatic isolation of Tehran as a success (and so it has been, helped by the over-the-top rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). But the Bush administration doesn't seem to have any good ideas about where to go next with this isolation. It is a tool, yet the Americans seem to treat it as an end, not a means. As the debate heads into the U.N. Security Council, policy is at a standstill.Washington has said it isn't close to considering military action. Nor is it even ready to propose economic sanctions, as...
  • Clumsy Leadership

    Revolutionaries need several ingredients to succeed: charisma, for one; organization, for another. But what they need most of all is an incompetent regime, one that makes their ideas look good by comparison. "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive," William Wordsworth famously wrote after the French Revolution, romanticizing the " enfants de la patrie " who marched on the Bastille. But no one ever quotes the next line in his poem about the "meager, stale, forbidding " old regime that collapsed so easily there.  The early Bolsheviks were nobodies in Russia before the 1917 Revolution, but thanks to the combined ineptitude of Tsar Nicholas II and Alexander Kerensky—the first one representing bumbling monarchy, the latter the most indecisive sort of democracy—Lenin and Co. established their "dictatorship of the proletariat" with a swiftness that surprised even them.Listening this week to the latest excerpts from Osama bin Laden's and Ayman al Zawahiri's taped messages, it is hard not to...
  • Where's the Oversight?

    From his earliest days in office, George W. Bush has talked a good game about transforming the military. He even hired a corporate turnaround specialist, Donald Rumsfeld, to accomplish the task. But after Bush proposed a nearly half-trillion dollar defense budget for fiscal 2007 earlier this month -- one that doesn't include many of the costs of the Iraq war -- even some of the president's loyalists were appalled. One of them, Kori Schake, who until recently was director of defense strategy on Bush's National Security Council, last Thursday wrote a blistering op-ed in The New York Times headlined "Jurassic Pork." She noted that Rumsfeld's supposedly transformational Quadrennial Defense Review looks little different from four years ago, and that the latest budget "continues programs and practices that have been made obsolete by technology, innovation and field experience."But that's only part of the story. The untold tale is the wastage and overpricing that continue to lard up the...
  • Wanted: Competent Big Brothers

    Sen. Joseph Biden was uncharacteristically succinct. "How will we know when this war is over?" Biden asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday at a Senate hearing on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program. Biden never really got a good answer, but his question still resonates. The Bush administration calls the war on terror "the long war." But if we are to take the president and his aides at their word, it is more like a permanent war, one that by definition can never end. Having identified the enemy as Al Qaeda and its "affiliates"--at a time when angry young Muslims are boiling up all over, to be recruited by terror cells yet unborn--the administration surely knows it will be a long, long time until all the Islamist bad guys are eliminated. And that means the extraordinary powers that George W. Bush has arrogated to himself "during wartime"--including the surveillance of Americans--could become permanent as well.It all sounds frighteningly Orwellian....
  • George Bush, Diplomat

    After Eugene "Bull" Connor, the sheriff of Birmingham, Ala., turned dogs and fire hoses on black protesters in May, 1963, John F. Kennedy observed that "the Civil Rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He's helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln." It was the perfect putdown. Connor had been a hero to Southern bigots. JFK, with one withering remark, condemned him to that most ignoble form of immortality for a Southerner. He would forever be remembered as the butt of a Yankee joke.Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may someday qualify for a similar kind of historical ignominy among his own countrymen. Iran's president is probably the last one to realize it, but the joke is on him. Though he is rabidly anti-American, Ahmadinejad has done more to help the Great Satan than anyone since the fellow Iranian he most despises--that great toady of Washington, the Shah.In fact, Ahmadinejad, who has piled idiocy upon idiocy in a series of offensive remarks that have alarmed the world, has achieved a...
  • Air Safety: Cockpit Smoke Concerns

    The government spends a lot of time and money protecting America's air passengers from terrorist attacks and water landings. But the Federal Aviation Administration has been less attentive to a flying danger that occurs far more often: smoke in the cockpit, which can be caused by electrical failures, fluid leaks and cargo fires. Forced landings from smoke or fumes happen nearly once a day on average. But pilots still lack an effective way of dealing with fires and smoke-flooded cockpits, which were blamed in the crashes of ValuJet 592 and Swissair 111 in recent years. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card had a glimpse of the problem Nov. 26 when his Gulfstream made an emergency landing in Nashville because of mysterious fumes. The FAA has begun to address the issue, circulating advisories on onboard fires to airlines; on Nov. 23 it proposed a new rule to keep fuel tanks safe. But a senior Bush administration official with oversight over transportation issues, who was granted...
  • Qaeda Prison Break

    Bagram Airbase is home to one of the most heavily fortified military prisons in the world. Located in the shadow of the Hindu Kush about 30 miles north of Kabul, the facility holds hundreds of alleged jihadists at the center of three tight rings of security, surrounded by U.S. and Afghan troops. To enter and leave Bagram one has to pass through a labyrinth of concrete and dirt-filled-wire barriers that are overlooked by two-storey-high observation posts. The prisoners, dressed in orange jumpsuits, are kept in wire cages in the middle of an old warehouse, somewhat like Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs." The warehouse in turn is ringed by razor wire and finally the fences and guard posts of the airbase itself.Yet in the early morning hours of July 11, 2005, U.S. officials say, four of these brightly attired men somehow penetrated each of the three security cordons and slipped through a Soviet-era minefield just outside the base, one purposely left active. Then the escapees...
  • 'Failure Is Not an Option'

    Zalmay Khalilzad has been America's troubleshooter on the most important challenges facing the country. He recently finished a stint as the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, and now he's ambassador to Iraq. He spoke last week to NEWSWEEK's Michael Hirsh in Washington. Excerpts: ...
  • Truth About Torture

    Army Capt. Ian Fishback is plainly a very brave man. Crazy brave, even. Not only has the 26-year-old West Pointer done a tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, he has had the guts to suggest publicly that his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, lied to Congress. After making headlines a month ago for alleging that systematic interrogation abuses occurred in Iraq--and that the Pentagon was not forthright about it--the plain-spoken Fishback went back to Fort Bragg, N.C. He is now practicing small-unit tactics in the woods for a month as part of Special Forces training. After that, he hopes to fight for his country once again overseas.Fishback's courage in taking a lonely stand may be paying off. Inspired by his example, "a growing critical mass of soldiers is coming forward with allegations of abuse," says Marc Garlasco of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based activist group that first revealed Fishback's story. One of them is Anthony Lagouranis, a Chicago-based Army specialist who recently left...
  • EXCLUSIVE: CIA COMMANDER: WE LET BIN LADEN SLIP A

    During the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry battled about whether Osama bin Laden had escaped from Tora Bora in the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Bush, Kerry charged, "didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill" the leader of Al Qaeda. The president called his opponent's allegation "the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking." Bush asserted that U.S. commanders on the ground did not know if bin Laden was at the mountain hideaway along the Afghan border.But in a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora--intelligence operatives had tracked him--and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen's remarks, National Security...
  • THE MILITARY: A MOVE FOR CLEAR RULES FOR GITMO

    John McCain learned about interrogation abuses as a POW in Vietnam. And since the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal broke, the Arizona senator has grown increasingly angry over the Pentagon's failure to state clearly what its rules of interrogation are, especially at Guantanamo Bay. McCain got tough last week with Army Gen. Bentz Craddock, the head of U.S. Southern Command (under which Gitmo falls). After questioning Craddock at a Senate hearing, McCain said U.S. policy on the treatment of prisoners was still a "morass."Now McCain and fellow Senate Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, with the help of Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, are drafting a bill that would take matters out of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's hands and create clear rules for wartime detention, interrogation and prosecution. McCain, says spokeswoman Andrea Jones, "plans to introduce legislation that will set uniform standards for detainees." He is discussing legal language that would...
  • Two Cheers for Bremer

    In his speech to the nation Tuesday night, the president never mentioned his name. Very few people do these days, except to bash him. L. Paul Bremer III is still harshly criticized in most popular accounts of the Iraq occupation as an American viceroy who never understood the country he was trying to reconstitute and who made serious mistakes that helped to foment the insurgency, such as disbanding the Iraqi Army. So it's no surprise that as George W. Bush marked the one-year anniversary of the handover of Iraqi sovereignty, the man who orchestrated that transfer of power--and who, more importantly, created the government structure that will likely spell success or failure for America in Iraq--was nowhere to be seen.But oddly enough, this might be Bremer's greatest moment of triumph in Iraq. As violence continues to rage, most of the media coverage has focused on the out-of-control insurgency. Yet Bremer was never wholly in charge of the security issue; Defense Secretary Donald...
  • Diplomatic Dance

    In the long run of history, a president's success is often defined by foreign policy. And for George W. Bush, the stakes are now clearer than ever: it's democracy or bust. Condoleezza Rice's sweep through the Mideast and Europe this week is providing dramatic evidence of just how much Bush understands that his reputation as president is riding largely on the success of his Arab democracy crusade. Almost since 9/11, Bush has made the spread of liberty a central theme of his presidency. But as the secretary of State told reporters traveling with her today, there is now "a new kind of urgency" to the campaign.It's fairly clear why that is. Now slogging into its third year, the Iraq war has been a devastating, draining experience. Bush has lost much of his political standing and capital at home, polls show, and his Army is almost certain to remain occupied with this task for the remainder of his term. American credibility abroad is badly damaged; the tally of American lives and limbs is...
  • TERROR AND DEMOCRACY

    Tim Rothermel has spent the past nine years in Gaza and the West Bank trying to make life better for Palestinians. As the local head of the U.N. Development Program, he seeks out competent and honest Palestinian officials who will find good uses for the millions of dollars in aid--some of it U.S. government funds--that he directs to building roads, schools, clinics and government institutions. Rothermel, a native North Carolinian and a registered Republican, doesn't use a political litmus test. "I'm sure I've met many Hamas officials, but I don't know who they are," he says. "It's not a question I ask." The recent election of municipal councils in Gaza, he adds, was based "not so much on whether the candidate was Hamas or Fatah or communist or whatever. It's more the person who is your neighbor, whom you know. And who's best going to fix the potholes in the street."Perhaps unwittingly, Rothermel was giving voice last week to George W. Bush's "pothole theory" of democracy. In recent...
  • The Hyde Factor

    For all the controversy over John Bolton--President George W. Bush's fiery nominee to be United Nations ambassador--U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is more worried about another threat from Washington, says his chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown. Annan is so worried, in fact, that he believes Bolton and the Bush administration could prove to be his allies in what is shaping up to be another titanic battle over U.N. finances.In an interview with NEWSWEEK on Wednesday, Malloch Brown said that while Bolton was not the candidate one would "ideally choose," he may be the right ambassador "to represent the U.N. to Washington." Why? Because a bill sponsored by House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican, is threatening to withhold U.S. dues to the world body if major reforms do not occur--reforms that most U.N. observers believe it will be impossible for Annan to deliver.And Bolton, Malloch Brown said, may be the man who can persuade the...
  • A TROUBLED HUNT

    He was a legendary jihadi leader who preached holy war, took on the greatest power of his day and caused thousands of deaths in terror strikes. But as British imperial forces hunted for him year after year in the 1930s and '40s, Mirza Ali Khan simply disappeared into the folds of what are now the Pakistani tribal regions. The search for Khan, who was better known to his British pursuers as the Fakir of Ipi, petered out as the decades passed and people lost interest. "The fakir was never captured," says Pakistani scholar Husain Haqqani. "People say he died of natural causes in 1960."Is this to be Osama bin Laden's fate as well--an enduring case of justice denied? As the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks draws closer, some critics fear that bin Laden too could slip into the mists of history unless U.S. policy--and luck--changes. "Our teams are getting nowhere," says Gary Schroen, a highly decorated former CIA officer who oversaw CIA operations in the region until August 2001 and...
  • GOING NUCLEAR ON BOLTON

    Richard Lugar is a senior statesman with a manner so dry and cautious that when he ran for president in 1996, crowds couldn't tell if he was delivering a stump speech or a civics lecture. But there's one subject that really riles the Indiana senator: nuclear proliferation. Lugar has long championed the $1 billion Nunn-Lugar threat-reduction program, which he created with the then Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn in 1991 to dispose of old Soviet weapons of mass destruction and fissile material. He has repeatedly urged that the Bush administration make Nunn-Lugar a priority to keep WMD from falling into the hands of terrorists.Yet for several years, the disposal of Russia's 134-ton hoard of plutonium has been stymied by an obscure legal issue. Washington has sought to free U.S. contractors of any liability for nuclear contamination during cleanup. The holdup has angered Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his associates say. And government sources tell NEWSWEEK that the...
  • BOLTON'S BRITISH PROBLEM

    Colin Powell plainly didn't like what he was hearing. At a meeting in London in November 2003, his counterpart, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was complaining to Powell about John Bolton, according to a former Bush administration official who was there. Straw told the then Secretary of State that Bolton, Powell's under secretary for arms control, was making it impossible to reach allied agreement on Iran's nuclear program. Powell turned to an aide and said, "Get a different view on [the Iranian problem]. Bolton is being too tough."Unbeknownst to Bolton, the aide then interviewed experts in Bolton's own Nonproliferation Bureau. The issue was resolved, the former official told NEWSWEEK, only after Powell adopted softer language recommended by these experts on how and when Iran might be referred to the U.N. Security Council. But the terrified State experts were "adamant that we not let Bolton know we had talked to them," the official said.The incident illustrates a key...
  • FOLLOW THE MONEY

    By many accounts, Custer Battles was a nightmare contractor in Iraq. The company's two principals, Mike Battles and Scott Custer, overcharged occupation authorities by millions of dollars, according to a complaint from two former employees. The firm double-billed for salaries and repainted the Iraqi Airways forklifts they found at Baghdad airport--which Custer Battles was contracted to secure--then leased them back to the U.S. government, the complaint says. In the fall of 2004, Deputy General Counsel Steven Shaw of the Air Force asked that the firm be banned from future U.S. contracts, saying Custer Battles had also "created sham companies, whereby [it] fraudulently increased profits by inflating its claimed costs." An Army inspector general, Col. Richard Ballard, concluded as early as November 2003 that the security outfit was incompetent and refused to obey Joint Task Force 7 orders: "What we saw horrified us," Ballard wrote to his superiors in an e-mail obtained by NEWSWEEK.Yet...
  • Bush Bends

    Among George W. Bush's many talents as a politician is his sense of timing. Having planned his trip to Europe last fall in an icy atmosphere of ill will, Bush arrived on the continent with the fresh wind of the Arab Spring at his back. Faced with democratic stirrings throughout the Middle East, European leaders who had opposed the Iraq war suddenly had reason to question their smug certainties. Bush, meanwhile, blew into Brussels and Paris without an army (he'd left it in Iraq, where it will stay for most of his tenure) or much second-term money to spend (huge budget deficits have tied his hands), ready to acknowledge that he might need some help abroad. So between the newly diplomatic Bush and the newly self-doubting Europeans, there seemed a lot of room for a meeting in the middle.That's just what happened, of course. And none too soon. If ever the world's richest and most powerful nations needed to present a united front, it's now. Whatever you might have thought about the...
  • Tough Diplomacy

    Through it all only one shadow of suspicion has passed over Negroponte's behavior in public life: the question of what he knew, and when he knew it, about America's secret association with so-called death squads in the Reagan-era fight against Soviet-allied insurgencies in El Salvador, Honduras and other Central American nations.No proof ever emerged that Negroponte was aware of the notorious Battalion 316 in Honduras when he was ambassador there in the early 1980s. But Negroponte is still so sensitive about such allegations that, when NEWSWEEK mentioned him last month in a web story about a "Salvador option" being considered for Iraq, he phoned this reporter from Baghdad, defending his integrity and fuming over what he called the "utterly gratuitous" inclusion of his name.Yet ironically enough, this long-denied reputation for ruthlessness may now help Negroponte more than any other quality in his new post as America's first director of national intelligence.Despite doubts about how...
  • Penetrating a Totalitarian Fog

    Speculation was immediately rife in Washington. Could it be that North Korea's "Dear Leader," the pouf-haired Kim Jong Il, wanted to rattle his rusting saber a bit because his birthday was coming up soon? Perhaps the ministry's statement was a reaction to the recent trip by Michael Green, the National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs, who traveled to the region to get China, Japan and South Korea to increase the pressure on Pyongyang in the "six-party" (the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea) disarmament talks. Was Pyongyang anticipating the backlash to come after last week's leaks of scary, if still very flimsy, evidence that North Korea might have been selling nuclear material to Libya?The best guess is that we should simply take Pyongyang at its word. The few times American officials have been able to penetrate the totalitarian fog of North Korea and talk with Kim Jong Il, they have found him to be strange but rational. And Thursday...