Pundit Wire

The True Believer, Revisited

15916The New York Times ran a front page article on February 18, chronicling the lives of three Egyptian youths, one of whom turned jihadist and went to fight for ISIS in Syria.

The three young men were friends. All of them came from middle-class backgrounds. All of them were devout Muslims, and all of them struggled to square the strictures of puritanical Islam with the attractions of the secular world—in particular, the sexual impulses they shared as normal young men. All of them had difficulty finding work in Egypt’s uncertain economy, and all of them were disillusioned when Egypt’s army took power and suppressed the militant Islamic Brotherhood.

Photo: Harper & Brothers

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Sun Tzu in a Cubicle (Part Two)

Unknown-15I was trained to manage within rules rather than accepting them unquestioningly.  Gravity, for example, doesn’t always work in my favor, but I see there isn’t much point in trying to defy it.  At least without some sort of plan, like Bernoulli’s Principle, which keeps airplanes up there. This is above my pay grade.

So when I wrote a book later, in 2003, about U.S. policy in Haiti, the point was not to challenge any system.

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images-6The circulation numbers for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the Paris massacre have reached 7 million, according to news reports — which means the next group of jihadists will have to buy a helluva lot more ski masks.

I wouldn’t put it past them, though. Jihadists hate leaving a job unfinished, as we learned in 2001. And now that 7 million people have a cartoon image of the prophet Mohammed resting on their coffee tables and toilet tanks, they have a lot more work to do.

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John Kerry - Lassana BathilyThe planet gawps at the spectacle of US Secretary of State John Kerry descending on hapless French President Hollande (who has enough to worry about these days without weird foreigners embarrassing him in public) and hug-kissing him in no little profusion.

As if this were not enough, John Kerry brought with him to Paris James Taylor to play “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. But this highest-profile gesture of American solidarité after the Paris terrorist attacks was bungled: the organisers made the rookie error of not checking and re-checking before the performance started that the practical sound arrangements were working. Watch the whole ghastly spectacle unfold here. Poor James Taylor is perched high on a stool but hunched awkwardly over a useless microphone so that you can’t see his face. John Kerry stands there in ill-suppressed tension. As diplomatic self-mutilations go, this is right up there.

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Woman in the Dunes

Imperial_sand_dunesTony Hervas, a colossus of a man, was chief U.S. interpreter (Spanish/English) during the lengthy negotiations reverting the Panama Canal “back” to Panama, under President Carter.

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Ward Just and American Romantic

US_embassy_Prague_2847With a certain urgency, I write on Ward Just’s eighteenth novel, American Romantic.  It’s about the stay anyone in the Foreign Service would want to write, but Just has done it for us.  Gail Godwin in The New York Times of June 6 called it “one of his best.”

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Supporting Freedom in Cuba

ministerio del ineriorIf they succeed in breaking the back of the communist system, how might a new democratically elected government start to put things right?

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The Christmas Truce at 100

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 2.43.26 PMThe story has been told many times. (photo: Sainsbury)

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