Several weeks before President Barack Obama announced an escalation of the Afghanistan War at West Point, a group of journalists and think-tankers met for dinner at the Washington, D.C., embassy of a NATO ally to debate war strategy. Chatham House rules apply to the dinner, so I'm not allowed to tell you who said what or even what embassy it was, but for all the disagreement among intelligent people about a sensible way forward in Afghanistan -- or out of it -- one clear, declarative, and unchallenged statement emerged. Whatever troop increase Obama decided was necessary, NATO would make sure the U.S. was not alone.
Liberalism in the 20th century made two enduring contributions to American foreign policy. Early on, it contended that global stability and prosperity were better guaranteed by architectures of international cooperation than by great-power competition. Later, it brought the human-rights revolution to the center of geopolitics, declaring that state sovereignty provided no excuse for impunity. As the 21st century began, Samantha Power, a journalist barely in her 30s, exposed the hollowness at the core of those contributions.
An Iraqi boy moves through a gap between concrete blocks in the Sunni Arab quarter of Azamiyah, in Baghdad. (AP Photo/Asaad Muhsin)
Christopher Hitchens, critiquing his friend Martin Amis, once casually referred to "the moral offense of euphemism." It's a beautiful and cutting phrase. The inability to call something what it is represents an opening salvo in an assault on the truth. An early acquiescence to the moral offense of euphemism is nothing less than the first stage of surrender to corruption. Whether the rot is manifested or merely intellectual is a distinction that will erode with time.
For any fan of the Iron Man comic books, Jon Favreau's new movie adaptation isn't just good, it's glorious. Robert Downey Jr. delivers an emotionally raw, ironic, and compelling portrait of brilliant billionaire defense mogul Tony Stark -- so compelling, in fact, that it's hard to believe the character has spent the last 45 years in a four-color world running around in a suit of armor battling villains named Thanos, Kang, and Zoga the Unthinkable.
When Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama met in California for the Jan. 31 debate, their back-and-forth resembled their many previous encounters, with the Democratic presidential hopefuls scrambling for the small policy yardage between them. And then Obama said something about the Iraq War that wasn't incremental at all. "I don't want to just end the war," he said, "but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place."