Monthly Archives: October 2008

Keeping up with Mr. Incursion

U.S. special forces attacked a village/building/camp (select one) inside Syria on Sunday, killing eight people, according to Syrian officials. A rationale, given “on background” as all such messages are these days, was soon forthcoming: the area near the Iraqi town of Qaim had long been regarded by the Pentagon as a crossing point into Iraq for weapons, money, and foreign fighters, so as the unnamed U.S. military official in Washington told AP, “We are taking matters into our own hands.”

This, obviously, raises serious issues of national sovereignty, jus ad bellum, and the rule of international law. But the most serious of all is the question of how I’m supposed to keep track of this stuff. Continue reading

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Just like Ulysses, but about book illustrations

Arabesques from a 16th-century Koran

Arabesques from a 16th-century Koran

Written by Sydney-based “PK” (the P standing for Paul, the K being of unknown origin), Bibliodyssey is a blog devoted to the collection and display of the visual culture locked away in old books and only now being made available digitally by libraries and archives around the world. PK’s range of interests is stimulating and broad, covering the decorative arts of the late medieval Islamic world on one day, and the eerie but fascinating illustrations of 20th-century Louisiana artist Caroline Durieux on another.

Visit it. Bookmark it. Enjoy it.

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The world inside his head

"On a midnight voyage", Chris Berens (2008)

"On a midnight voyage", Chris Berens (2008)

The people inside your head — what do they look like? I don’t mean the real ones — although I know that the real people inside your head don’t look exactly like the real people outside of it, which means they’re made up too, at least a little — I mean the ones that aren’t real, but that you’ve seen since childhood. Well, perhaps not seen, not recently anyway, so much as lived alongside; as busy adults, we no longer ponder our own minds, but this fact doesn’t drive these other residents out or make them vanish. It simply means we’re no longer looking at them. Yet stop for a moment and try to recall them to mind. Continue reading

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Imploding domino

An angry crowd protests power cuts in Multan, Pakistan

April 15, 2008: An angry crowd protests power cuts in Multan

As both myself and Jeet Heer have noted recently, American military policy towards Pakistan’s tribal areas has recently taken a more aggressive turn, with stepped up missile strikes and even an unauthorized ground attack by U.S. special forces. Although American generals have not launched additional incursions — the policy has not yet turned into a re-run of the invasion of Cambodia in 1970 — they are playing a most dangerous game that risks destabilizing the country for the sake of killing some Taliban leaders.

Pakistan’s increasing fragility as a state was the subject of a powerful essay last week in the Washington Post by Indiana University’s Sumit Ganguly, a longtime observer of Pakistani politics. How grim is the news?:

Today’s ongoing crisis — marked by a rash of suicide bombings, the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto last December, inflation as high as 25 percent and a resurgent Taliban movement — could spell doom for the Pakistani state itself. The global financial crisis has only made matters worse: Pakistan’s foreign-exchange reserves are collapsing, and credit markets are worried that it could soon default on its debt payments. The grim truth is that Pakistan is becoming something alarmingly close to a failed state.

What’s most effective about Ganguly’s piece is the comprehensive but concise overview of the 60-year path that has gotten Pakistan to this precipice. A failed state, after all, is rarely the work of a year.

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