Weekly Roundup 6/20/2011

Why Europe no longer matters
Richard N. Haass, The Washington Post, June 19, 2011

Synopsis: Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recent speech criticizing U.S. allies in Europe for lagging support for U.S. policies around the world was misplaced, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations argues, not because it was wrong, but because it was irrelevant. Europe’s influence on world affairs is limited, and it is in other regions – Asia and the Middle East – that the 21st century will be forged and defined.

Takeaway: “The answer for Americans is not to browbeat Europeans for this,” writes Haass, director of policy and planning at the State Department under President George W. Bush, “but to accept it and adjust to it.”

-Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Where I Learned to Read
Salvatore Scibona, The New Yorker, June 13, 2011

Synopsis: American novelist and my fellow northern-Ohioan Salvatore Scibona, author of The End, a complex, poetic 2008 novel that chronicles immigrant life in early 20th-century Cleveland, describes life at the other venue he and I have in common – “the Great Books” school, St. John’s College (in Annapolis, for me, and in Santa Fe, for him). Couldn’t have said it better myself. (For more about The End, a 2008 National Book Award finalist, see www.nationalbook.org/nba2008_f_scibona.html)

Takeaway: “By senior year at St. John’s, we were reading Einstein in math, Darwin in lab, Baudelaire in French tutorial, Hegel in seminar. Seminar met twice a week for four years: eight o’clock to ten at night or later, all students addressed by surname. On weekends, I hung out with my friends. The surprise, the wild luck: I had friends. One sat in my room with a beer and ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit,’ reading out a sentence at a time and stopping to ask, ‘All right, what did that mean?’ The gravity of the whole thing would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so much fun, and if it hadn’t been such a gift to find my tribe. In retrospect, I was a sad little boy and a standard-issue, shiftless, egotistical, dejected teen-ager. Everything was going to hell, and then these strangers let me come to their school and showed me how to read. All things considered, every year since has been a more intense and enigmatic joy.”

-Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Black Ops and Blood Money
Matthew Teague, Men’s Journal, June 1, 2011

Raymond Davis was front-page news only recently, the protagonist of a dramatic episode that soon faded from view. But the details that had dribbled out from the tale of a CIA contractor who had killed two armed men following him through the streets of Lahore, Pakistan, were enough to send reporter Teague in search of more. He provides a fascinating portrait of Davis, who grew up poor in the southwest mountains of Virginia, an existence he escaped thanks to the U.S. Army. For all the deprivations of his early, hardscrabble life, it gave him years of practice in hunting and shooting. As for the men whom Davis killed in Pakistan, Teague apparently did his best to dig into their pasts as well. He learned little, though enough to confirm that Davis’ shooting skills saved his life. Teague also fills in some blanks on Davis’ spy work in Pakistan, but precisely what he’d been doing in Lahore remains mysterious. The tracking of Osama bin Laden elsewhere in Pakistan was under way when the Davis case erupted. No direct links have emerged between the bin Laden project and Davis’ work. But the story of his case leaves no doubt about the intensity and depth of the CIA’s work in Pakistan.

-Peter Katel, Staff Writer