Militants & Military: Pakistan’s Unholy Alliance

Ahmed Rashid

A man looking at a police bus that was destroyed during clashes between Islamist protesters and police around Islamabad’s main highway, Pakistan, November 26, 2017

Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe group can force the resignation of the justice minister for not being religious enough, Pakistan’s future looks grim. A genuine opposition that could be a counterweight to these machinations—a strong middle class, modern democratic political parties, a vibrant civil society, robust human rights groups, and free media—barely exists.

Bulldozing the Peace Process in Israel

David Shulman

A Palestinian woman looking at the remains of her home after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers, near Hebron, the West Bank, March 6, 2017

When Netanyahu claims, as he did recently, that Israel’s situation has never been better, he means, in part, that in his own mind he has smashed the Palestinian national movement once and for all. I have no doubt that this has been his goal all along. Indeed, Palestinians in the occupied territories are worn out, demoralized, fenced into small discontinuous enclaves where they lack basic human rights, where their land and other property may be appropriated at any moment, and where they may be arrested and incarcerated at the army’s whim. They are, by now, largely paralyzed by despair. Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem may galvanize them back into action; we shall see.

Gained in Translation

Tim Parks

A photograph by Sophia Andreevna Tolstaya of Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky, late nineteenth century

Translators are people who read books for us. Tolstoy wrote in Russian, so someone must read him for us and then write down that reading in our language. Since the book will be fuller and richer the more experience a reader brings to it, we would want our translator to be aware of as much as possible—cultural references, lexical patterns, geographical setting, and historical moment. Aware, too, of our own language and its many resources. Far from being “just subjective,” these differences will be a function of the different experiences these readers bring to the book, since none of us accumulates the same experience.

The Unsexy Truth About Harassment

Melissa Gira Grant

Bankers Trust, New York City, 1960

This conflation of sex with “sexual misconduct” has led to some concern that what may result from the #MeToo moment is a “sex panic,” with all the attendant public punishment and casting out. But it’s too late: sexual harassment is a form of discipline, and it has already led to so many women being cast out from their work and the attention that is rightfully theirs. When men use sex to push women into inferior, undervalued, and invisible roles, that isn’t sex; that’s punishment. We must reject the idea that harassment is measured by how sexually violated the victim feels (or how she is told she is supposed to feel). Our conflict is not over sex, or with men in particular or in general, but over power.

Chaïm Soutine: the Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker

Lucy Scholes

Chaïm Soutine: Butcher Boy, 1919–1920

Dressed from head to toe in a vibrant red uniform with gleaming gold buttons, hands defiantly on hips, legs spread wide, the bellboy perfectly captures the tension, seen throughout the exhibition “Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys,” between personal dignity and professional subservience. A Russian émigré and the son of a poor Jewish tailor, Soutine rarely gave his portraits titles (hence the generic ones provided here), let alone bothered to note the names of his sitters. And yet he is known for posing his anonymous subjects like the royalty of yore: the bellboy’s regal red livery is reminiscent of ceremonial dress; and a pastry cook, his fluffed-up white cap perched on his head like a bejeweled crown, sits resplendent in a kitchen chair like a monarch on his throne.

‘My Only Friend Is My Conscience’: Face to Face With El Salvador’s Cold Killer

Jonathan Blitzer

Soldiers searching bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador, 1980

Talking about the civil war was futile with Ochoa. A rambling discussion of Vietnam and ancient Rome, and Putin, Napoleon, and General MacArthur (three of his idols) was peppered with bald, personal pronouncements. When I brought up the theft of CIA documents again, he leaned back and looked at me for the first time with an expression of hostility. Five months later, the Salvadoran Supreme Court declared the country’s amnesty law unconstitutional. With the amnesty law lifted, a judge had recently agreed to hear a human rights case against Ochoa, and the colonel was said to be retaining counsel.

A Philadelphia Lawyer’s Gilded Age Collection

Avis Berman

Eugène Delacroix: Basket of Flowers and Fruit, 1849

John G. Johnson’s acquisitiveness and acumen are commemorated on the 100th anniversary of his bequest in “Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection,” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As the title of the exhibition implies, Johnson chiefly collected medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque painting, but the glorious eye-opener of the show turns out to be his discerning response to the art of his own time.

Theresa May’s Blue Monday

Fintan O’Toole

British Prime Minister Theresa May in Downing Street, London, December 5

Britain’s agreement to accept Ireland’s demands over Brexit and the border is an expression of its weakness: it can’t even bully little Ireland anymore. And this would have been bad enough for one day. But there was another humiliation in store. Having backed down, May was then peremptorily informed by her DUP coalition partner that she was not even allowed to back down. It is a scarcely credible position for a once great state to find itself in: its leader does not even have the power to conduct a dignified retreat.

Michael Flynn: What We Know, What Mueller Knows

Marcy Wheeler

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn at his plea hearing in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2017

In the efforts to figure out how much damage Flynn’s plea will do to Trump and other senior administration officials, most observers seem to have overlooked one of the few available metrics on the Mueller investigation: the size of his team. While the numbers have fluctuated, Mueller has somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen prosecutors. Thus far, we’ve seen official notice of what just half of them have been up to. Robert Mueller has put only a few of his cards on the table.

In Merkel’s Crisis, Echoes of Weimar

Charles S. Maier

General Kurt von Schleicher, who became the last Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, and his wife Elisabeth leaving a polling station after voting in federal elections, Germany, 1932

The recent setback to coalition talks in Berlin has heralded Germany’s most intractable political crisis in modern times. The deadlock created after the Free Democratic Party quit talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc and the Greens has left only what the major protagonists have previously ruled out as unacceptable alternatives: for the chancellor to try governing with a parliamentary minority, and for the Social Democrats to agree to enter a “Grand Coalition” once again; or for Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to call new elections. Germany owes its difficulty to the results of September’s election for the Bundestag, in which a party of the nationalist far right won seats for the first time in decades.