“Why is Vladimir Putin threatening to take another bite out of Ukraine, after devouring Crimea in 2014? That is not an easy question to answer because Putin is a one-man psychodrama, with a giant inferiority complex toward America that leaves him always stalking the world with a chip on his shoulder so big it’s amazing he can fit through any door.
Let’s see: Putin is a modern-day Peter the Great out to restore the glory of Mother Russia. He’s a retired K.G.B. agent who simply refuses to come in from the cold and still sees the C.I.A. under every rock and behind every opponent. He’s America’s ex-boyfriend-from-hell, who refuses to let us ignore him and date other countries, like China — because he always measures his status in the world in relation to us. And he’s a politician trying to make sure he wins (or rigs) Russia’s 2024 election — and becomes president for life — because when you’ve siphoned off as many rubles as Putin has, you can never be sure that your successor won’t lock you up and take them all. For him, it’s rule or die.
Somewhere in the balance of all of those identities and neuroses is the answer to what Putin intends to do with Ukraine.
If I were a cynic, I’d just tell him to go ahead and take Kyiv because it would become his Kabul, his Afghanistan — but the human costs would be intolerable. Short of that, I’d be very clear: If he wants to come down from the tree in which he’s lodged himself, he’s going to have to jump or build his own ladder. He has completely contrived this crisis, so there should be no give on our part. China is watching — and Taiwan is sweating — everything we do in reaction to Vlad right now.”
“The soldiers with inexplicable breathing complaints started appearing in Dr. Robert F. Miller’s pulmonology clinic in 2004, the year after Baghdad fell to invading United States forces. These new patients were active-duty troops from nearby Fort Campbell, men and women who came home from war with mysterious respiratory ailments. The base asked Miller, an unassuming and soft-spoken lung specialist at Vanderbilt University, to take a look.
Miller was baffled to see formerly healthy soldiers gasping for air after mild exertion. Some of them had been close to the fire at the Mishraq sulfur mine outside Mosul, thought to be the largest release of sulfur dioxide ever caused by humans. But others had never gone anywhere near the burning mine. Some of them could no longer run or climb stairs, and yet their X-rays and pulmonary-function tests looked normal.
Confounded, Miller decided to try something radical: He began ordering lung biopsies under general anesthesia to look for more subtle damage known as small-airways disease. Sure enough, the tissue revealed toxic lung injury, which Miller diagnosed as constrictive bronchiolitis. To the doctor, this meant two things: First, the soldiers were not exaggerating their symptoms. And more important, noninvasive screenings couldn’t be trusted to detect these new post-deployment ailments.
Eager to share his discovery, Miller contacted doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This led, at first, to what Miller recalls as an enthusiastic collaboration. Army doctors flew to Tennessee to review Miller’s biopsies, and together they went to Fort Campbell to develop a protocol for evaluating patients.”
DL: Excellent article. The end is surprising. Jon Stewart takes up the cause, and the congress and military decide finally to help these people. It took a star with the power of gigantic publicity coverage.
“The B-17 he was piloting had lost two of its four engines to enemy fire, and as Si Spiegel surveyed the ruined landscape, he had one thought: We have to get behind the Russian front.
As part of the Allied raid on Berlin, his bomber had dropped its payload over the German capital, but he’d been hit with flak and would almost certainly not make it back to the base in England. No pilot wanted to get shot down over Nazi Germany, especially not a Jewish pilot.
Mr. Spiegel had essentially bluffed his way into the cockpit as a skinny teenager from Greenwich Village, trusting he’d figure it out as he went. This was no different. He told his crew they were headed for Poland; they could get their parachutes ready, but were not to bail out unless he gave the order. They would attempt an emergency landing.”
“It may seem like a terrible thing to say, but a fair number of people — especially in the news media — are nostalgic about the months that followed 9/11. Some pundits openly pine for the sense of national unity that, they imagine, prevailed in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. More subtly, my sense is that many long for the days when the big threat to America seemed to come from foreign fanatics, not homegrown political extremists.
But that golden moment of unity never existed; it’s a myth, one that we need to stop perpetuating if we want to understand the dire current state of American democracy. The truth is that key parts of the American body politic saw 9/11, right from the beginning, not as a moment to seek national unity but as an opportunity to seize domestic political advantage.
And this cynicism in the face of the horror tells us that even at a time when America truly was under external attack, the biggest dangers we faced were already internal.
The Republican Party wasn’t yet full-on authoritarian, but it was willing to do whatever it took to get what it wanted, and disdainful of the legitimacy of its opposition. That is, we were well along on the road to the Jan. 6 putsch — and toward a G.O.P. that has, in effect, endorsed that putsch and seems all too likely to try one again.”
“Parts of Afghanistan have warmed twice as much as the global average. Spring rains have declined, most worryingly in some of the country’s most important farmland. Droughts are more frequent in vast swaths of the country, including a punishing dry spell now in the north and west, the second in three years.
Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.
And while it would be facile to attribute the conflict in Afghanistan to climate change, the effects of warming act as what military analysts call threat multipliers, amplifying conflicts over water, putting people out of work in a nation whose people largely live off agriculture, while the conflict itself consumes attention and resources.”
“. . . Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.
“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.” “
“. . . We now live in a broken-windows world. I would argue that it began a decade ago, when Barack Obama called on Americans to turn a chapter on a decade of war and “focus on nation-building here at home,” which became a theme of his re-election campaign.
It looked like a good bet at the time. Osama bin Laden had just been killed. The surge in Iraq had stabilized the country and decimated Al Qaeda there. The Taliban were on the defensive. Relations with Russia had been “reset.” China was still under the technocratic leadership of Hu Jintao. The Arab Spring, eagerly embraced by Obama as “a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” seemed to many to portend a more hopeful future for the Middle East (though some of us were less sanguine). . . . “
“For the past three and a half months, I fought day and night, nonstop, in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province against an escalating and bloody Taliban offensive. Coming under frequent attack, we held the Taliban back and inflicted heavy casualties. Then I was called to Kabul to command Afghanistan’s special forces. But the Taliban already were entering the city; it was too late.
I am exhausted. I am frustrated. And I am angry.”
Mr. Azizzada is a community organizer based in Los Angeles who has been coordinating efforts to evacuate Afghans from Kabul.
“The day our lives fell apart, Sunday, Aug. 15, I received a call from a close friend in Kabul. Usually cool and confident, vital skills for a community leader in a complex, conflict-ridden place like Afghanistan, my friend now whispered in desperation. “I need to get out,” he said. “Help me.” In the background, I could hear the city bustling nervously as millions of people absorbed the fact of the Taliban’s conquest.”