Edward Mortimer was until 2006 the Director of Communications in the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General. He is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer at the Salzburg Global Seminar. (April 2008)

Big Ideas for a New President

Seven years have passed since the Clinton administration left office. It’s election year, and the prospects look good for a Democratic—perhaps even a Clinton—comeback. Those who served under Bill Clinton, whether or not they hope to be back in office themselves, can reasonably hope that the public will be interested …

Saying the Unsayable

“As he has been a target for the Iraqi police, he will now be the target for Arab and pro-Arab intellectuals. The book will drive them crazy.” —A.M. Rosenthal, The New York Times, April 13, 1993 Personally I should fear the Iraqi police much more than the …

Iraq: The Road Not Taken

By mid-April, well over two million Iraqis, mainly Kurds, had fled their homes and were struggling to survive in freezing conditions on the high mountain range that forms the frontier with Iran and Turkey. A thousand a day, mainly babies and small children, were estimated to be dying either directly …

The Thief of Baghdad

The publications under review about the regime of Saddam Hussein have at least one thing in common: they were all written before August 2, 1990. None of the authors had foreknowledge that, in the small hours of that day, the armed forces of Iraq would invade and occupy the entire …

The Road Not Taken

Beirut, 1963: a Muslim secondary-school classroom, full of eager young Arab nationalists in their final year. The visitor, a Shi’ite Muslim cleric, recent immigrant to Lebanon from Iran, doesn’t arouse much interest—even if (with hindsight at least) “there was something special about him. He cut a striking figure. His looks—he …

Yalta & the Fate of Poland

The following remarks are extracted from the proceedings of a seminar held at All Souls College, Oxford, on October 22, 1985. The seminar, one of a series on “The Partition of Europe 1945–1985,” was entitled “Yalta and the Origins of Partition.” The principal speaker was Sir Frank Roberts, G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., …

To the Tehran Station

Discussing Avicenna, Roy Mottahedeh refers to the “tradition of so many premodern writers who saw intellectual modesty as appropriate only for the intellectually modest.” Had he himself belonged to that tradition he might well have described his own work as an attempt to do for Iran’s Islamic revolution what Edmund …

The Faraway War

Four years have passed since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and we in the West still do not seem to know what to think about it, let alone what to do about it. For most of us it is still, as Czechoslovakia was for Chamberlain in 1938, “a quarrel in …