The Born Soldier

Karl Marlantes

Canadian troops entering combat in World War I
Bettmann/Getty Images

In his classic war memoir, Storm of Steel, Ernst Jünger writes about many things other than combat, but all take us into the trenches as he saw them. He writes about fear and panic. He writes about having to live outside, just like a wild animal. Jünger sees the beauty and perhaps you will see it too. This doesn’t need to change how you judge war; coral snakes and tsunamis are beautiful too.

Unserious Austen

Adam Thirlwell

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon and Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin in Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship, 2016
Amazon Studios/Westerly Films/Roadside Attractions

Trying to examine Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, our definitions like adaptation or rewrite become faintly anachronistic, or clumsy. Stillman’s cinematic innovation has been to bathe cinema in a literary tone, a charmed artificiality. Now he has made an adaptation of Lady Susan—an early Jane Austen novella, unpublished until after her death.

Red and Blue Agony

Elizabeth Drew

Protesters heckle Hillary Clinton as she speaks, Riverside, California, May 24, 2016
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The agonies this country’s two major political parties are going through were foreshadowed last fall, but in both cases it’s worse than anyone expected. The rebellions by anti-establishment populists on both sides have produced two divided parties. And in the case of the all-but-official nominees, Trump and Hillary Clinton, we have the unusual situation of two imperiled candidates.

Wittgenstein’s Handles

Christopher Benfey

A door handle in the house Ludwig Wittgenstein designed with architect Paul Engelmann, 1972
Studio Hubert Urban

When Wittgenstein returned to philosophy, the idea that drove him beyond all others was that the nature of language had been misunderstood by philosophers. They were better conceived of as a part of the activity of life. As such, they were more like tools. It is the utility of handles that Wittgenstein insists on here: “The functions of words are as diverse as the functions of these objects.” The pump don’t work ’cause the vandals took the handles.

Shakespeare: War Is King

Garry Wills

The crowning of Henry VI (Steven Sutcliffe) in Barbara Gaines’s Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Henry VI, Part 1, May, 2016
Liz Lauren

Barbara Gaines, the founding director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, in a sequence she has called “Tug of War,” has grouped six of Shakespeare’s so-called “history plays” into two sequences, the first being performed this spring, the second in the autumn. Gaines portrays a war culture that affects everyone and everything. She does not pretend she is presenting Shakespeare’s own views, but rather looks back on the plays as cultural products to be weighed in our terms.

The Kurds: A Divided Future?

Joost Hiltermann

Kurdish Security Forces (Asayish) secures a road as residents watch ambulances carrying the bodies of the two Syrian toddlers and their mother, who drowned while trying to reach Greece, at the border town of Kobani, Syria, September 4, 2015
Rod Said/Reuters

The long-term aspirations of the Kurds are oddly similar to those of the jihadists they are fighting: both seem equally intent on erasing the old borders of the post-Ottoman order. When I drew this somewhat audacious parallel in conversation with a PYD official in northern Syria during a visit in March, he flashed a bright smile and said: “Daesh threw the first bomb. We will reap the result.”

The Iran Deal: Myth and Reality

Jeremy Bernstein

Arak heavy water nuclear facilities, Iran, January 15, 2011
Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad/AP Images

Enough time has passed since the deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program that one can begin to make a rational assessment about how successful it has been at limiting Iran’s nuclear capacity and bringing its program under international oversight. My view is that the deal has been more successful than I expected, although there are flaws.

The Cost of Fake Democracy

Helen Epstein

Police chasing a supporter of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, Kampala, Uganda, February 19, 2016
Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

It’s become fashionable lately to disparage democracy. From the failure of “nation building” attempts in Iraq, to the rise of Donald Trump, some see government of the people as a liability in a violent and polarized world. Readers who find such arguments appealing might want to consider moving to impoverished, corruption-ridden Uganda, ruled by President Yoweri Museveni for thirty years through a combination of bribery, blackmail, and brute force.

Michael Ratner’s Army

David Cole

Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, with a report on conditions at the Guantánamo Bay, New York, August 4, 2004
Peter Morgan/Reuters

Though it remains open, Guantánamo is, thankfully, a shadow of its former self. The real credit lies with no president, but with the hundreds of lawyers and thousands of activists who have stepped forward to advocate for Guantánamo inmates. And many of these lawyers and activists in turn owe much of their inspiration to one man: the human rights attorney Michael Ratner, who died on May 11.