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home : columnists : mac deford
January 21, 2020 

Mac Deford: An Overview of Today's Chaotic Republican Party - and the Democratic One Too
It must be a pretty dreary time to be a serious Republican. (I haven't been one since George W. Bush got us into Iraq.) Tonight, everyone interested in American politics will be tuned to Fox - beer and popcorn at the ready - to watch the Top Ten Republican presidential candidates go at it. But of course what will be . . .
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mac Deford: Who's on First? An Overview of Today's Chaotic Middle East
The current upheavals in the Middle East - tectonic shifts, really - are shaking up the strategic landscape in new, and confusing, even contradictory, ways. And while much is made of the major fault line in Islam, between the majority Sunni and their Shiite cousins, it's not quite that simple. Who knows what the . . .
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Mac Deford: A Bastille Day to Truly Celebrate
Though not everyone was celebrating: "It's a very bad deal . . . a stunning historic mistake." A reaction, of course, to President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. By whom? Why, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, of course. Netanyahu, whose settlement activities in the West Bank have created a lose-lose choice for . . .
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Mac Deford: You Say You Were Wondering About the Greek/EU Imbroglio
OK, pour yourself a really strong cup of black coffee. Today, we're going to talk about the European Union's problem with Greece (and vice versa), about Sunday's decisive "No" vote in Greece, and the possibility - perhaps likelihood - of a Greek exit ("Grexit") from the Eurozone. And, how we got where we are . . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Mac Deford: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the US - What Do These Countries Have in Common?
The tragedy in Charleston is still reverberating, US and international markets continue to swing wildly as the Greek/EU imbroglio remains unresolved, Iran's Supreme Leader exudes ambiguity as the latest deadline for an Iran nuclear deal is once again extended. An ISIS-inspired jihadist kills dozens of European . . .
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Mac Deford: Guns, Flags - And Lobbyists
The racist murder last week of nine blacks in their Charleston church elicited outrage from politicians, even southern Republican ones.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Mac Deford: Magna Carta's 800th Anniversary - And Some Other Stuff
Monday, in case you missed it, was the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by bad King John at Runnymede. President Obama would have been well advised to celebrate this monumental anniversary - at least it would have taken our minds off the rest of the news. (Though it would have raised the . . .
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Mac Deford: The Man Who Would Be King - And the One Who Wouldn't
Sunday's Turkish parliamentary elections - who usually gives them a second thought? - were noteworthy for a couple of reasons: it was not just a fine example of how democracy has taken hold in a former Third World country but an even finer lesson in the dangers of overreach: a tale of hubris and . . .
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Mac Deford: Time for a Little Optimism; Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
ISIS expands. It overruns the capital city of Iraq's largest province and now controls a good hunk of western Iraq along the Syrian border all the way to Jordan; it long ago reached far north into Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. And beyond, in Syria, it rules over most of the eastern half of the country. In the far . . .
(1 comments)

Thursday, May 21, 2015
Mac Deford: Baltimore; Old Dogs, Old Tricks
I grew up in Baltimore. It was a long time ago. By the end of the 1950s, I was only a summer visitor. Baltimore, like so many older American cities then and now: it's always been segregated. In the 1950s, the only colored people - that was the politically correct term then; 'black' was considered rude, derogatory . . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Mac Deford: Dynasties and Non-Entities; The Greatest Nation or What?
Here we are - nearly 80 weeks to go before our next presidential election. And already we're bored with it. Indeed, if you watch MSNBC or Fox News or CNN, you might easily think the elections are this November, not the one 18 months away. And you certainly wouldn't be any more enlightened by watching those . . .
(1 comments)

Thursday, April 23, 2015
Mac Deford: Iran, Israel, Congress, and Prostitution
High fives all around - well, all around the White House, anyway. President Obama has scored a run in his Middle East foreign policy, arguably the only one in the six years of his presidency. Even more surprisingly, his Secretary of State John Kerry - he of the ever hopeful, ever naive, and always unsuccessful . . .
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Mac Deford: Bibi's Diplomatic Skills; The Lack Thereof Becomes the Key to the 2-State Solution
Thank you, Bibi, is what President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are surely saying, under their breath, as they survey the aftermath of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's admission in the run-up to last week's Israeli elections that, under his watch, there will be no Palestinian state. It's long been obvious, despite . . .
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Mac Deford: The Republican Senate; Warmongers, Incompetents?
Even supporters of President Obama have questioned whether he has a cohesive foreign policy strategy - or whether he and his White House advisors usually find themselves just winging it as they react to unfolding events. But compared to his dysfunctional Republican opposition in Congress, actively trying to . . .
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Mac Deford: Time to Interfere in Israeli Politics
Dear Israeli Voter, It is distasteful, no doubt, to read a letter from a non-Israeli, non-Jewish American obviously designed to interfere in your political process - but of course you understand that I'm only following the lead of your prime minister, whose recent Washington visit was so blatantly designed . . .
(1 comments)

Thursday, March 12, 2015
Mac Deford: "Periphery: Israel's Search for New Allies," by Yossi Alpher
Despite Congress's thunderous applause for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech, as he bluntly attacked President Obama's potential nuclear deal with Iran, the fact that over 50 Democratic congressmen boycotted it highlights the most important aspect of Netanyahu's visit: bipartisan support for Israel is no . . .
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Mac Deford: The Ukraine, and Russia and Europe and the US; Time for Serious Negotiations
Both Ukraine and Egypt held elections this past week. And both countries face formidable challenges. With key members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood in jail or dead, the Egyptians were given no serious choice. There was so little interest in the election, with its pre-ordained outcome . . .
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Mac Deford: A Different America; The New Gilded Age
The book that's garnered all the headlines this spring - that's a euphemistic term used in Maine for the endless season that begins as the snow melts and lasts until the ocean temperature reaches 50 - is, surprisingly, a 600-pager by a French economist, Thomas Piketty. . . .
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Mac Deford: The Fast Disappearing Secretary of State
Our peripatetic secretary of state has been less so these last few weeks since the collapse of his Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Lying low. And no wonder. It's hard to squeeze any good news out of the failure: We've learned useful information about the Israeli and Palestinian positions we didn't know . . .
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Mac Deford: Ostrich Obama; Head Still in the Syrian Sand
President Obama's key foreign policy focus these days is the Ukraine, where military confrontation between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian activists increases daily. Whether the next step will involve undisguised Russian troops moving across Ukraine's eastern border or further devolution into civil war, the only certainty is that the crisis will worsen. . . .
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Mac Deford: Shinzo and Barack: And Where Does Jinping Fit In?
It was a tumultuous week: in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian activists (or maybe just plain Russian activists) took over the center of several key cities; in the Middle East, Hamas and Fatah joined forces in the West Bank and Gaza as Israel's right-wing government turned its back on Secretary of State Kerry's nine-month-long peace effort.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Mac Deford: Obama's Failure: It's the Man - But Also the System
There are obviously people who voted for President Obama and think he's done a great job - but there are just a lot fewer of them than there used to be. I was reminded of this when I got an email the other day commenting on my column last week on US policy in the Middle East . . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Mac Deford: Palestinian-Israeli Peace; Back to the Back Burner
The Palestinian-Israeli peace train just left the station, once again empty. Secretary of State Kerry's decision last summer to focus on finding a solution to the decades-long insoluble issue was not necessarily wrong. But what was wrong, in retrospect, was his apparent decision to do so without getting any . . .
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Mac Deford: Kerry's crisis management - A for Effort; C for Results
Indefatigable crisis-tamper-downer John Kerry had a flight pattern this past week more erratic than the missing Malaysian airplane. He was returning to Washington from Saudi Arabia (and The Hague and Amman and points in between) where he had accompanied President Obama in smooth-talking . . .
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Mac Deford: "My Promised Land; The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel" - and Renewed Triumph?
What with the Russian take-over of the Crimea and the bizarre Malaysian flight mystery, it takes more than the third anniversary of the start of Syria's civil war or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visiting the White House to re-focus anyone's attention back to the Middle East. . . .
(1 comments)

Thursday, March 20, 2014
Mac Deford: Lost in the Crimea - Obama to Netanyahu: Last Chance
It's been a good couple of weeks for President Obama on the international front. Well, not maybe in terms of substance, but who focuses on substance these days, anyway? It all started with the Putin takeover of the Crimea which, while it certainly was not good news for Obama . . .
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Mac Deford: Cui bono: Putin May Win in Crimea, But Loses Big on the World Scene
Was it only 10 days ago the Sochi Olympics were wrapped up? $50 billion, and unless you won a medal, the only thing anyone will remember about the event is that it took place just before Russia invaded the Crimea. That's the bad news. But the good news is that now, nearly a week after Russia's military takeover . . .
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Mac Deford: Cutting the Defense Budget; Congress Puts Itself on the Spot
They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain,
There're hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain . . .

That sweetly cynical ballad from the button-downed, short-haired Kingston Trio of the pre-hippy late '50s and early '60s reminds us . . .

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Mac Deford: Dramatic Syrian Intervention; Obama and Putin Join Together
Secretary of State Kerry is a dynamo: one minute you see him on the evening news - squeezed in on NBC's Olympic coverage between bouts of curling, an even more boring spectator sport than cricket - delivering a forceful and convincing speech in Indonesia on the danger of climate change (so forceful it prompted Newt Gingrich to call for his resignation). . . .
(1 comments)

Thursday, February 20, 2014
Mac Deford: Exceptionalism Revisited; The Age of Mediocrity
The pictures of President Obama and President Hollande of France, the country that is our oldest friend, touring Thomas Jefferson's Monticello screamed at us, "The Age of Mediocrity." The contrast, between today's two living presidents and that earlier epoch of French-US relations . . .
(2 comments)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Mac Deford: Syrian Peace: The Road Runs Through Tehran
The first round of face-to-face peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and various opposition forces ended last week without any decisive results. To be fair, the odds going into Geneva of reaching an accord - or even of creating a "framework" for peace . . .
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Mac Deford: President Obama & the State of the Union; Senator Collins & Iran; Pete Seeger & War
Another year, another State of the Union speech. Maybe every other year is often enough to hear a president - even, or perhaps especially, a particularly eloquent one - drone on about forlorn hopes and unfulfilled promises. So we'll give President Obama's annual bromide a pass . . .
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Mac Deford: Et tu, Brute? - An Open Letter to Senator Collins
You have served Maine well, establishing yourself as one of only two or three moderate Republicans in the Senate. Mainers are particularly glad to have you representing us in Washington when one considers the bad press Maine gets nationwide for its Augusta inhabitant . . .
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Mac Deford: The Arab World; Seven Lean Years and Then Some
Pessimist alert: the situation in what began as the Arab Spring is moving from bad - Egypt's Mubarak, Syria's Assad, Iraq's Saddam - to worse: Egypt's ever-stricter military dictatorship, Syria's three-year-old civil war, Iraq's renewed chaos. A downward spiral with no end in sight. . . .
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Mac Deford: The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Effort; Kerry Meets Sisyphus
A hospital spokesman announced late last week that the condition of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has been in a coma for eight years, had dramatically worsened and that only "a miracle" could save him. Sharon's sudden decline coincided with the tenth visit of Secretary of State Kerry . . .
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Mac Deford: For the Middle East; Another Lean Year?
The end of another year. As President Obama made abundantly clear in his end-of-year press conference - his body language even more eloquently than his actual language - it's a good year to see the end of. And a year that most inhabitants of the Middle East are surely glad to see end . . .
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Mac Deford: Afghanistan; 10 More Years of Obama's "Good War"?
As Congress passes a budget that specifically excludes long-term unemployment benefits at a time when structural changes - globalization, computerization, robotization - have permanently destroyed millions of jobs in the US, it's noteworthy that no one in Congress seems . . .
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Mac Deford: Rethinking Syria (in a Big Way); Assad's Gotta Stay
If you want a fine example of a leopard changing its spots, read George Will last week when he analyzed Secretary of State Kerry's deal with Iran and praised it, correctly concluding that it was preferable to the alternative, war. If Will, who's never met a conservative position he didn't support . . .
(2 comments)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Mac Deford: East Is East and West Is West - And the Twain Are Meeting, Head-On
Vice President Joe Biden set off at the beginning of this week on perhaps the most sensitive and significant foreign policy venture of his five years under President Obama. Indeed, it may be a more important undertaking than anything Hillary Clinton did in the 956,733 miles . . .
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Mac Deford: Finally, a Successful Week for Obama; A Nuclear Option, Then a Nuclear Deal
President Obama took on two nuclear battles last week and emerged victorious in both. The first was his very active, behind-the-scenes support for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to ignite the so-called "nuclear option," which involved the Democratic majority in the Senate . . .
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Mac Deford: Iran; A Deal Now - or War Later?
For the last two weeks, Netanyahu has been preemptively attacking the president over a deal with Iran that hasn't occurred. Just yesterday, Iran and the US and its allies in the venture, the P5+1, resumed negotiations in Geneva as Netanyahu continued his attack. . . .
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Mac Deford: Iran: A Deal Now - or War Later?
The overwhelming tragedy of death and destruction that struck the Philippines last week - the highest winds to hit land in modern history - overshadowed a disaster in the making that could, over time, lead to a much worse, and man-made, tragedy: the collapse of the nuclear negotiations . . .
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Mac Deford: Optimistic or Pessimistic? The Road Ahead for the US
Yes, this is another column about Syria. But - bear with me - only indirectly. A few weeks ago, I was at a dinner party where the subject of Syria came up: 120,000 dead, twice that many wounded, millions displaced abroad and millions more displaced at home. Quite apart from the strategic implications of growing numbers of radicalized Islamists, is there nothing, someone asked . . .
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Mac Deford: US Diplomacy; How Come Everyone's Mad at Us?
It hasn't been the best of times - this week, this month, indeed, this year - for American foreign policy. The US looks imbecilic abroad when a few dozen of our own Congressmen can bring the government to a standstill, with a compromise solution only offering the same hotheads another shot in the new year. Nor, of course, did the amateurish roll-out of Obamacare enhance the . . .
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Mac Deford: Fact Stranger Than Fiction: Ted Cruz as Democratic Plant?
A White House spokesman, speaking anonymously, vigorously denied a rumor that was making the rounds in the nation's capital earlier this week: "It is totally untrue that, when Senator Cruz was attending Princeton or Harvard Law School, he was recruited as an undercover agent for the Democratic Party." The denial came after an article appeared on a little-known blog detailing how . . .
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Mac Deford: Those golden days of yesteryear - Missing Nixon!
I was flipping through the NY Times' online paper the other day trying to find out what was going on in the rest of the world. Government shutdown and debt ceiling blowup, all day every day, can get a little monotonous. So when I saw an article headlined, "Country Collapsing," I was ready to skip it. Yeah, I know we're collapsing. What I want to know is how the rest of the world is . . .
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Mac Deford: Taking On Republican Anarchists; When Impeachment Might Be a Badge of Honor
Winston Churchill once famously said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms that have been tried." I wonder, if he were alive today, watching the Republican Tea Party anarchists going through their destructive antics, if he would still give democracy, at least the American version, such a free pass. . . .
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Mac Deford: Obama to Iran at the UN; Let's Give Peace a Chance
Tuesday, September 24, 8 a.m. - In just a few hours, President Obama will give his annual speech before the UN General Assembly, a more important one than usual. He's going to talk about US-Iranian relations. No doubt, it'll be another trademark effort, rhetorically impressive, dramatically delivered, but, like his promising speech in Cairo the spring of that first year . . .
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Mac Deford: It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's . . . SuperPutin!!??
Saved by Putin. Last week, President Obama was on the verge of an embarrassing rejection by Congress that would have forced him to choose between two equally disastrous responses: ignore Congress's wishes - which he, Obama, had, after all, unnecessarily sought - and then initiate a military strike against Syria which was more likely to add to the chaos in the area than . . .
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Mac Deford: The New Great Game; Making It Up as They Go Along
It's half-time in the big new international contest - a mixture of American football, Syrian soccer and Russian roulette. (It also resembles English cricket to the extent that it seems to go on forever.) And the players, skilled in other sports, are trying to rapidly adapt themselves to this new international game even as the rules remain unwritten. . . .
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Mac Deford: A Dithering American President in Way Over His Head - But We've Got to Back Him
It's hard to remember the last time a president appeared so naked and feckless as has President Obama during the last two weeks, waffling and back-pedaling his way over and under, around and through, his self-imposed "red line" in Syria. His press conference in Sweden yesterday, when, in addition to forcefully restating his case for military action he said it was . . .
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Mac Deford: Syrian Swamp, Middle East Morass; Time to Think Big, Beyond Tomorrow
President Obama has backed himself into a corner. A US air attack against Syria has become necessary. But the reality is that it'll be more in reaction to Obama's threats than to Assad's use of chemical weapons. It was just over a year ago that Obama made his forceful statement that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would be a "red line" that would require a US response. . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Mac Deford: The Egyptian Coup and the US Response; Emotionally Satisfying or Practically Relevant?
Our Congressmen, led by that dynamic duo of Republican foreign policy meddlers, Sens. McCain and Graham, are giving us another example of why they're held in such rock-bottom esteem by American voters: those that know where Egypt is (as well as a few who probably don't) are demanding we cut off our military aid, an approach that could help assure a bad situation gets . . .
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Mac Deford: The Unwinding of America - And corruption and dynasties and American politics in the 21st century
Next rainy day, if you feel like depressing yourself, read George Packer's The Unwinding, a 400-page look, as its subtitle says, into the "inner history of the new America." If you preferred the old America, here's why: the book shows the breakdown of the middle class, almost an American invention in the 20th century, as our industries collapsed, our safety nets filled with . . .
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Mac Deford: US Wisely Reacts to al-Qaeda Plot? or US Buckles Under al-Qaeda Threat?
Two dozen US diplomatic posts were closed this past weekend because of a threatened attack by al-Qaeda's offshoot in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP); the vast majority will remain shuttered through the rest of the week. This unprecedented reaction by President Obama received strong bipartisan approval by Congress - which in itself is cause to question the . . .
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Mac Deford: The Middle East (again); Fiddling at the Edges - Got a Better Idea?
As the Middle East explodes before our eyes, our new Secretary of State John Kerry devotes his time to what, under the circumstances, one can't help but consider yesteryear's problem, finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli nightmare. There's no doubt it remains a serious issue, at the heart in fact of the generations-old instability that the Arab Spring has brought, once again . . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Mac Deford: The Great Gatsby Meets Washington
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that held them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Mac Deford: Egypt: Where Do We - and Where Did We - Fit In?
Nothing like a good military takeover in one of the key Arab countries to bring out the best in the chattering classes (me included, of course). Analysts, and politicians, and columnists and their editorial boards, were on all sides of the issue: it was a coup, it wasn't a coup; the US interfered, the US didn't interfere enough. . . .
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Mac Deford: Turkey; Ataturk's Unfinished Revolution
Istanbul: I sit atop the new, lean, boutique hotel that has just opened in Istanbul's historic financial district, a few doors down from the Turkish Central Bank, facing the square where the Galata Bridge crosses the Golden Horn. The late-night view from its top-floor open-air bar is as fantastic as from any hotel anywhere in the world: a lit-up panorama of Turkey's historic . . .
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Mac Deford: Beirut: Becalmed in a Sea of Turmoil
It's been a tumultuous week across the Middle East, but arriving last Saturday night in Lebanon, often the least stable country in the area, one would have thought that peace and harmony prevailed throughout the region. Driving down the Corniche, Beirut's seaside boulevard, just before midnight was more like Times Square New Year's Eve than the capital of a small country where 50 . . .
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Mac Deford: Big Brother's Watching? What, Me Worry?
So, it turns out, Big Brother is indeed watching. But, ho hum, who cares? CNN was interviewing people at random to get the public reaction to the news that the US government is storing our phone records and reviewing our Internet exchanges. While some of those interviewed reacted negatively, the majority were supportive. The overall reaction was best summed up by one . . .
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Mac Deford: McCain and Syria (and Russia); What's Worth Trying and What's Not
Five weeks ago, the "game changer" in the Syrian civil war was the apparent use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Assad's government. Senator McCain, the most vociferous of the "must get involved in Syria" camp, was obviously delighted with the new ammunition to support his warmongering. But President Obama, although it meant some fudging of red lines, has stayed . . .
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Mac Deford: Kerry, Obama & Israeli-Palestinian Peace; Soon All Will Be Revealed?
Secretary of State John Kerry is just back from yet another visit to the Middle East to jumpstart an Israeli-Palestinian peace as part of a longer trip that included stops in Ethiopia and other African hot spots. He's barely been in the job three months but with his miles piling up, he seems intent on breaking Hillary Clinton's million-mile travel record during her four years as secretary. . . .
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Mac Deford: The Dog That Barked But Didn't Bite; The IRS "Scandal" and Other Republican Follies
The American public is often pilloried for being out of touch, unaware or even uninterested in the inner - and indeed outer - workings of our democracy. A recent poll had something like 35% - or was it 45%? - of the American public unable to name a single Supreme Court justice. Which may reflect one of two things: over-confidence in a country or government that can come out on the . . .
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Mac Deford: Pakistan and the US; Third Chance for Sharif, Second for Obama
There's not much good news coming out of the broader Middle East these days and so the successful election this past weekend in Pakistan is cause for at least muted elation. It is, after all, the first time in Pakistan's beleaguered 65-year history that a democratically elected government has been replaced by a democratically elected government. . . .
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Mac Deford: 2013 America; No Longer the Indispensable Nation, But Not Dispensable Either
Tuesday's news out of Moscow that Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are hoping to convene an international conference to seek a negotiated end to the Syrian civil war could signal the most significant American diplomatic accomplishment of recent years. But the fact that the NY Times buried the breakthrough on page 12 shows just how . . .
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Mac Deford: Syria's Civil War; What Do You Do When All Options Are Bad?
Syria, which has been percolating in and out of public view for the last two years, exploded into full sight this past week as a result of revelations that the Assad government may have used nerve gas against rebel-controlled areas. With over 70,000 already dead - the result of air strikes, heavy shelling of populated areas, and other deadly conventional military means . . .
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Mac Deford: The Background-Check Vote; What's wrong with the Senate? No, what's wrong with the country?
Last week was a bad one for the homeland (that's the politically correct term we've been taught to call our country since 9/11). And the worst thing was not the Boston Marathon bombing, tragic as it was. Rather, the most profoundly bad news was the refusal of the US Senate to vote into law changes on background checks for gun-buyers. . . .
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Mac Deford: The Boston Marathon Bombing
The Boston Marathon attack was not 9/11. But the awful shock, that kick-in-the-gut feeling it created, brought back memories of that first, terrifying run-in with international terrorism. The death rate in Boston was minuscule, 1/1,000th of those lost on 9/11, but that it happened at one of the nation's happiest, carefree athletic events made it particularly painful . . .
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Mac Deford: An April Trifecta: Or Let's Try Diplomacy for a Change
"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Henry II's frustrated plea to be rid of Thomas a Becket is surely mimicked these days with regard to Kim Jong Un and his whole turbulent regime. And not so much in Washington and Seoul - though surely in both capitals such deliverance is devoutly wished - as in Beijing, where their unruly puppets in Pyongyang could, through . . .
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Mac Deford: Obama & Netanyahu; All Quiet on the West Bank Front
Until just before President Obama bade farewell to Prime Minister Netanyahu, it was looking as if Obama's visit to Israel and the West Bank had been the proverbial dog-and-pony show, Obama-style: long on verbiage, short on results. But, in fact, the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement that he worked out at Tel Aviv airport . . .
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Mac Deford: The US & Israel & Iran: Who's Bluffing?
While the Republicans consider how to reinvent themselves to become more popular with blacks and Hispanics and Asians and gays - think Pope Francis trying to reinvent Catholicism to attract Jews and Unitarians - President Obama is on his first presidential visit to Israel in order, according to the NYTimes, "to win the hearts of the Israeli people." . . .
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Mac Deford: "The President Is Not Bluffing" (Say it ain't so, Joe)
Next week will mark the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, the lowest point of many lows in George W. Bush's failed presidency. What better way to celebrate it than the bipartisan resolution proposed last week by Senators Lindsey Graham and Robert Menendez, drafted by the right-wing Israeli lobby AIPAC, that reads that in the event Israel attacks Iran . . .
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Mac Deford: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - Camden Conference on the Middle East
Plus ça change etc. has pretty much been the defining cliche about the Middle East. But trite and overused though it may be, it's still apt. This year's Camden Conference, "The Middle East: What Next?" - the 26th such two-day foreign affairs get-together in Maine's midcoast in mid-winter - was probably the best ever. The speakers, before an audience of nearly 1,000 spread across . . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Mac Deford: New Secretary of State; New Foreign Policy?
This past weekend, on Fareed Zakaria's Sunday talk show, the suggestion was made that rather than once again react to North Korea's provocative behavior with further sanctions - that, in an endless cycle, seem only to provoke worse behavior from the world's most sanctioned and isolated country - maybe offering a few carrots, like the prospect of a more normal relationship . . .
(1 comments)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Mac Deford: State of the Union, the Pope, Downton Abbey, and the Camden Conference
Talk about a momentous week. President Obama delivers his annual State of the Union to a fractured Congress, the pope calls it quits, and Downton Abbey announces it's closing down for the season this weekend. All that - and we haven't even mentioned that the North Koreans tested another and much larger nuclear weapon or that Banana Joe won Best in Show at Westminster.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Mac Deford: Hagel Hearings; Republican Senators explain Congress's single-digit ratings (again)
The Senate Armed Services Committee, surely one of the most important committees in what we euphemistically refer to as the Upper House of our Congress, gave a nice, day-long display at the end of last week as to why Congress's approval rating, in a new survey, remained in single digits, edged out in popularity by lice and colonoscopies but ahead at least of the famous . . .
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Mac Deford: Secretary of State Kerry's Top Agenda Item; Rethinking Syria?
President Obama's Republican opponents complained that the domestic elements of his inaugural address were too partisan, too focused on what he hopes to accomplish over the next four years, presumably preferring Obama's usual vision of lofty idealism which, thanks to those very same Republicans, the country is no closer to than it was four years ago. . . .
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Mac Deford: What're You All Complaining About? He Tried Bipartisanship
A new and decidedly partisan President Obama introduced himself to the nation Monday. Considering the myriad of problems facing the country - an eroding middle class, a deteriorating education system, the eventual soaring costs of our entitlement programs - it is encouraging to see a more aggressive Obama emerge. Tough problems demand a tough president. . . .
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Mac Deford: 1st Black President to Be Sworn in for 2nd Term; Is This a Great Country, or What?
Or what? Aaron Burr, our third vice president, whose main claim to fame, unfortunately, was killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, was the son of a noted theologian and the grandson of the legendary evangelical minister Jonathan Edwards. But he was also a son of the Enlightenment and ambivalent about religion. . . .
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Mac Deford: Republican Reaction to Chuck Hagel's Nomination
If the fiscal cliff deal - same road, same can, another kick - was not an overwhelming victory for President Obama, it sure fortified his backbone and inspired him to a more aggressive stance against his die-hard Republican opposition. Looking down the road two months to the upcoming need to raise the debt ceiling, Obama warned: "If Congress in any way suggests they're . . .
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Mac Deford: The Fiscal Cliff Shenanigans; There's a Better Day a-Comin'
Another sterling moment in the annals of American democracy, 21st-century style. The fiscal cliff was not a cliff, of course, just a metaphor - though if you add in the lemmings, it's not a bad description of how Congress leads us. Oh sure, we elect Congress, so it's ultimately our fault. But the people we elect we once believed were in it for the good of the country . . .
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Mac Deford: Newtown Massacre; How Will It End?
Right after the Newtown schoolchildren were shot to death, President Obama promised "to use whatever power this office holds" to prevent further massacres. There is "no excuse for inaction." New York's Mayor Bloomberg, reacting to Obama: "It's time for the president to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do. A CBS poll taken over the two-day period immediately . . .
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Mac Deford: The Middle East and Worst-Case Scenarios; Tough Questions, No Answers
As the turmoil in the Arab World goes, not surprisingly, from bad to worse, confusion to chaos, the always relevant question becomes even more critical: What, if anything, should the United States be doing? But maybe that's no longer the really relevant question. Maybe Washington should be looking further down the road and asking "What are the worst-case scenarios and how . . .
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Mac Deford: Israel and Palestine; When Military Strength Is Not Enough
Well, that's it. That's the final blow. Don't worry: I'm not talking about the fiscal cliff. No, what I'm talking about is much worse, long-term - the death knell of the two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Ever since President Obama leaped into the Middle East with his eloquent, naive Cairo speech in the spring of 2009, and then misread the adulation from the Arab World . . .
(3 comments)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Mac Deford: And Now to Shoot Ourselves, Once Again, in the Foot
ABU DHABI, November 28 - Cease-fire in Gaza!!! Hallelujah! What a wonderful moment it was: for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had a stunning cameo role in this successful play; for Egyptian President Morsi, the only player who was actually talking to all the parties; for Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's leader, who greatly increased the popularity and legitimacy of Hamas among . . .
(2 comments)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Mac Deford: Gaza; (Another) moment of truth for Israel (and Obama)
Whatever else results from the renewed Gaza violence, one hopes that President Obama doesn't once again insert the US into that failed role as the honest broker seeking a two-state solution that in the end accomplishes nothing other than illustrating Israeli intransigence and US incompetence.
(1 comments)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Mac Deford: 4 Stars, 2 Wars, 2 Women; Does It Add Up?
Oh, the frustrations of the deadline cut-off date a columnist at a weekly newspaper faces, unable as he is to predict when the results of an apparently close presidential race will be known, and unwilling to write three columns in advance to cover the yet-to-be-known winner or the possibility of a 2000-style Gore-Bush elongated affair.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Mac Deford: The Economy, the Middle East, Women's Rights; How Could Voters Switch to Romney?
After eight years of Bush and his failed wars and collapsed economy, it seemed a rational choice for many independent and moderate Republican voters who had supported Bush to vote for Obama. So what is the rationale for many of those same voters switching this year back to the Republicans?
(3 comments)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Mac Deford: Horses and Bayonets, Mali and Tumul - And a Boring Time Was Had by All
Perhaps the only thing worse than having to listen to Monday night's presidential debate about foreign policy is having to write about it. (Reading about it, I hasten to add, can be quite rewarding. See below.) To be sure, the debate was marginally more exciting than the San Francisco Giants' lopsided, 9-zip victory over St. Louis. But barely.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Mac Deford: Round Two to Obama; Too Little, Too Late?
Tuesday night's town hall debate raised to an even more obvious level the question still hanging in the air from the first Obama-Romney set-to two weeks ago: Where was President Obama in Denver?
(1 comments)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Mac Deford: Voting for Romney: This Year's Romney? Last Year's Romney? Next Year's Romney?
Mitt Romney's etch-a-sketch performance during last week's first debate not only befuddled President Obama - so confused by the "new" Romney, we're told by Obama's White House spin doctors, he collapsed into lethargy - it also created a quandary for the American voter, or at least that 5% that is reputedly undecided.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Mac Deford: The Next Big Debate; Why Does Republican Summers Pull a Last-Minute No-Show?
. . . there's another debate - an important one for Maine - a foreign policy confrontation for the three candidates vying to replace Maine's well-regarded Senator Olympia Snowe. It's taking place a week from tonight, Thursday, October 11, at 6 p.m. at the Camden Opera House, pitting independent Angus King against Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers.
(1 comments)

Thursday, October 4, 2012
Mac Deford: America's in Luck: Romney to Shape Events in the Middle East
Some months back, once Mitt Romney had decisively nailed down the Republican nomination - with the jobless rate still over 8 percent, the economy growing sluggishly if at all, and Europe's economic problems threatening to make ours even worse - re-election seemed an uphill struggle for President Obama.
(1 comments)

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Mac Deford: Uprisings in the Muslim World; It's Not All About US
Eleven years ago this week, Alice McFadden, The Free Press publisher, contacted me to ask if I could write a column - the first, and the assumption at the time, the only one I would write - seeing if I could shed any light on that question making all the rounds after 9/11, "Why do they hate us?"
(4 comments)

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Mac Deford: Netanyahu Wants to Deter Iran; Obama Needs to Deter Israel
With elections less than eight weeks away, is it good news that foreign policy is pretty much off the radar of most American voters? In the great scheme of things, or at least of American things - particularly considering that the key to that great scheme is that the US remain the world's only superpower for the foreseeable future - an American electorate that gives international . . .
(2 comments)

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Mac Deford: The Tampa Convention; Isaac Did the Republicans a Favor After All
Watching Governor Romney - an honorific the Republican Party seldom uses since it refers to an unfortunate earlier incarnation of his as the moderate governor of a liberal state - is about as exciting as watching re-runs of the "Howdy Doody Show," though, to be fair, Howdy Doody comes across as more authentic.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Mac Deford: Isaac, Tampa & the Existential Conundrum
I had intended to write about the first two days of the Republican National Convention, but Hurricane Isaac blew the wind out of the sails of the opening days in Tampa, and with a Wednesday morning deadline, my column would have been restricted to a discussion of Ann Romney's Herculean humanization efforts on behalf of her accomplished, wooden, multi-millionaire flip-flop of a husband.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Mac Deford: Israel, Iran & the US; Succumbing to Blackmail
The American electorate may well have less interest in, and be less informed about, foreign policy than the citizens of any other First World country. It's best illustrated, at least today, by the international inexperience of the two Republican candidates who hope to be taking charge of the most powerful country in the world.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Mac Deford: The inside story (inside of Romney's head); Why Romney Picked Ryan
Win one for the Gipper? No, actually lose one for him. With a Fox News poll last week showing Romney 9% behind among likely voters, his choice of the ultra-conservative Paul Ryan as his vice president assures that Romney will never be president. And he knows it. What is Mitt Romney up to? What diabolical scheme is afoot?
(2 comments)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Mac Deford: Arab Spring; Israeli Fall?
As the Arab world continues down its rocky road away from the secular dictatorships of the last four decades, the short-term outlook remains explosive, even dangerous, but amidst all the chaos, there's one consoling thought: the future will surely be more democratic than the past.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012



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