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Political Islam now commands the Middle East

No sane American president takes office hoping for war. Woodrow Wilson, a 56-year-old Princeton academic, said it would be ‘the irony of fate’ if his presidency came to be dominated by foreign affairs. He spoke in 1913. Joe Biden came to office in 2021 promising to end the ‘forever wars’ of Iraq and Afghanistan. But

Europe needs to step up on Ukraine

Vasyl, a burly, tattooed infantry commander who lost a leg to a Russian mine on the eastern front, sits swinging his remaining leg on the edge of the treatment table in the ‘Unbroken’ rehabilitation clinic in Lviv. He’s been inside the Russian trenches 50 times, he tells me. His stories are reminiscent of the first

Netanyahu has failed Israel

Jerusalem Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza is rapidly evolving into a war with all of Iran’s proxies on its borders, including Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Its outcome will determine the country’s future for a generation, perhaps longer. The conflict is not even in its third week, and as I write these words the inevitable

Can Israel’s hostages be saved?

The last message that Shaked Haran saw from her father was just after 7.30 a.m. on the Saturday of the Hamas attacks in Israel. Her parents were in the safe room of their house in Kibbutz Be’eri, just outside the Gaza Strip. The message said that ‘masked terrorists’ were ‘swarming’ everywhere. ‘We don’t think we’ll

How to win four Nobel Prizes in literature

‘Hi Jacques,’ I say as the publisher of Fitzcarraldo Editions appears on my Zoom screen with his Franz Hals facial hair. ‘Thanks for making the time.’ I explain, apologetically but cheerily, that I’m going to be asking him to give his basic ‘how I keep winning Nobel Prizes’ spiel – at which, I say, he’s

The World at War is the greatest documentary series ever made

To present a TV history documentary these days, one must first have access to the full Angels and Bermans dressing-up box – everything from britches to bonnets. The past must be experienced as pantalooned immersion: throw in some CGI cavalry charges or naval battles, plus artfully dressed period locations, back-alley washing-lines fluttering with greying rags,

The real reason for falling birth rates

No nation in history is known to have emerged from the grip of long-term low birth rates. This sobering reality should be somewhat concerning, given that 70 per cent of the world’s people now live in countries that are below the replacement-level tipping point – countries where, on average, women have fewer than two surviving

Ukraine’s fight has been eclipsed by the ‘Other War’

The first indication that this was a literary festival like no other came with the request to provide ‘proof of life’ questions in case of kidnap. I’ve been to some unusual festivals – earlier this year I found myself discussing war-rape, ancient and modern, with the classicist Mary Beard on a barefoot island in the

Notes on...

What could be more Shakespearean than a ghost?

In the final series of the Netflix programme The Crown, Princess Diana will appear as a ghost. We are told that her apparitions will be ‘thoughtful and sensitive’ – which is rather disappointing for anyone hoping for her to have a recurring role, like Marty Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), perhaps wearing that white