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Today U.S. intelligence says that Al Qaeda has rebuilt itself to roughly the same level of capabilities it had before its attack on September 11, 2001—a shocking comment on the ineffectiveness of U.S. efforts in the war on terror. How is this possible? One critical fact is that Al Qaeda has been able to operate openly and with impunity over a vast swath of land that forms the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Barnett Rubin offers a fascinating explanation of how a demarcation line drawn by Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in 1893 has put us in this difficult position. It’s a perfect exercise demonstrating how history does matter, as does knowledge of local cultures. A must read.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”