Big, Important Writers Embarrassing Themselves

Robert W. Merry is Political Editor at the ‘realist’ web site The National Interest. He has written an article, The Ghosts of World War I Circle over Ukraine, posted to the site today. Here is a screen grab of the first paragraph:

MerryScreenShot

Any introductory college geography course would have explained to Mr. Merry that “accretion” as defined by Merriam Webster, is “a gradual process in which layers of a material are formed as small amounts are added over time: something that has grown or accumulated slowly: a product or result of gradual growth.”

In the interest of using a big, fancy-sounding word, Mr. Merry has written exactly the opposite of what he meant. One good thing about the internet though, you can fix it before too many people notice. The pertinent line now reads “World outrage has focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin to such an extent that Putin has suffered a huge loss of moral authority.”

Pompous: “Accretion.” Better: “Loss.”

Then there’s Robert D. Kaplan.

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History by Robert D Kaplan was essential reading during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s for Americans like me (and then-President Clinton) to whom the region was foreign, distant and exotic (It opened up a world of further great books, like Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Gray Falcon and The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, all of which would be timely and absorbing reads in this centennial summer of the outbreak of the Great War – in the Balkans).

Mr. Kaplan has his critics (1234 et al, but especially Tom Bissell), but he has been prolific and influential ever since Balkan Ghosts, traveling widely – and often to frightening places – and publishing more than a dozen books.

Too bad though, maybe that ‘The President Read My Book’ thing got too far into Mr. Kaplan’s head. Take a look at a column from July 10th by RDK headlined Why Moldova Urgently Matters. It begins this way “NATO’s Article 5 offers little protection against Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Iulian Fota, Romania’s presidential national security adviser, told me on a recent visit to Bucharest.” Right. Got it. Nowadays RDK meets with the Romanian Foreign Minister.

Next RDK quotes the Foreign Minister and then tells us what the Foreign Minister meant. Continue reading

Azawad Doesn’t Sound as Fun as Timbuktu

AngryWindCoverWhether you're one of Robert D. Kaplan's critics or admirers, his piece yesterday was a useful primer on the lay of the land, and the feel of things in the Sahara.

Those of us who are reluctant to vacation in a place they might be killed are crossing Timbuktu off our lists, at least for now. As a substitute, I recommend Angry Wind, by Jeffrey Tayler. It's on my list of ten great adventure travel books.