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Longform’s Picks of the Week

Longform’s Picks of the Week

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

The Party Faithful
David Remnick • The New Yorker

The settlers move to annex the West Bank — and Israeli politics.

“I’ve gone through a pretty crazy weekend,” Bennett told the crowd sheepishly. He reached into his pocket. He took out his iPhone and started to scroll. A banner flanking the stage read, “Something Fresh,” and this moment — a politician Googling for wisdom while the crowd waits patiently — was part of the freshness.

“I’d love to quote a wonderful sentence that has been guiding me for years,” he said. “It’s … Teddy Roosevelt … where … ah, yes!”

Bennett looked down at his palm and read from T.R.’s 1910 speech at the Sorbonne on “Citizenship in a Republic,” a chestnut reheated by generations of wounded, righteous politicians — including Richard Nixon on the day he left the White House in disgrace.

“It is not the critic who counts,” he began. A few Americans sitting near me nodded and smiled. “Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

Which Way Did the Taliban Go?
David Roberts • The New York Times Magazine

The Afghan National Army — and the war in Afghanistan — look very different when there are no Americans around.

Several hours later, as I shared the bed of a pickup truck with an Afghan soldier who manned a machine gun mounted on the roof of the cab, it became evident that we were lost. The rest of the company was nowhere to be seen, though we could hear them, not far off, exchanging rocket and automatic-weapons fire with insurgents who had fled into the mountains and were hiding behind protective crags, shooting down. The driver sped up one narrow rutted path after another. The paths were hemmed in by rock walls — a labyrinth of cul-de-sacs — and the driver grew more panicked and reckless with each dead end. Aside from the occasional night raid, no Afghan or American forces had been to this place in more than a decade. Men stood on top of the walls, watching.

“Where are we going?” I asked the machine-gunner.

He offered the words I had heard time and again — so often, and so predictably, they could be the battalion motto. The words were invoked in response to such questions as: What is the plan? Who is shooting? Where will we sleep tonight? How many dead?

The words are “Mulam nes” — “It isn’t clear.”

Jose CABEZAS/AFP/GettyImages

China’s Military Hawks Take the Offensive
David Lague • Reuters

How the PLA has come to embrace an increasingly militant rhetoric.

It was supposed to be a relaxed evening for a group of senior international military chiefs. Gathered at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, they had changed out of uniform for dinner and discussion.

China’s Lieutenant-General Ren Haiquan took the podium in a room overlooking the Yarra River last October 29 and began diplomatically enough. But as he neared the end of his speech, he went on the offensive.

“Some people” had ignored the outcome of World War Two and were challenging the post-war order, he told counterparts from 15 other nations. It was a pointed reference to Japan’s claim over islands in the East China Sea that Beijing insists are Chinese.

“One should never forget history and (should) learn from history,” Ren said, according to a copy of his speech. “Flames of the war ignited by fascist countries engulfed the whole region, and many places, including Darwin in Australia, were bombed.”

In a jarring coincidence, say officers in the audience, fireballs belched into the sky as he spoke, part of the casino’s hourly fireworks display.

YOMIURI SHIMBUN/AFP/Getty Images

The Most Hated Woman in Israel
Larry Derfner • Foreign Policy

Haneen Zoabi has made her career speaking up for Israel’s Arab minority. In Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, that’s becoming harder each day.

Sitting in a barren, slightly mildewy campaign office in this Arab village, I asked Haneen Zoabi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, what it was like being the country’s most hated politician. “It doesn’t bother me at all,” she said.

It’s easy to believe. Zoabi’s style is to head for the eye of the Arab-Jewish political storm — the result being that while she is the Jewish majority’s most hated politician, she may well be the Arab minority’s most beloved.

Zoabi is running for reelection in Israel’s Jan. 22 parliamentary election, but it was a struggle to even reach this point. Right-wing Knesset members moved to have her disqualified, saying she had “undermined the state of Israel” and “openly incited” against the government. Only a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court in late December overturned the ban. A poll published in Haaretz indicated that her legal victory stood to gain her small, virtually all-Arab party an additional Knesset seat.

JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Could Ed Miliband be Labour’s Margaret Thatcher?
Andy Beckett • The Guardian

Ed Miliband has long been fascinated by the conviction and charisma of the Iron Lady — and there are intriguing similarities in their records in opposition and radical spirit.

Twenty-three years ago, on the morning that a cornered Margaret Thatcher announced she was standing down as prime minister, Ed Miliband was a student at Oxford. “Ted”, as he was known then by his university friends, was a slightly fogeyish, contained young man, remembered for his awkward jumpers and kind but serious manner. Yet that morning, “He was ecstatic,” a friend told his biographers Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre. “We didn’t leave the college TV room for 24 hours. It was the biggest event of our lives.”

Since then Miliband has risen, sometimes smoothly and sometimes not, from student politician to New Labour backroom player, MP to respected minister, dark horse party leadership contender to shock winner, written-off opposition leader to increasingly possible prime minister. In many ways, Britain has changed profoundly since that morning in 1990. Thatcher herself, once a ubiquitous public figure, is now a frail 87-year-old, rarely seen or photographed.

But for Miliband, a fascination with her remains. “She was a conviction politician, and I think conviction really matters,” he told a Radio 4 documentary about his political thinking last November. “In the 1970s [when she became Tory leader], it was a similar moment [to now] … the old order was crumbling, and it wasn’t 100% clear what was going to replace it.”

CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images