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 Force
Jill Lepore • New Yorker

How the United States came to spend more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined.

The United States spends more on defense than all the other nations of the world combined. Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year-more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis. The 2011 Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling and created both the fiscal cliff and a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was supposed to find a way to steer clear of it, required four hundred and eighty-seven billion dollars in cuts to military spending, spread over the next ten years. The cliff-fall mandates an additional defense-budget reduction of fifty-five billion dollars annually. None of these cuts have gone into effect. McKeon has been maneuvering to hold the line.



Dead Sea Scrolls Go to Court
Batya Ungar-Sargon • Tablet

A scholarly dispute devolves into criminal impersonation.

In the emails, the fictional Schiffman admitted to having plagiarized the work of Norman Golb, professor at the University of Chicago’s prestigious Oriental Institute, Dead Sea Scrolls scholar-and also Raphael’s father. “It is true that I should have cited Dr. Golb’s articles when using his arguments,” the email reads, “and it is true that I misrepresented his ideas. But this is simply the politics of Dead Sea Scrolls studies. If I had given credit to this man I would have been banned from conferences around the world.” It was signed-by some accounts, implausibly-“Lawrence Schiffman, professor,” with a lower-case “p.”

Raphael Golb admits to having sent the email, but he maintains that it was an act of parody, rather than criminal impersonation. “I was exercising my right to expose, condemn, and ridicule the misconduct of other people,” he says. “It says more about Schiffman than it does about me, that people might have believed that an informal email from a gmail account admitting to plagiarism, signed with a lower-case ‘p’ in professor, could have come from an NYU department chair.”

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images 

Could Cyril Ramaphosa Be the Best Leader South Africa Has Not Yet Had?
Bill Keller • New York Times Magazine

As apartheid ended, Ramaphosa was in line to become deputy president. He didn’t get the job. Now one of the richest men in Africa, he is finally getting the chance.

Mandela provided the aura, the moral authority. Ramaphosa, then secretary general of the anti-apartheid alliance, the African National Congress, was the business end. Big, round-faced, grinning through a peppercorn beard, a charming manipulator in multiple languages, he was adept at both creating tension and defusing it, at threatening to send his constituents on a campaign of “rolling mass action” and then easing the pin back into the grenade. Janet Love, a member of Ramaphosa’s negotiating team who now runs a human rights law center in Johannesburg, reminded me recently how he resolved the conundrum that arises when you have a constellation of 19 parties and alliances in which some matter more than others – namely: How do you know when something should be regarded as decided? Ramaphosa came up with the concept of “sufficient consensus.” It sounds absurdly vague, but it was a polite way of saying that when the white National Party and the A.N.C. came to terms, everyone else, as Ramaphosa explained later to a reporter, “can get stuffed.”

Michelly Rall/Getty Images for TIME/FORTUNE/CNN


Stranded on the Roof of the World
Michael Finkel • National Geographic

Afghanistan’s Kyrgyz nomads survive in one of Earth’s most remote places, where the currency is sheep, the dream is a road, and many will go an entire lifetime without ever seeing a tree.

The khan dreams of a car. Never mind that there isn’t a road. His father, the previous khan, spent his life lobbying for a road. The new khan does the same. A road, he argues, would permit doctors, and their medicines, to easily reach them. Then maybe all the dying would stop. Teachers too could get to them. Also traders. There could be vegetables. And then his people-the Kyrgyz nomads of remote Afghanistan-might have a legitimate chance to thrive. A road is the khan’s work. A car is his dream.



The Egyptian Revolution Through Mubarak’s Eyes
David Kenner • Foreign Policy

Two years after the Jan. 25 protests, members of the former president’s inner circle shed insight on the fall of a regime.

As the revolution gained momentum, Aboul Gheit describes a regime paralyzed by infighting. On Jan. 31, he attended the swearing-in of the new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, a career military man brought in to restore order. Mubarak, he says, was bored and quiet: “He pretended to be very busy reading some papers.”

Other players, however, were already maneuvering to protect their interests. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, then defense minister and the future head of the military junta that would replace Mubarak, informed Aboul Gheit at the ceremony that the military would not sacrifice its reputation to preserve Mubarak’s rule. “Some told me that people are talking about using the army to control the situation by force,” Tantawi said sternly, according to Aboul Gheit. “And I said from my side the army doesn’t strike people at all, or else it will lose its legitimacy.”