Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.


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 Price of Precious, by Jeffrey Gettleman, National Geographic

The minerals in our electronic devices have bankrolled unspeakable violence in the Congo.

The story of Congo is this: The government in Kinshasa, the capital, is weak and corrupt, leaving this vast nation rotten at its core. The remote east has plunged straight into anarchy, carved up by a hodgepodge of rebel groups that help bankroll their brutality with stolen minerals. The government army is often just as sticky fingered and wicked. Few people in recent memory have suffered as long, and on such a horrifying scale, as the Congolese. Where else are men, women, and children slaughtered by the hundreds, year after year, sometimes so deep in the jungle that it takes weeks for the truth to come out? Where else are hundreds of thousands of women raped and just about nobody punished?

Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images

Meet the Settlers, by Jake Wallis Simons, the Telegraph

A journey through the West Bank

Today, peace negotiations are making headlines again. But this time there are about 130 settlements on the West Bank and 99 unauthorised outposts. In June, settlement construction hit a seven-year high, and building continues even as peace talks take place.

There can be little doubt that these settlements lie at the epicentre of one of the most febrile and protracted conflicts in the world. But what of the people who make their homes here? In the popular imagination, Jewish settlers are heavily armed religious fanatics who uproot the Palestinians’ olive trees, slash their car tyres and vandalise their mosques. The truth, however, is far more complex.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Will It Fly?, by Adam Ciralsky, Vanity Fair

The Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive weapons system ever developed. No one can say for certain when the plane will work as advertised. Even the general now in charge of the program can’t believe we got to this point.

With F-15s and F-16s circling overhead, I drove to the main gate at Eglin, where I was escorted through security and over to the air force’s 33rd Fighter Wing, which is home to the F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, and some of the men who fly it. The Joint Strike Fighter, or J.S.F., is the most expensive weapons system in American history. The idea behind it is to replace four distinct models of aging “fourth generation” military jets with a standardized fleet of state-of-the-art “fifth generation” aircraft. Over the course of its lifetime, the program will cost approximately $1.5 trillion. Walking around the supersonic stealth jet for the first time, I was struck by its physical beauty. Whatever its shortcomings-and they, like the dollars invested in the plane, are almost beyond counting-up close it is a dark and compelling work of art. To paraphrase an old Jimmy Breslin line, the F-35 is such a bastardized thing that you don’t know whether to genuflect or spit.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The New Terrorist Training Ground, by Yochi Dreazen, the Atlantic.

Why the new face of terror is likely to be African. 

The foreign militants battling Malian and French troops across northern Mali are part of a little-noticed but hugely important shift. American policy makers have long treated the Middle East and South Asia as the main battlegrounds of the war on terror, but those regions are quickly being joined by Africa, which is now home to some of the largest and most active Islamist militias in the world. The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram used a massive car bomb to demolish a UN compound in Nigeria in 2011, leaving at least 23 people dead, and has killed hundreds of other Nigerian citizens and security personnel over the past two years as it has fought to impose Sharia law in the oil-rich state. The Somali militia known as al-Shabaab has carried out suicide bombings throughout the beleaguered capital of Mogadishu and in neighboring countries like Uganda. Radicalized Africans have been involved in terror plots in the continental United States, taking advantage of the fact that they typically attract less scrutiny than Arabs or Pakistanis.

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

Omar and Me, by J.M. Berger, Foreign Policy

My strange, frustrating relationship with an American terrorist.

I don’t know exactly when I began to worry I had become friends with a terrorist.

Believe it or not, this kind of thing happens to people relatively often. For instance, after the Boston Marathon bombing, dozens of friends of the surviving suspect, college student Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, lined up in front of cameras to express horror that their friend had been so different from the person they thought they knew.

But they hadn’t known.

From the moment I first saw him in a video in April 2009, I knew Omar Hammami was a terrorist who had embraced al Qaeda’s global campaign. And when he first became aware of me, he knew I was on the other side of the apocalyptic conflict he imagined, an unabashedly Western writer and analyst working to shine a light on terrorist operations and violent ideologies.

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images


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