Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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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.

Crushing Debt Drove Me to Kosovo -- And Then to Iraq, by Anonymous. The Billfold.

On working in a war zone to pay the bills.

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.

Crushing Debt Drove Me to Kosovo — And Then to Iraq, by Anonymous. The Billfold.

On working in a war zone to pay the bills.

Despite these modest indulgences, I had to get creative to spend more than a 1500 Euros a month in Pristina, so all of my salary and most of my living allowance went to the bank. I was dutifully paying off my debts at a rate of $4,000 a month without fail, without excuses. First came my dad and the credit cards, then the student loans. I hadn’t hit the lottery. This was better. At this rate, I would have everything paid off by June 2005. If I could stay in Kosovo and survive two more winters, I would return to the States with a clean slate.

But then something unexpected happened. I went to Iraq instead.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Salafi Moment, by Christian Caryl. Foreign Policy.

The ultraconservative Salafi movement is pushing to the forefront in the politics of the Middle East. The West should be careful how it reacts.

The Salafi notion of returning to the purity of 7th-century Islam can have the same kind of draw for some Muslims exasperated by everyday corruption and abusive rule. Syria offers a good example. If you’re going up against Bashar al-Assad’s helicopter gunships armed with an antique rifle and a few rusty bullets, you’ll probably prefer to go into battle with a simple slogan on your lips. “Power sharing for all ethnic groups in a liberal parliamentary democracy” might not cut it — especially if you happen to be a Sunni who’s seen your relatives cut down by Assad’s murderous militias. This isn’t to say that the opposition is now dominated by Salafis; far from it. But it’s safe to assume that the longer the war goes on, the more pronounced the extremes will become.

KHALED DESOUKI/Getty Images

Obama’s Way, by Michael Lewis. Vanity Fair.

Six months with unprecedented access to Barack Obama — how he plays pickup basketball, how he adjusted to life in the bubble, and how he decided to engage in Libya.

He didn’t really know why he’d been sent here, to Libya, in the first place. He knew his assignment, his specific mission. But he didn’t know the reason for it. He’d never met a Libyan. Drifting high over the desert he had no sense that he was at once an expression of an idea framed late one night in the White House by the president himself, writing with a No. 2 pencil, and also, suddenly, a threat to that idea. He didn’t sense these invisible threads in his existence, only the visible ones yoking him to his torn parachute. His thoughts were only of survival. He realized, If I can see my plane exploding, and my chute in the air, so can the enemy. He’d just turned 27 — one of only three facts about himself, along with his name and rank, that he was now prepared to divulge if captured.

He scanned the earth beneath his dangling feet. He was going to hit hard, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Official White House Photograph by Pete Souza

The Tragedy of the European Union and How to Resolve It, by George Soros. The New York Review of Books.

The survival of the European Union may depend on debtor countries finding a way to resolve their problems on their own.

This is the result not of a deliberate plan but of a series of policy mistakes that started when the euro was introduced. It was general knowledge that the euro was an incomplete currency — it had a central bank but did not have a treasury. But member countries did not realize that by giving up the right to print their own money they exposed themselves to the risk of default. Financial markets realized it only at the onset of the Greek crisis. The financial authorities did not understand the problem, let alone see a solution. So they tried to buy time. But instead of improving, the situation deteriorated. This was entirely due to the lack of understanding and the lack of unity.

Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

Putin’s God Squad, by Peter Pomerantsev. Newsweek.

How the Russian Orthodox Church, once suppressed by communism, has again become an influential entity in the country’s politics.

A few years ago, Ostrakovsky and his vigilantes seemed like marginal curiosities in Russia, burning copies of the Harry Potter books in protest of “witchcraft.” But as Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term comes into focus, the cross-wearing thugs are now right in line with the ideology emanating from the Kremlin — and from the Russian Orthodox hierarchy. After near extermination under Communist rule, the church and religion are back at the heart of the country’s politics. And they have been critical in helping Putin recast the liberal opposition’s fight against state corruption and alleged electoral fraud into a script of “foreign devils” versus “Holy Russia.”

ALEKSEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images

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