This week the United States is engaging in its first direct talks with North Korea in over five years—apparently, according to the New York Times, to “persuade” the North Koreans to fulfill their part of February’s “initial actions.” This plainly dubious agreement was exposed at the time on contentions by both Max Boot and Joshua Muravchik, and yesterday by Gordon Chang.
According to the Times, The State Department says that the direct talks are meant only to “speed up” the inception of multilateral talks. But is it a surprise that the North Korean government must be “persuaded” actually to abide by its commitments?
North Korea has been a large subject for COMMENTARY. For this weekend’s reading we offer a few of our best recent articles on the topic.
A Korean Solution?
Arthur Waldron – June 2005
Our Game with North Korea
Arthur Waldron – February 2004
Facing up to North Korea
Joshua Muravchik – March 2003
Is Seymour Hersh credible? Is the New Yorker?
Haaretz has a story by Emmanuel Sivan today taking apart an article Hersh wrote for the New Yorker some months ago with a fantastical—and false—claim that the U.S. was funneling money to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even though we allegedly knew some of it was going to the al-Qaeda affiliated Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam. The New Yorker article in question, Sivan notes, appeared two months before fighting erupted between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.
Lebanese reporters, tracking down Hersh’s source for this sensational finding, found it to be Robert Fisk, another journalist with a less than impeccable record, who in turn had heard it from yet another questionable source. “Thus are reports about the Middle East generated,” sardonically writes Sivan.
On the list of Queen Elizabeth II’s Birthday Honours was a knighthood for the Indian-born novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie. Rushdie said he was “thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour.”
The announcement drew the ire of extremists who have dogged Rushdie since the publication of his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. The Iranian foreign ministry has decried the knighting of this “hated apostate,” while protests have broken out in Malaysia, Kashmir, Pakistan, and London.
COMMENTARY is featuring, in our Today from the Archive section, pieces from Daniel Pipes, Midge Decter, and Hillel Halkin on the subject of Sir Salman, his novels, and the meaning of his literary achievement.
The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts pulled off an audacious feat of showmanship last Friday. As it announced its acquisition of the Manton collection of British art, it simultaneously unveiled that collection in a surprise exhibition, startling even the institute’s own employees (they had assumed that the closed galleries were being prepared for this summer’s Monet exhibition). One can pardon the Clark’s showmanship; the Manton bequest is truly remarkable. It comprises over two hundred paintings and drawings by the luminaries of early 19th-century English painting, with particular emphasis on the work of Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, and the incomparable J.M.W. Turner. Moreover, it comes with an endowment of $50 million, a bequest of extraordinary generosity.
The collection was assembled by the reclusive Edwin A.G. Manton (1909-2005), the longtime president and chairman of the American International Group (AIG). Though the British-born Manton (born, in fact, only a few miles from Constable’s own Suffolk birthplace) took up residence in America in 1933, he remained deeply appreciative of the English landscape and began collecting paintings in the 1940’s. He was a great supporter of London’s Tate Museum, for which he was knighted in 1994, although his gifts were invariably anonymous. According to the Daily Telegraph, his reasons for anonymity were strictly pragmatic: “I made my gifts anonymously to protect myself from people importuning me. It was not a noble feeling. I was simply protecting my purse.”