Thursday, June 16, 2011

Accidental Useful News

This morning’s New York Times brought a story people like me value. The essence of it is in this sentence: “The Pakistani Army is essentially run by consensus among 11 top commanders, known as the Corps Commanders.” The story deals with unrest in the Pakistani military, evidently an up-welling of lower ranks of the officer corps. The army’s leadership is unhappy about General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the top general for, let us say, cooperating a bit too much with the United States. Memories of Pervez Musharraf surface (r. 2001-2008)—one of the more able top generals, who got in trouble too. Problems, problems. On the one hand lavish military support from America. And then you have to regurgitate the price. I know exactly how the colonel-and-lower officer corps feels. Compromised. The lower in rank you are, the closer to the actually human.

I call this accidental news because we rely on small-readership magazines for genuine insights into the structural arrangements underlying all of the chaos newspapers actually report—making sense of which without knowing the deeper foundations is very difficult. Articles in Harpers’, in the American Conservative, sometimes in The Atlantic have occasionally been the source of genuine insight—be it into the Iraqi quagmire, Yemen, Somali, or Afghanistan. Sometimes foreign language papers open your eyes—if you happen to be able to read, say, Hungarian. Not many people do! Our latest gem is Nordamerikanische Wochen-Post, a German-language American weekly—with a quite useful and sometimes startlingly insightful view of the world.

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