David Rothkopf

Exit Interview: William J. Burns

The retiring deputy secretary of state sounds off on Putin's strategic weakness, the neglected continent to the south, and the state of American power.

Today, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State William J. Burns retires after one of the most distinguished tenures as a career foreign service officer in memory. Only the second career diplomat in history to ascend to the No. 2 job at the State Department, he served during over three decades as undersecretary of state for political affairs, ambassador to Russia, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, and ambassador to Jordan. He has also worked as a senior director on the National Security Council staff, as executive secretary to Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and has won an array of departmental awards in recognition of his service.

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How Malala Can Help Defeat the Islamic State

Empowering Muslim women is the key to degrading and ultimately destroying medieval and reactionary fanaticism.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee rightly cited the work that Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi did to lead the "struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education," but it was Malala's work on behalf of girls and women that may be even more central and important to advancing peace in the world today. As I have written before, the systematic repression of women is history's greatest injustice and one that must be addressed before any era can rightfully call itself just or modern. But beyond this core concern, in a world in which one of the greatest international threats comes from the spread of Islamist extremist groups, it is urgent that we also realize how essential empowering women is to defeating jihadists.

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Shake It Up

Obama needs new blood in the White House.

History is likely to be much kinder to U.S. President Barack Obama than many of his former colleagues have been. On a wide range of domestic issues, he will win praise much like that already being doled out by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in the current issue of Rolling Stone. As Krugman rightly observes, a great number of accomplishments -- including overseeing efforts to bring the economy back from crisis, incomplete but nonetheless meaningful health care and financial services reforms, an extended period of job creation, the potential for real gain on environmental policy, and the good fortune associated with America's energy boom -- will lastingly be associated with this president. That said, it is impossible to overlook the fact that even a cheerleader like Krugman, who is on a dedicated mission to counter conventional wisdom about the beleaguered chief executive, seeks to make his best case by skimming over the issues of national security and foreign policy that are Obama's most glaring and now almost universally acknowledged weaknesses.

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Leave It to Hillary

The president arrives at a turning point, but it's unclear whether it means a new Obama or a punt to tomorrow.

There is a scenario that one can imagine is unspooling in the mental multiplexes of the president and his top White House advisors. It is Christmas time. Stockings everywhere are filled to overflowing due to a resurgent U.S. economy. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is beginning to wither under the pressure of the American-led coalition. In Afghanistan, a new government has repaired relations with the United States, and an agreement to leave a smallish U.S. military force in place promises to ensure stability for years to come. And a deal has been reached -- or is within reach -- for the United States and Iran that reduces the threat that Tehran will soon be overseeing a nuclear weapons arsenal.

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Bad Moon Rising

Behind the scenes at the U.N., a more unsettling story emerges of Syria, Iraq, and fighting the Islamic State.

Much like the schizophrenic reality of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly itself, this week's conclave of world leaders in New York has presented two contrasting narratives for the Syria-Iraq war and the current moment of upheaval in the Middle East. One, the polished speeches of leaders before the cameras, follows a script, presents its best face, and plays to the hopes of constituents back home. The other, like the snarling traffic jams, the curt, hurried back hall of conversations of the senior officials straining to do the diplomatic heavy lifting, and the late-night critiques offered up in hotel bars, is more ragged, grounded in the truth, and therefore unsettling.

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