May 4, 1986
Abba Eban in the opening paragraph of his otherwise unexceptionable review of my book "The Siege" provides a definition of siege which he ascribes to "the dictionary." I wonder whether he would tell your readers which dictionary? It is not the definition provided either by Webster or by the Oxford English Dictionary, and it doesn't represent standard English usage. What it describes--absolutely accurately--is the condition which all besiegers aim to bring about. In my title I use siege in its generally accepted meaning: an effort to cut off the besieged party and bring about its surrender.
December 20, 2008 |
Two of the English-speaking world's most influential political intellectuals died late this week. Their legacies, however, are as contradictory as they are relevant, which makes their respective lives worth a few moments of reflection. Paul Weyrich, one of the primary architects of contemporary American conservatism, was 66 when he died Thursday in Fairfax, Va. His comrade Richard Viguerie -- the direct-mail genius of the American right -- said that Weyrich deserved to be ranked alongside Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan as a pillar of modern conservatism.
September 4, 2010 |
Nearly 40 years ago, I spent time with the late Conor Cruise O'Brien, one of the 20th century's most formidable intellectual journalists. Like many naturally contentious men possessed of restlessly great minds, he could be spectacularly wrong, but his firsthand experience of the world was vast, and he had a politician's gift for aphoristic profundity. He patiently explained to me, for example, that all the worst international controversies could be divided into "problems" and "situations.
November 22, 1992 |
Twenty years ago Conor Cruise O'Brien tried to write a conventional chronological biography of Edmund Burke, the 18th-Century writer and statesman, and found he couldn't. His subject kept going flat on him. The problem, he tells us, is that the Burke he was trying to re-create--the calmly penetrating, supremely rational conservative thinker and orator--was history's, and O'Brien's, misapprehension.
October 30, 1994 |
You won't find many biographies, particularly from university presses, that make their title a first name: not "James" for Joyce nor "Leo" for Tolstoy nor "Immanuel" for Kant. Not only does Donald Harman Akenson use "Conor" as title for his account of the Irish writer, editor, diplomat, politician, polemicist, professor and peace- and trouble-maker Conor Cruise O'Brien; but he invariably refers to him that way in the text.
November 10, 1996 |
As if the slurs and mudslinging of a prolonged presidential campaign have not caused pain enough, along comes Conor Cruise O'Brien, the distinguished Irish journalist and diplomat, with an urgent demand to eject Thomas Jefferson from America's pantheon of national heroes.