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Right now, two new pieces from the upcoming issue.

First, James L. Fredericks and Andrew J. Bacevich in an exchange on Reinhold Niebuhr's The Irony of History in the age of Obama:

Barack Obama has vigorously prosecuted the war against Al Qaeda even while ending U.S. military engagement in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan. These seeming paradoxes make Obama an ironic figure of the kind that interested Niebuhr most—the self-conscious, existential irony of a man who knows he must act in history while being unable either to control the outcome or to escape the moral ambiguity of his choices.

Read it all here. Also, Richard Alleva reviews Philomena and Saving Mr. Banks. On the performances of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in the former:

Critics speak about the autumnal grandeur of “lateness in art”—the tranquil power of Beethoven’s late quartets or the swan-song poignancy of Verdi’s Falstaff. Judi Dench has that quality as an actress nowadays, and it’s not just an inevitable feature of her old age. She’s in possession of a still center, and from that center she radiates. But the critical praise heaped on Dench shouldn’t keep us from noticing that Steve Coogan’s wry underplaying of Sixsmith makes Dench’s beatific comedy possible. With his boredom-glazed eyes desperately beseeching invisible gods for mercy as she blathers on and on, and his smooth baritone subtly inflected by covert sarcasm, Coogan is the Oxbridge Oliver Hardy to her female Stan Laurel. And would Stan be truly funny without Ollie?

Read it all here. And come back to the website Monday, when we'll be posting the rest of the new issue.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



Commenting Guidelines

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Considered together, James Fredericks and Andrew Bacevich have drawn an excellent profile of President Barack Obama.

I tend to agree with Bacevich's critique of Obama.

Glad to see the Steve Coogan love.

I'm with you Abe.

[Niebuhr] held that despite the illusions of control and destiny political ideologies foster, history is intractable, its course and direction ultimately beyond human comprehension.

I would contend that history is neither intractable nor beyond human comprehension.  History is in fact ultimately dependent on actions taken by human beings, both as a mass and as individuals.  The idea that history is intractable leads to indecision and worse, the kind of drawing room philosophising beloved of academics and the ineffectual.  The guys who stormed Normandy (among others) in the face of ungodly horror and bloodshed proved that history is not intractable.  The Jews liberated from the Nazi death camps would not agree with that invitation to indecision and waffling.  A thousand times no, history is not intractable.

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