Now that Joe Biden’s victory has been confirmed by the Electoral College, we can soberly assess a remarkable year in America. One reasonable conclusion is that the US political system is so warped, harms life so much and impedes progress so badly that systemic reform is desperately needed.

The problem with that is that many consider the issue to be moot because of the near-impossibly high bar that blocks changes to the all-powerful Constitution, and they would have a point.

Yet things cannot continue indefinitely as they are; there will be increasing unhappiness and disaffection, revolts of various type and…

Dan Perry and Paisley Dodds interview Tony Blair, 2005

Many are the people who ask what went wrong after 9/11. Why, after the swift decimation of Al Qaeda and the rare moment of national unity and world support, did so many things go so wrong for America? One possible answer is the invasion of Iraq.

The Iraq War was launched in 2003 on the premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the implication that this placed his despotic regime in league with Al Qaeda and on the hook for 9/11. …

Photo by Andre Klimke on Unsplash

Do we owe anyone anything? If murderous fanatics take over a country, do outsiders have any duty to protect the innocent — to intervene? That’s the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, and such is the question.

It is widely held that the United States these days has neither ability nor inclination to police the world. Evil has always existed, Western values cannot be imposed and few Americans are willing to sacrifice for others unless American interests are at stake.

Sure, sometimes not stepping in seems absurd. Should the world have stood by while versions of genocide unfolded in Rwanda, Sudan and…

Dan Perry photo

Some political leaders are defined by big ideas and others by outcomes, even if prosaic. But with truly special ones, the zeitgeist is the legacy. That’s Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

The country should feel very different after Sunday’s swearing-in of a new government even if co-leaders Naftali Bennett (slated to go first as prime minister) and Yair Lapid (succeeding him in 2023) never do an actual thing. It will feel different because of the change in behavior at the top.

Understanding how might help outsiders fathom the radical polarization Netanyahu has inspired. Like Donald Trump, Netanyahu is opposed by a…

Through a smoky haze, I recognized Alaa Aswany across the rooftop at Cairo’s Garden City Club. I had already had my share of whiskey, but to fortify I poured another double. I rarely meet authors I love. Because mostly they’re long dead.

I’ll happily engage with almost anyone in a dive bar, but with literature I am a snob. My shelves creak under the weight of Zweig, Maupassant, Waugh, Maugham, Naipaul … you get the picture. …

A diplomatic incident at Buckingham Palace (author pictured second from left)

How long can the British monarchy possibly go on? The question becomes a little more acute with the bombshell interview this week by the rogue royals of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

The biracial American ex-actress essentially accused members of the Royal Family of racism (in fussing about the potential darkness of her unborn child) and psychological abuse (in driving her to suicidal thoughts). She and Harry came out reasonably well from the encounter with Oprah Winfrey, but launched accusations that are toxic in the progressive modern world.

That applies in Britain, where despite the nativist Brexit tantrum the…

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

“I am not a crook,” Richard Nixon famously protested. Donald Trump did not trouble himself with that. He was much more concerned with not being a sucker, and getting away with things. And he knew what he was doing.

Trump tapped into something deep about our era — something that is captured well in the opening monologue on the Netflix hit “I Care A Lot.”

“Playing fair is a joke invented by rich people to keep the rest of us poor,” says Marla Grayson, whose scam is tricking the system into appointing her the “guardian” of elders she then robs…

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

The outrageous end days of Donald Trump’s presidency, improbably close vote counts and the coming 50–50 Senate all reinforce the sense of two entrenched Americas slugging it out in red-hot cultural warfare.

But there are three Americas. Look closely and you will find progressives on the left, the nativist populists of Trumpland on the right, and centrists in between. Centrists are probably the largest of the groups; one of them is about to become president.

Some are optimistic about the prospects for a national healing offered by the defenestration of Trump and Democrats’ victories in Georgia’s Jan. …

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

There is a debate among some with time on their hands about whether the decade ends with 2019 or 2020. I choose the latter, partly because pedantry is irresistible, but mostly since it enables me at this delicate moment to go beyond condemning of the outgoing year, whose awfulness is by now a cliché. It is the end of the decade that should be filling us with joy.

2020’s sins are clear: it gave us almost 2 million deaths from COVID-19, mass unemployment, lockdowns and closed borders, social distancing, too little nightlife and too much TV. …


I have noticed with some surprise that despite the deluge of analysis before and after the US election one finds nary a single dispassionate accounting of Donald Trump’s overall record as president.

This is the right time, because Trump’s history-making refusal to concede has set new standards both for being a sore loser (Trump may forever be the ultimate example) and for being reckless as a national leader.

That his farcical claims of fraud are widely believed among his voters is a sign of how much damage has been already done by Trump and his post-truth predecessors (from the relatively…

Dan Perry

Author, entrepreneur and technologist who led the Associated Press in the Middle East, Africa, Europe & Caribbean. Working on solutions to help media thrive.

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