By David K. Shipler

A crucial feature of the Soviet Union’s dictatorship was its enforcement by peers. Your co-workers, your schoolmates, the fellow members of your local Communist Party committee or Komsomol (Communist youth organization) were primed to call you to account if you deviated from the norm. If you went to church regularly, your Komsomol committee might hold a meeting to denounce you. If you went farther and made “anti-Soviet” statements — criticizing government policy or advocating democratic reforms — your peers in Komsomol might be assembled for a vote to expel you, which would handicap your future job…

How They Disrespect the Very People Who Put Them in Office

By David K. Shipler

An irony of Donald Trump’s appeal to struggling, working-class Americans is his party’s complete indifference to their financial hardships. Wherever government can rescue people with direct cash assistance, Republicans are opposed. Wherever government can expand proven programs of aid — in health care, housing, food, day care — Republicans are opposed. See now how some Republicans are coming around to a thinly bipartisan infrastructure bill aimed at only things — bridges, highways, and the like — but are apoplectic over President Biden’s bill to help people. Things vs. …

By David K. Shipler

If President Biden were to act on all the competing (and unsolicited) advice that he’s getting about how to handle Vladimir Putin when they meet tomorrow in Geneva, here’s how it would go: Threaten to harden sanctions, promise to relax them. Threaten to invite Ukraine into NATO, promise not to. Brandish cyber weaponry against Russian infrastructure, propose a cyber treaty against hacking and ransomware. Trumpet outrage over Russia’s rights abuses, make the points quietly and create a working group of mid-level officials for private discussions. Rattle the nuclear saber, seek new arms control. Compete in the…

By David K. Shipler

For many decades, Israel has calculated that neighboring Arab counties would think twice before attacking, knowing that a punishing Israeli military reaction would follow. The practice has sometimes worked against nation states. But it has rarely been effective against the non-state actors arising as significant players in the Middle East — among them, as is now obvious, Hamas in Gaza.

Israel persists nonetheless. “You can either conquer them,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told foreign ambassadors Wednesday, “and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them. We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence.”


Imagine if everybody could tell truth from fiction and reality from conspiracy theories.

Freedom of Speech in a Perfect World

By David K. Shipler

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to distinguish between ridiculous absurdities and reasonable possibilities. Everyone would be curious. Everyone would be open to revising preconceptions. Everyone would be canny enough to drill down beneath the superficial slogans to the facts, to hear the counter-argument, to entertain an opposite viewpoint, and to arrive at an informed opinion based on a foundation of truth.

In that perfect world, populated by perfect human beings, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube would not have banned former President…


By David K. Shipler

There is a whiff of familiarity in the promised American withdrawal from Afghanistan. The parallels are uncanny, bringing to memory my one brief foray to the country, in the spring of 1988, as Soviet troops prepared to leave after nearly nine years of bloody warfare that ended in their defeat. Their departure opened the way for a fundamentalist Islamic movement to take power, now poised to take power once again.

“One week from now, I’m going home,” Pvt. Yuri Moshnikov told me…

The Country is caught between two competing and opposite revolutions. Which one will win?

America Hurtles Forward — and Backward

By David K. Shipler

According to Sir Isaac Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction — a principle of physics, of course, but also true in politics and policy, at least currently in the United States. …

By David K. Shipler

In the mid-1990s, a conservative named Joseph Overton devised a brochure with a cardboard slider showing how the parameters of acceptable political possibilities could be shifted. Called the Overton Window, it has helped explain the changes over time in society’s views on women’s suffrage, prohibition, racial segregation, gay rights, and the like. And now the window has been slid open to the flow of monstrous ideas from the white supremacist right into the public square of political discourse.

The conduit is the Republican Party, which is serving to normalize radical visions by reshaping them just enough…

By David K. Shipler

Again and again, we are cheated. Those of us who celebrate the embrace of justice are allowed elation only for a while. Then the inevitable bigotry awakens from what turns out to be a shallow slumber.

The saga of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is the latest to lift the mood and then crush it. Their royal wedding in 2018 drew an estimated 1.9 billion viewers worldwide, not only for the splendor but also for the elevation of racial inclusion: a biracial American joining the British royal family, an expansion past ancient limits into the broader…

MACA: Make America Competent Again, Part 2

By David K. Shipler

The second in an occasional series

A great American paradox is playing out dramatically on the Texas stage following the destructive winter storm: millions are unemployed, and millions of skilled jobs are vacant. Texans cannot find enough plumbers, electricians, and other hands-on specialists to restore life to decent levels of comfort and safety. The state — and the country at large — simply does not have enough men and women trained in the panoply of manual professions needed to keep an advanced society running.

There is a solution to…

David K Shipler

David K. Shipler is a best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 7 books and a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

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