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Dr. Charles G. Cogan
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Dr. Charles G. Cogan is an associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) at the Kennedy School, Harvard University. He was the Chief Near East South Asia Division in the Operations Directorate of the CIA 1979-1984, the Division that directed the American side of the resistance against the Soviets in Afghanistan at the time.

Entries by Dr. Charles G. Cogan

Anything But Florissant

(0) Comments | Posted December 9, 2014 | 3:05 PM

A great many English words have their origin in French. According to Wikipedia, it is 45 percent. Most Americans are unaware of this or don't even think about it. Perhaps the most famous case in point is that of George W. Bush, to whom has been attributed, rightly or wrongly,...

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Invitation to a Beheading

(0) Comments | Posted November 26, 2014 | 7:46 AM

Borrowing a title from the book by Vladimir Nabokov, we can say that the beheadings of innocents in Syria have changed everything. Two British aid workers, two American journalists, and one American aid worker, executed for all the world to see. Events too horrible for our children to look at.

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Are We Ever Going to Have a Black President Again?

(1) Comments | Posted November 11, 2014 | 11:59 PM

In the short run, at the least, the signs are not favorable. Despite Barack Obama's intelligence, conscientiousness, and probity, what could be called the counter-revolution of the whites, as reflected in the 2014 midterm elections, has demonstrated, inter alia, the discomfort many Americans feel with a black couple being the...

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The Subtext of "Klinghoffer"

(0) Comments | Posted October 30, 2014 | 4:10 PM

"The Death of Klinghoffer" juxtaposes, in a brilliantly executed opera, one of the most horrible Palestinian terrorist acts of the 20th Century with the narrative of Palestinian suffering and deaths under the nearly fifty-year-old Israeli occupation. Whether it was out of place to put these two issues together in a...

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As a Political Schmoozer, Not Good; As a Military Commander, Not Bad

(0) Comments | Posted October 14, 2014 | 10:31 AM

Aided by a spate of accounts by ex-officials, from Hillary Clinton to Robert Gates to Leon Panetta and others, an image has formed around President Obama that he is hesitant and indecisive, and that he does not like to schmooze the nation's lawmakers. Moreover, that he is too lawyerly and...

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Bibi's Never-Never Land

(152) Comments | Posted October 2, 2014 | 5:15 PM

Toward the end of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the UN on 29 September, he made the following statement:

I'm ready to make a historic compromise, not because Israel occupies a foreign land. The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel. History, archaeology and common...
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Straighten up and Fly Right

(0) Comments | Posted September 27, 2014 | 12:56 PM

It took ISIS and related allies' resorting to the ghastly medieval practice of beheading for the West and the outer world to get roused up. American public opinion, largely anti-war, turned around in an instant. Barack Obama, whose recent lackluster public appearances had given the impression, rightly or wrongly, that...

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A Very Special (Forces) President

(1) Comments | Posted September 12, 2014 | 9:56 AM

Two weeks ago at a press conference, Barack Obama stated that he didn't have a strategy on how to deal with Isis, the Sunni extremist group in Syria. What this highly intelligent but at times guileless President could have said was that he was working on developing such strategy.


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Collaborating With Assad Against ISIS: Wrong in the Circumstances

(0) Comments | Posted September 5, 2014 | 12:33 PM

As the United States comes to grips with how to deal with the large ISIS presence in Syria, the majority view, as expressed succinctly by Ryan Crocker, ex-Ambassador to (inter alia) Baghdad, on the Charlie Rose Show on 3 September, we should strike at ISIS in Syria, but in no...

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We Work Together...But We Live Apart

(0) Comments | Posted August 19, 2014 | 7:40 PM

This is the general rule regarding the interaction between whites and blacks in America. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the pattern.

This separation is the burden we carry from the origin of our Republic. Though we see ourselves as a "City on the Hill," an inspiration...

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Iraq: License to Intervene

(0) Comments | Posted August 13, 2014 | 4:13 PM

Early in the summer, as ISIS seized control of Mosul and swept southward down the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, a minority of observers, myself included, were wary of an all-out American counter strike against ISIS, in support of Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite regime and behind it, Iran. It seemed like unnecessarily...

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When One Human Being Is Weighed Less Against Another

(5) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 1:29 PM

Back in the revolutionary era, when the U.S. Constitution declared a black man to be worth three-fifths of a white man, it did not cause the same consternation and shame that it does today, as we contemplate the fact that such a dictum was included in our original Constitution. The...

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Hamas and Israel: Contrasting Illusions

(5) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 10:23 AM

Although Hamas persists in showering ineffective rockets on Israel, thus illustrating once again the Arab propensity to regard the illusion of triumph as important as, if not more so, than triumph itself (which is unattainable as far as Israel is concerned.)

But Hamas' rocketeering, plus the infiltration of terrorists through...

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Barbarians at the Site

(0) Comments | Posted July 27, 2014 | 9:48 AM

Once the bodies of Malaysian Flight 17 arrived at Kharkiv into the hands of the Ukrainian government, they began to be treated with the respect and solemnity due them -- whether by Ukrainian troops at the starting point before they were ferried by Dutch and Australian planes to the destination...

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A Revanchist Power, 21st Century Style

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2014 | 11:12 AM

During the Cold War, the tireless and tiresome Soviet propaganda machine constantly flung the epithet "revanchist" at West Germany, while everyone else knew that the country had turned deeply anti-militarist or, as the former American Ambassador to Berlin once put it to me, "Germany is out of the danger business."

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Period of Adjustment

(0) Comments | Posted July 16, 2014 | 6:25 AM

It's true: we don't have a rough-rider President à la Theodore Roosevelt. It's also true that we do have a President who does special operations (Osama bin Laden), unlike his hapless predecessor, Jimmy Carter (Desert One).

What we are seeing now, as the sticker of weakness clings to President Obama,...

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Germany Is Not a Classic Western Ally

(2) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 12:14 PM

Steffen Seibert, Angela Merkel's chief spokesman, commented as follows on the uncovering of two Germans spying for the United States, one in the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and one in the Defense Ministry. "The difference of opinion [between the U.S. and Germany] affects the trust in this...

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When, Ever, Is a Murderer Anything but a Murderer

(0) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 9:17 AM

A hundred years ago last Saturday, World War I was ignited by a murder. Actually, two murders. Today, the murderer is being celebrated in parts of the former Yugoslavia, notably by a seven-foot statue in Lukavica, a suburb of Sarajevo, the scene of the crime: a testimony to the special...

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Iraq: Be Careful How You Mess With the Sunni World

(0) Comments | Posted June 21, 2014 | 1:14 PM

There are two elements to keep in mind in assessing the sudden Sunni surge in Iraq. First, the Sunni-populated part of Iraq is virtually bereft of natural resources. The Kurdish and Shia parts in the northeast and south respectively are not. This is largely what renders partition problematic.


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Iraq, Syria: the Way Ahead Is Limpidly Clear

(3) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 5:32 PM

There are so many cross-cutting relationships in the Middle East today that one might just get confused as to what to do. The U.S. is against the Shiite-related Assad regime in Syria, it supports the majority Shiite regime in Iraq, and it is beginning to climb down, tentatively, from a...

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