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they couldn't absorb the truth, and didn't want to

Rory Stewart:

"Transparent, predictable, and accountable financial practices" were not a solution to corruption; they were simply a description of what was lacking. But policymakers never realized how far from the mark they were. This is partly because most of them were unaware of even a fraction of the reality described in Anand Gopal's book. But it was partly also that they couldn't absorb the truth, and didn't want to. The jargon of state-building, "capacity-building," "civil society," and "sustainable livelihoods" seemed conveniently ethical, practical, and irrefutable. And because of fears about lost lives, and fears about future terrorist attacks, they had no interest in detailed descriptions of failure: something had to be done, and failure was simply "not an option."

We invested $100 billion a year, deployed 130,000 international troops, and funded hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arab militiamen. And the problem has returned, six years later, larger and nastier.

Adam Piore:

About 57 percent of Americans reported buying lottery tickets in the last 12 months, according to a recent Gallup study.

Misha Lepetic:

And so we have turned a full circle of cartographic irony: from speculative maps that included places that never existed, to objective maps that show us places that no longer exist, but pretend as if they do.

Dexter Filkins:

At a meeting in early October, 2001, the lead Iranian negotiator stood up and slammed a sheaf of papers on the table. "If you guys don't stop building these fairy-tale governments in the sky, and actually start doing some shooting on the ground, none of this is ever going to happen!" he shouted. "When you're ready to talk about serious fighting, you know where to find me." He stomped out of the room.

At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. "Here's our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here's the logic." Stunned, Crocker asked, "Can I take notes?" The negotiator replied, "You can keep the map."

Azan Ahmed:

The Taliban are back, but the cavalry will not be coming.

In new figures released this week, the Defense Ministry said that 950 soldiers had been killed from March to August, the worst rate of the 13-year war. The police, the first line of defense against most attacks, have registered even more devastating numbers: 2,200 dead during the same period, also a record.

the omelette is not in sight

Isaiah Berlin:

If these ultimate human values by which we live are to be pursued, then compromises, trade-offs, arrangements have to be made if the worst is not to happen.

You must believe me, one cannot have everything one wants -- not only in practice, but even in theory. The denial of this, the search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion. And then to destruction, blood -- eggs are broken, but the omelette is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking. And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelette, and just go on breaking eggs.

Joshua Green on President Obama:

The crisis required more of him than he seemed to recognize. But he was hampered by the same things that have plagued him all along: a liberal technocrat's excess of faith in government's ability to solve problems and an unwillingness or inability to demonstrate the forcefulness Americans expect of their president in an emergency.

Frank Chimero:

Continually attempting to manage too much isn't the mark of grace, it's the sign of a dumbass.

Steve Jobs:

How many things have you said no to?

an ersatz nostalgia for paths not taken

Dr. Phillip Metzger:

The mountains have all been climbed, the continents explored, and the romance of sailing away on a tall ship to undiscovered islands is no more. What will fire the imaginations of the next generation?

Sophia Nguyen:

It's easy to think of motivated blindness and institutional inertia as something that happens only to others.

Alvaro Serrano:

If you aim to create a revolution, you must be willing to part with the existing preconceptions that are holding your competitors back. Only then will you be able to take a meaningful leap forward.

Marina Benjamin:

I am acutely aware of the threshold at which my daughter stands today. I want to wave at her in sympathy and recognition, and assure her it will turn out well. I want to tell her that on the other side of this difficult transition there will be freedoms and experiences she's never dreamt of, as well as new heights of confidence and competence. There will be deep friendships and deeper loves, the rollercoaster of university life and first jobs, independent travel, opportunities at every turn. I want to tell her that her dreams will become tangible. That her fears will drift into obscurity. That she will feel invincible.

But then I am overcome by a terrible sadness for my own lost opportunities, and by an ersatz nostalgia for paths not taken -- a missing, if you like, of what I never had, and a misplaced anxiety about all the future paths I shall never take, because with middle age comes a shrinking sense of the possible. Since half of me is lost in undifferentiated yearning for what might have been, I'm often unable to reassure my daughter with the right level of conviction. If I am to succeed in this task, I must first let go of my ghostly younger selves -- the grown-up version of putting away childish things.

Doris Lessing:

What's terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better.

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