Suzy Hansen

  • Bend the Knee

    Six years ago, a soap opera set off an angry debate among historians, politicians, and viewers in Turkey. It was called Muhtes¸em Yüzyil (The Magnificent Century) and depicted the inner workings and often-violent intrigues of the sixteenth-century Ottoman palace—particularly the fraught relationships between Sultan Süleyman and his harem, viziers, and eunuchs. The show was wildly popular, but politicians from the AKP, the party of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, protested the portrayal of the holy sultan as a lush and a womanizer. They claimed it was clearly inaccurate, as if they were unaware of the

  • culture August 23, 2017

    Notes on a Foreign Country

    In the weeks before my departure, I spent hours explaining Turkey’s international relevance to my bored loved ones, no doubt deploying the cliché that Istanbul was the bridge between East and West. At first, my family was not exactly thrilled for me; New York had been vile enough in their minds.

    In the weeks before my departure, I spent hours explaining Turkey’s international relevance to my bored loved ones, no doubt deploying the cliché that Istanbul was the bridge between East and West. At first, my family was not exactly thrilled for me; New York had been vile enough in their minds. My brother’s reaction to the news that I won this generous fellowship was something like, “See? I told you she was going to get it,” as if it had been a threat he’d been warning the home front about. My mother asked whether this meant I didn’t want the pretty luggage she’d bought me for Christmas,

  • A Little Respect

    While reading Trita Parsi’s history of the US-Iran nuclear negotiations, it’s hard not to wonder with horror—at every complicated twist and turn of the proceedings—how Donald Trump would manage a similar ordeal. The sometimes excruciating detail of Parsi’s book reminds us of all the tiny acts of diplomacy—and anti-diplomacy—happening right this very second behind closed doors, ones that could, in the case of Iran, be leading to unnecessary war.

    One of the many eye-opening passages in Losing an Enemy comes midway through the book, when the Americans and the Iranians are still floundering for

  • Regarding the Pain of Others

    IN DECEMBER, AS BASHAR AL-ASSAD'S JETS PUMMELED Aleppo apartment buildings, the New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman published an article that asked, essentially, Why doesn't anyone care about Syria? Between the paragraphs of his text, images flashed of a Syrian man standing amid urban rubble, a woman in a head scarf, a child saying, over and over, "Please, save us, thank you." Kimmelman, like so many others, wanted to know why photographs from the Syrian conflict haven't produced the same reactions similar images have in the past. "Pictures of war and suffering have pricked the public

  • The March of Folly

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unique in their sophisticated weaponry and surreal nation-building aspirations, surely demand their own brand of literature, a mode of writing that will capture, somehow, the careless brutality that the world’s most powerful country wrought on two fragile populations. The striking difference between the wars of the past and those of the present is the scale of the imbalance. As one Iraqi in Anthony Shadid’s Night Draws Near told him just before the invasion, “What is Iraq? This is crazy! The United States is so powerful. It should respect itself. It should use

  • The Nowhere War

    FOR A LONG TIME, it has been unclear why the Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan. In 2001, when the Bush administration launched the invasion, the mission was to destroy Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership. But thirteen years later, with Osama bin Laden dead and Al Qaeda’s operations and leaders dispersed well beyond Afghanistan’s borders, how can we sum up the main objective of America’s longest-running war? Who is the enemy now?

    Even during the run-up toAfghanistan’sApril presidential election, as bombs exploded at day-care centers and assassins shot up five-star hotels, those

  • The Conquering Hero

    In the early chapters of Lawrence in Arabia—note the “in”—Scott Anderson describes how the young T. E. Lawrence reacted to the death of his brother. Though the book is named for the British intelligence officer who improbably led an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks during World War I, Anderson threads his expansive history with only a well-chosen few of his hero’s many personality quirks; he even resists the temptation to overquote Lawrence’s florid and funny 1922 autobiography Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Yet Lawrence’s curious cruelty to his mother gets considerable space, presumably because

  • Peace in Our Time?

    The war on terror was sold as a war scarier than all the rest. Even now, it’s tempting to see America’s foreign-policy blunders in the early twenty-first century as aberrations born of panic, fear, and ignorance. The shock of September 11, the emergence of mysterious antagonists, and the Bush administration’s catastrophic retaliation seem to constitute a distinct historical era: a time capsule of unique horror, but one that came with its own sell-by date. Not only were invasion, torture, and increased domestic security newly justifiable; the standard official rationale for them held that they

  • Before the Deluge

    Americans who have lived abroad know that the rest of the world is mildly obsessed with the CIA. I live in Istanbul, and early on I learned that many Turks believe CIA agents can pull off everything from September 11 to the election of Islamists; what’s more, they suspect I might be a spy, too. In this view of the world, some foreign influence is always responsible for something, some outside group is always “fomenting chaos” somewhere, some lethal CIA squad is always making it look like the leftists bombed the rightists by bombing the rightists themselves. At first, to this innocent and trusting

  • Near Eastern Promises

    On April 5, 1946, the USS Missouri, “the world’s most famous battleship,” sailed up the Bosporus and docked in Istanbul. President Harry Truman had dispatched his triumphant vessel to deliver the body of Turkish diplomat Münir Ertegün (the father, as it happens, of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet)—and, more important, to secure an alliance with Turkey at the beginning of the cold war. At the time, the Turks had few friends in the world. Only thirty years earlier, the British prime minister, David Lloyd George, had called the Ottomans “a human cancer.” When the victorious Americans appeared on