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Applebaum, Anne

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  • Legatum Institute: Director, Political Studies

  • Washington Post: Columnist

  • American Enterprise Institute: Former Adjunct Fellow

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Anne Applebaum is a program director at the London-based Legatum Institute and a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and Slate.com. Sometimes characterized as a neoconservative because of her on-again-off-again support for militarist U.S. foreign policies, including the invasion of Iraq, Applebaum formerly worked as an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Applebaum has been a resident of Poland and is married to Radoslaw Sikorski, a fierce anti-communist Polish politician whose experience includes working as a director of AEI’s New Atlantic Initiative.[1]

Applebaum has been at the Legatum Institute since mid-2011, where she directs its political studies program. In announcing her appointment, Jeffrey Gedmin, CEO of Legatum and a founding signatory of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, said in a press release: “Anne is an exceptionally gifted thinker and writer. Her eloquence, range and independence have made her one of the most interesting and influential public policy intellectuals of her generation.”[2]

According to its website, “the Legatum Institute (LI) is an independent non-partisan public policy organisation whose research, publications, and programmes advance ideas and policies in support of free and prosperous societies around the world. LI’s signature annual publication is the Legatum Prosperity Index, the world’s only global assessment of national prosperity based on both wealth and subjective wellbeing. LI is a co-publisher of Democracy Lab (with Foreign Policy Magazine), a website dedicated to covering political and economic transitions around the world.”[3]

Applebaum got her start covering the demise of the Soviet Union as a Warsaw-based correspondent for the Economist during the late 1980s. This experience sometimes appears to color her views on contemporary U.S. foreign policy issues like the “war on terror.”[4]

Applebaum was a vocal proponent of the invasion of Iraq, in part because of her belief—oft heard amongst neoconservative ideologues at the time—that Saddam Hussein was an irrational leader like Hitler and thus would eventually use his alleged weapons of mass destruction. In a 2002 article for Slate, she wrote: “Although I dislike the modern tendency to compare every mad dictator to Hitler, in this narrow sense, the comparison to Saddam might be apt. Are you sure Saddam would not risk the destruction of his country, if he thought, for some reason, that he or his regime was in danger? Do you want to wait and find out? In my view, Saddam's personality—which I would really like to see more carefully and more frequently dissected by people who know him and his regime—ought to be as much a part of the debate about whether to intervene as his putative nuclear arsenal. We really don't know whether deterrence will work in the case of Iraq. Megalomaniacal tyrants do not always behave in the way rational people do, and to assume otherwise is folly.”[5]

The only substantive concern Applebaum expressed in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq was the poor sell made by the Bush administration. “If I have any real qualms about the potential war in Iraq, they are not so much about the central issue … but about the peculiar way in which the administration has until now gone about making its case for the war. There have, it is true, been a few statements from Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice made an appearance on the BBC. But most of the time, both the president and his Cabinet have acted as if they don't really need to make the case for engaging in some kind of action in Iraq—and almost as if they expect the media, and Tony Blair, to make the case for them.”[6]

Applebaum has also written on events in other Mideast countries, including Syria and Iran. In a February 2012 Post op-ed, for example, Applebaum ridiculed comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who during a visit to Damascus in early 2012 downplayed the ongoing attacks by the Assad regime against civilian populations in the country. Pointing to Lavrov’s assurances that Syria was committed to “stopping violence regardless of where it may come from” and undertaking democratic reforms, Applebaum wrote: “Actually, the time for ‘democratic reforms’ has long passed in Syria, where Assad’s army shows no sign of ‘stopping violence regardless of where it may come from.’ If anything, the brutality increased during the hours that Lavrov spent in Damascus.” She added it was remarkable “that even the Russians now feel obligated to use this kind of language. I have to presume that Lavrov doesn’t care one way or the other about democracy in Syria: He went there because Syria buys a lot of weapons from Russia, because Russia was spooked by the fall of Moammar Gaddafi, and because unrest in Syria might be bad for other Russian interests in the region.”[7]

Applebaum has also argued that although President Obama will likely not bomb Iran, he should be prepared for war anyway since Israel will likely attack it. Presaging arguments made by Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg in mid-2010, Applebaum wrote in February 2010, “But even if Obama does not bomb Iran, that doesn't mean that no one else will. At the moment … it may seem as if Obama's most important legacy, positive or negative, will be domestic. In the future, we might not consider any of this important at all. The defining moment of his presidency may well come at 2 a.m. some day when he picks up the phone and is told that the Israeli prime minister is on the line: Israel has just carried out a raid on Iranian nuclear sites. What then?”[8]

Concluded Applebaum, “Contrary to [Sarah] Palin, I do not think Obama would restore the fortunes of his presidency by bombing Iran, like a character out of that movie ‘Wag the Dog.’ But I do hope that this administration is ready, militarily and psychologically, not for a war of choice but for an unwanted war of necessity. This is real life, after all, not Hollywood.”[9]

Applebaum’s article prompted a blogger at “The Stopped Clock” to comment, “Does Anne Applebaum own a map?” The blogger added, “Seriously, is Applebaum picturing a Middle East with a vastly different geographic layout than the one she might find if she looked at a map, and also imagining an alternative history where the U.S. has no military presence in the Middle East or Persian Gulf? Does Applebaum imagine that the Israeli bombers would get permission from Turkey to fly through its airspace for the bombing run, without the U.S. learning of the plan? Does she imagine fighter jets trying to fly to the north of Turkey, over the Black Sea, without the Russians noticing and with the permission of … say, Greece, Bulgaria, Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan … again securing the consent of those nations and without the U.S. finding out? Does she imagine that they'll fly over Jordan or Saudi Arabia, without the consent of those nations, then through Iraq, without the massive U.S. military force in Iraq looking up in the sky and saying, ‘Hey, those aren't our jets!’”[10]

Applebaum has harshly criticized some Iranian leaders for, among other issues, calling into question the Holocaust. Pointing to the controversial 2006 conference in Tehran on the Holocaust—which featured the likes of David Duke and Georges Thiel, and was aimed at giving an opportunity to thinkers “who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust”—she wrote: “As even embarrassed Iranians realize, the conference is a disgrace, a grotesque attempt to relativize, if not deny, a crime against humanity. Far from giving those in the Middle East a chance to discuss this historical event (a chance all too rarely given in their own countries), the organizers have already censored the proceedings by denying a visa to an outspoken Palestinian lawyer who said that denials of the ‘monstrous horror’ harmed the Palestinian cause.”[11]

Applebaum added: “The more thoughtful Palestinians have already understood that the refusal to acknowledge the wartime persecution of the Jews gives credibility to the assertion that critics of Israel are motivated by anti-Semitism. Iran’s president simply proves the point. He has labeled Israel a ‘tumor’ that should be ‘wiped from the face of the Earth.’”

Applebaum’s track record of advocating hawkish policies has prompted critical rhetoric from some observers. Jordan Smith, in a 2010 Salon article, included her in his list of “liberal hawks,”[12] and in 2007 Matt Barganier of antiwar.com said she was “as neocon in her foreign policy as anyone at the Weekly Standard.”[13]

Applebaum only comments infrequently—albeit in tones often similar to many neocons—on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2002, for example, she argued that the Israeli bombing of Palestinian media outlets during the Second Intifada was “the right place for Israel to focus its ire” and a “legitimate target.”[14] She has also lauded some of the most hardline supporters of the Israeli right in the United States, like Daniel Pipes, whom she called “one of the best” American commentators on the Middle East.[15]

However, Applebaum has also expressed considerable caution regarding other potential targets of U.S. military intervention. In early 2011, Applebaum criticized fellow Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, an important neoconservative trailblazer, for his outspoken support for U.S. intervention in Libya. On the Post’s PostPartisan blog she wrote, “In response to Charles Krauthammer's blog post, let me quote, once again, the first sentence of his column of March 4: ‘Voices around the world, from Europe to America to Libya, are calling for U.S. intervention to help bring down Moammar Gaddafi.’ And let me repeat: This is a fantasy. No voices anywhere, in any part of the world, are calling for U.S. intervention to bring down Moammar Gaddafi. There is no ‘strange moral inversion’ or ‘hypocritical double standard’ in the international debate about Libya. There is some discussion of aid and of a no-fly zone—but only as a U.N. or NATO action, only as a last resort, only to prevent genocide (Rwanda is being cited as a precedent) and only if it can be done with as little unilateral ‘American’ input as possible.”[16]

Regarding Krauthammer’s comparison of Libya and Iraq, Applebaum wrote, “I supported the war in Iraq, I am glad Saddam Hussein is dead and I hope Iraqi democracy succeeds. But, unlike Krauthammer, I do not think that the war has been in any way helpful to the cause of democracy in Libya. On the contrary: It looms like a black shadow over everything Americans do and say in the Arab world.”[17]

According to the bio on Applebaum’s personal website (www.anneapplebaum.com/): “Formerly a member of the Washington Post editorial board, she has also worked as the Foreign and Deputy Editor of the Spectator magazine in London, as the Political Editor of the Evening Standard, and as a columnist at several British newspapers, including the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs. From 1988-1991 she covered the collapse of communism as the Warsaw correspondent of the Economist magazine. Her first book, Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe, described a journey through Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus, then on the verge of independence. Her most recent book, Gulag: A History, was published in 2003 and won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 2004. The book narrates the history of the Soviet concentration camps system and describes daily life in the camps, making extensive use of recently opened Russian archives, as well as memoirs and interviews. Gulag: A History has appeared in more than two dozen translations, including all major European languages.”

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Sources


[1] For more on Applebaum’s biography, see her personal website http://www.anneapplebaum.com/. For a list of recent writings, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/2010/07/06/ABmBr7D_linkset.html.



[2] Legatum Institute, Press Release, May 11, 2011,  http://www.li.com/attachments/20110511%20Anne%20Applebaum%20Press%20Release.pdf.



[3] Legatum Institute, “About,” http://www.li.com/AboutUs.aspx.



[4] See, for instance, the intro to her article, “Should U.S. Invade Iraq? Week 2,” Slate.com, October 1, 2002, http://www.slate.com/id/2071670/entry/2071806.



[5] Anne Applebaum, “Should U.S. Invade Iraq? Week 2,” Slate.com, October 1, 2002, http://www.slate.com/id/2071670/entry/2071806.



[6] Anne Applebaum, “Should U.S. Invade Iraq? Week 2,” Slate.com, October 1, 2002, http://www.slate.com/id/2071670/entry/2071806.



[7] Anne Applebaum, “Russia’s Potempkin Democracy,” Washington Post, February 8, 2012.



[8] Anne Applebaum, “Prepare for war with Iran -- in case Israel strikes,” Washington Post, April 23, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/22/AR2010022203528.html.



[9] Anne Applebaum, “Prepare for war with Iran -- in case Israel strikes,” Washington Post, April 23, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/22/AR2010022203528.html.



[10] Anne Applebaum, “Does Anne Applebaum Own a Map?” February 23, 2010, http://thestoppedclock.blogspot.com/2010/02/does-ann-applebaum-own-map.html.



[11] Anne Applebaum, “Criminal Denial,” The Sunday Times, December 12, 2006, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article1089109.ece.



[12] Jordan Smith, “Will the liberal hawks fly again?”, Salon, August 22, 2010, http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/08/22/liberal_hawks_fly_again/index.html



[13] Matt Barganier, “Anne Applebaum, Voice of the Voiceful,” Antiwar.com, July 17, 2007, http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2007/07/17/anne-applebaum-voice-of-the-voiceful/



[14] Anne Applebaum, “Kill the Messenger,” Slate, January 21, 2002, http://www.slate.com/id/2060947/



[15] Anne Applebaum, “Flip a Coin in Israe,” Slate, December 14, 2000, http://www.slate.com/id/95120/



[16] Anne Applebaum, “Libya, Krauthammer and the shadow of Iraq,” Washington Post, PostPartisan, March 9, 2011, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2011/03/libya_iraq_intervention.html.



[17] Anne Applebaum, “Libya, Krauthammer and the shadow of Iraq,” Washington Post, PostPartisan, March 9, 2011, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2011/03/libya_iraq_intervention.html.


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Applebaum, Anne Résumé


Affiliations

  • Legatum Institute: Director, Political Studies (2011- )

  • Washington Post: Columnist

  • Slate.com: Columnist

  • American Enterprise Institute: Former adjunct fellow

  • Spectator: Former deputy editor

  • Evening Standard: Former political editor

  • Sunday Telegraph: Former columnist

  • DailyTelegraph: Former columnist

  • Economist: Former correspondent




Education

  • Yale: B.A., 1986

  • London School of Economics: Masters, 1987

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