Middle East

The contrast could not have been starker. On one day in August two glossy magazines showed up in my mailbox. One, the Barnard Magazine, showed three beautiful young women, elegantly dressed and beaming, holding champagne glasses and enjoying the festivities around their fifth reunion. The other,

TIME, depicted a once equally beautiful woman, looking out from her head shawl and into the camera, revealing nothing. Her nose had been cut clean off—punishment by the Taliban, the article explained, for having fled her abusive in-laws. The woman, Aisha, was 18.

Everything in Dubai is tall, it seems, and everyone is from somewhere else. The man who greeted me at the airport was from Bosnia. The cabdriver was Sri Lankan; the hotel clerk, Nigerian. (Yes, I am one of those annoying travelers who ask a lot of questions.) Like the buildings that tower over what was recently desert, the people of Dubai appear almost to have dropped from the sky, hailing from across the planet and now mixed randomly, picturesquely, in this tiny crossroads by the sea.

A revealing exchange of personal histories and ideas about the future.

The chair of the political science department draws on history to assess what's really needed in Afghanistan.

Adventures and misadventures in ghostwriting