Editor’s note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart Patrick, who will return July 12.
Some years ago, I wrote a column about the Trump administration’s hapless diplomacy at the United Nations that noted that the U.S. faced “a brace of flash points from Iran to South Sudan.” I did not pause to think what “a brace” was. I must have assumed it meant “a lot.”
A few days later, I received a wry email from a gentleman in Oxford pointing out that a brace is in fact a synonym for “a pair.” Trump, he thought, was facing more than just two crises.
The gentleman in question was Edward Mortimer, once the speechwriter and head of communications for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The fact that Mortimer, who died this month, paused to flag a minor slip in a routine article about the Trump presidency says much about the man. He was deeply committed to both the U.N. and precise, effective prose.