Letter From Washington: A Little Learning

Douglas J. Feith, who is the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, lives in one of the better Maryland suburbs, on a street of large and unhandsome Colonial homes. The interior of Feith's house has space and light, but it is furnished in a mostly expedient manner; Feith and his wife, Tatiana, have four children-ages eight to twenty-one-and the house feels very much theirs.

The exception is Feith's library. It is apparent that he has devoted considerable care and money to its design and, in particular, to its collection, which numbers at least five thousand volumes. The floors and shelves are dark oak, and the walls are covered in hunter-green wallpaper. The library is not in the style of the high-station Washington bureaucrat who wants to telegraph his indispensability; there are few photographs of Feith in the company of potentates and prime ministers and presidents. Instead, Feith has filled the room with images of figures who have earned his admiration. Busts of Washington and Lincoln sit on the shelves; Churchill scowls in the direction of Feith's desk. A black-and-white portrait of Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, hangs over a green leather couch. In his collection, history has displaced nearly every other subject; fiction-his favorite is Nabokov-has been exiled to the basement. The library is weighted disproportionately to the history of the British Empire, and Feith has spent many hours schooling himself in the schemes and follies of the British on the playing fields of the Middle East.
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