Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
It was not so much the guns of Oct. 6, 1973, and the assault of the Egyptian and Syrian armies against Israel, that changed contemporary history and remade our world. It was the use 11 days later of the "oil weapon," and the price increases that followed, which tipped the scales of history.
By the time OPEC unsheathed the oil weapon, 30 years ago today, the tide of battle had turned. Israel had regained the initiative: its soldiers had crossed to the western side of the Suez Canal, and were within striking distance of Damascus as well. It was then, on the edge of yet another Arab calamity, that the Saudi monarch, King Faisal, broke with his American protectors and began what turned into a frontal assault on the very bases of the post-World War II international order.
On Oct. 17, 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised the price of oil to more than $5 a barrel from $3 a barrel; a day later it cut production by 5 percent a month; three days later, it imposed an embargo on petroleum exports to the United States. Then the shah of Iran struck with a rebellion of his own. In Tehran, just before Christmas, he secured the consent of the other oil-producing nations for yet another price increase, to $11.65 a barrel.
In the "Thousand and One Nights," the recurring theme is of the beggar becoming king and the king a beggar. So it was when OPEC imposed its embargo. It was an attempt to turn the stuff of fantasy into reality, to make the largest transfer of wealth in the annals of nations. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger was among those who realized this. "Never before in history," he wrote in his memoirs, "has a group of such relatively weak nations been able to impose with so little protest such a dramatic change in the way of life of the overwhelming majority of the rest of mankind."
No tears were shed, though, for the old order of things in those countries rich with oil, or in the large stretches of the Arab-Muslim world on their periphery. The peoples of those lands had long dreamt of just such a moment. They hadn't quite foreseen how the dream would play out. Still, the modern nationalisms of the Arabs and the Iranians had always revolved around the use of oil; the grievances of these nationalisms were tales of how Western prospectors and explorers, and their powerful world-spanning companies, had worked their way on the politics of the Arab Middle East and brought about its subjugation.
These lands, it seemed, were now done with that history. Everywhere in the Arab world there was a palpable sense of excitement, of defeats avenged. Nothing was out of reach. New wealth would bring the latest technology and training and secure the withdrawal of Israel from the lands it occupied in 1967. Modern history itself could be short-circuited; poor, unskilled societies would be able to join the era of technology and industry.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:24
Which leaders in US history would be neocons today?
It's possible that Teddy Roosevelt would be a neocon. I think it's almost certain he would have supported the war in Iraq. And he wouldn't have cared about the lack of a UN resolution. I'm not sure who else would be a neocon in foreign policy. In some ways [neocons] are very original.
Is there a particular point in the history of US foreign policy that reminds you of today's foreign policy environment?
In some ways, it reminds me of the period around 1946-47 when we were trying to figure out what the cold war was going to mean. The country realizes we have a challenge on our hands, but we're not quite yet sure how we're going to meet it ultimately.
There's also the period in the early part of the 20th century when it was clear that the British empire was not going to be as strong and the Unisted States was growing. And you had people like Teddy Roosevelt and others beginning to think ... "What if America is going to become an imperial nation? What does that look like?"
What makes neocons unique throughout the history of US foreign policy?
When we think of Wilsonianism now, we tend to think of secular, humanist ideas - building a world government - sort of a Europeanist foreign policy. If you went back a hundred years or so, Wilsonianism was carried out by people like missionaries who thought that the way to make America safe was to make the rest of the world believe the way we do and act the way we do. But they weren't as concerned about the institutional aspect.
The neocons of today have sort of revived this older Wilsonian tradition. They are no longer concerned, say, about the United Nations, which is what we think Wilsonians are mostly thinking about ... or the World Court. In fact, they think that stuff gets in the way to some degree. But they are more concerned about basic American values and spreading those.
So it's a different Wilsonianism from what we've all grown up thinking about. It's non-institutional and it's values-based. To some degree, it's a conservative Christian value base. Even though many conservatives are Jews, the sort of basic values that they are promoting are very much the sort of Protestant, Christian values that were dominant in 19th-century America.
Do you think neoconservatives have had their "moment in the sun" with their successful push for a preemptive war against Iraq? Do you think that the broad support they might enjoy now will wane?
I think they're still in business. The weak spot, obviously, for them, is that ... if we are taking 20 casualties a month in Iraq a year from now, there may not be a lot of people thanking them for this. But, on the other hand, we were in the [Vietnam War] for years before people really turned against it. And even then, I think ... other than elite opinion ... the thing that bothered most ordinary Americans wasn't that we were fighting or that our strategy was too hawkish, but they couldn't see that we had a strategy for victory ... that it looked like it was going to be a deadlock forever.
It may well be that if the American people remain convinced that the war in Iraq is necessary for national security ... and even if the war goes on for a long time ... if they feel that we have a strategy that will win and that is necessary, people may support it for a very long time. It's hard to say. If it goes well, even after a while, the neoconservatives will be strengthened.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:23
Imagine that a recent immigrant just granted American citizenship knows more about American history and civics than your college-aged son or daughter. According to a new report, thats the reality.
The Albert Shanker Institute, a non-profit educational foundation, is worried many states have de-emphasized history and civics in favor of math and reading, and the facts are on its side. The most recent National Assessment of Education Progress found only 17 percent of eighth-graders scored at a proficient or above level in United States history courses. Most students did not know what countries the United States fought in World War II, many didnt know what the Progressive Era was and less than 50 percent understood that the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of laws.
Its no wonder. More than half the states dont have a requirement to teach American government.
Of course, every new citizen of the United States has to demonstrate knowledge of how the federal government works, what the principles of the Declaration of Independence are, and other facts about the history and operation of the United States.
When Sen. Lamar Alexander pledged to introduce a bill to improve history and civics education in this country, some thought he had picked out a rather obscure issue. But Alexanders vision is proving correct.
There are real tangible effects of a lack of civics and history education. Citizens dont develop a national identity and long-term view of themselves in relation to their country without this information. Could that be why the number of people who vote has gone down over the last decade?
Alexanders American History and Civics Education Act passed the Senate last summer.
The act creates two-week summer academies for teachers and students that will focus on the ideas, people and events that created our democratic heritage. It also creates a new National Alliance of Teachers of American History and Civics to encourage innovative teaching of history and civics.
Now, more than ever, as we redefine ourselves as Americans post Sept. 11, 2001, we need to make sure our identity is strong and that we know who we are as a nation.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:23
On Jan. 25, 1787, 1,200 desperate farmers brandishing barrel staves and pitchforks attacked the federal arsenal in Springfield, Mass. They called themselves the Regulators. Led by a debt-plagued veteran of Bunker Hill and Saratoga named Daniel Shays, they sought firearms with which to enforce their threats to close the courts in western Massachusetts and compel the legislature to enact debt-relief measures, including an inflationary paper currency and an end to mortgage foreclosures.
A single cannon volley killed four of the embattled farmers. Then a Revolutionary War hero, Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, arrived with a militia that scattered the remaining rebels and relentlessly hunted them down through the heavy snow. Yet the Regulators' failed outburst had consequences that have shaped the character of American politics for more than two centuries, up to the current recall election in California.
The uprising was handily crushed. But it intimidated the Massachusetts legislature into enacting laws that menaced the interests of the monied class. Many leaders in the founding generation gagged on this apparently craven pandering to the popular will. Outright insurrection was one thing, but the state legislature's cavalier disregard for property rights was a far more insidious threat. "An elective despotism," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "was not the government we fought for."
Shays' Rebellion, in short, had demonstrated that America was not immune from the inherent affliction that theorists of democracy had warned against since the days of the ancient Greeks: that a government based on the will of the majority would inevitably yield to the demands of the "mob" and lead to a tyranny of the majority. Such a polity would be resentful toward excellence and callous toward minority rights. Worst of all, it would wield the power of the state against more prosperous members of society and confiscate their wealth.
To protect the United States from that unhappy fate, leaders like James Madison called for radically revising the Articles of Confederation, under whose rules the fledgling republic was then governed. The result was the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which convened four months after General Lincoln turned back the rebels. At the convention, Madison and others drafted a new fundamental law whose checks and balances and elaborate federal structure would, among other things, frustrate the confiscatory designs of future would-be Regulators. For better or worse, Daniel Shays thus deserves to be recognized as a founder.
Over time, many Americans came to believe that the Constitution's drafters had seen their duty and overdone it. The framers had created a federal governmental apparatus too well insulated from the popular will, too difficult to mobilize for any common purpose, whether confiscatory or constructive, and too easily hijacked by special interests whose machinations eluded public scrutiny. At the dawn of the 20th century, that kind of thinking animated a host of so-called progressive reformers, conspicuously including a cantankerous California Republican named Hiram Johnson....
The initiative process that he championed has contributed to the near-fatal weakening of the legislature, and has created prodigious opportunities for manipulating and mismanaging the state's political business....
Proposition 13, for example, which passed in 1978, addressed a real problem wildly rising property taxes with an inept combination of inequitably defined tax limits and impossibly large supermajority requirements for any revisions in the law....
Proposition 13's untouchability, and Mr. Schwarzenegger's fierce commitment to it, suggest that something has happened in American society that would have mystified Daniel Shays and Hiram Johnson as well. In their very different ways, they sought greater democracy as the means to a government that was more responsive to the masses.
But in California more democracy has produced not more attacks on the wealthy and big business but chronic chaos and even paralysis a kind of political catatonia perversely sanctified by neoconservative and libertarian dogmas that assert, as another former governor of California put it, that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:22
To most Westerners, especially Americans, the almost regular and predictable murder of Israeli civilians of all ages seems both incomprehensible and, precisely because of its regularity and frequency, unsurprising. The phenomenon has, however, stirred some interest in a media previously immune to serious analysis of terrorism in general and within American academia, which was traditionally uninterested in terrorism.
Since the early 1980s, when the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah (with Iranian Khomeinist funds and training) and the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil EelamLTTE (Marxists/Hindus/Tamil secessionists) initiated the routine use of suicide terrorists as an instrument of war, suicide bombers have been active in Sri Lanka, Turkey, Kashmir, India, Lebanon, Israel, Russia, the U.S., and Indonesia. Failed suicide bombing attempts ( including the use of aircraft ) are known from France, Spain and Turkey, and successful attempts have been made elsewhere by citizens or residents of Germany and the UK. A New York Times op-ed by Robert A. Pape, Dying to kill us (Sept. 22, 2003), therefore concludes that suicide terrorism transcends religious, ethnic, and political boundaries.
But with the exception of the LTTEs acts, all other terrorist acts were committed by Muslims, and of those, all except those by the PKK/Kadek in Turkey and Arafats Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades were committed by members of openly Islamist groups. The LTTE/PKK cases led some to dismiss the role of religion in the motivation of suicide terrorists, but on further analysis, the exception indeed proves the rule.
The LTTE are Marxists, Hindus, and Tamil separatists; the PKK/KADEK are self proclaimed Marxists and Kurdish separatists; and Arafats Fatah is secular. But the religious element, properly and unconventionally understood, applies equally to these apparent exceptions. Indeed, the LTTE under Velupillai Prabhakaran (who has been involved in this years Norway-arranged peace talks between LTTE and Sri Lanka but remains wanted around the world) and the PKK under Abdullah Ocalan (who has been imprisoned in Turkey since his 1999 arrest) are groups that operate more like religious sects under the absolute control of a charismatic leader.
An excellent case could thus be made that the LTTE and PKK are in a sense religious despite their Marxist/separatist claims, inasmuch as they operate like sects (Jim Jones of Guyana fame was also mixing Marxism and religion) and the leaders are God-like figures of absolute political and spiritual authority. Ocalan was known as Apo (uncle), a mysteriously grand and omnipresent figure.
By contrast, orthodox Marxist-Leninist groups, including Sendero Luminoso and Colombias Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), do not use suicide bombings, presumably because they claim a scientific ideological base, hence one critical of religious fanaticism. Al Aksas bombers, some of whom had been rejected by Hamas (!), operate in a political and cultural, not to mention educational environment increasingly dominated by Islamism, and thus are more the result of peer pressure than of secularist convictions. Chechens began to use suicide bombers only once they were infiltrated by Wahhabis.
And then there is suicide bombers targeting, again a religiously related variable. The LTTE targeted politiciansthey murdered a former Indian prime minister and a Sri Lankan presidentbut not civilians, unless as collateral damage; the PKK suicide bombers also targeted Turkish military or jandarma, not civilians. By contrast, the Islamist terrorists have targeted civilians since the start: Jews if possible, Americans, Australians, Indians, or other Western crusaders and assorted non-believers.
The suicide bomber terrorist phenomenon is a growing element in international terrorists arsenal, but it remains a weapon with religious background. It was, and is everywhere, a weapon of the relatively educated: Tamil Hindu women who were able to mix well at Buddhist electoral meetings in Sri Lanka, Palestinian high school and university students posing as Israelis; and it was Western-educated Islamists who trained to murder thousands in America on 9/11, hundreds in Bali, many in Casablanca and Riyadh.
Ultimately, the suicide bomber is just another tool in the arsenal of the international terrorist groups. For the bomber, religion is the basic motivation or excuse. Their mission is legitimized by a supreme charismatic leader or Islamic cleric; special recruiters bring the suicide candidate together with the group. Eliminating the enablersthe recruiters and ideologistswherever they are (mostly in London, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) must therefore be the first step in eliminating the problem.
Who, exactly are these suicide bombers, widely described as martyrs in Moslem, not just Islamist opinion? They are not certainly martyrs: in the Christian sense - people who were killed for their faith, but murderers people who killed themselves in order to murder others. Most choose innocent and defenseless victims simply for the psychological value of their actions the theater aspect of terrorism. Most are relatively privileged, educated young people, and a growing number are women. A few (such as Chechnyas black widows) have deeply personal reasons, primarily revenge for the loss of family members; others are simply lost souls who have lost all moral standards; but most are fanatics, products of well planned recruitment and indoctrination schemes. But what they all share is Roman philosopher Seneca's opinion that he who does not prize his own life threatens that of others. And suicide terrorism works according to Israeli souces, during the past three years suicide bombers were responsible for 50% of Israeli fatalities, while making only 0.5 % of the total number of terrorist attacks.
Is there a solution to the suicide bomber phenomenon? If solution means putting a stop to it in absolute terms the answer has to be negative precisely because Seneca was right. Could the incidence of such actions be limited and drastically reduced? Yes, and it has been done, in Algeria, Turkey and Israel. At the same time, we must provide support and understanding for, rather than persistent criticism of those Muslim regimes, whether in Cairo, Islamabad, Rabat or Algiers, undemocratic as they may be for the human rights fundamentalists of the UN and nongovernmental organizations, not just because perfection is often the enemy of good, but also because, being the first on the line of fire from terrorists, they have the motivation and the record of success against them. It remains a mystery why the World War II alliance between Western democracies and Stalins criminal and aggressive regime was and still is seen as acceptable, and the one between Washington, Riyadh, Cairo, and Islamabad should be rejected for human rights reasons. The war is similar in scope, the danger is similar in nature, and the future hard to predict, but the essential point for now is that the enemy is the same.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:21
confess I have a dog in this fight. I have two small children, and I am worried about the world we are creating for them. Perhaps my biggest concern is the mismanaged postwar occupation of Iraq.
My usual reaction when someone mentions national prestige is to guard my wallet. But regardless of what we think about the decision to invade Iraq, our country now is waist deep in that briar patch and can't leave until some serious semblance of order and sovereignty are restored.
The military occupation is costing about $1 billion a week or roughly $50 billion for the year. That's a lot of money nearly as much as all veterans' benefits ($58 billion), not quite twice the federal budget for public education ($34 billion), more than three times the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's budget ($15 billion) and 10 times the FBI's budget ($5 billion). That's how much the Iraq war is costing on top of the nearly $400 billion defense budget.
How much money is $50 billion? Let's be cynical and assume the war was about oil. Since gasoline is our nation's main use of oil, let's put the burden of paying for the war on drivers. Americans consume 372 million gallons of gas daily. To pay that $1 billion a week would require a gas tax of 43 cents a gallon. To pay the entire $87 billion the president requested would demand a gas tax of 64 cents a gallon.
Historically, wars have been very expensive and usually force the imposition of new taxes to pay for them, such as the income tax, first used in the Civil War. Not paying for wars can have devastating financial consequences. Lyndon Johnson's "guns-and-butter" approach to Vietnam burdened the country with years of disastrous inflation.
So what is President Bush proposing?
Instead, he will increase the government's deficit to more than $500 billion this fiscal year, a record. And all of it will be repaid later. (Currently, we pay $171 billion in interest on the debt, a sum that will rise to more than $250 billion in five years.) I don't like the concept of paying additional taxes any more than the next person, but I dislike the idea of shoving the burden on to my children even more.
If Mr. Bush won't be fiscally responsible, Congress should.
As a first step, Congress should suspend or repeal the tax cut for taxpayers earning more than $200,000. That will raise many billions and at least provide a sense of sacrifice by those most able to afford it.
Second, Congress should raise the gas tax not 38 cents but at least 5 cents or 10 cents a gallon, with future automatic increases. Call it the "defeat Osama bin Laden victory fund," dedicated to reducing American dependence on imported oil by encouraging more efficient driving.
Third, Congress should insist on strict financial accounting and openness in contracts to ensure the money is spent honestly and well. Contracts granted without bidding to Halliburton don't inspire confidence in the American overseers in Iraq. Nor does Joe Allbaugh's recent establishment of a consulting firm to help companies get an inside edge in obtaining Iraqi contracts; Mr. Allbaugh managed Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign and recently headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency
Reconstructing Iraq will be a long and expensive process. Restructuring Germany and Japan took a decade, and that was without a hostile and armed populace. Mr. Bush's request for $87 billion won't be his last request.
The only sacrifices Mr. Bush has asked for are from our children and the more than 300 American servicemen and servicewomen who have died in Iraq. And that isn't right.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:21
There is, of course, a perfectly respectable argument for accelerating the transition from U.S. to Iraqi authority that has been laid out in recent days both by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on this page and by Ahmed Chalabi, member of the Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Congress. American forces are not good at doing police work; the faster they can be replaced by Iraqi counterparts the less hostility they will generate on the part of the Iraqi people. We do not want to create a situation of dependency in which our nation-building efforts crowd out those of the locals and stifle their initiative. Mr. Rumsfeld is arguing in effect for nation-building "lite," the counterpart to his small-force approach to winning the war itself.
But there are also some very important reasons for not making the turnover too rapid or skimping on resources. Any new Iraqi provisional government will be very weak, both because it lacks depth in administrative skills and because it will have serious problems of legitimacy. The former problem can be fixed as more Iraqis are recruited and trained, and as former officials with skills are vetted for Baathist loyalties, but this takes time. The problem of legitimacy will presumably ultimately be dealt with as a new constitution is drafted and the first democratic elections are held, but this again is a matter of years rather than months. Members of the Governing Council working on the constitution have warned that meeting Colin Powell's six-month deadline for a draft document will hand power to the Islamists, since they are the best organized political force today. It is right to warn against long-term dependency, but dependence is often born out of genuine weaknesses that cannot be easily remedied.
It is very important to understand that nation-building involves a lot more than training indigenous police and military forces to take over their coercive roles from the occupying power. Unless such forces are embedded in a broader structure of political parties, civilian administration, respect for individual rights, and rule of law more generally, they are subject to being hijacked or abused in the internal struggle for power. The U.S. has unfortunately made this mistake in earlier nation-building exercises. The U.S. created a modern national guard in Nicaragua during its late 1920s intervention there, only to see that institution hijacked by the dictator Anastasio Somoza once the Marines left in 1932. Abuses in past decades by U.S.-trained police forces from Central America to Vietnam explain why there are legal restrictions currently in place limiting our ability to provide this kind of training.
As we proceed down the reconstruction road, there will be calls to declare victory and use that as an excuse for drawing down troop levels and capping resource transfers. We have seen these kinds of exit strategies before: At the end of "Vietnamization" we left South Vietnam's president Thieu hanging on for two years before being overwhelmed by North Vietnam in 1975.
The Bush administration has always been schizophrenic on the subject of how much effort to invest in nation-building. Last February, when addressing the American Enterprise Institute, the president said that the U.S. would stay in Iraq "as long as necessary, and not a day more." The first part of the phrase represents the neoconservative position; the latter that of the traditionalist conservatives. Both could agree back before the beginning of the war that Iraq should be attacked and disarmed, but now that this has happened the self-contradictory nature of the statement is increasingly clear.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:20
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:20
It is fast becoming conventional wisdom that the power of the United States today closely resembles that of the United Kingdom roughly a century ago. In the conclusion of my latest book, I attempted a brief comparison between British and American imperial rule, and I am far from the only historian to think along these lines: both Walter Russell Mead and Joseph Nye have also alluded to the continuities in their recent work.
Indeed, the two empires have many superficial similarities. Take Iraq. As the epigraphs show, President Bush, when he addressed the Iraqi people on television shortly after the United States seized Baghdad earlier this year, unmistakably (although no doubt unconsciously) echoed the rhetoric used by the British commander who occupied the city in 1917. And the similarities are not limited to language. In both cases, Anglophone troops swept from the south of Iraq to Baghdad in a matter of weeks. In both cases, their governments disclaimed any desire to rule Iraq directly and hastened to install a government with at least the appearance of popular legitimacy. In both cases, imposing law and order proved harder than achieving military victory (the British had to use air power to quell a major insurrection in the summer of 1920). And in both cases, the presence of substantial oil reserves -- confirmed by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1927 -- was not a wholly irrelevant factor, despite protestations to the contrary.
Nevertheless, whereas the British were generally quite open about the fact that they were running an empire, few American politicians today would use the "e" word as anything other than a term of abuse. As the military analyst Andrew Bacevich has noted, this goes for both Democrats and Republicans. Speaking in 1999, Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, declared that the United States is the "first global power in history that is not an imperial power." A year later, then candidate George W. Bush echoed his words, arguing, "America has never been an empire. ... We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused." Reverting to this theme aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln on May 1 this year, President Bush insisted, "Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home." A few days previously, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had picked up the refrain in an interview with al Jazeera, when he claimed, "We're not imperialistic. We never have been."
Americans, in short, don't "do" empire; they do "leadership" instead, or, in more academic parlance, "hegemony." That is the concept that needs to be employed, therefore, to make any systematic comparison between the British and the American experience of overseas power. Presciently, in 1997 the British economic historian Patrick O'Brien and the Luxembourg scholar Armand Clesse invited a collection of eminent scholars to undertake just such a comparison. The resulting book, belatedly published last year, has not received the attention it deserves. Among the 18 contributions are some of the most rigorous pieces of work yet published on a subject that is as important as it is topical.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:19
Most good universities have at least one conservative professor on campus. When, for example, some group at Harvard wants to hold a panel discussion on some political matter, it can bring out the political theorist Harvey Mansfield to hold up the rightward end. At Princeton it's Robert George. At Yale it's Donald Kagan.
These dissenters lead interesting lives. But there's one circumstance that causes true anguish: when a bright conservative student comes to them and says he or she is thinking about pursuing an academic career in the humanities or social sciences.
"This is one of the most difficult things," says Alan Kors, a rare conservative at Penn. "One is desperate to see people of independent mind willing to enter the academic world. On the other hand, it is simply the case they will be entering hostile and discriminatory territory."...
The most common advice conservative students get is to keep their views in the closet. Will Inboden was working on a master's degree in U.S. history at Yale when a liberal professor pulled him aside after class and said: "You're one of the best students I've got, and you could have an outstanding career. But I have to caution you: hiring committees are loath to hire political conservatives. You've got to be really quiet."
Conservative professors emphasize that most discrimination is not conscious. A person who voted for President Bush may be viewed as an oddity, but the main problem in finding a job is that the sorts of subjects a conservative is likely to investigate say, diplomatic or military history do not excite hiring committees. Professors are interested in the subjects they are already pursuing, and in a horrible job market it is easy to toss out applications from people who are doing something different.
As a result, faculties skew overwhelmingly to the left. Students often have no contact with adult conservatives, and many develop cartoonish impressions of how 40 percent of the country thinks. Hundreds of conservatives with Ph.D.'s end up working in Republican administrations, in think tanks and at magazines, often with some regrets. "Teaching is this really splendid thing. It would be great to teach Plato's `Republic,' " says Gary Rosen, a Harvard Ph.D. who works at Commentary magazine.
Response by Joyce Appleby, as published in the NYT (Sept. 30, 2003):
David Brooks ("Lonely Campus Voices," column, Sept. 27) should have consulted more widely before spreading the word that conservative students would encounter discrimination in graduate school.
I have had several conservative students, and they all received financial and moral support throughout their graduate careers and landed good jobs to boot.
Because they knew that their views ran counter to the norm, these students did an excellent job defending their positions, and were eager to do so.
What a self-fulfilling prophecy to publicize a prejudice that doesn't exist and limit further the number of conservatives in the academy.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:18
ave you noticed that we've moved from the age of the culture wars to the age of the presidency wars? Have you noticed that the furious arguments we used to have about cultural and social issues have been displaced by furious arguments about the current occupant of the Oval Office?
During the 1980's, when the culture wars were going full bore, the Moral Majority clashed with the People for the American Way. Allan Bloom published "The Closing of the American Mind" and liberals and conservatives argued over the 1960's.
Those arguments have died down, and now the best-sellers lists are dotted with screeds against the president and his supporters. A cascade of Clinton-bashing books hit the lists in the 1990's, and now in the Bush years we've got "Shrub," "Stupid White Men" and "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."
The culture warriors were passionate about abortion, feminism or prayer in schools. But with the presidency warrior, political disagreement, cultural resentment and personal antipathy blend to create a vitriol that is at once a descendant of the old conflicts, but also different.
"I hate President George W. Bush," Jonathan Chait writes in a candid piece in The New Republic. "He reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks. . . . I hate the way he talks. . . . I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more."...
To the warrior, politics is no longer a clash of value systems, each of which is in some way valid. It's not a competition between basically well-intentioned people who see the world differently. It's not even a conflict of interests. Instead, it's the Florida post-election fight over and over, a brutal struggle for office in which each side believes the other is behaving despicably. The culture wars produced some intellectually serious books because there were principles involved. The presidency wars produce mostly terrible ones because the hatreds have left the animating ideas far behind and now romp about on their own.
The warriors have one other feature: ignorance. They have as much firsthand knowledge of their enemies as members of the K.K.K. had of the N.A.A.C.P. In fact, most people in the last two administrations were well-intentioned patriots doing the best they could. The core threat to democracy is not in the White House, it's the haters themselves.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:18
Watching President George W Bush at the United Nations on September 20, I was reminded of the foreign policy behavior of two major personalities of the United States: John Foster Dulles and Lyndon B Johnson. Dulles, who served as secretary of state during the Eisenhower administration, viewed the Cold War as essentially a struggle between "good" and "evil".
In his worldview, the USSR epitomized the devil, while the United States symbolized everything virtuous and good. By so portraying the international struggle of the Cold War, he was scornful of the fence sitters (ie, the non-aligned nations) as essentially immoral for not joining the "good guys" in that epochal struggle. Even though president Johnson inherited the Vietnam War from John F Kennedy, the former's obsession of winning it, never mind the cost, became an albatross around his neck. He could not defeat the North Vietnamese because of domestic political reasons. The worsening Vietnamese imbroglio then drove him to the painful decision of not seeking re-election.
Regarding Iraq, Bush is manifesting the Dulles-Johnson complex in the following way. First, he continues to view his "war on terrorism" as a struggle between the good and the evil. The terrorists were described in the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001, attacks as the "evil-doers". Invoking the Manichean (extreme dualism) view of Dulles, Bush declared on September 21, 2001, "Every nation and every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." Then, on January 29, 2002, he made his much publicized speech when he lumped Iraq, North Korea and Iran in the phrase "axis of evil".
Addressing the international community on September 23 this year, Bush posited the "clearest of the divides" along the following axiomatic lines, "... between those who seek order and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame." Then he concluded, "Between these alternatives there is no neutral ground."
Second, since Bush's arguments are so heavily value-laden, he manifested no remorse or second thought about invading Iraq by blatantly ignoring the will of the international community. His September 2002 speech at the UN will be remembered for its admonishment of the world body that if it were not to support the then impending US invasion of Iraq, it risked becoming irrelevant. Ironically, the American president has returned to the same world body this September seeking for help.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:17
The Israeli cabinet's decision to exile Yasser Arafat, and the threats to assassinate him, have provoked a storm of international protest. A Security Council resolution demanding that Israel desist from deporting Arafat or threatening his safety was only defeated by a United States veto.
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio that killing Arafat "is definitely one of the options" under consideration by the government. So the debate in the government is not whether Arafat should be deported or not, but whether he should be deported or killed. There is thus a real risk that the American veto at the Security Council may be interpreted by the Israeli ministers as a tacit approval of their plan to move against the embattled Palestinian leader.
To the historian of the Arab-Israeli conflict, outrageous behavior by Israel's leaders, and American complicity in such behavior, are nothing new. British resentment toward the United States still smolders in the files of the Public Record Office. In a memorandum to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin dated June 2, 1948, Sir John Troutbeck held the Americans responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders."...
Arafat is not a paragon of virtue. He has made serious mistakes and, like Sharon, he has the blood of countless innocent civilians on his hands. Yet Arafat has a fairly consistent record of political moderation going back to 1988, when he persuaded the Palestinian National Council to recognize Israel's legitimacy, to accept all relevant United Nations resolutions and to opt for a two-state solution.
In 1993, a decade ago, Arafat signed the Oslo accords and clinched the agreement with the historic handshake with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the lawn of the White House. The former guerrilla leader proved himself to be a reliable and effective partner to Israel on the road to peace. Security cooperation between the two sides paved the way to progress on the political front.
The unraveling of the Oslo accords began with the assassination of Rabin and the rise to power in May 1996 of a Likud Party government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. Likud regarded the Oslo accords as incompatible with Israel's security and with the historic right of the Jewish people to the whole of the land of Israel. Netanyahu spent his three years in power in a largely successful attempt to derail the Oslo process and to demonize its principal Palestinian architect....
The real obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Ariel Sharon, not Yasser Arafat. Killing Arafat would not bring peace but ring the death knell of Palestinian moderation. It would also be a serious blot on the reputation of a country that prides itself on being the only democracy in the Middle East.
In 1948 Yitzhak Shamir, who later became leader of Likud and prime minister, conspired with his colleagues in the Stern Gang to assassinate Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator, in Jerusalem. Likud thus has the dubious distinction of counting among its leaders a man who assassinated a UN peace envoy. It can now build on this reputation by assassinating the only democratically elected leader in the Arab world.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:16
Andreas von Bulow's book has climbed the German bestseller list, his lectures are jammed and, after two years of mounting frustration, his ideas are gaining traction.
His thesis: The U.S. government staged the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington to justify wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a tentative theory, he admits, based mostly on his doubt that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group launched the attacks. "That's something that is simply 99% false," he said at a reading of his book on the second anniversary of the attacks.--Wall Street Journal (Sept. 29, 2003)
This is from the front page of today's Wall Street Journal and highlights a disturbing trend - the growth of outlandish conspiracy theories around 9.11. Most of them charge that the Bush administration was behind the attacks, and in this article, you will see that the proponents of these theories are not merely crackpots, but in this case a former German cabinet minister whose bestseller is published by one of Germany's most prestigious houses. There are also a potpourri of theories in the Arab world, most revolving around the idea that thousands of Jews received calls from the Mossad before the attack, warning them not to go the WTC on 9.11
Since I have been doing my book tour, I have fielded literally dozens of calls from Americans who adamantly believe that not only that the Bush administration pulled off the attacks so they could then go to war for oil, but there are bundles of "facts" that are repeatedly cited, and are getting wide dissemination on the internet - among these are that no plane wreckage was found at the Pentagon site, no body parts were found at the Pentagon, that explosive charges were found in the rubble of the WTC, and that a confiscated video from a French tourist shows the flashes of the explosives that were set throughout the building to bring it down. Even someone as prominent as Dr. Nicholas Perricone, the bestselling author of the Wrinkle Cure and the Acne Prescription, personally told me that he believes the planes were remote controlled to crash into the Towers and the hijackers had been used as patsies.
It is only two years after 9.11, and as today's article shows, these theories are getting hold as fast as the "who killed JFK" theories did after 1963. Maybe with the internet, they are spreading even quicker. Certainly the bad information accepted as "fact" is widespread.
I trust that with 3,000 victims from 9.11 being essentially mocked by these theories, you are as outraged by them as we are. Bin Laden must find it hysterical that he pulled off the attack and then some in the West, including America, blame Bush, the CIA, and the Mossad.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:16
A Malaysian newspaper claims to have gotten an advance peek at statements in the new book by Wesley Clark, excerpted in Newsweek. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the report, but here it is: "It quoted former North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander General Wesley Clark as saying that US President George W. Bush wanted to attack Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan." It says he found out about the plan in November 2001, and deeply disapproved of it, since it did not actually address the sources of terrorism against the US.
Iran is a Shiite country that hated the Taliban and al-Qaeda and strongly backed the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan; it almost went to war against the Taliban. Syria is a secular Baath Arab nationalist regime that killed 10,000 Sunni Muslim radicals in 1982 and has attempted to suppress the movement. It has also helped the US interrogate al-Qaeda operatives. Somalia is just a failed state. Sudan isn't much better. The main Islamic militants in Lebanon are the Hizbullah, most of whose energies now go into Lebanese politics, though they also played a key role in expelling the Israelis from Lebanese soil. (Why exactly should the US mind this? Doesn't it support Lebanon's national integrity)? Iraq was likewise a secular Arab nationalist state that attacked religious fundamentalists. Moammar Qadhafi of Libya is a desert messiah with heterodox views and is not related to al-Qaeda; he has been involved in terrorism in the past, but it is not clear he is now. There is not any al-Qaeda-related state on this list.
Posted on: Friday, January 2, 2004 - 19:15