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.
New Yorkers are accustomed to all sorts of strange outbursts and opinions, but it is hard to recall any as bizarre as those expressed by Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado. After he was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York, someone noticed an essay he had written three years ago in which he sneered at the victims of the World Trade Center attacks, comparing them to Nazi official Adolf Eichmann. In the same essay, he urged that Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger be hanged as war criminals.
Mr. Churchill, who describes himself as a Keetoowah Band Cherokee and a leading activist of the American Indian Movement, argued that those who died in the World Trade Center were aiding the American economy, which made them complicit in our nation's alleged crimes against the Iraqis, the Palestinians, American Indians, and everyone else who had ever been "oppressed" by America. He did not make exceptions for rescue workers, restaurant personnel, or foreign staff. In his eyes, they were all equally guilty of serving our greedy capitalist society (the same society, it should be noted, that pays Mr. Churchill's salary at the University of Colorado).
The revelation of Mr. Churchill's vicious comments about the September 11 victims unleashed a rapid-fire series of events. First, the president of Hamilton College, Joan Hinde Stewart, staunchly defended the college's invitation to Mr. Churchill to discuss American Indian activism, as an exercise of academic freedom. A day later, the president canceled the event because of fear of violence on campus.
At first glance, the issue appears to be a straightforward test of free speech. Should Mr. Churchill have the right to express his opinion that the victims of September 11 deserved to die because of their willing participation in the American empire?
But the plot thickens. After Hamilton College canceled Mr. Churchill's appearance, the American Indian Movement's Grand Governing Council issued a press release stating that he "has fraudulently represented himself as an Indian." The leaders of the American Indian Movement say that Mr. Churchill "has been masquerading as an Indian for years behind his dark glasses and beaded headband." Furthermore, they denounced Mr. Churchill's "loathsome remarks" and "hateful attitude."
Suppose that the leaders of the American Indian Movement are right and Mr. Churchill is a phony. Does he still have the right to express his loathsome opinions? In my view, he does. It is one of the glories of our civilization (Mr. Churchill to the contrary) that anyone can say anything so long as they don't yell the equivalent of "fire" in a crowded theater.
The real issue is: How did a man with such hateful views win tenure at the University of Colorado? This question goes to the heart of the academic enterprise. Does a university have a responsibility to make certain that the men and women who are hired and promoted on its faculty are well qualified, base their academic work on evidence and reason, and express themselves with civility?
Much as the university claims to defend free speech without regard to its content, there are clearly limits and boundaries. It is hard to imagine any great university hiring a historian who dressed in Nazi garb and wrote an obsequious biography of Adolf Hitler. It is hard to imagine a great university granting tenure to someone who advocated the forced sterilization of certain races or of people with below average intelligence. It is impossible to imagine a university biology department hiring a professor who endorsed the literal truth of the Biblical story of Creation and denied evolution.
When I went to college in the late 1950s, the professors in every department strived to expose students to debates and issues. We students seldom knew our professors' own opinions, because they didn't express them. We never knew whom they intended to vote for or even what party they belonged to. They insisted that we think but they never told us what to think. Today, however, many academics believe that they have a right and even a duty to proselytize for their political opinions. Since the Vietnam War, academics have become accustomed to signing political petitions, endorsing candidates, and advocating their views forcefully in class.
Rather than operating in accord with the principle of academic freedom, the university today excludes right-wing extremists, while left-wing extremists are likely to be hired, promoted, and eventually tenured. Both ends of the ideological spectrum should be judged by the same standards of scholarship.
This is the atmosphere in which a man with such crackpot ideas as Mr. Churchill is not only a tenured professor, but chairman of the ethnic studies department (though he resigned when the controversy erupted).This is the same atmosphere in which a distinguished university, Columbia, finds itself charged with political bias in its Middle Eastern studies department.
Of course, Mr. Churchill should be free to speak his mind. I would like to see him address an audience of New York City police officers and firefighters or the families of September 11 victims. He is of little consequence and in a few weeks or months will be forgotten.
But what will remain as a problem for our society is the political atmosphere on many American campuses, where zealots like Mr. Churchill are hired and tenured, ever after free to inflict their one-sided rants on their hapless students.
Fortunately, extremist professors are still a rarity in American higher education. They usually turn up in departments of ethnic studies, gender studies, and other departments devoted solely to grievance groups.
Posted on: Saturday, February 26, 2005 - 21:50
During a debate Tuesday punctuated with evidence from both antiquity and current events, classicist Victor Davis Hanson mounted a vigorous defense of the war in Iraq, while Dartmouth History Professor Ronald Edsforth countered that all preemptive wars, especially in the case of Iraq, fall outside the "just war tradition."
Focusing on Iraq as the best contemporary example of a war fought for noble ends, Hanson, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, suggested that the war's rationale remains valid today. The Bush Administration and the Congress, he said, had in 2002 an "everything and the kitchen sink" rationale for conflict, but sought for political reasons to give more weight to Iraq's apparent weapons of mass destruction than other rationales. While W.M.D.s have yet to be found, Hanson argued that the weapons "still remain a valid reason then and now."
Wars like that in Iraq have moral goals, he continued. The nations of the Middle East, for various reasons, including Cold War oil politics, have never been exposed to Enlightenment ideas of equality and liberty, and he said they even view Western faith in such ideals a weakness. Accordingly, he said, it is only right that the West stop propping up authoritarian leaders in the region, as it did during the Cold War, and to do what should have been done there long ago: foster freedom.
Hanson further posited that preemptive war, so reviled by many today as immoral, is certainly not unknown in history; a preemptive conflict is judged to be just or unjust based on its context and its success. He cited the historical prevalence of preemptive wars: the Athenian expeditions against Sparta; the American attack on the Barbary pirates; and the American invasion of Mexico. Even in recent memory, the United States has engaged in preemptive warfare, by attacking Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989. Few of these wars, if any, are today considered unjust, despite their preemptive nature, he said.
Taking a rigorous stand against preemptive war, Professor Edsforth said democracy is not something that can be forced onto a population-"it comes from within and it is unlikely to be imposed from without." Instead, democracies can only form as they did recently in Ukraine, based on a popular uprising against the authoritarian leadership. Edsforth sought to apply this rule to Iraq, saying that Western powers should have simply awaited Saddam Hussein's death and then formented revolution; this, he said, would be far less costly in blood and treasure. As a result of the coalition's 2003 invasion, he said Iraq "is in no condition to function normally for years to come."
Professor Edsforth presented himself as a "peace activist" and not a pacifist-pacifists abhor all wars, while activists oppose some and support others. He approved of the 2001 Afghan campaign but not the attack on Serbia in 1999. He said "all war is mass murder" and that wars bring out man's "instinct to kill, our delight in torture."
By invading Iraq, he went on, the United States has abandoned its own democratic ideology and gone "down the slippery slope to militarism" and become "willing to delegate to our commander in chief the powers of a king."
As evidence, he said that the War on Terror has morphed into a broader War on Tyranny-a conflict not likely to end during his own lifetime. He proposed that the United States military was too large; he noted in particular that the United States maintains ten aircraft carrier battle groups, and is in fact the only nation to have even one. "The wars of empire are over," he said.
Edsforth further supported "classical deterrence," though Hanson claimed this would be impossible with the greatly-reduced army Edsforth suggested.
"You cannot have classical deterrence without a military," he said.
By attacking Iraq, Edsforth said, the United States had usurped the authority of the United Nations, in which the world community can take action to promote the common good. Since treaties like those that established the U.N. are held in the United States to be "the supreme law of the land," he said, the American government has effectively abrogated its own Constitution. He noted, for example, that a White House lawyer drafted guidelines regarding torture, even though the U.S. is party to the Geneva Conventions.
"War is terrible," Hanson agreed. But in a rebuttal, he said the United Nations has historically not intervened for the common good, even against the worst abuses. The U.N., much of which he said is "populated by thugs and brigands" like Syria, Iran, Sudan, and Cuba, failed to act against the Rwandan genocide of 1994, against the Serbian slaughter of Kosovars in 1998, or even against the ongoing genocide in Darfur-which only the United States has declared a humanitarian crisis. "Innocent women and children died waiting" for the United Nations to help them, he said.
In addition, Hanson said the wars of the twentieth century were "done with the intention of saving lives." "War alone" was often the only option. More people were killed off the battlefield in the last hundred years-by the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao-than perished in the wars fought to stop those dictators. These wars, he continued, were by no means multilateral; indeed, the only multilateral action undertaken in 1941 was the decision by European powers from Spain to Hungary to Germany to invade the Soviet Union....
Posted on: Friday, February 18, 2005 - 19:54
[David M. Kennedy teaches history at Stanford University. His most recent book, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for history. This essay is adapted from his forthcoming book about the distinctiveness of the American national character.]
George W. Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy proclaimed a new American right to wage preventive war. Following the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, Bush declared, it was simply too risky not to act pre-emptively. Whatever the merits, this doctrine is a radical departure for American diplomacy. At Concord Bridge, Fort Sumter, and Pearl Harbor it was America's adversaries who fired the first shot.
Many critics have berated Bush, accusing him of jettisoning two centuries of tradition and abandoning the high ground from which Americans have historically waged war with stouthearted moral confidence. But although this criticism is valid in many ways, Bush's approach also reaffirms what may well be America's only consistent tradition in foreign policy.
"These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society," the National Security Strategy declares. It dedicates the United States to the task of bringing "the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade" to "every corner of the world." Those idealistic—some would say hubristic—words uncannily echo Woodrow Wilson's heady rationale for American participation in World War I. Wilson would recognize George W. Bush as his natural successor, and he would recognize today's Americans as the direct spiritual descendants of the people he so reluctantly led into that conflict. For Wilson did not think that what came to be known, and often derided, as "Wilsonianism" was just a policy selected from a palette of possible choices. Rather, he saw it as the sole approach to international relations that his countrymen would embrace as consistent with their past and their principles. Wilson did not so much invent American foreign policy as discover it....
Woodrow Wilson instinctively reacted to the onset of the Great War by issuing a proclamation of neutrality. But as the conflict grew in scale and duration, wreaking devastation previously unimaginable, he became increasingly convinced that isolation was no longer a viable posture for the United States. Yet Wilson also felt (along with many other Americans) that Theodore Roosevelt's philosophy, with its embrace of raw power and cold national interest, was irrelevant, even alien. If neither traditional isolationism nor conventional realpolitik would do, then it fell to Wilson to craft an authentically American foreign policy that would so resonate in the hearts of his countrymen as to provide a sustainable basis for American international engagement.
Two assumptions underlay Wilson's thinking: that the circumstances of the modern era were utterly novel, and that providence had entrusted America with a mandate to carry out a singular mission in the world. In Wilson's view, the Great War had so conclusively demonstrated the monstrously destructive capacities of modern industrialized states that it had sundered the very fabric of history. The advent of mass democracy, meanwhile, had made modern governments inescapably beholden to their electorates. Avoiding war thus became diplomacy's supreme objective, and attending to public opinion became an indispensable element of statecraft. Wilson therefore concluded—like his great hero, Abraham Lincoln—that the dogmas of the diplomatic past were inadequate to the stormy present. The unprecedented dangers of the twentieth-century world required statesmen to disenthrall themselves from inherited wisdom about international relations—to learn, in Lincoln's words, to think anew and act anew, and to recognize that government of the people necessarily meant involving the people in their government's diplomacy.
But Wilson also believed that America's history offered salvation to the world. Destiny, in his view, had thrust Americans into a role for which their entire past had been but an elaborate rehearsal. Roosevelt had insisted that the United States must shed the delusions nurtured by its peculiar historical development and become a conventional great power. On the contrary, Wilson said, the peculiarities of their history had fashioned for Americans a lever with which they could move the world. The moment had now arrived for the United States to redeem on a global scale the full revolutionary promise of 1776—to create everywhere the novus ordo saeclorum ("new order of the ages") that the founding generation had so extravagantly predicted.
In the end, of course, Wilson failed to wean his country from its propensity to isolation. The Senate rejected the Versailles Treaty and refused to take the United States into the League of Nations. The United States did not merely revert to isolationism in the years after World War I; it entered what was arguably the most isolationist phase of its history. It testily insisted that the Allied governments repay their wartime debts to the United States Treasury, even at the price of gravely disrupting international financial markets and capital flows. It deliberately stood aloof from the gathering crisis that became World War II.
It has long been customary to argue, as Henry Kissinger has done, that Woodrow Wilson failed "because the country was not yet ready for so global a role." There is much truth to that judgment. But in the longer term, when America finally acquired the necessary muscle, Wilsonianism unambiguously triumphed. This has been the central fact of international life since World War II, which conferred on America a power unmatched and unmatchable. Winston Churchill declared in 1945 that "the United States stand at this moment at the summit of the world"—and there the country has remained. In those circumstances America substantially succeeded in remaking the entire international order along Wilsonian lines. Even those carping Europeans embraced Wilson's ways in the end. As the historian Walter Russell Mead has written, "Wilson's principles … still guide European politics today: self-determination, democratic government, collective security, international law, and a league of nations … France, Germany, Italy, and Britain may have sneered at Wilson, but every one of these powers today conducts its European policy along Wilsonian lines."
Even Kissinger, the arch-realist, concedes that "Wilson's principles have remained the bedrock of American foreign-policy thinking." Those principles informed Franklin Roosevelt's Atlantic Charter in 1941. They shaped the array of multilateral institutions that the United States helped to create at the end of World War II, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations, which not only claims America as a member but maintains its headquarters in the nation's principal city. They guided American policy during the long ideological contest with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. And they misguided the United States into the costly conflict in Vietnam....
Posted on: Friday, February 18, 2005 - 17:41
[Georgy Bulychev prepared this article for Japan Focus. He is Research Director, Center for Contemporary Korean Studies, Russian Institute of Global Economy and International Relations (IMEMO). The views expressed here are solely the author's personal views and do not represent any organization.]
With the North Korean announcement that it now possesses nuclear weapons, (which comes as no surprise -- it is simply meant to intensify pressure on the US to formulate a coherent strategy vis-a-vis Pyongyang) world attention is focused on the issue of solving the nuclear crisis -- finding a way to force, or induce, or make North Korea do away with its nuclear program and nuclear aspirations. Millions of words have been written about the methods and tactics best suited to tackle the issue, including the strategy of six-party talks. However, it is rarely mentioned that the nuclear issue can probably not be solved without addressing the deeper issue -- the future of North Korea itself. Without a clear-cut strategy on this, all efforts to solve the nuclear issue are probably doomed, or worse, they could even pave the way for a military solution. So, what is preferable -- collapse or transformation of the DPRK? And if transformation was to occur, would that help alleviate the tension and solve security problems? What should the world community do?
As Communism worldwide came to its end, scores of experts predicted the collapse of North Korea. It never happened, however, because the North Korean system was specifically designed by Kim Il Sung to withstand external pressures and to control and crush emerging internal challenges. The DPRK was no "ordinary" socialist country, but a bureaucratic authoritarian society -- a blend of Communist rhetoric and oriental despotism, based on Confucian tradition, nationalism and a semi-religious ideology. Economic and humanitarian crisis does not always weaken such a system (as can be seen in the examples of Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China) but it fed a deep feeling of insecurity on the part of North Korean leaders. Perhaps predictably, in the 1990s, as Pyongyang sought ways to cope with both external and internal threats, it turned North Korea into a self-declared nuclear state (although it is impossible to confirm or deny such declarations). The result was spiraling confrontation and tension in the region. So, are the possibilities of the regime change/collapse any higher today than 15 years ago? What are the options?
We don't even want to analyze a military scenario of regime change, which would result in unimaginable loss of lives both in the North and South and reduce the economic potential and opportunity for a normal life in the peninsula to ashes.
But even short of such a scenario, regime change (internally generated or assisted from the outside) would be a disaster for Korea and its neighbors. The grave mistake the well-wishers and geo-strategists make is to suppose that North Korean people will generally welcome a momentous "liberation" and that things will eventually work out well for them in the aftermath. Yet even in the less complicated Iraq case the outcome is still far from positive. Regime change in North Korea would mean the disappearance of the country itself. North Korean statehood as such would be finished, as South Korea could not possibly accept any new separate power in North Korea formed "on the local base". Such a new power constellation is anyway highly unlikely, simply because there is no human potential for it in the North in the short run, and would seem even more unlikely in a crisis likely to involve massive refugees and local conflicts with arms falling into the hands of warlords. This means that any change of regime in North Korean case would boil down to the absorption of North by South, with the North becoming an "occupation zone".
Given the differences between Northerners isolated and brainwashed for generations and Westernized Southerners, would a Southern occupation be peaceful? Are more than twenty million North Koreans ready to become a "second rate people" in a unified Korea? What would happen if they were suddenly to be thrown into a 'raw capitalist' environment, when we know that most North Korean refugees today cannot adapt in the South even after coming there on their own volition? And what about the numerous (two to three million) North Korean nomenklatura and military? They would expect the worst -- not just being left out in the cold like their colleagues in East Germany, but repression. That means that they would be likely to resort to armed, guerilla-type opposition, which would be viewed at least with sympathy by the population. There is evidence that such contingency plans already exist in North Korea. And what if the hypothetical nuclear weapons were in the posession of these rebels?
The lesson of many centuries of Korean history is that region-based strife, as slow-burning conflict with the prospect of involving neighboring countries, can continue for decades. This would derail the prospering South Korean economy as well.
Are there other, less radical options? What about the gradual rise in living standards and liberalization of the social and spiritual environment in parallel with modification of the system, while preserving North Korean statehood for the foreseeable future? Provided it behaves responsibly, at least internationally, in the short term the world community should accept the continued existence of North Korea. At present, North Korea has no reason for aggression. It shows no interest in attempting to dictate its ideology to anyone, or to capture territory or economic resources. Moreover, it would not have the slightest chance of winning in case of such an adventure, and that fact is no secret to its leaders.
In that respect Kim Jong Il's state differs most from that of his father, who dreamed of unification by absorbing South Korea. Kim Jong Il, who is now rumored to be choosing his successor, is neither Nero nor Louis XIV -- he thinks about "après moi" and wants to keep the state in place, but he also understands that it is impossible to do this without change. The change of paradigm of the regime, rather than the change of the regime itself, looks more and more like the proper resolution not only to the nuclear crisis but to broader concerns about North Korea.
With every passing day there is ample evidence of change in North Korea. The turning point was the advent of the new century, although subtle undercurrents were obvious from late 1998 after Kim Jong Il was officially recognized as the formal state leader in the course of the September constitutional reform. Changes in North Korea have become especially noticeable since 2002. They include economic transformation to a multi-sector economy employing market principles, social stratification, changes in the ownership system (more property rights falling into the hands of certain classes, institutions and individuals). Sooner or later, such changes are bound to influence the system of political power. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea can no longer be accurately described as a Stalinist country.
The economy has already changed from a centrally planned socialist type to a mixed type, combining state, capitalist (joint ventures and trading companies), semi-private (especially in agriculture and services) and "shadow" (criminalized) sectors. And there is no way back.
The reigning ideology has changed from mostly communist (Marxism-Leninism plus Juche) to national-egalitarian (Songun or "military first") and "prosperous strong nation" theories.
The political system has become more military based than party based, and there is a tendency to move from totalitarianism towards autocracy.
Foreign policy priorities have changed from supporting "national liberation struggles" to the more pragmatic goal of bridging the gap between North Korea and the world, especially the West.
There has been a marked turn from animosity to broad cooperation with South Korea. This is designed not only as a tool to revive a sagging economy, as is often assumed, but also to gain security and a strategic edge over "foreign devils" by appealing to Korean nationalism. In fact a new historic period of North-South national reconciliation has begun. It has survived the nuclear crisis and even pressure on Seoul from its allies, and the trend has become (despite the usual ups and downs, especially in 2004) a new factor in the Korean situation at the dawn of the 21st century.
Roadmap for Transformation
Kim Jong Il seems to be firmly committed to the change. If such positive intentions, rather than media clichés, are taken into account, how can he be helped? What is needed is a long-term (perhaps 20 years) roadmap of Korean settlement including a comprehensive prioritization of targets and stages for implementation.
1. The chief strategic goal should be peace, development and friendly cooperation in Northeast Asia. This consideration now is more or less shared by China, Russia, and South Korea. Therefore it is necessary to solve the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and related issues peacefully and step-by-step, in a manner that will not jeopardize these main issues. In fact solving the main task is the key to solving the "secondary" issues.
2. The most efficient way to implement a peaceful scenario is to transform North Korea into a peaceful, non-aggressive, developing state, open to international cooperation, a state that should have sufficient guarantees of its security, including some degree of assurance that no subversive action will be carried out against it, so that there would be no need felt for WMD. Not only state security but human security should be maintained. By this we do not mean only people's security as this is broadly understood, but the interests of the ruling class also need to be taken into account. This means that North Korean leaders and managers should know exactly what position they will occupy under the new system, what to expect from reform.
3. The international community should, in accordance with the above-mentioned roadmap, assist North Korea to transform both economically and socially without challenging its sovereignty and statehood, though the source of such changes should, of course, come from within the country. What is needed is an internationally sponsored Marshall Plan for North Korea. A long-term program for economic and social transformation is needed to engage North Korea, bring it into the international division of labor and introduce international managerial experience.
The members of the 6-party talks (US, Japan, Russia, China, South and North Korea) should take the initiative, bringing in the European Union and the United Nations as well, although probably South Korea should play the leading role in preparation and later financing of such a program. Japanese "compensation" to North Korea, in order to settle issues arising from the colonial past, could also be an important financial source. Aid, assistance and investment should be delivered not spontaneously, but in accordance with such a program, and its implementation should be regularly accounted for, not only to the initiating group of countries but also, through the UN, to the wider international community.
The program should not raise suspicions as being aimed at regime change -- forcefully or by way of a "velvet revolution." Rather it should provide for the gradual transformation of the current political elite, many of whom are relatives or comrades within the framework of clan politics, by melting it gradually into a more liberal government system. The program should include many stages and the term of its implementation could well exceed 10 or 15 years
How might such a positive scenario look (constructed somewhat imaginatively)? Its main features might be something like the following:
It would include modification of the economic system based on creating North Korean chaebol (conglomerates) -- first based on state property and step-by-step privatization led by their managers, who will be members of the North Korean elite. This would ensure their support for political stability and the introduction of market principles into commodity flows, and for the emergence of a financial system and ownership relationships based on liberalized government control. Later, small and medium businesses (starting from agriculture) could spring up. It would amount to a combination of Chinese, South Korean and Russian models.
Deregulation of the economy will increase popular economic activity, bringing about foreign investment and an increase in international cooperation. Labor-intensive export-oriented production could mean the start of a "Taedong River Miracle."
Increased affluence will diminish the outbound flow of refugees and bring about socio-political stabilization. An increasing proportion of investment should be channeled to civil production, health and education, while the proportion of military expenditure should decrease as North Korea's security concerns are alleviated.
A rise in living standards and a decrease in opposition to the government on economic grounds will enable the authorities -- provided no external subversive actions take place -- to soften their grip on the population, slowly promote social liberalization (less rules and red tape, freedom of movement, etc), and a liberalization in the ideological and spiritual sphere.
Communist ideology will give way to "patriotism" (with the founder of the state assigned a sacral role) as the foundation of a societal mentality. Increased cooperation and exchanges with South Korea will help promote this "national uniqueness" mythology as a cementing force.
There will be a transition to a sort of "constitutional monarchy," in which the Leader of the Nation relies on "collective leadership" for the day-to-day running of the country and there is greatly expanded feedback from the society's grass-roots -- especially when Kim Jong Il's heir assumes the throne. The state will change first from being totalitarian to authoritarian, and then eventually to an Oriental-style managed democracy (consider South Korea for example, or the modern monarchical regimes of Asia).
The military confrontation of North Korea with the outside world will considerably diminish. Maybe by this time it will be called by a different name, perhaps Kimilsungia or Great Korea (Dae-Chosonguk). That will set the ground for military confidence-building measures. A system of international arrangements for Korean security, with checks and balances cross-guaranteed by USA, Japan and China and Russia, will emerge.
North Korea will no longer need any absolute strategic deterrent and will voluntarily abandon its nuclear and other WMD ambitions, a variant of the South African case.
In a couple of decades, the last remaining obstacles between North Korea and the world will disappear. North Korea would become a vibrant member of regional cooperation, an international transportation hub and ecological tourist destination, adding computer science to export-oriented industries as a source of earnings.
The reduction of military threat and confrontation would also provide for increased cooperation and understanding between the two Koreas to bring about in the long run -- but only when conditions permit -- a voluntary integration of the two Korean states.
Posted on: Monday, February 14, 2005 - 18:06
[Neve Gordon teaches at Ben-Gurion University Israel and is the editor of From the Margins of Globalization: Critical Perspectives on Human Rights. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
It is not surprising that, following the Sharm El-Sheikh summit on Feb. 8, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas used almost the same language to announce a cessation of hostilities between the two peoples. Reading from a prewritten script, they both stated that the Palestinians would stop all acts of violence against Israelis, while Israel would cease all military activity against Palestinians. The director of the show was not Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the host of the event, but newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. To be sure, neither Rice nor any other American was present at the summit, but the Bush administration’s spirit was ubiquitous.
Many reporters and analysts applauded the meeting, claiming that it will pave the way for a resumption of dialogue and cooperation. They seemed to suggest that Israelis and Palestinians are on the doorstep of a new era. All of this begs the question: Will the Bush administration manage to stop the seemingly endless cycle of violence and rekindle the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
The answer is a resounding yes-on the condition, of course, that one believes in magic.
President George W. Bush would have to succeed in casting at least one of two spells in order to create fertile ground for negotiations. He would need to charm Abbas into renouncing the three most essential demands that have informed the Palestinian struggle since the late ’80s: Israel’s full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and the recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Or alternatively, Bush would have to enchant Sharon and get him to abandon his plan of creating Palestinian Bantustans in the Gaza Strip and in approximately 50 percent of the West Bank, with no Palestinian right of return and no sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem.
But even if Abbas were to fall prey to the spell, his renunciation would be worthless, because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a clash of civilizations, despite the ongoing attempt of the mainstream media to present it as such. Instead, it’s a struggle between two unequal rivals over land, self-determination and basic human rights. And basic human rights are not a commodity that a leader can easily bargain with or exchange.
It is also difficult to imagine Sharon being so enthralled that he would actually change his position. After all, he was the proponent of “the Jordan is Palestine solution” for many years and currently considers a withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank as a major concession.
But if the magic won’t work, then how is the Bush administration planning to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why is Secretary Rice so optimistic?
The answer lies in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a unique Middle Eastern model is being enforced. Bush and his aides have managed to resurrect a distinct political practice rarely used in the history of humankind, and for this at least, they deserve credit. For lack of a better term, one could call this practice “democratic occupation,” a neologism recently formulated by former Israeli Knesset member Tamar Gozansky. The strategy is straightforward: gaining and maintaining control of the land, while bestowing a democratic face on the occupation.
Even though Western commentators praised the elections that were recently carried out in Iraq, Afghanistan and the occupied Palestinian territories, the correspondents seemed to have overlooked the essential fact that popular power and authority don’t rest with the people in any of these entities, even after the elections. If, for example, a referendum were carried out in any of these regions asking the residents whether they wanted the foreign troops to leave, imagine how many would answer positively. But would the forces actually leave these ostensibly democratic areas?
Another way of testing these democracies is to ask a series of forthright questions: Will the newly elected Iraqi parliament really rule the country? Does President Hamid Karzai control Afghanistan? And who is in command of the occupied Palestinian territories-Mahmoud Abbas?
Considering that the Bush administration is unwilling to pressure Israel to dismantle all of its settlements and to respect its recognized international bordersthe necessary conditions for true negotiations between the two partiesit seems that the Sharm El-Sheikh summit was convened because the administration wants to replicate the “democratic occupation” model in the Israeli-Palestinian context.
This is not to say that Bush lacks talent as a magician. Indeed, since the true goal of his administration is to control and dominate the Middle East, the fact that he has managed to convince the majority of Americans that he is promoting freedom and democracy in the region is no less than fantastic.
Posted on: Friday, February 11, 2005 - 20:12
[Mr. Ferguson is professor of history at Harvard and author of "Colossus: The Price of American Empire" (Penguin Books, 2004).]
American presidents have a professional obligation to indulge in highfalutin rhetoric, and President Bush's speechwriters have served him well this winter. "The road of providence is uneven and unpredictable, yet we know where it leads: It leads to freedom." That's not a bad punch line. The echoes of FDR and JFK in the inaugural address last month were also skillfully crafted. Yet there is another president--whom I have yet to hear the president quote directly--who nevertheless hovers like a shadow over the Bush second term. That president is Woodrow Wilson.
"Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace." Mr. Bush's words. But Wilson's concept.
As the First World War drew to a close, Wilson--who had intervened in it with the greatest reluctance--was possessed with a messianic idea of how the U.S. could win "the war to end all wars" and "make the world safe for democracy." To be sure, his vision of an international order based on collective security and international law is not one to which President Bush would subscribe. But what the two men undeniably have in common is the idea that a world based on national self-determination and democracy will be an inherently peaceful world.
It could very well be that President Bush is right about the Middle East. Maybe democracy and freedom really are "on a roll" there. But it also seemed, for a time, that Wilson was right about Europe, the region he set out to transform politically.
In 1918 Wilson declared: "Democracy seems about universally to prevail. . . . The spread of democratic institutions . . . promise[s] to reduce politics to a single form . . . by reducing all forms of government to Democracy." Sure enough, of 29 European countries, nearly all acquired some form of representative government before, during or after the First World War. Unfortunately, it didn't last. Six had become dictatorships by 1925, a further four by 1930, six by 1935 and eight by 1940.
The European experience reveals something important that the Bush administration must not lose sight of. Just holding an election is not sufficient to build an enduring democracy. As Americans should know from their own history, elections are only a first step. Just as important is the process whereby a government is formed, and the process whereby a constitution is drafted that ensures this new government is not permanently in office. For a new polity, these steps are just as important as establishing an effective military force--the other objective that has come to dominate American thinking about Iraq.
All this was hard enough to do when the relatively homogeneous populations of 13 British colonies decided to establish their own government. It is especially hard in countries where there are deep ethnic divisions, as there are in Iraq today--and as there were in so many Central and East European countries after the First World War.
Democracy is not a universal panacea. To the German minorities of Czechoslovakia and Poland after 1918 it seemed to pose a threat: the tyranny of the Slav majority. Jews in Poland and Romania faced the same problem. Wilson's ideal of self-determination seemed to imagine that Europe was composed of relatively homogeneous societies like that of France or England. But the transformation of the Ottoman Empire into a Turkish nation-state had dire implications for the Armenians and the Greeks.
Most moderate Middle Eastern commentators see ethnic conflict as the biggest danger now facing Iraq. It was indeed ominous that in Kurdistan--now a more or less autonomous state in a weak Iraqi confederation--a referendum on independence was hastily bolted onto last weekend's election. It was even more worrying that so many Sunni voters heeded the extremists' command not to vote.
There are those in the United States who blithely speak of a federal or confederal solution of the problem, as if Iraq were a Middle Eastern version of Canada or Switzerland. But Iraq is more like Yugoslavia. No, worse: It is more like Lebanon. For ethnic groups in the Middle East, power remains a zero-sum game. And democracy just means that the minority groups always lose. So why should they buy into it? If one group feels permanently excluded from power, it will be tempted to secede. It is no coincidence that with the spread of democracy the number of countries in the world has shot up....
Wilson finally took America into World War I in 1917. Yet by 1919 the troops were on their way home from Europe, leaving the Europeans--in effect the French--to police the peace treaty. Premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in the wake of last week's elections would run the risk of leaving no one to police the peace.
That is why the president is more right than he knows to reject calls for an arbitrary departure date. The price of liberty in Iraq will be, if not eternal vigilance on the part of the United States, then certainly 10 years' vigilance.
Posted on: Wednesday, February 9, 2005 - 20:55
[Maurice Isserman is a professor of history and chairman of the American-studies program at Hamilton College. His most recent book is The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington (PublicAffairs, 2000). Another version of this article appeared in the Hamilton student newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator. ]
Over the past several months, Hamilton College, the small liberal-arts institution in upstate New York where I teach history, has been the site of some of the most heavily publicized conflicts ever fought in the history of American higher education to define the limits of acceptable speech on a college campus.
The most recent turmoil began when some faculty members invited Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, to give a talk this month on Native American issues. Churchill had spoken on many campuses without controversy, but several weeks before his scheduled appearance at Hamilton some previously obscure remarks he made in the fall of 2001 came to light. Those included the statement that the victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns," who, Churchill seemed to imply, deserved their fate....
Perhaps it seems self-evident that former felons and people with outrageous opinions should not be welcome at college campuses. But what do we do then about Malcolm X?
Every spring one of the books I assign to students enrolled in my introductory American-studies course is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a book published shortly after its author's assassination, in 1965. In many ways a deeply flawed man, Malcolm X struggled mightily to overcome his shortcomings and left a vivid record of that struggle in his autobiography. He was born in poverty and obscurity in 1925 as Malcolm Little, and, by the time he was the age of a first-year Hamilton College student, he had become a pimp, a thief, a drug dealer, and an addict.
Convicted of theft at the age of 21, he underwent a jailhouse religious conversion and emerged from prison, in 1952, with a new name and identity. As Malcolm X he would rise to national prominence as a leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam, also known as the Black Muslims.
Over the next decade, following the teachings of the Nation of Islam's leader, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm argued that white Americans were descendants of a misbegotten race spawned by a mad scientist in ancient times, destined to oppress and exploit the colored peoples of the world until overthrown in a violent revolution. Not surprisingly, he proved a polarizing figure to both black and white Americans. He attacked the leaders of the mainstream civil-rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr., for supposedly currying white favor at the expense of black freedom. And when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Malcolm called his death a "case of chickens coming home to roost" -- suggesting that in some way Kennedy, or the nation he led, had it coming.
By the time of his own assassination, 40 years ago this month, Malcolm had left the Nation of Islam and repudiated many of its teachings; he no longer regarded all white people as devils and had softened his criticisms of King. His autobiography, nonetheless, can still be read as a call for armed revolution, and contains passages that can only be interpreted as misogynistic and anti-Semitic.
Yet for all its troubling aspects, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is today widely recognized as a great American memoir. Like another book I assign my students every year, Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, Malcolm's autobiography explores in original and provocative ways questions of sin, repentance, and redemption. Malcolm, like Franklin, reveals himself as a man engaged in the classic American quest for individual self-definition.
Sometimes as I prepare for class I think how wonderful it would be if I had the power to resurrect an author or historical figure from the past and bring him or her before my students for a question-and-answer session. But if I could bring Malcolm back to life, would people object if he came to talk to my class?
I suspect not. Fame and the passage of time have made him an icon of self-respect and self-help, sanitizing him in ways that he would be the first to find astounding. Americans tend to admire advocates of unpopular causes as long as they are many decades gone, and the rough edges no longer so visible. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrated at Hamilton just as the Ward Churchill controversy began to heat up, is a good example. We remember King as an apostle of racial harmony and nonviolent protest; we tend to forget that he was also an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam and economic inequality, and that he was despised and persecuted by the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. ...
Posted on: Wednesday, February 9, 2005 - 20:43
[Richard Wolin is a professor of history, comparative literature, and political science at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.]
In November a sea of billowing orange banners waved defiantly amid the subzero temperatures of Kiev's Independence Square. Orange was the color of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party. Yushchenko's supporters, whose numbers were estimated to be more than 100,000, had flooded the streets to protest egregious electoral irregularities in the November 21 runoff between their standard-bearer and the pro-Moscow candidate, Viktor Yanukovich. In two consecutive elections, corrupt and autocratic practices -- one of the hallmarks of Ukraine's ancien r’egime -- had deprived the rightful Viktor of his triumph.
For enthusiasts of democracy around the globe, it must have seemed like déjà vu. The setting and players were different. But the victorious political strategy -- peaceful, mass democratic protest, combined with timely acts of civil disobedience -- had been previously employed with ever-greater success.
The model of "self-limiting revolution" had been conceived during the 1970s by Eastern European activists in the aftermath of two cataclysmic failures: the 1956 Hungarian uprising from below and the 1968 "Prague Spring," a paradigmatic (if ill-fated) instance of enlightened reform from above. Both revolutions were brutally crushed by the might of Warsaw Pact tanks. An alternative strategy was desperately needed: a political approach that, under conditions of unremitting despotism, would carve out and preserve burgeoning "spaces of freedom." Activists and citizens would thereby succeed in creating (to employ Czech dissident Vaclav Benda's apt phrase) a parallel polis. Ideally, were these "spaces" sufficiently expanded, a revitalized civil society would slough off communist rule the way a mollusk sheds an unwanted shell.
The new strategy was memorably employed by Solidarity in 1980. The plucky independent trade-union movement succeeded in driving the first nail into the coffin of a tottering communist system. It rapidly assumed the character of a global political event -- the whole world was, quite literally, watching. Within a matter of days, Lech Walesa and his followers had managed to win the hearts and minds of freedom-loving peoples everywhere. Chairman Mao once confidently proclaimed that the "revolution would not be televised." On this, as well as many other counts, his thinking has proved distinctly shortsighted.
Solidarity brilliantly managed to exploit one of the glaring ideological weaknesses at the heart of the communist system. The so-called workers' states of Eastern Europe were unique in denying those same workers the basic right to organize, a right they still enjoyed in the "capitalist West." The dissident movement also forced Westerners to re-evaluate the importance of basic political liberties and civic freedoms they had begun to take for granted.
Solidarity's initial run was tragically short-lived: The following year Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski (who in 2003 was indicted by a Polish court for his role in the 1970 massacre of 44 Polish shipyard workers) did Moscow's dirty work by declaring martial law and interning Solidarity's leaders. Nevertheless, an important seed had been planted, and the communist system's legitimacy had been irrevocably tarnished. The democratic sentiments of the global public sphere -- which has become an increasingly decisive dimension of modern politics -- had been permanently won over by the dissident camp....
As far back as Herodotus there have been those who argued that history is devoid of intelligibility and meaning -- a congeries of senseless events. But last fall Clio, history's muse, must have been smiling. The Polish Solidarity movement may have fallen short of its goal 25 years ago. But it bequeathed a rich and portentous political legacy. And it was that legacy that came to fruition last fall in Ukraine.
Thus, at the high point of the Ukrainian crisis, in a serendipitous instance of political symbolism, ex-Solidarity leader Lech Walesa appeared in Kiev to bolster the democratic opposition's spirits. One of his professed goals was to ensure a nonviolent, peaceful resolution of the crisis. But there could be no doubt about which side the Polish ex-president had chosen to back, as he made several rousing public appearances at Yushchenko's side.
"I have been fighting for these ideals all my life," Walesa declared. "You can rely on the support of Poland and Walesa,'' he continued. "But we cannot do it for you. You have to do it yourselves." Spontaneously, tens of thousands of orange-bedecked Yushchenko supporters began chanting in unison "Poland, Poland." The Nobel prize winner was emotionally overcome and broke down in tears.
Posted on: Monday, February 7, 2005 - 22:45
[Ms. Skinner, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon and research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is currently working on a book on Reagan and U.S.-Soviet relations.]
The element of surprise is often associated with George W. Bush. For many, his re-election was the biggest surprise of all. More recently, some were startled by the strong content and direction of his second inaugural address -- the "Freedom Speech." Tonight's State of the Union address might generate further surprises, but those who register astonishment simply haven't been paying attention.
Despite their reputation as the party of the elite, key Republican presidents tend to have had a grass-roots campaign strategy that blindsided Democrats. Like President Reagan before him, however, President Bush's policies and his strategy for electoral victory have actually been available for public scrutiny for a long time, in some instances well before he occupied the White House. Yet for some reason, his and Reagan's pre-presidential policies -- the source of their strategies in office -- never found a place in the Beltway consciousness. In fact, the reason for their success may very well have been the understated nature of their activities.
Reagan stood out from the field of contenders in the GOP primaries in 1980. Despite the fact that he was a former governor who had been out of office for five years and had never held a national public office, voters knew him and his message everywhere he campaigned. And despite the 2000 electoral wrangle, President Bush won in 2004, carrying Florida and Ohio, states Sen. John Kerry expected to win. Mr. Bush lost to Vice President Gore by 324 votes in Ohio's Clark County in 2000, but four years later he carried the county with a 1,406-vote margin. Many are still mystified.
The very principle used by Karl Rove and others to help President Bush prevail in 2004 contributed also to former Governor Reagan's success: to wit, a close attention to the Republican Party's rank and file during the electoral interregnum. Between January 1975 and October 1979, with a short break during his 1976 bid for the presidential nomination, Reagan used his nationally syndicated radio program to talk to the American people about major domestic and foreign-policy issues. Long before the age of Oprah and talk radio, he spoke for three minutes a day, five days a week, to between 20 million and 30 million Americans. By 1980, his message was widely known -- precisely where it mattered.
In a similar vein, Republican strategists recruited an estimated 1.4 million campaign volunteers after the 2000 election. These grass-roots volunteers, spread throughout the country but with especially strong numbers in swing states like Ohio, beavered away on uncommitted voters. This intensive "sway the vote" effort paid off on Nov. 2, 2004. Reagan and Mr. Bush both secured their base while expanding their reach.
Both men had more than electoral strategies. Each, as a presidential hopeful, had a clear message and a detailed policy plan. In his radio essays and other writings of the late 1970s, Reagan presented four theories on the Cold War that many considered to be heretical: 1) The sole source of legitimacy of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe is the Red Army of occupation; pull the Red Army out and the countries will go their own way; 2) The Soviet economy is so weak and the incentive structure so poor that Moscow can't sustain a sophisticated military technology race with the U.S.; 3) Even in the face of defeat in Vietnam, the American public is prepared for something like rearmament as long as their leaders clearly distinguish the strategy of strength from the objective of mutual cooperation; and 4) the American economy is so fundamentally strong that it can sustain a technology race with the Soviet Union. Before the end of his presidency, these "heresies" were the conventional wisdom.
Sept. 11 led to the most comprehensive revision of strategic priorities and
doctrine since the early days of the Cold War, but much of the content of that
revision was outlined by Gov. Bush in speeches and statements he made from late
1999 through 2000. On Sept. 23, 1999, three months after he officially announced
his presidential aspirations, Mr. Bush gave a major address on foreign and defense
policy at the Citadel. He talked about his belief that freedom establishes the
condition for peace, and about the need to combat new threats posed by the intersection
of weapons of mass destruction and "car bombers and plutonium merchants
and cyber terrorists and drug cartels and unbalanced dictators." He declared
that as president he would give his secretary of defense "a broad mandate"
to transform the military, and he would break out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty if he found it necessary in order to protect the U.S. and its allies.
He also firmly committed himself to homeland security: "I will put a high
priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil. The federal government
must take this threat seriously." These themes were emphasized in other
speeches and statements in 1999 and 2000. In an address at the Reagan Library
on Nov. 19, 1999, Gov. Bush espoused the concept of "democratic peace,"
the idea that mutual democracy blocks mutual belligerency....
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2005 - 17:59
Fiascos at Columbia University follow one another in a dizzying succession. This week's episode opens tonight at the Law School, where four academics will solemnly consider a burning question. No, it's not how to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which is the present mission of armies of diplomats and statesmen. It's this: "Is the two-state solution still the best hope for Palestinians and Israelis, or is time to begin working toward a one-state option?" On Morningside Heights, some people ponder this over their cornflakes.
The correct answer, in case you were wondering, is that the right time isn't now or ever. The binational "one-state option" is a thin euphemism for the elimination of Israel and its total replacement by Palestine, which would invite "back" several million Palestinians eager to realize their "right of return." Those few Israelis who have heard of the idea shrug it off as a joke, and no responsible Palestinian faction advocates it, because it defies common sense and popular will on both sides. It's a bit of secular messianism, which if it were ever made operational would produce a few more generations of blood and fire. It properly belongs on the same shelf of "solutions" as the "transfer" of Palestinians across the Jordan River or the Hamas vision of a Jew-free Islamic state. It's crackpot.
So the idea would consign millions of people to endless bloodshed. Is that a reason for intellectuals not to champion it? In Edward Said's declining years, when he took on the aura of a prophet, he veered toward the "one-state solution." Unfortunately, he never really thought through its implications for the Jews. "The Jews are a minority everywhere," he told an Israeli interviewer. "They are a minority in America. They can certainly be a minority in Israel." When the interviewer asked him whether a Jewish minority would be treated fairly, given the region's past history, Said offered this bit of rigorous thought:
I worry about that. The history of minorities in the Middle East has not been as bad as in Europe, but I wonder what would happen. It worries me a great deal. The question of what is going to be the fate of the Jews is very difficult for me. I really don't know. It worries me.
It worried him? He wondered what would happen? How many Israeli Jews would sign on to that? Said never managed to persuade even his one Israeli soulmate, Daniel Barenboim, that his messianic fantasy was workable.
But academe has never lacked for people willing to follow Edward Said off a cliff, and assorted acolytes have since cogitated, speculated, and elaborated upon his half-baked idea. Palestinian intellectuals living abroad have flocked to it because it makes their impassioned hope for the demolition of Israel look fashionably progressive: The Israeli Jews don't have to leave, they can live comfortably as a minority among us. (I have the uneasy feeling that they don't worry as much as Said did about whether that would really work.) A handful of Jewish and Israeli intellectuals have also taken up the idea, because... well, go figure. It gets them written up in the Haaretz Friday supplement, for a weekend of fame.
The mission of this cult is to establish that the "one-state option" wasn't simply the hallucination of the Morningside messiah, but that it's a genuine program (unlike, say, "transfer" or an Islamic republic), deserving of inclusion on any panel devoted to "alternative proposals for Middle East peace." That's the sub-title of tonight's Columbia panel, and to judge from its co-sponsors, the cult members have achieved their initial goal. The prime mover behind the panel is Qanun, a group of Arab students at the Law School, but co-sponsors include the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA; Lisa Anderson, dean), the Middle East Institute (Rashid Khalidi, director), and the office of the chaplain. That's the backing of social science and God right there.
But there's another goal, more immediate in the Columbia context, and I think it's this: to save the besieged Joseph Massad, assistant professor in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, and the prime target of Columbia's investigation into faculty abuse of students over Israel.
Since coming to Columbia, Massad has modeled himself on Said. But the result has been a crude parody of Said: Massad's extremism is unmitigated by finesse or nuance. He once denounced Israel as racist twenty-two times in a single mind-numbing op-ed. His forthcoming book, for which he hopes to get tenure, is an attempt to redefine Zionism as "an anti-Semitic project." He has compared Ariel Sharon to Goebbels. He has written that Christian fundamentalist supporters of Israel are "the most powerful anti-Semitic group worldwide." (All references here.) The student charges against him are plausible precisely because he reads like a man who has lost all control of his rage.
When Said was around, he could shelter Massad and see to his needs under one roof—a Columbia doctorate, publication by the university press, and a first appointment in a Columbia department. Were Said still around, he would have quashed the present controversy with one sharply-worded essay in the Ahram Weekly, sending everyone at Columbia scurrying back into their burrows. But Said is gone, the students and some faculty have gotten their courage back, and it's now a level played field. So how is Massad to be saved?
By including him, as the announcement of tonight's panel does, among a group of "eminent" scholars in an event co-sponsored by reasonable people. By framing the event in a way that seems to locate Israel's elimination within the field of mainstream debate. By positioning him alongside an Israeli of comparable extremism (Haifa University's Ilan Pappe, en route to participate in "Israel Apartheid Week" in Toronto). And by putting him up there with Rashid Khalidi, who will say that Massad's vision could become the only option if Israel doesn't concede, concede, concede. (The Princeton medievalist Mark Cohen also appears on the panel. He's window-dressing.)
So SIPA and the Middle East Institute have affixed their names to an exercise in quasi-academic extremism, which legitimizes the case for dismantling Israel and throws a lifeline to the professor who champions it. There's no surprise in any of this: it's Columbia. What did surprise me was the news that Columbia wants to raise millions of dollars for a chair and a visiting professorship in Israel studies.
My question to Columbia's President Lee Bollinger is this: do you mean the two-state-solution Israel, or the one-state-solution Israel/Palestine? And if it's the latter, or something in between, are you going to use that money to sponsor events like this evening's timely discussion? Or bring over more Israelis in Maestro Barenboim's wake, to pay tribute to "my dear Edward" in the Said Memorial Lecture? Or bring Joseph Massad and Ilan Pappe together to co-teach Massad's course on "Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Society"? (You know, the one with the blunt disclaimer: "The purpose of the course is not to provide a 'balanced' coverage of the views of both sides.") Or develop new trendy courses like the one being offered this semester by another Said acolyte (an Israeli Arab) on "Cultures of Colonialism: Palestine/Israel"?
Sorry to ask all these pesky questions, but like Edward Said, I tend worry a great deal about the Jews.
Morning-after update: Here's a report on the panel proceedings from the Columbia Spectator. Only one of the four panelists (Cohen) is reported to have supported a two-state solution, and he spoke off-topic. The Spectator:"Khalidi and Massad agreed with Pappe's assessment that a two-state solution is a 'utopian vision'." A two-state solution is utopian! If the report is true, then Khalidi has abandoned his past position in favor of Said's folly. Otherwise, everyone was perfectly true to form:"The panelists attacked Israeli racism as the root of conflict." Of course. It's Columbia.
Further update: Mark Cohen corrects the Spectator:"I in no way and in no words associated myself with that view ['the reality is defined by Israeli racism'], which was most vociferously presented by Professor Massad." Glad to learn it.
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2005 - 17:38
Those of us following the development of Islam in America have for years worried about the unhealthy influence of Saudi money and ideas on American Muslims.
We watched apprehensively as the Saudi government boasted of funding mosques and research centers; as it announced its support for Islamist organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations; as it trained the imams who became radicalized chaplains in American prisons, and as it introduced Wahhabism to university campuses via the Muslim Student Association.
But through the years, we lacked information on the content of Saudi materials. Do they water down or otherwise change the raw, inflammatory message that dominates religious and political life in Saudi Arabia? Or do they replicate the same outlook?
Now, thanks to excellent research by Freedom House (a New York-headquartered organization founded in 1941 that calls itself"a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world"), we finally have specifics on the Saudi project. A just-published study,"Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques," provides a wealth of detail on the subject.
(Two points about it bear noting: This important study was written anonymously, for security reasons, and it was issued by a think tank, and not by university-based researchers. Once again, an off-campus organization does the most creative and timely work, and Middle East specialists find themselves sidelined.)
The picture of Saudi activities in the United States is not a pretty one.
Freedom House's Muslim volunteers went to 15 prominent mosques from New York to San Diego and collected more than 200 books and other publications disseminated by Saudi Arabia (some 90% in Arabic) in mosque libraries, publication racks, and bookstores.
What they found can only be described as horrifying. These writings - each and every one of them sponsored by the kingdom - espouse an anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, misogynist, jihadist, and supremacist outlook. For example, they:
Reject Christianity as a valid faith: Any Muslim who believes"that churches are houses of God and that God is worshiped therein is an infidel."
Insist that Islamic law be applied: On a range of issues, from women (who must be veiled) to apostates from Islam ("should be killed"), the Saudi publications insist on full enforcement of Shariah in America.
See non-Muslims as the enemy:"Be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion, leave them, never rely on them for support, do not admire them, and always oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.
See America as hostile territory:"It is forbidden for a Muslim to become a citizen of a country governed by infidels because this is a means of acquiescing to their infidelity and accepting all their erroneous ways.
Prepare for war against America:"To be true Muslims, we must prepare and be ready for jihad in Allah's way. It is the duty of the citizen and the government."
The report's authors correctly find that the publications under review"pose a grave threat to non-Muslims and to the Muslim community itself." The materials instill a doctrine of religious hatred inimical to American culture and serve to produce new recruits to the enemy forces in the war on terrorism.
To provide just one example of the latter: Adam Yahiye Gadahn, thought to be the masked person in a 2004 videotape threatening that American streets would"run with blood," became a jihadi in the course of spending time at the Islamic Society of Orange County, a Saudi-funded institution.
Freedom House urges that the American government"not delay" a protest at the highest levels to the Saudi government about its venomous publications lining the shelves of some of America's most important mosques. That's unobjectionable, but it strikes this observer of Saudi-American relations as inadequate. The protest will be accepted, then filed away.
Instead, the insidious Saudi assault on America must be made central to the (misnamed) war on terror. The Bush administration needs to confront the domestic menace that the Wahhabi kingdom presents to America. That means junking the fantasy of Saudi friendship and seeing the country, like China, as a formidable rival whose ambitions for a very different world order must be repulsed and contained.
Posted on: Thursday, February 3, 2005 - 17:37