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.
SOURCE: Guardian (7-30-07)
Over the past five years the Israeli peace camp has dwindled. Last month marked the occupation's 40th anniversary, and no more than 4,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv to protest against Israel's longstanding military rule. Of the demonstrators who did show up, only a few hundred are what one could call ardent activists - people who have dedicated their life to peace and justice
Among the most committed of these are Israel's anarchists. Yet, over the past two years they have been under attack, and it is becoming more and more difficult for them to continue their struggle.
Established in 2003, the anarchists are made up of young Israelis, mostly in their twenties, who work closely with the Palestinian popular village committees in order to resist Israel's occupation. They have no official leaders, no office, and no paid staff, and yet they have managed to accomplish more than many well-oiled NGOs and social movements. They are perhaps best known for their efforts in the small village of Bil'in, where for more than two years weekly demonstrations have been staged against the wall that Israel is building on Palestinian land.
The anarchists are active in numerous other villages and towns as well. Day in and day out, they travel in small groups through the West Bank, supporting non-violent direct action that helps Palestinian farmers gain access to their fields and crops, while opposing the construction of the separation barrier and the confiscation of occupied land.
One of the most remarkable qualities of these young Israelis is their subversive use of their own privilege, employing it not for self-interested social, economic or political gain - as most people do - but rather in order to stand up to power. The anarchists, in other words, exploit the privilege that comes with their Jewish identity and use it as a strategic asset against the brutal policies of the Jewish state. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 19:13
SOURCE: Dissident Voice (7-28-07)
The latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the collective product of 16 US intelligence agencies concerning national security issues, was released July 17.
(President Bush had received it on his desk in June.) Its general content, made public on July 12, included the conclusion that al-Qaeda has regained the same strength it had as of the 9-11 attacks. According to the report, this strength derives from the “safe haven” it has enjoyed in parts of Pakistan and its association with “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” which has allowed it to “energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives . . .”
It seems to me the report’s conclusions are generally valid. But they need to be set in historical context. Before 9-11 some prominent Americans enjoyed a cordial relationship with the Taliban. Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad (who later became ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and now the United Nations) had engaged in talks with Taliban officials in Texas in December 1997, when he was a Unocal oil executive negotiating for oil pipeline construction rights in Afghanistan. After that he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post arguing that, “The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran. We should . . . be willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction. It is time for the United States to reengage” the Afghan regime. In 2001 Secretary of State Colin Powell negotiated an arrangement with the Taliban to eradicate opium production with US assistance. The program succeeded very well, and in May 2001 Powell announced a $43 million grant to Afghanistan to help the country recover from a long drought.
After 9-11 that cordiality evaporated. Bush, declaring “You’re either for us, or against us,” and “We make no distinction between terrorists and regimes that protect them,” bombed the Taliban out of power. He might have done better to distinguish between a Pushtun movement with a certain (very backward) popular base on the one hand, and an international Islamist terrorist movement enjoying Pushtun hospitality (in appreciation for its leader Osama bin Laden’s role in supporting the anti-Soviet Mujahadeen in the 1980s) on the other. Instead he toppled the Taliban in short order, succeeding in a secondary objective, while failing to destroy al-Qaeda or capture its leader “dead or alive.” Bush made a great show of bombing al-Qaeda camps and killing an unknown number of al-Qaeda members. But hundreds (bin Laden among them) fled into Pakistan where they, and fleeing members of the far more numerous Taliban, have found more hospitality among the Pushtuns — the “safe haven” referred to in the NIE report.
Bush might have continued the effort to corner and capture the al-Qaeda leadership with vigor, in cooperation with Pakistani forces. It would have been a difficult since, as Eric Margolis recently wrote in an excellent column, the Pushtuns only “reluctantly joined newly-created Pakistan in 1947 under express constitutional guarantee of total autonomy and a ban on Pakistani troops ever entering there.” (The current deployment of such troops in North and South Waziristan is opposed by the people in part because it is a violation of this guarantee. This is rarely noted in the corporate press.)
In any case Bush confronting that thorny problem soon changed the subject to Iraq. In his “Axis of Evil” speech in January 2002, he all but announced that Iraq was next on the regime-change agenda. He implied that Afghanistan was a done deal — al-Qaeda trapped in caves or on the run. “We haven’t heard from [bin Laden] in a long time,” he told reporters at the White House in March 2002 (“long” meaning a few months). “I truly am not that concerned about him.” No, Bush was concerned about invading another country — this one with one-quarter of the world’s oil reserves. He may not have suspected that this would generate an al-Qaeda center where there had been none before. (It bears repeating again and again that there was no significant al-Qaeda presence in Iraq under Saddam, and that the Islamist terrorists despised the Iraqi Baathist regime for its secularism.)
So yes, as the NIE asserts, al-Qaeda is resurgent. But how do the neocons deal with that fact? By advocating an attack on Pakistan! Pakistan, under their protégé President Pervez Musharraf, who is risking his neck everyday by his cooperation with the US!
Recall that Musharraf, who came to power in an anti-democratic coup in 1999, has stated that after 9-11 US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told his intelligence director: “Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age” if Islamabad didn’t cooperate with the US “War on Terror.” Cooperation meant severing ties with the Taliban, which Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence had helped create — to bring stability to the neighboring country wracked by warlord violence — and with which the US had developed the working relationship described above. It meant full cooperation with the US military as it prepared to attack Afghanistan, and suppression of demonstrations in Pakistan against US moves. Musharraf acceded to these demands, receiving in return an end to the US sanctions imposed on his country after its nuclear weapons tests, much new military and economic aid, and accolades from Washington as a true ally in the terror war. He’s been playing a difficult game ever since, trying to satisfy Washington while coping with the domestic political backlash. There is a lot of support in Pakistan for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and a lot of disgust with US foreign policy. In the military itself, pro-Taliban sentiment is said to remain widespread.
In this context, some neocons have recently advocated an attack on al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan. There is truly no end to their madness. Here is a brief chronology of their campaign:
On July 12, on Fox News’ Fox & Friends broadcast, regular commentator Bill Kristol was asked if the NIE had “come out on purpose so that we will have the right . . . to go after Pakistan now?”
“I think the president’s going to have to take military action there over the next few weeks or months,” Kristol replied. “Bush has to disrupt that sanctuary. I think, frankly, we won’t even tell Musharraf. We’ll do what we have to do in Western Pakistan and Musharraf can say, ‘Hey, they didn’t tell me.’”
Since Kristol edits the warmongering Weekly Standard and typically reflects the views of Cheney’s neocon clique, this is an important statement.
July 17: The NIE is released. The two-page unclassified version notes that al-Qaeda has largely rebuilt itself, leading to a “heightened threat environment” for the US
Bush seems to contradict the report, telling reporters, “Al-Qaeda is strong today, but they’re not nearly as strong as they were prior to September the 11th, 2001.”
July 19: Presidential spokesman Tony Snow answering reporters’ questions refuses to rule out striking at targets inside Pakistan, declines to comment on whether US forces would first seek permission from Pakistan. He says, “We never rule out any options, including striking actionable targets. . . . Those are matters that are best not discussed publicly.” He also indicates that Musharraf is “going to have to be more aggressive” in going after al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
July 20: Pakistan’s Foreign Office calls US officials’ comments about striking targets along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border “irresponsible and dangerous,” calls for “prudence and patience” in dealing with the terrorism issue. “We cannot, nor should we be expect to take indiscriminate action over a large territory without any precise information about any Al Qaeda or terrorist hideout,” states Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam.
July 21: Bush says in his weekly radio address that he’s troubled by the report that al-Qaeda was gaining strength in the Pakistani tribal region.
July 22: Frances Fragos Townsend, Bush’s homeland security adviser, tells CNN that if the US has “actionable targets, anywhere in the world, including Pakistan, then we would respond to those targets. . . . There are no options off the table.” (Interesting that the homeland security advisor should be discussing military action abroad.)
On the same day an angry Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri tells CNN: “Some people are talking irresponsibly of attack in the tribal areas by the United States. People in Pakistan get very upset when, despite all the sacrifices that Pakistan has been making, you have the sort of questions that are sometimes asked by the American media. . . [But] indiscriminate attacks could only undercut efforts to win harts and minds.”
Townsend, asked to comment, declares: “I understand their anger. They’ve taken hundreds of casualties.” But “our Number One is protecting the American people,” and “. . .we use all our instruments of national power to be effective.”
July 23: While the Pakistani military announces its forces in North Waziristan have killed 35 militants, Foreign Minister Aslam again responds to recent US threats. “We do not want our efforts to be undermined by any ill-conceived action,” she says, adding that any US strikes would produce “deep resentment” in Pakistan.
July 25: Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Peter Verga tells an unusual joint session of the House Armed Services Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “If there were information or opportunity to strike a blow” on Pakistani territory “to protect the American people” US forces would act immediately.
On the same day at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns says, “Given the primacy of the fight against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, if we have in the future certainty of knowledge, then of course the United States would always have the option of taking action on its own.”
* * *
Isn’t it apparent that public opinion is being prepared for some sort of military operation in Pakistan, in a region already seething with resentment at Musharraf’s government and hostile to the US?
Bush is in a difficult spot. Even though he may contradict it, the NIE lends fuel to his critics’ argument that he has diverted resources from the real “War on Terror” to the unrelated battlefield of Iraq and thereby allowed al-Qaeda to regroup. The Taliban is resurgent in southern Afghanistan and has now developed a Pakistani wing. Musharraf may be alarmed by this, and by the spread of Islamist militancy in Pakistan in general; hence his July 3 assault on the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in Islamabad. (The timing of that was interesting, since the mosque and Musharraf’s government had been at odds since January.) But support for the Taliban in the “tribal areas” appears intractable.
As Margolis points out, today’s Afghanistan-Pakistan border was drawn by British colonial authorities, and runs through Pushtun territory. It is the ideal hideout for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But efforts to bring it under firm central control — something the Pakistani state has never done or even felt necessary to do, leaving the region in the hands of tribal leaders — have proved disastrous for the Pakistani army. That’s why in September 2006 the government signed a pact with tribal groups, including the “Islamic Emirate of Waziristan” whereby the latter would prevent cross-border movement of militants into and out of Afghanistan in exchange for the government’s cessation of air and ground attacks against militants in Waziristan. This met with some concern in Washington, and Voice of America announced that the pact had Mullah Omar’s blessing, but Bush spokesman Tony Snow at the time said that the agreement was aimed at combating terrorism and that Islamabad had assured the US the accord wouldn’t undermine the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
The attack on the Red Mosque earlier this month produced reprisals on government forces in Waziristan and the collapse of the Waziristan Accord, which was already under attack in Washington. The flow of militants back and forth is now probably smoother than ever, while pressure from the US on Musharraf to act is intensifying. He’s in effect being told, “Take firmer actions to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda presence in the border area, or we will launch missile strikes — to protect our people.”
“People in Pakistan get very upset” at such talk, responds the Pakistani Foreign Minister. Actually, people everywhere get upset by the Bush administration’s talk of bombing Iran, and Syria, and now even close ally Pakistan. But let’s suppose the talk turns to action and there is some sort of major attack, successful or unsuccessful, against targets in Pakistan. (Small deniable ones have occurred already.) Where would that leave Musharraf, already reeling from the political setbacks and engaged in a high-stakes bid to change the law so he can run for president for another term as military chief? Embarrassed, surely. Vilified as a puppet or weakling unable to stand up to the US, probably. Maybe overthrown or dead. Is that what Kristol and the other neocons want?
“I think the president’s going to have to take military action there over the next few weeks or months,” says Kristol. “Bush has to disrupt that sanctuary.” Norman Podhoretz predicts that Bush will “within the next 21 months. . . order air strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities from the three US aircraft carriers already sitting nearby. . .” While the nation recoils from the carnage inflicted by this sick administration to date, these warmongers urge more madness. And the mainstream media affords them a pulpit and the time of day.
Everything they touch turns to chaos. They say in your face, “The military situation is better than anyone expected . . .” (Kristol, Fox News, July 12) but they’re celebrating cruelly inflicted “creative chaos.” They’ve produced bedlam in Afghanistan. The brutal rule of the Taliban gave way to the rule of brutal warlords and a feeble central government incapable of suppressing the forces of former CIA favorite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, preventing the resurgence of opium production, or stanching the Taliban’s reemergence. The US-led de facto occupation of Afghanistan has destabilized Pakistan. Meanwhile Iraq bleeds worse than it ever has while Kristol tells Fox News, “The military situation is better than anyone expected. . . . If Bush can just hang on there and beat back the people in Congress who want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of possible success . . . I think we’re going to win this war.” Palestine is broken in two thanks to Elliott Abram’s savage assault on Palestinian democracy. Somalia seethes under a regime imposed by the US using Ethiopian proxies; refugees pour out of Mogadishu. They talk about “democracy” but they really sow disorder — and hatred for the US.
The Pakistanis are right to be upset. We should all be upset. The American people should be horrified at the neocon policies that inevitably produce hatred in rational human victims regardless of their religious or political ideology. We don’t need that. To the demands for no attacks on Iran and Syria we must now add: “No attack on Pakistan!”
Posted on: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 19:05
SOURCE: Foreign Policy Research Institute (7-1-07)
Part I of II: The Other Age Born in the Year 1957
It has gone down in history as “the other world series”: a championship match even more shocking than the Milwaukee Braves’ upset victory over the New York Yankees in baseball’s 1957 Fall Classic. That shot literally “heard ’round the world” was the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial earth satellite. It gave birth to the Space Age, and its fiftieth anniversary this October 4 is sure to inspire worldwide attention. By contrast, another anniversary of equivalent importance was all but ignored this past March. The birth certificate of that other age born fifty years ago was the Treaty of Rome, which founded the European Economic Community, or Common Market. Its charter members included only the “original six”—France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg—and they pledged only to coordinate some tariff and industrial policies and cooperate on peaceful atomic energy. Fifty years later Europe is not just a Community, but a Union. It numbers not six, but twenty-seven members. And the purview of its institutions so transcends economics that Europe today has become a veritable state of mind.
European integration fulfilled a very old dream. The Holy Roman Emperors, as putative leaders of Western (Latin) Christendom in the medieval centuries, dreamed of restoring a unity unknown since the fall of ancient Rome. So, too, needless to say, did the popes. In early modern times, monarchs such as Habsburg Emperor Charles V, French King Louis XIV, and Russian Tsar Alexander I hoped their force and persuasion might reunite a broken and warring civilization. The persistent dream of European unity even survived the onslaught of nationalism in the modern era. At the 1814 Congress of Vienna following the initial defeat of Napoleon, Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich identified aristocratic cosmopolitanism with the cause. “Europe,” he said, “has always had for me the quality of a fatherland.” In 1831 the diplomatic Concert of the Great Powers declared: “Each nation has its own particular rights, but Europe also has rights, bestowed upon her by a common social order.” At a congress of radicals in 1849, Romantic author Victor Hugo prophesied: “The day will come when you, Russia, you France, you England, and you Germany, when all the nations of our continent, without forfeiting your distinctive characteristics or splendors, will bind yourselves together into a single, superior entity, and constitute a European brotherhood.” In 1860, Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini exhorted all peoples to “reinvent Europe as a federation of free republics.”
Of course Europe instead descended into the twentieth century’s era of virulent nationalism and world wars. But their horrors only made the cause of unity more pressing still. In 1944 Hans von Schreebronk, a German aristocrat executed for resisting the Nazi regime, wrote in his final testament, “I instinctively know that a Union of Europe would command far more of my loyalty than any one Fatherland.” Even Winston Churchill, bulldog of the British Empire, imagined in 1946: “If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its three or four hundred million people would enjoy…. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
The old dream began to take shape in the late 1940s because new circumstances, imperatives, and incentives all suggested that the nation-state was obsolete. They included the idealistic federalist movement that captivated resistance movements during World War II; the onset of the Cold War, which impelled West Europeans to unite in the face of external Soviet and internal communist threats; the obvious bankruptcy of nationalistic ambitions in the wake of the fascist catastrophe; the new predominance of Christian Democrat and Social Democrat parties favorable to integration; the war’s powerful example of economic mobilization and regulation; the American insistence that recipients of Marshall Plan aid jointly plan their recovery through the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development; the Europeans’ realization that they must pool their resources if they were ever to escape U.S. domination; the rationality of uniting the coal, iron, and steel producing regions spanning the Rhine; Konrad Adenauer’s appreciation that West Germany could regain sovereignty only by subordinating itself to international organizations; and the desire by all other countries to institutionalize the division of Germany.
The French Fourth Republic, inspired by technocrat Jean Monnet and foreign minister Robert Schuman, began the process by inviting its neighbors to merge their metallurgical industries into a common cartel. So it was that the “original Six” founded the European Coal and Steel Community as early as 1949. But momentum flagged, in part because Britain remained aloof from the continent and Britain and France alike still imagined themselves global colonial powers. Thus, when the United States pressured its NATO allies to rearm during the Korean War, first London then Paris rejected the proposal for a European Defense Community that would have obliged Europeans to forge the common foreign and defense policy that still eludes them today.
Then came the twin crises of October 1956: the Anglo-French-Israeli assault on the Egyptian forces that seized the Suez Canal and the Hungarian revolt against communist rule. The former event reminded West Europeans, in the most humiliating way possible, of their subservience to the United States when the Eisenhower administration joined the Soviets at the United Nations to condemn the Suez operation and imply that the sun had forever set on European imperialism. The latter event reminded Europeans, in the most frightening way possible, of their vulnerability to the Soviet Union when Khrushchev ordered Warsaw Pact tanks into Hungary to crush the rebellion. Suddenly, Belgian minister Paul Henri Spaak’s call for full economic union among the “original Six” took on urgency. With French, German, and Italian concurrence, the Treaty of Rome was drafted and signed within five months. Its preamble stated that the signatories were not just acting from economic expediency, but were “determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.”
A school of political science known as functionalism promptly argued that integration, once begun, must quickly lead to a United States of Europe. In the short run that appeared to be wrong. For the very humiliations in Indochina, the Suez, and the civil war in Algeria that rendered the French Fourth Republic pliant on matters of integration prepared the rise to power in 1958 of the nationalist Charles de Gaulle. He did not pull out of the European Community, as he did NATO’s military command. But during his decade as president he vetoed all attempts to broaden the Common Market by accepting new members (especially the British) or deepen it by expanding the EC bureaucracy’s mandate. De Gaulle spoke of a Europe of the Fatherlands, not a United States of Europe.
Still, the European idea never went into reverse. During the 1970s, a decade marred by oil shocks, stagflation, and domestic terrorism, the EC not only admitted Britain, Ireland, and Denmark, but established its first executive, the European Commission, a European Parliament, and a European Monetary System. In the 1980s, despite more talk of “Euroboredom” and “Eurosclerosis,” newly democratized Greece, Spain, and Portugal became members and a vigorous campaign to deepen the EU was launched in the belief that Europe must unite to compete in a globalized marketplace. Thanks in large part to the tireless Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995, EC members ratified the Single European Act of 1986. In so doing they agreed to abolish hundreds of legal barriers to the free movement of people, goods, capital, and ideas, adopt standardized laws and procedures for labor, welfare, budgets, and currencies, and forge a genuine European Union by 1992.
Little did anyone know that by the time that deadline arrived a revolution would topple the Berlin Wall, dissolve the communist bloc, and partition the USSR. The resulting reunification of Germany—by posing anew the danger of an imbalance of power—and liberation of Eastern Europe—by posing the danger of Russian revanchism—made Europe’s “larger and deeper” agenda more pressing than ever. In 1995 the EU admitted Sweden, Finland, and Austria. In 2002 it launched the audacious common currency, the euro, to replace the once sacred deutschemark, franc, and lira. In 2004 the EU embraced the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, and Cyprus, then Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. So the Age of Europe not only survived the death of the Cold War environment that nurtured its infancy, but flourished in its absence.
“Evolved” Europe as Model for Humanity
To appreciate how much Europeans have achieved through their fifty-year process of integration, all one need do is to look back one hundred years and contrast Europe in 2007 with Europe in 1907.
Measured in constant 1960 U.S. dollars, Europe’s per capita gross domestic product in 1907 was about $750. It is estimated to surpass $6,650 in 2007, an increase in per capita standard of living of 800 percent despite an almost doubling of the population. In 1907 average European life expectancy was about 45 years due to high infant mortality, disease, and poor health care. In 2007 Europe’s life expectancy is well over 70 in every country but Russia. In 1907 literacy rates among the population ranged from around 80 percent in Britain, France, and Germany to less than 40 percent in most of eastern Europe. In 2007 literacy rates range from 95 to 100 percent everywhere. In 1907 representative government, civil rights, and the rule of law were established and honored only in northern and northwestern Europe. Today they are taken for granted everywhere outside Russia and a few spots in the Balkans.
In 1907 Europe bestrode most of the world as its industrial, imperial center, with only the U.S., Europe’s offspring, posing an imminent challenge. Yet today’s statistics for higher education, equal employment, medical care, nutrition, labor productivity, per capita energy consumption, leisure time, spending on entertainment, culture, self-improvement, and a dozen more such indices prove that by comparison to 2007, Europe in 1907 was merely a “developing region.”
Most obviously, Europe in 1907 was a powder keg, a crowded continent bristling with jealous, fearful Great Powers—seven of them, counting Italy and Ottoman Turkey—all racing for armaments, divided into hostile alliances, and teetering on the brink of total war. By comparison, Europe in 2007 is a pastry shop. It sees no wars or invasions on the horizon. Its small volunteer militaries are more suited to peacekeeping than warfighting. Almost all its nations are united in a single alliance (NATO) and single market (EU). The violent international relations of the past 500 years—the Rivalries of the Great Powers—exist only in history texts. In sum, Europeans have never known peace, prosperity, and unity anything like what they enjoy today. Europe truly seems to arrived at the “end of history” and found it a very happy ending indeed.
Genuine Pursuits of Happiness
What is more, many Americans look upon Europe’s success story with admiration and envy. Consider Jeremy Rifkin, the sociologist specializing in long-range trends, whose book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream (2004) offers an arresting perspective. Rifkin digs into the roots of the American Dream and finds that the New World has in fact become the Old World! That is, we Americans are still motivated by ideas and aspirations born 250 to 500 years ago in Europe’s Enlightenment and Protestant Reformation. Colonists bearing that era’s notions of liberty and equality, continual progress, and pursuit of wealth and power proceeded to invent the American Dream and imagine it a model all nations were destined to emulate. One result was the most astounding success story on earth. But another result has been that Americans remain loyal to notions of Providence, patriotism, individualism, materialism, and “Don’t Tread on Me” unilateralism that Europeans have long discarded. The obvious reason for that, explains Rifkin, is that modern history has been a tale of almost continuous triumph for the U.S., but one of almost continuous trauma for Europe. Hence Europeans lost faith in traditional religions, ideologies, and even Enlightenment reason itself. They ceased to accept the liberal, industrial era’s equation of better with richer, bigger, faster, stronger, and cheaper. In other words, Europeans leapfrogged Americans on the road to the future by, in effect, becoming conservative again! That is, they relinquished their millenarian or utopian belief in mankind’s ability to create heaven on earth and got to work forging a humane, sustainable civilization where no wars of religion, patriotism, or ideology would disturb their personal fulfillment. Thus, whereas restless, dissatisfied, future-oriented Americans spend their whole lives pursuing happiness yet in most cases remain profoundly unhappy, Europeans are content with who they are and what they have, live for the here and now, and imagine themselves integral parts, not of a nation or civilization, but of the whole human race and even the biosphere in which they live and move and have their being..
Rifkin concludes with a rapture: “Much of the world is going dark, leaving many human beings without clear direction. The European Dream is a beacon of light in a troubled world. It beckons us to a new age of inclusivity, diversity, quality of life, deep play, sustainability, universal human rights, the rights of nature, and peace on Earth. We Americans used to say the American Dream is worth dying for. The new European Dream is worth living for.”
Europe as Vanguard
Another paean to Europe written by another smitten American is Michael Mandelbaum’s The Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-first Century (2002). The title echoes Francis Fukuyama’s notorious claim (The End of History and the Last Man, 1993) that the end of the Cold War brought modern history to its “end” insofar as liberal Western values had triumphed over all its ideological competitors including monarchy, imperialism, fascism, and communism. The historical chapters trace the origins of the conquering ideas to the French Revolution, which raised the standard of popular democracy; Britain’s Industrial Revolution, which raised the standard of free market capitalism; and America’s Wilsonian crusade, which raised the standard of peace through international organization. But Mandelbaum provocatively asserts that those conquering ideas are best embodied today, not by any nation-state, but by the EU as a whole. Nowhere else has a political community carried the triad to fuller realization; nowhere else have the causes of oppression, poverty, and strife been so thoroughly overcome. Americans have always imagined their nation a “city on a hill” for the world to emulate. Mandelbaum boldly imagines world government to be the true goal of humanity and believes Europe the example to emulate. The EU, he concludes, is “a foretaste of the way the world of the twenty-first century will be organized.”
Europe’s False Paradise
How realistic are such reveries? What does Europe’s pulse tell us about its health and prospects for growth? I suggest that the EU is at best incomplete and at worst a false paradise for which even its own citizens are unwilling to die.
The EU’s potential for superpower status is beyond dispute. Its 484 million people outnumber Americans by more than 50 percent. The EU today is the world’s largest internal market in terms of purchasing power and boasts the largest volume of world trade. The combined GDP of EU member states surpassed that of the United States ($15.5 trillion to $13 trillion) for the first time in 2003. The euro has been a magnificent success. Instead of struggling to maintain parity with the dollar, it has soared to $1.30 or $1.40. Yet Europe remains what the Germans call a Handelsstaat: a trading state bereft of significant military power or diplomatic influence. That is because NATO Europe simply refuses to spend more than a comparative pittance on its military. Of all the old Great Powers only Britain can pretend to have some capability for power projection. Thus did an American neoconservative tease our transatlantic friends with the quip that if men are from Mars and women from Venus, so are Americans from Mars and Europeans from Venus. Indeed, make love, not war could be Europe’s motto.
Polls confirm Europeans’ New Age attitude toward defense. Only 24 percent think their nation-states should be responsible for security; 20 percent think NATO should be responsible for their security (take that, Uncle Sam!), and a pacifist 14 percent do not believe in having any military at all. That leaves a plurality of 42 percent who want the EU itself to take charge of defense (which is precisely what President Eisenhower hoped Europeans would do back in the 1950s). But European governments allocate less than 2 percent of their combined GDP to defense. Britain and France still deploy small nuclear deterrents plus a few aircraft carriers and bomber squadrons, but the EU itself has no strategic forces, just a handful of aircraft and armored vehicles, and virtually no capacity for long-range logistics or space-based reconnaissance, communications, command and control. The vaunted 60,000 man EU rapid reaction force may be sufficient to help patrol Bosnia or pacify a troubled ex-colony in Africa, but it is hard to imagine any other mission for which it is adequate.
To be sure, Europeans boast of what Harvard’s Prof. Joseph Nye termed soft power in the belief that diplomatic, cultural, and moral suasion is more humane and effective than brute force. But even Europe’s soft power may be overrated in an era when few leaders on other continents look anymore to London, Paris, Rome, or Berlin for their standards of philosophy, law, fashion, high or popular culture. In any event, Europeans can trumpet their soft power only because of (a) the absence of any hard power threat in their neighborhood and (b) the willingness of the U.S. to combat terrorists, aggressors, and rogue regimes. Nor has the EU yet considered taking out some insurance against the chance that those conditions may change.
Economic Stasis, Energy Dependence, and Sex-Shop Socialism
Nor is the EU quite the economic powerhouse it is cracked up to be. Its social regulations emphasize the quality and equality of life over competitiveness. According to OECD statistics, the U.S. devotes just 11 percent of its GDP to redistributing wealth through social programs. EU countries devote 26 percent to that purpose. Likewise, Europeans on average work just 35 hours per week and have 3 to 4 weeks paid vacation each year. Americans are lucky if they can work 40 hours per week and get 2 weeks of paid vacation. The result is that EU productivity is about 95 percent that of the U.S., but per capita income in the EU is just 72 percent of U.S. incomes. Still, that is just fine with them. As the saying goes, “Americans live to work whereas Europeans work to live.”
It is no accident that the draft European constitution guaranteed every imaginable human right except one many Americans cherish: private property. Europeans extol their comprehensive welfare programs, universal socialized health care, free public education through university, strict environmentalism, advocacy of animal rights and children’s rights, gender equality, plus programs promoting leisure, self-esteem, and (in progressive states like Denmark and the Netherlands) subsidized drugs and prostitution. Indeed, Boston University’s Angelo Codevilla has jokingly labeled Europe’s political economy sex-shop socialism.
How do Europeans pay for their welfare? Good question, since the same regulations that stipulate benefits retard wealth creation. Europeans have written into law such elaborate protections and benefits for labor that it is nearly impossible for corporations to lay off workers. The resulting high payroll costs discourage firms from either hiring personnel to expand or firing personnel to downsize. The result is a level of structural unemployment that would be unacceptable to Americans. To be sure, the system has brought remarkable peace to European industries since the last big labor outbursts around 1968. But sclerosis keeps EU growth modest—1.5 or 2.5 percent—even in good times.
Finally, Europe is heavily dependent on foreign energy. Some EU members, notably France, wisely invested in nuclear energy for domestic electricity. Others, such as the UK, made lucky oil strikes in the North Sea. But for the most part the EU is in thrall to oil and gas imported almost exclusively from Russia or the Middle East.
Brussels Bureaucrats And Democracy Deficits
Speaking of constraints, the EU’s voluminous rules can make China seem libertarian by comparison. Back in the 1960s and 70s, functionalists such Berkeley’s Ernest Haas predicted (approvingly) just that result, because the international bureaucrats were sure to claim, rightly, that “if we are instructed to regulate A and B, then of course we must have control over C, D, and E.” The Gaullist interlude notwithstanding, functionalism would seem to be vindicated. The progress of the EC, then EU, toward deeper integration has been driven, at every stage, not by the people of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, but by Brussels-based Eurocrats who insist that all countries “harmonize” their policies regarding more and more issues.
EU regulations today are so numerous no one can say how many there are except that they exceed 200,000 and some 2,500 new ones are added each year. Moreover, since legislatures of member or applicant states are obliged to incorporate them into their national codes, they become little more than rubber stamps for the Eurocrats. The powers of the European Parliament in Strasbourg are also carefully circumscribed, so it mostly signs off on whatever the EU executive council proposes. In any case, who would bother to run for a seat at Strasbourg unless they believed in the EU, or bother to vote for those who do run? In truth, voter turnout for EU elections is embarrassingly small by comparison to that for national elections.
All this adds up to a Democracy Deficit that increases the chance that someday ordinary European voters will stand up and cry “Stop!”, not just to this initiative or that draft constitution, but to the whole project. They all cherish peace and prosperity, but will they still do if it means making an Orwellian Big Brother of the Brussels bureaucracy?
A Culture of Unbelief and Culture of Death
What do Europeans believe, stand for, and fight for if necessary? We really can’t say since they have not been tested, save for a few thousand professional soldiers in Bosnia and Afghanistan. If you ask Americans what they have faith in and would fight for, most reply God, Country, and Freedom. Most Europeans would not use any of those words. They have transcended religion and patriotism, and shucked off old moral taboos, to the point that it seems nothing is sacred, not even life. Cultural conservatives deplore Europeans’ tolerance of suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and high rates of addiction to drugs, pornography, gambling, and mind-numbing video games. Pope John Paul II preached repeatedly against what he called a “culture of death” and attributed it to the decline of religious faith. The numbers appear to bear that out. When asked if religion is very important to them, Germans said yes just 21 percent of the time. But that made Germany a highly spiritual state, because in Britain only 16 percent, France 14 percent, and Scandinavia less than 10 percent said religion was important in their lives. The response in the U.S. was 82 percent. Similarly, 40 percent of Americans report that they go to church or synagogue every week, while just 10 percent of Protestant Europeans say that they attend church once a month. When asked why the EU’s constitutional convention rejected any reference to God or Christianity, a French diplomat reportedly sniffed, “We Europeans don’t like God.”
The same is true of civil religion, the secular values citizens deem sacred. Almost 80 percent of Americans think it important that democratic ideals and institutions be spread more broadly around the world. Less than 40 percent of Europeans think that is important or even necessarily positive. In sum, a postmodern, post-Christian civilization has returned to the pagan values of group cohesion and collective hedonism, and elevated peace and prosperity from the status of blessings to the status of idols.
The sterling successes and worrisome weaknesses of contemporary Europe might be of no broader interest except for the fact that Europe is no island. It is trapped in a much wider world that mounts three existential challenges to the EU’s would-be nirvana.
Part II of II: The European Union in a Wider World
In 2003, during the debate over the Bush administration’s request for UN approval to invade Iraq, British diplomat Chris Patten was despondent. He was not working for Tony Blair, who supported Bush, but for the EU’s Commission for External Relations, which was torn asunder by the war on terror. At length Patten remarked, “Some Europeans think that grumbling about America is the same thing as having a foreign policy.” Therein lies the essence of the American Challenge faced by Europe in the twenty-first century. The U.S. seems too strong to ignore and too headstrong to resist, but also too reckless, dangerous, and unilateralist to support. One might assume that a powerful, out-of-control America launching preemptive wars would be just the impetus Europeans need to forge a common foreign and security policy. But so far the opposite has occurred. Europe has splintered under the pressure.
It began back in the 1990s when NATO almost wrecked itself over debates about burden-sharing, expansion, “out of area or out of business,” and finally the Bosnia and Kosovo debacles. But at least Bill Clinton maintained good relations with his counterparts over in Europe. He did it through charm, caution, and diplomatic deception. That is, Clinton courted favor by signing every protocol Europe favored in the knowledge none would win Senate ratification. Indeed, some agreements he never bothered to submit to Congress at all. George W. Bush, on the other hand, candidly stated his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on global warning, the Rio Pact on bio-diversity, the treaty banning landmines, the International Criminal Court, and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. To Europeans it seemed that post-Cold War America was reverting to a go-it-alone, cowboy diplomacy that placed power and growth above humane global values.
Then came 9/11 and a Europe-wide outpouring of sympathy with the United States. Le Monde said the next day, “We are all Americans.” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called the Al Qaeda attack a declaration of war against civilization. Tony Blair, noting that 67 British citizens died on 9/11, promised to “stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends” and “not rest until this evil is driven from our world.” On September 12, for the only time in history, NATO invoked Article 5 of its treaty to declare 9/11 an assault on all of its 19 member states. That is why Afghanistan, whose Taliban regime harbored Osama bin Laden, was invaded by NATO and remains a NATO responsibility to this day. The entire EU declared September 14, 2001 a day of mourning.
Yet, almost from the start Europeans expressed certain misgivings. They knew how Americans, once attacked, can lurch to extremes and lash out against any and all suspected enemies, deaf to counsels of prudence and blind to war’s unintended consequences. Europeans declared their fears justified when President Bush declared an Axis of Evil including, not Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Europeans cringed to hear the new Bush Doctrine, arrogating to the U.S. the right to launch preventive attacks on anyone suspected of harboring terrorists or developing weapons of mass destruction. Europeans understandably howled when Bush announced, “You are either with us or with the terrorists.” Rage over 9/11 seemed to eclipse any subtlety, humility, or sense of proportion Americans had learned over a century as world leaders. Finally, Bush showed none of the patience and skill his father displayed during the 1991 Gulf War. Bush Sr. had built consensus among Arab states, European allies, and the UN before striking at Saddam Hussein. Bush Jr. just demanded consensus and declared he would go ahead whether he got it or not.
Britain loyally followed America, as did Spain, Italy, and the new NATO members of Eastern Europe. But France, Germany, and Belgium, not to mention Russia and China, did not. When Bush called on the UN to sanction a war on Iraq, the French and Germans protested hotly. During Schroeder’s reelection campaign in 2002, German justice minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin allegedly even made an analogy between Bush and Hitler. Critics accused the U.S. of exploiting “rogue regimes” to behave like a “rogue Superpower.” French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine accused America of becoming a hyperpuissance, or hyper-power and law unto itself. Americans replied with their own accusations, most famously Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s comments about the tired, toothless countries of “Old Europe” led by France and Germany. Needless to say, in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, the French and Germans patted themselves on the back for staying out of the quagmire, while Tony Blair was eventually dumped by his own party.
If Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus—if their perspectives on values and world affairs are so contrary—how long can NATO survive? Prof. Andrei Markovitz of the University of Michigan goes so far as to define Anti-Americanism as Europe’s lingua franca, conventional wisdom, and measure of belonging. That is, you just don’t say nice things about the U.S. in polite European society, or else you are not a good European. In short, the EU has defined itself against a hated Other, and the Other is Us.
Even in Britain defenders of the Atlantic partnership are a distinct minority. John Blundell, director of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs, is among those Brits who despise the EU and fear a widening gap between the U.S. and Europe. In a 2006 speech, “Is the EU America’s Friend and Foe?” he advised Americans to quit pretending to support the European project, as their presidents have ritually done, and instead try to loosen or break up the EU. Of course, talk like that only magnifies Europeans’ distrust of the hyperpuissance to which they are chained.
The Asian Challenge
Yet its tension with the U.S. may prove modest compared to the Asian challenge Europe will face in the twenty-first century. China, India, and still formidable Japan are already fierce competitors for economic and soft power, and could easily surpass the EU in hard power. While labor costs rise and productivity stagnates in Europe, low labor costs and soaring productivity turn Asia into the Workshop of the World. Their exports of cheap but high-quality goods have created such balance of payments surpluses that Asian coffers overflow with dollars and euros. Asians invest much of that cash in Western government bonds, which means that U.S. defense spending and European welfare spending are made possible courtesy of Asians’ largesse. In short, Europe (like the U.S.) is living beyond its means and will do so even more as its population continues to age.
China, India, and the smaller Asian “tigers” have already moved into many high-tech industries pioneered in the West. In another twenty years their R&D may be so dynamic they will cease playing catch-up and instead pioneer new frontiers. What can the EU do? Pull up the drawbridge of tariff protectionism and make Europe a castle? That would only hasten its retreat into the inferiority medieval Europe suffered vis-a-vis Asia. Eurocrats are well aware of this Asian Challenge. They invoked it to justify plunging ahead with the euro. But now they must decide what to do with the EU and euro in hopes of remaining competitive.
The Islamic Challenge
The Islamic challenge begs the most fundamental question: What is Europe? Europeans themselves cannot say. EU membership criteria stress common values, not geographic, ethnic, or religious identity. Indeed, geographers say there is no such thing as Europe; it’s just a convention to divide the Eurasian landmass at Russia’s Ural Mountains. And what about the Muslims whose ancestors have dwelt in the Balkans for six hundred years? When “Europe” began to come into common usage a millennium ago it simply denoted Christendom. But that is obsolete today since most Europeans are not religious at all, whereas Christianity remains the world’s largest religion thanks to its strength in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Is Europe a strictly institutional reality based on EU membership, then? Or a state of mind based on those values consciously inculcated? Back in 1948 Churchill said, “We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think of being European the way they think of belonging to their native land,” and Jean Monnet cautioned, “Europe has never existed; one must genuinely create Europe.” Both implicitly hearkened back to those state-builders, both royal and revolutionary, who forged modern nations through bureaucratic centralization, linguistic standardization, and mass education, and urged those same methods be used to transcend nation-states.
But do Europeans really want to transcend the nation? Their embarrassing dilemma concerning immigrants, especially Muslim ones, suggests that hypocrisy lurks at the heart of the EU project. While determining the number of Muslims in each country is difficult and one finds varying figures, as of 2001 official estimates of Muslims as a percent of the population were as follows: France 7.5; Netherlands 4.4; Germany 3.9; Britain 3.3; Spain 1.8; Denmark 1.4; Italy 1.2. Not high percents, you may think, but Europeans think otherwise. Indeed, prior to an abashed reform made in 1990, an ethnic German refugee from, say, the Ukraine who spoke no German could get automatic citizenship, while an ethnic Turk born in Germany and fluent in its language and culture could almost never gain citizenship. Indeed, Europeans have consistently regarded immigrants as a cultural threat, a drain on welfare budgets, and a danger (one-third of all prison inmates in Germany are foreign born) long before Islamic terrorists infiltrated their cities.
But postwar Europe desperately needed workers. So huge numbers emigrated from North Africa and Turkey over the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The oil shock and recession after 1973 slowed down immigration, but it picked up again in the 1990s. All told, Germany absorbed 24.5 million immigrants from 1950-88, France 21.9 million, and the rest of northern Europe (including the UK) some 25 million. By the end of the century, more than one in twenty “Europeans” were not European—or were they? The result is that the European “Union” now counts 87 languages and dialects.
The other trend that has made immigration an existential concern and source of panic is the concomitant plunge of fertility among native Europeans to the lowest in the world. The birthrates for Germans, Swedes, Spaniards, Greeks, French, Italians, and Russians have fallen as low as 1.4 or even 1.1 per woman, whereas the mere replacement rate is 2.1. In Germany 31.2 percent of women bear no children at all. As a result, Europe’s population is expected to fall 13 percent by the year 2050 and the median age is expected to rise to an unprecedented 52 years (compared to just 35 in the U.S.). To put it another way, most Europeans will then be older than the average life expectancy of people 150 years ago.
The result will be that Caucasians (people of European stock), who numbered 31 percent of humankind in 1900, will likely plummet to just 11 percent by the year 2050, while Caucasians in Europe will number just 7.5 percent.
Such “demographic suicide” (as George Weigel termed it) is virtually unknown in biological history. To be sure, massive die-offs have occurred periodically, but they were due to famine, epidemic diseases, or warfare. Europeans today, at least west of Russia, are as well fed, healthy, and peaceful as any civilization in history. They are simply choosing not to have babies. Why? Studies done by national and EU institutions point to the decline of marriage and family values, lenient divorce and abortion laws, ubiquitous contraception, the choice by women to pursue careers, and the preference of couples for two incomes rather than children. Moral critics blame the birth dearth on the selfishness of a “me first, do your own thing” generation. But morals aside, it is clear many Europeans no longer consider children a part of their pursuit of happiness and may even find them a hindrance.
All that is relevant to the “Islamic Challenge” because it means people of native European stock are shrinking in absolute terms while the Arabs, Turks, and other extra-European immigrants among them are procreating at very high rates. Moreover, Europeans are going to need immigrant workers all the more as their own population rapidly ages. That is why even Rifkin admits this seemingly idyllic European Dream is in fact placing the dreamers “between a rock and a hard place.”
So far, efforts to deal with Muslim immigration have been singularly unsuccessful because efforts to assimilate, or tolerate, or repress Muslim cultural habits have fomented protests and race riots among immigrants and nativists alike in France, England, and Germany, while neo-fascist splinter parties have arisen in France, Italy, and Austria that promise to halt or reverse immigration.
Pathetic Caucasian birthrates, Muslim immigration, the revelation after 9/11 that Western Europe was the Number One haven for terrorists outside of Afghanistan, and the Al Qaeda bombings in London and Madrid make for a crisis that is not going away for a very long time. Yet, even they do not pose the most immediate Islamic challenge. That distinction goes to the innocent, proper, and sensible application by Turkey to become a member of the EU. The Turks have been begging for years to be admitted to Europe on numerous grounds. Turkey included more or less of the Balkan peninsula for six centuries. Hundreds of thousands of Turks already live in the EU. Turkey’s economy is closely tied to Europe’s. Turkey was a charter member of NATO. Turkey is a secular, not an Islamic Republic. Still, the EU always keeps the Turks at arm’s length, citing the role the military has played in Turkish politics. But even that is somewhat disingenuous since the political role of the Turkish military has been precisely to keep Islamic parties from taking power in Istanbul. The unspoken truth is that Europeans are just terrified of granting 60 million Muslim Turks the right to travel and live across Europe.
We began by contrasting Europe in 2007 with Europe in 1907. Let us conclude by invoking a grander timeline, that of European civilization itself. Once upon a time the term Europa referred only to a beautiful maiden in Greek mythology who attracted the wandering eye of Zeus, or else to a directional term referring to the Greek side of the Hellespont as opposed to the side on the peninsula Greeks called Asia Minor. The Roman Empire, encompassing parts of three continents around the Mediterranean, had no concept of Europe, and the Germanic tribes whose invasions dissolved the empire based at Rome certainly had no concept of Europe as a geographical, cultural, religious, linguistic, racial, or political entity. Nor did the Arabs, who swept out of the desert in the seventh and eighth centuries of the common era full of zeal for Allah and his prophet Mohammed. The Arabs overran fully half of all the provinces of Christendom, imposing their rule by sword and Quran on Mesopotamia, Syria, Lebanon, the Holy Land, Egypt, all of North Africa, and almost all of Spain. The Umayyad Caliphate even dreamed of expanding the Dar al Islam, the Land of the Faithful, across the Pyrenees and extirpating Latin Christendom altogether. But its Saracen soldiers were checked, for ever as it turned out, by the knights of a Frankish prince named Charles “the Hammer” Martel at Tours in 732.
That victory allowed the heirs of Charles the Hammer to imagine a destiny for the Franks, indeed for all the Christian tribes, greater than mere survival. Chief among them was his tall, imposing grandson, also named Charles. Exceptionally skilled at war, diplomacy, administration, and court politics, he created by sheer force of will a great empire that among his own subjects earned him the epithet Charles the Great, to wit Karl der Grosse or Charlemagne. The glory and booty he won in battle kept the lords and knights satisfied. His religious donations and support for public morality won over the clergy. His protection of commerce and administration of royal law pleased the merchants. His reign was immensely popular. Moreover, though not himself literate, Charlemagne gathered around him the most learned monks from the British Isles, Italy, France, and the Low Countries. He founded schools, patronized art, and presided over a Little Renaissance in the midst of the Dark Ages. Above all, Charlemagne was a pious man who believed himself called to unite the Christians orphaned by the collapse of the Roman Empire and spread the gospel to pagans north and west of Francia. He succeeded in all this to a remarkable degree: indeed, the empire based at his capital of Aix-la-Chapelle coincided remarkably with the boundaries of the original Common Market formed in 1957: France, the Low Countries, West Germany, and northern Italy.
What every pupil used to learn about Charlemagne is that the Pope crowned him Emperor of the West at a Christmas Day mass in the year 800. What few people know is that the year before, in 799, an anonymous court poet bestowed a still grander title. He dubbed Charlemagne “King and Father of Europe.” A continent, a civilization, had been willed into being by one man. Moreover, that self-conscious European idea survived the crackup of Charlemagne’s empire to inspire monarchs, popes, philosophers, conquerors, and at last economists and mere bureaucrats for 1,200 years. The idea had to wait until the spiraling orgy of nationalism spent itself utterly in World War II. But then, indeed in the year 1950, the good burghers of the Rhineland town Germans call Aachen and the French Aix-la-Chapelle, established a prize to be awarded annually to the person who did most to advance European unity. The town fathers named it the Charlemagne Prize after the “King and Father of Europe” who had made their city his capital.
What would Charlemagne make of Europe today? He would marvel, of course, at the wealth and technology. He would praise and bless the ubiquitous peace. He would recognize instantly the Islamic Challenge and tell Europeans it was ten times worse back in his day! Nor, having been a state builder himself, would he likely object to the intrusive EU bureaucracy. Indeed, it is fetching to think Charlemagne would discern in the EU the culmination of the great work he began over a millennium ago, and give glory to God. But three features of Europe today would doubtless grieve and trouble him greatly: military impotence; spiritual emptiness; and demographic decay. How long, the Emperor would surely ask, can a civilization expect to survive without arms, without faith, without children?
That is a question even the plodding Eurocrats will have to address before the twenty-first century gets very old.
- Speech in Zurich, Sept. 19, 1946. [back]
- Reviewed by this author in The National Interest, Winter 2003. [back]
- Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (2003). [back]
- Joseph Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (2005). [back]
- Kenneth L. Woodward, “An Oxymoron: Europe Without Christianity,” New York Times (op-ed), June 14, 2003. [back]
- William I. Hitchcock, The Struggle for Europe (2003), p. 473. [back]
- “Minister denies Bush ’Hitler’ slur,” CNN, Sept. 20, 2002. [back]
- Dec. 22, 2006 Heritage Foundation Lecture #983. [back]
- See Nicholas Eberstadt, “Population and Public Health: Four Unexpected Surprises,” Orbis, Fall 2004. [back]
Posted on: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 17:52
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov at frontpagemag.com (7-31-07)
FP: Mitchell Bard, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Bard: It's a pleasure.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Bard: I have been increasingly frustrated by the simplistic coverage of the media and the policy prescriptions of former officials who had records of failure when in power and now are viewed as having special insight. I also wanted to summarize in one place what I believe to be the most important elements to understand Israel's challenges and opportunities.
FP: Who is one former official who comes to mind who had a record of failure when in power and is now viewed as having special insight? Can you talk a bit about what his failure was and what you think of some of his recent “insights”?
Bard: I don't think I want to single out any one person. You can choose just about anyone who worked at the State Department, which has had a perfect 60 year record of failure in the Middle East.
I would say the one general consistent failure is the belief that a U.S. peace plan is required to settle the conflict. Every administration has offered a plan and they have all been failures primarily because the continuation of the conflict is not a result of a lack of a formula, it is a product of the unwillingness of the Arabs to accept Israel.
When Egyptian President Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein were prepared to coexist with Israel it was possible to reach peace agreements. In neither case was it an American peace initiative that brought about those agreements.
Ok, this makes me bring up one particular individual who deserves singling out for being consistently wrong and that is Jimmy Carter. I have a long analysis of everything he got wrong in his book on the Jewish Virtual Library web site, but the key point that few people understand is that Sadat went to Jerusalem and broke the psychological barrier that made peace with Egypt possible because he believed Carter's policy was so wrong-headed that he could never achieve his goals if he did not take independent action. Carter certainly helped facilitate hammering out the details of the treaty, but Israel's agreement with Egypt was achieved despite Carter rather than because of his policies.
FP: Aside from the terror threat, what are some other realities that make Israel’s survival very precarious?
Bard: The principal danger to Israel's existence is Iran's nuclear ambition. Israel can live with the other dangers, such as internal divisions, water shortages and even the demographic imbalance, but it is less certain that Israel can survive if an enemy has both the will and ability to use nuclear weapons against it.
FP: What are your thoughts on U.S. Middle East policy?
Bard: Unfortunately U.S. policy is largely driven by the State Department whose principal goal is to placate the Middle East oil producers. Iraq is a separate issue, but when it comes to Israel, President Bush has been on the right path for the most part, but is constantly tugged by the State Department into engaging in futile diplomatic gestures that usually make the situation worse. This is the case now with the effort to bolster the incompetent, weak and corrupt Abbas regime.
FP: With the Hamas-Fatah struggle in front of, what alternative is there to supporting Abbas? It is clear the Abbas regime is also a terrorist regime, but some would argue it is the lesser of two evils. What other options are there?
Bard: Israel always should pursue whatever opportunities are available to achieve agreements with its neighbors. The Israeli people crave peace and that is why they have been prepared to make often risky compromises dating to the days of the mandate and including everything from accepting partition to Sadat's mere promise of peace in exchange for the Sinai to the disengagement. I am not an opponent of talking as it rarely does any harm, but I know that from the time Abbas first became prime minister under Arafat no one in Israel had any faith in his ability to deliver. Khaled Abu Toameh, a journalist for the Jerusalem Post, also made the keen observation that the more Israel and the United States try to help Abbas, the weaker they make him because in the eyes of many Palestinians he is seen as a collaborator rather than as a strong independent leader.
FP: Can you talk a bit about the complexity of the conflict that Israel’s faces?
Bard: If the conflict were just political, it would be relatively simple to resolve. You could say it's two people fighting over one land and divide it. But it's not just about politics. It's about psychology, history, religion, geography and politics. You can't understand the obstacles to peace, for example, unless you examine the Arab feelings of shame and humiliation associated with the repeated defeats at the hands of the Jews. Similarly, you can't understand Israel's position without taking into account the trauma of the Holocaust or the surprise and near defeat in 1973.
FP: In terms of the Arab feelings of shame and humiliation associated with the repeated defeats at the hands of the Jews, many Arabs till this day are still in denial that this actually happened, no? There is some kind of pathological mindset here isn’t there? Many Arabs simply cannot accept that Allah would allow a defeat at the hands of the Jews and yet that is exactly what happened. This leads to all sorts of psychological pathologies, correct?
Bard: Psychology is crucial to understanding the situation in the Middle East. As you say, one issue is the inability of many Muslims to believe the Jews or any infidels could defeat the warriors of Allah. They must avenge their defeats before it is possible to even consider coexistence. In terms of Egypt, one of the keys to making peace possible was the success of the Egyptians in surprising and nearly defeating Israel in 1973. That allowed them to regain their honor after the humiliation of 1967 and allowed Sadat to pursue peace. Remember Sadat was assassinated at a parade commemorating the "victory" in 73. Some Muslims cannot believe that Israel is not a threat to them because they cannot conceive of a powerful country that would not use its strength to expand its territory. And this point about psychology does not just apply to Israel. Look at Iraq. Much of the killing going on is between Shiite and Sunni Muslims that has to do with the desire to exact revenge on each other for various wrongs committed over centuries.
FP: Crystallize for us how geographical factors play a role in all of this.
Bard: People who have never been to Israel usually can't appreciate these factors. I took a helicopter from the airport on the beach in Tel Aviv and flew across the entire width of Israel - it took 7 minutes. You can stand in the almost mythic land known commonly as the West Bank and be 15 minutes outside Jerusalem and stand on a hill where you can look the other direction across the country and see the coast. It's as if someone came to visit me here in Washington, DC, and I took them to the top of the Washington Monument and said, "Look, there's San Francisco!" In Jerusalem, the Muslim holy places on the Temple Mount are literally on top of Judaism's holiest site and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher is just around the corner. If you don't take into account the geography and topography of Israel, you cannot appreciate what is involved in establishing the secure and defensible borders called for in UN Security Council Resolution 242.
FP: For the sake of some readers that might not know, can you define what UN Security Council Resolution 242 is?
Bard: This is the resolution adopted after the Six-Day War in 1967 that has been accepted by all parties as the basis for peace. It is often misunderstood and mischaracterized. Put simply, Israel is expected to withdraw from territory it captured in exchange for peace. The resolution's framers made clear that Israel was not expected to withdraw from all the territory because the pre-1967 boundaries were indefensible. Since the end of the war, Israel has repeatedly expressed a willingness to make territorial concessions and when it found an Arab partner willing to give peace in return, agreements were signed. Israel has said it will give up most, if not all of the Golan Heights for peace with Syria, but Syria still refuses to say it will accept Israel under any circumstances. Similarly, as recently as the 2000 Camp David negotiations Israel offered to withdraw from 97% of the West Bank, evacuate most settlements and allow the Palestinians to establish a state with its capital in a part of Jerusalem and the Palestinians rejected the offer. If a Palestinian leader ever emerges who is prepared to end the conflict with Israel and has the strength to carry out his promises, then an agreement will be reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
FP: So Israel can never really have the peace that many of us wish for can it? Then what kind of peace can it have?
Bard: I don't believe Israel can have the type of peace with its neighbors that the US has with Mexico and Canada because, as Benjamin Netanyahu likes to say, Israel lives in the Middle East, not the Middle West. The Middle East is different primarily because of the presence of radical Islamists who will never accept the existence of a Jewish state in what they consider the Muslim heartland or the idea that Jews could rule over Muslims. If Israel withdrew tomorrow from 100% of the disputed territories, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah would not be satisfied because they demand Israel withdraw to the borders of the Mediterranean Sea.
FP: And so with terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah etc. growing in strength, how will Israel be able to protect itself from them indefinitely?
Bard: Israel can handle the terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. They are dangerous, but not a threat to Israel's survival. Today, the arms build-up of Hamas is worrisome, as is the ongoing Kassam threat, but very few Israelis have died since the disengagement. Similarly, Hezbollah has rebuilt its arsenal, but the UN force has created a much wider buffer zone and, as serious as the war was last year, it was never a threat to Israel's existence.
FP: How about the Iranian threat?
Bard: As I noted earlier, Iran is different. If it acquires nuclear weapons it will have the capability to destroy Israel. I believe deciding what to do about Iran is the most difficult decision for both Prime Minister Olmert and President Bush. Can you allow Iran to have nuclear weapons? If not, how do you stop them? Will sanctions work? How long can you afford to wait before Iran passes the point of no return? If you decide to attack, can you be sure you will destroy or even slow down Iran's program? Whether you fail or succeed, what will be the consequences in terms of provoking Muslim hostility and more terrorism? I don't believe Iran will be stopped without military action, but I'm not convinced that it will be successful. I would not want to have to make the call.
FP: What are your thoughts on leftist Jews like Noam Chomsky who reach out in solidarity to entities such as Hezbollah? How do you read their mindset?
Bard: I hate to try to psychoanalyze people whose views seem so divorced from reality. Some people recognize that by being the Jew who attacks Israel it's often a route to fame and sometimes fortune. It's man bites dog. Others just seem incapable of looking rationally or objectively at the various elements in the conflict I discuss in Will Israel Survive? They prefer to ignore or rewrite history. It's like some self-described "progressives" who are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel even though the values they supposedly espouse such as freedom of the press, speech, religion and assembly, as well as women's rights and gay rights, are respected by only one country in the Middle East -- Israel -- and trampled on by the Palestinians.
FP: What do you make of the terror state that Hamas has instituted in Gaza? What lessons do we draw from this happening? What does it tell us about the Palestinians and Palestinian society?
Bard: What happened in Gaza is a function of many factors, including the corruption and weakness of Fatah. Hamas are true believers. They think they are acting upon the will of Allah whereas the Fatah are primarily motivated by money. When the money stopped flowing, they weren't interested in fighting. On another level it reflects the mafia-like tendencies of Palestinian society. It is very clan-based and so you have groups that carry out revenge killings, use violence to intimidate the population and respond only to strength. Leaders in other Arab countries understand this and that is why they play by what Tom Friedman called "Hama rules." This was a reference to 1982 when Syrian president Hafez Assad had a problem with Muslim fundamentalists and simply destroyed the entire city where they lived and killed 20,000 people. As we saw in the Lebanon war last summer, Israel isn't prepared to play by those rules and so the terrorists can use civilians as shields and Israel is hamstrung in its responses by its morality.
FP: I find it very hard to be optimistic about Israel’s ability to deal with all of these threats, yet you remain optimistic. Tell us why.
Bard: The history of the Jewish people is one of survival. Think of the ancient powers that conquered the Jewish state that have disappeared while Israel remains. Think of 1917 when the Balfour Declaration was issued calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. That same year, the Russian Revolution led to the creation of a new world power. Ninety years later, the Jewish state is thriving and the Soviet Union is gone. Even after all the wars, the population continues to grow, the economy thrives. I believe that the creation and prosperity of Israel is a modern miracle, but you do not need to accept the supernatural to believe that Israel will survive. Israel will endure because of the strength of its people, the support of Jews in the Diaspora and the belief of non-Jews that the Jewish people are entitled to a state in their homeland.
FP: I pray and hope your optimism for the future will translate into reality. Thank you for joining Frontpage Interview Mitchell Bard. And thank you for your courageous and noble fight for the truth and for your defense of a modern miracle that represents freedom and prosperity in a sea of terror and totalitarianism.
Bard: Thank you.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 17:33
SOURCE: NYT (7-31-07)
TO Westerners, the repatriation of five nurses and a doctor to Bulgaria last week after more than eight years’ imprisonment meant the end of an unsettling ordeal. The medical workers, who in May 2004 were sentenced to death on charges of intentionally infecting hundreds of Libyan children with H.I.V., have been freed, and another international incident is averted.
But to many Africans, the accusations, which have been validated by a guilty verdict and a promise to reimburse the families of the infected children with a $426 million payout, seem perfectly plausible. The medical workers’ release appears to be the latest episode in a health care nightmare in which white and Western-trained doctors and nurses have harmed Africans — and have gone unpunished.
The evidence against the Bulgarian medical team, like H.I.V.-contaminated vials discovered in their apartments, has seemed to Westerners preposterous. But to dismiss the Libyan accusations of medical malfeasance out of hand means losing an opportunity to understand why a dangerous suspicion of medicine is so widespread in Africa.
Africa has harbored a number of high-profile Western medical miscreants who have intentionally administered deadly agents under the guise of providing health care or conducting research. In March 2000, Werner Bezwoda, a cancer researcher at South Africa’s Witwatersrand University, was fired after conducting medical experiments involving very high doses of chemotherapy on black breast-cancer patients, possibly without their knowledge or consent. In Zimbabwe, in 1995, Richard McGown, a Scottish anesthesiologist, was accused of five murders and convicted in the deaths of two infant patients whom he injected with lethal doses of morphine. And Dr. Michael Swango, ultimately convicted of murder after pleading guilty to killing three American patients with lethal injections of potassium, is suspected of causing the deaths of 60 other people, many of them in Zimbabwe and Zambia during the 1980s and ’90s. (Dr. Swango was never tried on the African charges.)...
Certainly, the vast majority of beneficent Western medical workers in Africa are to be thanked, not censured. But the canon of “silence equals death” applies here: We are ignoring a responsibility to defend the mass of innocent Western doctors against the belief that they are not treating disease, but intentionally spreading it. We should approach Africans’ suspicions with respect, realizing that they are born of the acts of a few monsters and of the deadly constraints on medical care in difficult conditions. By continuing to dismiss their reasonable fears, we raise the risk of even more needless illness and death.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 15:23
SOURCE: Altercation (Blog) (7-30-07)
In the decade since the passage of NAFTA, labor productivity in the U.S. manufacturing sector rose between 70 percent and 80 percent, while real wages rose only 6 percent. In Mexico, productivity rose 68 percent, while real wages rose 2 percent. In Canada, the numbers are 34 percent and 3 percent, respectively.[i] The question for any democratic society is how to address this. Alas, we in the United States have done so by conducting what one conservative writer terms"a massive social experiment" in economic inequality. Over the last quarter-century, the portion of the national income accruing to the richest 1 percent of Americans has doubled. The share going to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent has tripled, and the share going to the richest one-hundredth of 1 percent has quadrupled.[ii] For working people, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the process of collecting this data began more than 60 years ago.[iii] For the poor, just in the years since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line has increased by nearly a third.[iv] Meanwhile, the average CEO of a Standard & Poor's 500 company took home $13.51 million in total compensation in 2005, a year in which the top 1 percent of Americans earned nearly 22 percent of all income.[v] Believe it or not, by 11:02 a.m. of the first workday of work on the first day of 2007, one of these average CEOs"earned" more money than the minimum-wage workers in his company will make for the entire year.[vi] The media tend to treat these trends as merely"the way the world works," but this is actually the essence of conservative ideology. As the political philosopher Michael Walzer pointed out in 1973:
At the very center of conservative thought lies this idea: that the present division of wealth and power corresponds to some deeper reality of human life. Conservatives don't want to say merely that the present division is what it ought to be, for that would invite a search for some distributive principle -- as if it were possible to make a distribution. They want to say that whatever the division of wealth and power is, it naturally is, and that all efforts to change it, temporarily successful in proportion to their bloodiness, must be futile in the end."[vii]
And yet, one cannot help but ask, why is this not the case in Europe or Japan?[viii] In fact, among major world economies, the United States in recent years has had the third-greatest disparity in incomes between the very top and everyone else; only Mexico and Russia are worse.[ix]
Only in the United States are the super-wealthy so powerful and their ideological interests so well tended and defended that their interests have come to stand as"principles" in our political discourse. As the historian Eric Foner notes in his history of"freedom," Franklin Roosevelt explained that"individual freedom" could not be said to"exist without economic security and independence ... for the average man which will give his political freedom reality." And his successor, Harry Truman, would use the phrase"economic freedom" in his 1950 State of the Union address to mean"a fundamental economic freedom for labor." But by the time of Ronald Reagan's second inaugural, the same phrase had come to imply not the right to organize or achieve economic security and independence, but deregulation, tax cuts, and an attack on unions on behalf of powerful corporations and their wealthy owners and investors.[x] By the second Bush presidency, following more than 20 more years of conservative agitation, the ideological demands of the super-rich had grown ever more extreme. For instance, Kenneth C. Griffin, who received more than a billion dollars in 2006 as chairman of a hedge fund, the Citadel Investment Group, could explain to a New York Times reporter in the summer of 2007,"The income distribution has to stand," adding,"I am proud to be an American. But if the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard."[xi] Just what"principle" Mr. Griffin had in mind, he did not say. Meanwhile, this period in American history witnessed a pitched battle between members of the Democratic Congress and a Republican-supported group of private-equity billionaires fighting to retain their tax privileges. These included, as Warren Buffett explained, the right to"pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter." They insisted on this right, because to force billionaires to pay what bartenders must, would, according to wealthy Bush administration"pioneer" Wayne Berman,"disrupt thousands of partnerships around the country that provide the economic engine," and"punish innovators."[xii] In no other democracy in the world are the wealthiest members of society so generously indulged. This argument, so patently absurd from the standpoint of basic fairness, was nevertheless sufficiently respectable for its adoption by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate leadership, one of the key architects of the 2006 electoral victory, and a self-described"progressive" politician (though not, in his own estimation, a"liberal"). Of course, Schumer had good political reasons to go to bat for one of his most important sources of campaign funds, and one that happens to be located in the state he represents, but the mere spectacle of a prominent center-left politician fighting against a tax increase for plutocrats without shame or apology demonstrates just how influential the power of money has become in 21st century America.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 - 13:47
SOURCE: Time (7-26-07)
One of the Founding Fathers was almost killed in a riot over research. Medical students learn anatomy from cadavers, and in the past they got them on the sly, digging up fresh graves. In April 1788 a student at a New York City hospital jokingly told a boy that he was dissecting the boy's mother. When the boy's father found that her coffin had been robbed, the discovery set off two days of uproar. Many of New York's doctors hid in the city jail, where they were defended by local civic leaders, including diplomat John Jay. A mob pelted them with stones, knocking Jay unconscious. Only a volley from the militia, which killed three rioters, dispersed the crowd. The people of New York acknowledged, as a petition against grave robbing put it, that dissection served the "benefit of mankind." But they didn't want their loved ones "mangle[d] ... out of a wanton curiosity ..." After the riot, the state legislature appeased the public by giving doctors the corpses of executed criminals.
Other disputes, though not lethal, changed lives. In 1883 Sir Francis Galton, an English anthropologist, coined the word eugenics, which he later defined as the study of hereditary factors that "improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations." Inspired by eugenics, a number of U.S. states passed laws in the early 20th century allowing those presumed to have bad genes to be sterilized by government order. In 1927 the case of Carrie Buck, a young woman in a Virginia home for the feebleminded, reached the Supreme Court. Writing for an 8-1 decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said society could "prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind ... Three generations of imbeciles are enough." (Buck's mother and daughter allegedly shared her disability.) The Catholic Church condemned sterilization laws in 1930, but the political process backed science, as it was then understood. The mass murder of "unfit" individuals and ethnic groups by the Nazis gave eugenics a black mark that can never be washed off. But the issue marches on; in 2004 a eugenics supporter won the Republican congressional nomination in Tennessee's Eighth District (the GOP disavowed him)....
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2007 - 22:06
SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor (7-30-07)
Hey, check it out: Abstinence education doesn't work!
It's fun to be right, that's for sure. So my fellow liberals have been gloating since last April, when an exhaustive five-year study showed what we always suspected: Kids receiving "abstinence education" are no more likely to delay sexual intercourse than their peers.
Politicians are starting to notice, too. Although the federal government continues to finance abstinence education, 11 state health departments rejected it this year. Even more, three states are considering laws that would ban any sex education program that isn't supported by "science" or "research."
But here's what most liberals won't admit: We don't have solid evidence for our own favored forms of sex education, either. So if the law requires science-based sex ed, we might have to change our entire approach.
Sex education started about a century ago, when fears of venereal disease seized the American middle class. Newspapers carried lurid stories of well-to-do men who acquired VD from prostitutes, then infected their wives. So physicians and educators created curricula to warn children about these dangers and discourage any sex outside marriage.
That remained the central theme until the 1960s and 1970s, when liberal educators developed a new curriculum based on student choices rather than teacher directives. Known today as "comprehensive" sex education, this approach echoes the messages I give to my own daughters about the subject. Sex may be pleasurable but can be dangerous; so if you decide to have sex, minimize the dangers. That is, use protection.
The protection part became even more urgent in the age of HIV/AIDS. To liberals, of course, the AIDS crisis simply reinforced the need for clear information about contraception. But conservatives drew the opposite conclusion. To keep children safe from pregnancy and disease, we must transmit a firm and simple message: no sex before marriage.
And so abstinence-only education was born. Tucked into the welfare-reform bill of 1996, it got a big boost from the Republican-dominated Congress in 2001. And it still draws $176 million in federal money, even though – as we now know – it doesn't make children more likely to abstain from sex.
So it's time for everyone to adopt comprehensive sex education, right? Wrong.
First of all, we don't know that it works any better than abstinence education does. Teens are using contraceptives more regularly than in the past, but they're abstaining more from sex, too!
Second, the liberal demand for comprehensive sex education betrays a rather illiberal sentiment towards conscientious objectors. In matters of sex, like war, there are some Americans who think there's only one good choice to make. Why should their children be subjected to a curriculum that violates their deepest beliefs?
Well, you might answer, their children can be pulled out of class if they object. But that's precisely what conservatives said when liberals objected to school prayer. Wouldn't kids pulled out from sex ed be stigmatized, just like kids pulled out during prayer? And why should liberals' sexual catechism receive pride of place, when we really don't know that it works?
But here's what we do know: Sexuality is a profound and deeply contested part of the human experience. People around the world differ radically about its purpose, meaning, and implications.
So why not structure sex education around that? Instead of trying to alter sexual behavior, the course would examine the different ways that human beings – across space and time – have conceived of sex itself. It would draw upon texts from history, literature, anthropology, and religion. And it would expose children to the enormous range of views on sex, instead of imposing a single view upon them.
Right now, both sides of the sex-education debate still insist that education can change sexual activity. And as best we can tell, they're both wrong. Maybe the new demands for science-based curricula will remind all of us about the complexities, ambiguities, and diversity of sexuality itself. Come to think of it, that would be a great focus for a course.
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2007 - 21:55
SOURCE: The Nation (7-26-07)
"Will the Olympics Change China?"
Like other China specialists, I've been asked crystal-ball questions like this many times--even though the start of the Games on 8-8-08 (a date that many Chinese view as chock-full of lucky numbers) is still nearly a year away.
I've tried to dodge such questions, having good reason to worry about making predictions where China and the Olympics are concerned. After all, both the country and the event have often surprised us in the past.
Fifteen years ago, for example, many thought China's Communist Party was on its last legs--and few imagined it would soon welcome capitalists into its ranks. Then, as an example of a failed Olympics prediction, consider the Los Angeles Times story that claimed Chinese excitement over sports had reached"such a pitch" that within a short time--"perhaps only a few Olympiads"--Beijing would be"the scene of the world's Olympics." Not a bad prediction, if it had been made in 1984 or even 1964. But the story ran July 20, 1914.
Still, the invitations to prognosticate aren't likely to stop, so I've come up with an answer--or at least pretend to do so.
When people ask if the Olympics will change China, I say the tense is misleading. The Games already have changed it. To prepare for 2008, Beijing's urban landscape has been transformed, as old neighborhoods have been destroyed, giant new sports arenas built and big countdown clocks set up to tick off the moments until the opening ceremonies start on August 8, 2008--at eight seconds after 8:08 pm, no less.
The Games have affected another Chinese city: Shanghai. When news broke that its rival, Beijing, had gotten the nod from the International Olympic Committee, Shanghai stepped up efforts to secure alternative markers of global prestige and got the go-ahead to host the 2010 World Expo. (In case the parallel with the Games wasn't clear, local authorities took to calling the upcoming World's Fair an"Economic Olympics"--and, yes, Shanghai got its own countdown clocks.
When I'm asked what I expect to see in 2008, I say that one thing I'm certain we'll all see is lots of American media reports that use the Olympics to suggest either that China is changing rapidly and is on the verge of Americanization, or that China is a country that remains stuck in dangerous old ruts and could easily become a threat to all we hold dear. These predictions seem safe, since what I like to call"America's China Dream" and"America's China Nightmare"--two story lines that tend to distort, more than they shed light on, Chinese realities--have been circulating for decades. And they've already been easily adapted to sports coverage. Witness competing reports on basketball great Yao Ming, who is alternately celebrated for moving easily between East and West and presented as a Frankenstein's monster-like creation of a Communist sports machine.
The scenarios of dream and nightmare have both gotten boosts from historical analogies. Some see Beijing 2008 as Seoul 1988, an event that could help liberate an authoritarian land. Others see it as Berlin 1936 with Chinese characteristics. My crystal ball tells me just one thing: Whatever happens, we will be surprised. The regime will strive to control matters, but the unexpected will occur.
I say this not just because of China's prediction-defying track record, but also because many Olympics are remembered for things that weren't supposed to happen. Yes, Hitler got more legitimacy than he deserved from the 1936 Games, but the stunning performance by a black American athlete, Jesse Owens, was not part of his Aryan-supremacy plan. And who expected Munich 1972 to be remembered for a massacre? The Mexico City Games of 1968 are remembered for the Black Power salute of two African-American runners, who were determined to draw attention to racism in the country for which they had just won medals.
It would be foolish to speculate about what sort of unplanned yet highly memorable event might happen during the Beijing Games. But you don't need a crystal ball to know the sort that China's leaders worry about most: a symbolic act of protest by a Chinese athlete or even a scene-stealing gesture of defiance by a spectator while the world's gaze is fixed on Beijing. This is no idle fear, as there is a long list of issues--rampant official corruption, exploited workers, limits on freedom of speech and religion, etc.--to which a protester might want to direct attention.
The Olympics always provide a unique platform for the world's finest athletes. The 2008 Games will also provide one for Hu Jintao and company in their ongoing quest to convince domestic audiences that they have made China great again; they seek to persuade international audiences that they are steering their country and its booming economy down the right path. But this platform can't be controlled--and China's leaders are shrewd enough to realize the risk of trying too hard to keep the unexpected from happening. Their hope of having the 2008 Games remembered as China's great global coming-out party could crumble, not just as a consequence of protests but of ham-handed security measures that end in making the 2008 Games memorable less for their grandeur than for the tightly monitored nature of the proceedings.
The most interesting Olympic event to watch could turn out to be one not recognized by the International Olympic Committee: The tightrope-walk China's leaders attempt when the global media are more focused on Beijing than they have been since 1989--a fateful year when, as we know and Hu Jintao knows too, international audiences were alternately inspired by images of youthful Chinese protesters and appalled those of menacing Chinese tanks.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2007 - 21:46
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (7-30-07)
Many conservatives believe the firing of University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill will now reduce liberal politics in academia. Many liberals believe that his firing will uphold high standards of academic scholarship. Both are wrong — because the firing of Churchill reveals a very pernicious kind of exclusionary dogmatism in scholarly research and writing and media reporting. The firing of Professor Churchill for alleged research misconduct ignored evidence to the contrary provided by professors who know his work best, ignored evidence from a committee of scholars who found the investigating committee itself guilty of research misconduct, and ignored all Indigenous evidence and perspectives that are critical of Eurocentric versions of the history of the European invasion of the Americas.
Research misconduct is in the eye of the beholder. Euroamerican teachers and scholars have taught and written for several centuries that Columbus discovered America. That is a more profound and easily provable case of research misconduct than anything of which Churchill has been accused. The Indigenous peoples of the Americas have been here at least 13,000 years and more likely, according to recent DNA research, 50,000 years. This Columbus lie, which is at the foundation of Eurocentric American history, dehumanizes all those who are now called American Indians by discrediting any of their accomplishments as not being human accomplishments. Everyone who has perpetuated this myth over the years should be found guilty of deceit, research misconduct and racism, according to the standards of the investigating committee.
The 1987 edition of the standard American history textbook, American History: A Survey begins by saying, “For thousands of centuries — centuries in which human races were evolving, forming communities and building the beginnings of national civilizations in Africa, Asia and Europe — the continents we know as the Americas stood empty of mankind and its works” The book informed its readers that American history “is the story of the creation of a civilization where none existed.” Now that is a very egregious form of “research misconduct.” That statement bears no resemblance to the truth and serves only to continue to misinform and to indoctrinate students in Eurocentric lies.
The committee should have read the 2005 national best selling book 1491, by Charles Mann, for a thorough critique of the statements quoted in American History, and for extensive support for Churchill’s arguments about the history of the Americas. Summarizing research and writing over the last 30-40 years, Mann shows that in 1491 the population of the Americas surpassed that of Europe, that American cities such as Tenochtitlan were larger than any found in Europe at the same time and, unlike European cities, had running water, beautiful botanical gardens and clean streets. I would add that nowhere in Indigenous America in the areas of my research (North and Central America) have any jails been found, so far as I have been able to determine. The earliest American cities were thriving before the Egyptians built their pyramids, and the feats of Indigenous American agriculture were unparalleled anywhere else. The journal Science recently pronounced the development of corn from its ancient noble grass ancestors as probably the greatest botanical achievement of genetic engineering in human history....
Hank Brown: Why I Fired Ward Churchill
Posted on: Monday, July 30, 2007 - 19:44
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (7-29-07)
The great demographer and economist Thomas Malthus was 23-years-old the last time a British summer was this rain-soaked, which was back in 1789. The consequences of excessive rainfall in the late 18th century were predictable.
Crops would fail, the harvest would be dismal, food prices would rise and some people would starve. It was no coincidence that the French Revolution broke out the same year.
The price of a loaf of bread rose by 88 per cent in 1789 as a consequence of similar lousy weather. Historians of the Left like Georges Lefebvre used to see this as a prime cause of Louis XVI's downfall.
Nine years after that rain-soaked summer, Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population. It is an essay we would do well to re-read today.
Malthus's key insight was simple but devastating. "Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio," he observed. But "subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio."
In other words, humanity can increase like the number sequence 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, whereas our food supply can increase no faster than the number sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. We are, quite simply, much better at reproducing ourselves than feeding ourselves.
Malthus concluded from this inexorable divergence between population and food supply that there must be "a strong and constantly operating check on population".
This would take two forms: "misery" (famines and epidemics) and "vice", by which he meant not only alcohol abuse but also contraception and abortion (he was, after all, an ordained Anglican minister)....
Since the Fifties, the area of the world under cultivation has increased by roughly 11 per cent, while yields per hectare have increased by 120 per cent. In 2004, world cereal production passed the 2 billion metric ton mark.
Yet these statistics don't disprove Malthus. As he said, food production could increase only at an arithmetical rate, and a chart of world cereal yields since 1960 shows just such a linear progression, from below one and a half metric tons to around three....
Posted on: Sunday, July 29, 2007 - 21:18
SOURCE: WaPo (7-29-07)
On a sultry Sunday 40 years ago this week, the Detroit police raided an after-hours bar at the corner of 12th and Clairmount streets, in a poor black section of the city's west side. A crowd gathered to watch, the way it always does when it's too hot to be indoors and there's nothing else to do. In their rush to finish the operation, the cops got a bit rough with some of their prisoners, pushing and shoving and wielding their batons. A few onlookers started tossing insults at the officers, followed by bottles and stones. On the edge of the crowd, a teenager launched a trash can through the window of Hardy's drugstore, while someone else set a shoe shop ablaze. Within an hour, the melee had escalated into a riot -- a rebellion, some said later -- that raced like wildfire across the central city.
June 24, 2007, was another sultry Sunday in Detroit. Maybe it was the heat making tempers ragged. Maybe it was the perverse pride of an entrepreneur defending the business he built. Whatever the reason, when Dier Smith ripped off a local drug dealer, the man responded with stunning force. As Smith raced down Calvert Street, the dealer drew out his AK-47 and opened fire. Smith escaped, but the hail of bullets hit three bystanders: a young woman, her female friend and the friend's son. The adults survived. The little boy, 16-month-old Keith Wallace, didn't.
It's a short walk from Calvert to Clairmount, an easy stroll along seven blocks of boarded-up stores and weed-choked lots where buildings used to be. Between those two streets, though, lies a catastrophic failure of national will. As terrifying as the rioting was -- and a city wreathed in flames is one of the most terrifying sights imaginable -- it also created an extraordinary moment of opportunity. For the first time in the nation's history, Americans were forced to face the racial divisions and economic inequalities that ran through their cities. Four decades later, the divisions remain. The tragedy is that the nation's determination to confront them has long since slipped away....
Posted on: Sunday, July 29, 2007 - 21:07
SOURCE: Guardian (7-27-07)
"France is a country that thinks," Christine Lagarde, the nation's finance minister, observed recently. But Lagarde did not speak boastfully. She was not praising France's intellectual prowess or proclaiming its literary hegemony, but calling her fellow citoyens to the economic barricades.
"There is hardly an ideology that we haven't turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come," she insisted. As she sees it, the time has come to stop reflecting, to stop theorizing: "I would like to tell you," she declaimed, "enough thinking, enough prevaricating... Roll up your sleeves." Apparently, the radicalism of the day calls not for fresh ideas, or even a rising of the sans-culottes, but the mobilisation of the sans-manches.
Now, I don't know what the average French person has to say about Lagarde's call to bare arms and - in the Old English tongue - get to work, but celebrity philosophes were not inspired. Professor and media figure Alain Finkielkraut responded angrily: "How absurd to say we should think less! If you have the chance to consecrate your life to thinking, you work all the time, even in your sleep. Thinking requires setbacks, suffering, a lot of sweat."
And his famous compatriot of the public-intellectual class, Bernard-Henri Lévy, proceeded to warn of anti-intellectual tendencies in the new government of Nicholas Sarkozy.
As a fellow member of the Republic of Letters, I can understand their angst and upset. Nobody likes to be told that what one does isn't worth a damn. And no French intellectual wants to hear elected officials telling them they should be more like les Americains - hell, C Wright Mills announced back in the 1950s that we Yanks had all become a bunch of "cheerful robots"....
Posted on: Saturday, July 28, 2007 - 13:12
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (7-25-07)
If the death of Diana or 9/11 were truly shocking, because so utterly unexpected, no one can honestly say that "Tour de France rider fails dope test" is an astounding story. If anything, there is a dull inevitability about the news that Alexander Vinokourov has failed a test for blood doping on Saturday. Each year, as we piously pray that this Tour will be scandal-free, we await the bad news. Sure enough it comes as depressingly - but no more unexpectedly - than rain at a Test match.
The truth is that doping, or the use of artificial stimulants, is as old as the Tour itself. All that has changed is the nature of the non-normal nutrients, as the racecourse vets at Newmarket would call them, that cyclists consume. At first it was alcohol, drunk in huge quantities in the early days after the Tour was created in 1903.
Between the wars the favourite drug was cocaine. Henri Pélissier won the Tour in 1923, and was quite happy to say that he dosed himself with aspirin for migraine, chloroform for his knees, and a bottle of cocaine "for my eyes". When the Tour resumed in 1947 after its second interruption by war, the cyclists had found something new in the form of amphetamines or la bomba, as Italian riders called it, although its use was strictly speaking illegal, as wartime American bomber air crew had been issued it to ward off fatigue. And it could not even be called an open secret, since everyone knew.
Cyclists did not even deny it, at least not after they had retired. One famous Tour winner, the great Fausto Coppi, was asked whether had ever used la bomba and said: "Only when absolutely necessary." And how often was that? "Most of the time." Another, the equally great Jacques Anquetil, irritably asked a French politician during a television debate if "they expect us to ride the Tour on mineral water".
We have just marked the sombre 40th anniversary of the death of Tom Simpson on 13 July 1967, when he collapsed and died near the summit of Mont Ventoux, stuffed full of amphetamines. The best English cyclist of his age, and the first to wear the Tour leader's yellow jersey, Tom used to tell his friends, "If it takes 10 to kill you, I'll have nine," a piece of black humour that ceased to be funny that grim day....
Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2007 - 20:42
SOURCE: http://www.americanprogressaction.org (7-27-07)
Remember the Gang of 14? The “obstructionist” Senate leader Tom Daschle? The demand for “up or down votes” by every right-thinker in Washington? Those were the days, huh, back when the Democratic minority refused to allow the machinery of our democracy to operate according to plan. Republicans and their allies in the media were so angry they came “this close” to eliminating the institution of the filibuster entirely.
Well, that was then. Today the tables are turned, and it’s the Republicans who are doing the filibustering. They’re doing so much of it that, at their present rate, they will have filibustered three times more than any Congress in the previous decade. Nearly one vote in six so far this year has been a filibuster vote. And these are hardly trivial issues. Republican filibusters have stopped bills to withdraw combat troops from Iraq—despite a 52-49 majority in favor of it—enact comprehensive immigration reform, address the Justice Department scandals, bolster labor rights, and, well the list goes on.
Reading and listening to the mainstream coverage of these filibusters, however, the casual citizen would have a hard time figuring out who’s responsible. As Matt Yglesias writes: “It seems, though, that the GOP has decided that if they use filibusters to obstruct congressional action that the press will keep reporting this in a ‘Congress fails to do X’ kind of way rather than a ‘GOP obstructionism’ kind of way, which makes filibusters a win-win for Republicans.”
This is, naturally, the same storyline the Republicans themselves have constructed. “We really ought to be asking why this Democrat leadership won’t allow Congress to move forward on serious policy debates,” complains Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). “Americans have been disappointed by a majority leadership that stages one show debate after another, while the only consistent legislative work getting done is the renaming of post offices.”
That problem could easily be solved if Republicans allowed votes to take place and bills to be placed on the president’s desk. And yet, almost universally, the mainstream media has written this story as if dictated by the same folks who come up with Republicans’ talking points each morning.
Take, for instance, last week’s all-nighter on Iraq. It was designed to call attention to the Republicans’ filibustering tactics, but most reporters portrayed it as a Democratic “stunt” designed to detract from the real business of governance, as if this horrific war were none of Congress’s business. Few apparently remember that former Senate Majority Leader Bill First (R-TN) employed exactly the same tactic in the Bad Old Days merely to get a few of Bush’s judges confirmed. (Far fewer judicial nominations were held up under Bush II than under Clinton, by the way, but who’s counting?)
In the case of Fox News, we get pretty much what we’ve been trained to expect. The story was reported as follows: “By a 52-47 vote, the Senate on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have started bringing troops home within 120 days of passage.” Never mind that the 52 votes were actually in favor of the bill....
Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2007 - 17:27
SOURCE: TomDispatch.com (7-26-07)
Withdrawal is now so mainstream. Last week, debate about it led to a sleep-in protest in the Senate and, this week, it's hit the cover of TIME Magazine, of which there's no mainer-stream around. The TIME cover couldn't be more graphic. The word"IRAQ" is in giant type, the"I,""R," and"Q" all black, and a helicopter is carting off a stars-and-stripes"A" to reveal the phrase,"What will happen when we leave." (Mind you, some military blogs now claim that the helicopter in silhouette is actually an old Soviet Mi-24 Hind; if so, maybe the designer had the embattled Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in mind.)
Still, is there anyplace in the news where you can't find the word"withdrawal," or its pals"exit,""pull out," and"leaving" right now? Here are just a few recent headlines featuring the word that has come in from the cold:"Most Americans want Congress to make withdrawal decision, according to poll";"The Logistics of Exiting Iraq";"U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be a massive undertaking";"Americans Want Withdrawal, Deadline in Iraq";"Washington's House Democrats join in calling for Iraq troop withdrawal";"Withdrawal fallout could lead to chaos";"Exit strategies";"Iraq warns against early US withdrawal"; and so on ad infinitum.
Think of that as"progress" -- as in our Baghdad commander General David Petraeus' upcoming mid-September"Progress Report" to Congress. After all, it wasn't so long ago that no one (except obscure sites on the Internet) was talking about withdrawing American forces from Iraq.
Here's the odd thing, though:"Withdrawal," as an idea, has been undergoing a transformation in full public view. In the world of the Washington Consensus and in the mainstream press, it has been edging ever closer to what normally might be thought of as"non-withdrawal" (just as happened in the Vietnam era). In fact, you can search far and wide for reports on"withdrawal" plans that suggest a full-scale American withdrawal from Iraq and, most of the time, find nothing amid the pelting rain of withdrawal words.
As imagined these last months, withdrawal turns out to be a very partial affair that will leave sizeable numbers of American occupation forces in Iraq for a long period. If anything, the latest versions of"withdrawal" have been used as cudgels to beat upon real withdrawal types.
The President, Vice President, top administration officials and spokespeople, and the increasingly gung-ho team of commanders in Iraq -- most of whom haven't, in recent years, been able to deliver on a single prediction, or even pressure the Iraqis into achieving one major administration-set"benchmark" -- have nonetheless managed to take possession of the future. They now claim to know what it holds better than the rest of us and are turning that"knowledge" against any suggestion of genuine withdrawal.
Worst of all, we've already been through this in the Vietnam era, but since no one seems to remember, no lessons are drawn.
Fast-Forward to the Future
In recent months, General David Petraeus, our"surge" commander in Iraq, has popularized a double or triple clock image:""We're racing against the clock, certainly. We're racing against the Washington clock, the London clock, a variety of other timepieces up there, and we've got to figure out how to speed up the Baghdad clock." In fact, he and his commanders have done just that, resetting the"Baghdad clock" for future time.
There's a history of the future to consider here. In the late 1950s, when nuclear weapons made war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union inconceivable, the Pentagon and associated think-tanks found themselves forced to enter the realm of the future -- and so of fiction -– to"fight" their wars. They began, in strategist Herman Kahn's famous phrase, to"think the unthinkable" and so entered the realm of science fiction, the fantasy scenario, and the war game.
In those decades, possessing the future was of genuine significance to the Pentagon. It led to a culture in which weapons systems were planned out long years, sometimes decades, in advance and so the wars they were to fight had to be imagined as well. Today, Baghdad 2025 is becoming ever more real for the Pentagon as Baghdad 2007 descends into ever greater chaos.
As a corollary, the more the present seems out of control, the stronger the urge to plant a flag in the future. In the case of Iraq, where control is almost completely lacking, we see this in a major way. When General Petraeus first arrived to oversee the surge, he and his commanders spoke cautiously about the future, but as their desperation has grown, their comments have become increasingly bold and their claims to predictive powers have expanded accordingly.
Just the other day, General Walter Gaskins, in charge of U.S. forces in al-Anbar Province, even appropriated a predictive phrase whose dangers are well known. He said:"There's still a lot of work left to do in Al Anbar [Province]. Al Qaeda in Iraq is still trying to make its presence felt, but I believe we have turned the corner." He added that"another couple of years" would nonetheless be needed to get the local Iraqi forces up to speed."Although we are making progress, I will always caution and always say that you cannot buy, nor can you fast forward experience."
When it comes to withdrawal, however, the military commanders have been doing just that --"fast-forwarding experience" -- and reporting back to the rest of us on the results. Recently, for instance, Karen DeYoung and Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post reviewed a host of elaborate Iraq war games conducted for the Pentagon, including one which found that"if US combat forces are withdrawn" -- note that those are only the " combat brigades," not all U.S. forces -- Iraq would be partitioned, Sunnis driven from ethnically mixed areas in and around Baghdad into al-Anbar Province, and"Southern Iraq would erupt in civil war between Shiite groups."
These days, along with such grim military predictions go hair-raising suggestions about what even a partial U.S. withdrawal under pressure might entail. Here's a typical comment attributed by DeYoung and Ricks to an"officer who has served in Iraq":"[T]here is going to be an outbreak of violence when we leave that makes the [current] instability look like a church picnic."
This is already coin of the realm for an administration which, until well into 2006, refused to admit that major sectarian violence existed in Iraq, no less that the country was headed for civil-war levels of it. That changed in a major way this year. Now, the administration has embraced sectarian violence as the future American critics are hustling it toward and is flogging that future for all it's worth.
Early in July, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker began to issue grim warnings about just such a future, should the U.S. withdraw. As the New York Times reported,"[T]he U.S. ambassador and the Iraqi foreign minister are warning that the departure of American troops could lead to sharply increased violence, the deaths of thousands of people and a regional conflict that could draw in Iraq's neighbors."
Ever since, such predictions have only ramped up. In his July 12 press conference, President Bush quickly picked up on the ambassador's predictions, heightened them further, and wove together many of the themes that would thereafter come out of Iraq as the"advice" of his commanders. He said:
"I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now. To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we'd be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we'd allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous."
A version of this (lacking the al-Qaeda twist) quickly became part of what passes for common wisdom among experts and pundits in this country -- as in the Michael Duffy story that went with the TIME withdrawal cover. Should we draw-down, no less withdraw, precipitously, the result, suggested Duffy, is likely to be violence at levels impossible to calculate but conceivably just short of genocidal. As Marine Corps commander James Conway put it recently in words similar to the President's,"My concern is if we prematurely move, we're going to be going back."
This mood was caught perfectly in a question nationally syndicated right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt posed to General Petraeus:"Some have warned that a genocide of sorts, or absolute terms, would follow a precipitous withdrawal of coalition forces. Do you agree that that is a possibility.... and a significant one?" To which Petraeus responded,"[O]ne would certainly expect that sectarian violence would resume at a very high level.... That's not to say there's not still some going on right now…"
The Future in Slo-mo
In the meantime, the Bush administration, its ambassador in Baghdad, and its commanders were hard at work trying to push any full-scale assessment of the President's"surge" plan -- promised for September -- and the plan itself ever further into the future. This was part of a larger campaign for"more time." In press conferences, teleconferences to Washington, briefings for Congress, leaks to the press, and media appearances of all sorts, they appealed for time, time, time. (Nowhere in the media, by the way, have the reporters who benefit from this flood of official and semi-official commentary suggested that it might be part of a concerted propaganda campaign.)
Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who oversees day-to-day operations in Iraq, typically claimed that the September deadline was"too early" for any real assessment of"progress" and suggested November as the date of choice. Under pressure, he half-retracted his comments the next day, assuring Congress that there would indeed be a September Progress Report. He added:"My reference to November was simply suggesting that as we go forward beyond September, we will gain more understanding of trends."
General Petraeus took a similar tack in that Hugh Hewitt interview:"Well, I have always said that we will have a sense by [September] of basically, of how things are going, have we been able to achieve progress on the ground, where have their been shortfalls.... But that's all it is going to be." In essence, the once-definitive September report was already being downgraded to a"snapshot" of an ongoing operation.
While Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace even hinted that U.S. troop numbers in Iraq might rise in the near future, the horizon for the surge plan to end began to be pushed toward summer 2008. Yochi Dreazen and Greg Jaffe reported in the Wall Street Journal ("Gap Widens over Iraq Approach"):"Despite growing calls from lawmakers for drastic change in Iraq, senior U.S. military officials on the ground say they believe the current [surge] strategy should be maintained into next year -- and already have mapped out additional phases for doing so through January." They indicated that this was part of a Bush administration"gamble" -- think campaign --"that Congress will be unable or unwilling to force a drawdown and that the military will have a free hand to keep the added troops in place well into next year."
There was a drumbeat of commentary by various commanders pushing the plan deeper into the future. Maj. Gen. Richard Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, typically said:"It's going to take through [this] summer, into the fall, to defeat the extremists in my battle space [south of Baghdad], and it's going to take me into next spring and summer to generate this sustained security presence."
Leaks of plans that took the American presence into the increasingly distant future also began to occur. The most striking came on July 24th in a New York Times front-page piece by Michael R. Gordon. Its headline said it all:"U.S. seen in Iraq until at least '09." Gordon reported that a"detailed document," known as the Joint Campaign Plan and developed by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker,"foresees a significant American role for the next two years." The article revealed plans to be in Iraq in force at least through the summer of 2009 -- in other words, well into the tenure of the next administration. Gordon identified the source of this leak as"American officials familiar with the document." As is often the case with reporter Gordon, the sourcing was indecipherable but undoubtedly administration-friendly, part of the President's rolling, roiling campaign to secure the future (having lost the past and present).
As it happened, the future was also being wielded in another way. The President's commanders now embraced their own version of withdrawal and began to turn it into another version of prolonged occupation. Their general attitude went something like this: If you think it took a long time to get into this mess, you have no idea how long it will take to get out.
As an example, General Pace recently claimed that a month would be needed to withdraw each of our 20 combat brigades in Iraq non-precipitously; in other words, once we started, it would take almost two years not to get all our troops out of that country. Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, U.S. commander in northern Iraq, then topped Pace by claiming that 18 months would be needed just to cut the brigades in his region in half.
Think of this as the future in slo-mo -- or, as the Wall Street Journal's Dreazen and Jaffe put it,"a complete withdrawal from Iraq could take as long as two years if conducted in an orderly fashion." Not only that, but the military -- and so the American media -- suddenly discovered the vast amount of stuff that had been flown, or convoyed, into Iraq (mostly in better times) and now somehow had to be returned to sender. As TIME's Duffy put it, included would be"a good portion of the entire U.S. inventory of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, trucks and humvees… They are spread across 15 bases, 38 supply depots, 18 fuel-supply centers and 10 ammo dumps," not to speak of"dining halls, office buildings, vending machines, furniture, mobile latrines, computers, paper clips and acres of living quarters."
Associated Press reporter Charles Hanley caught the enormity of withdrawal this way:"In addition to 160,000 troops…, the U.S. presence in Iraq has ballooned over four years to include more than 180,000 civilians employed under U.S. government contracts -- at least 21,000 Americans, 43,000 other foreigners and 118,000 Iraqis -- and has spread to small ‘cities' on fortified bases across Iraq." In fact, such lists turn out never to end -- as a series of anxious news reports have indicated -- right down to the enormous numbers of port-a-potties that must be disposed of. In such accounts of the overwhelming nature of any withdrawal from a country the Bush administration thought it could make its own, cautionary historical examples are cited by the Humvee-load. (After the First Gulf War, withdrawal from Kuwait took a year under the friendliest of conditions; Afghanistan was hell for the Russians; Vietnam, despite the final scramble, took forever and a day to plan and carry out.) And don't forget about the need to get rid of the"toxic waste" the Americans have accumulated -- that alone is now estimated to take 20 months -- or, according to reports, the shortage of aircraft for transport, the cratered, bomb-laden roads on which to convoy everything out, and the possibility that our allies, knowing we're leaving, may turn on us in a Mad-Max-style future Iraq. Finally, don't forget something that, until just about yesterday, no one outside of a few arcane military types even knew about -- the agricultural inspectors who must certify that everything entering the U.S. is free of"microscopic disease." And so it goes. Withdrawal, it turns out, is forever.
Of course, much of this is undoubtedly foolishness, though with a serious purpose. It's meant to turn an unpredictable future into what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once termed a"known known" that can be wielded against those who want to change course in the disastrous present. You want withdrawal? You have an ironclad guarantee that, no matter how bad things might be, it will be so much worse.
Withdrawal, in other words, is fear itself. Sanity is a future that's essentially the same as the present (with somewhat fewer U.S. troops) and, though no one mentions it, a significantly ramped up ability to bring air power to bear. (On this, the AP's Hanley has just done two superb, if chilling, reports from the field, the only ones of significance on air power in Iraq since the invasion of 2003. He has revealed that the"surge" of U.S. air strength there may prove far more devastating and long-lasting than the one on the ground.)
In the Vietnam years, the ongoing bloodbath of Vietnam was regularly supplanted in the United States by a predicted"bloodbath" the Vietnamese enemy was certain to commit in South Vietnam the moment the United States withdrew (just as a near-genocidal civil war is now meant to supplant the blood-drenched Iraqi present for which we are so responsible). This future bloodbath of the imagination appeared in innumerable official speeches and accounts as an explanation for why the United States could not leave Vietnam, just as the sectarian bloodbath-to-come in Iraq explains why we must not take steps to withdraw our troops (advisors, mercenaries, crony corporations, and port-a-potties) from that country.
In public discourse in the Vietnam era, this not-yet-atrocity sometimes became the only real bloodbath around and an obsessive focus for some of the war's opponents within mainstream politics. Antiwar activist Todd Gitlin recalled"the contempt with which [activist Tom] Hayden had told me of a meeting he and Staughton Lynd had with Bobby Kennedy, early in 1967. Kennedy, he said then, had been fixated on the dangers of a ‘bloodbath' in South Vietnam if the Communists succeeded in taking over."
But it wasn't only in the mainstream. Antiwar activists, too, often had to grapple with the expected, predicted horror that always threatened to dwarf the present one -- the horror for which, it was implied, they would someday be responsible.
As for the President and his men: In his memoirs, Richard Nixon related how White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig informed him of intelligence information indicating that the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front had"instructed their cadres the moment a cease fire is announced to kill all of the opponents in the area that they control. This would be a murderous bloodbath."
As the war's supporters were frustrated whenever they tried to make the enemy's actual atrocities carry the weight of American ones, the thought of this future sea of blood weighed heavily in their favor. Similarly, an Iraqi near-genocidal civil war -- the vision of seas of sectarian blood and even a regional conflict in the oil heartlands of the planet -- weighs heavily in favor of"staying the course" in Iraq, a course already literally awash in a sea of blood.
Put another way, if the future was ever to be their opponents', this was the future the administration -- Nixon's or Bush's -- wished on them. Such a bloodbath-to-come would, in their minds, effectively wash clean the bloodbath still in progress (as the bloodbath that happened -- unexpected to all -- in Pol Pot's Cambodia indeed did). In the meantime, the expected Vietnamese bloodbath that never came about, like the expected Iraqi civil war of unprecedented proportions, deflected attention from the nature of the struggle at hand, and from the growing piles of dead in the present, allowing American leaders to withdraw, but only so far, from the consequences of their war.
Similarly, in the Vietnam years, the nonwithdrawal withdrawal was an endlessly played upon theme. The idea of"withdrawing" from Vietnam arose almost with the war itself, though never as an actual plan to withdraw. All real options for ending the war were invariably linked to phrases -- some of which still ring bells -- like" cutting and running," or"dishonor," or"surrender," or"humiliation," and so were dismissed within the councils of government more or less before being raised (just as they are dismissed out of hand today by the Washington Consensus and in articles like that of TIME's Duffy). If anything, in the later years,"withdrawal" became -- as it is now threatening to become in Iraq -- a way to maintain, or even intensify, the war while pacifying the American public.
"Withdrawal" then involved not departure, but all sorts of departure-like maneuvers and promises -- from bombing pauses that led to fiercer bombing campaigns to negotiation offers never meant to be taken up to a"Vietnamization" plan in which most (but hardly all) American ground troops would finally be pulled out but only as the air war was intensified -- a distinct, if grim, possibility for Iraq's American future. Each gesture of withdrawal allowed the war planners to fight a little longer. And yet, with every failed withdrawal gesture and every failed battle strategy (as may be the case in Iraq as well), a sense of"nightmare" seemed to draw ever closer.
Opting for the Present
We have now entered a period in the Iraq War in which stark alternatives are being presented to Americans that hardly wear out the possibilities the future offers. At the same time, Americans are being told of withdrawal"plans" that hold little hope of fully withdrawing American troops from Iraq. As Duffy frames the matter: After a reasonable withdrawal, we might have 50,000-100,000 troops still dug in"to protect America's most vital interests" for an undefined"longer stay." This would be not so much"to referee a civil war, as U.S. forces are doing now, but to try to keep it from expanding." AP's Hanley, however, suggests that, after a future drawdown, the numbers are likely to remain just what they were for administration planners"since before 2003" -- 30,000 American troops.
In what passes for a"debate" about withdrawal in the mainstream, two positions are essentially offered: American troops in some numbers will remain for an undefined period of years to preserve some kind of"stability" and"security" for the Iraqi populace and some cover for the Iraqi government, or those troops will be withdrawn precipitously and a whole series of horrors, ranging from a bloodbath of unknown proportions to the establishment of the beginnings of Osama bin Laden's" caliphate" are likely to occur.
In this vision of the future, at least one major alternative possibility (of which there are undoubtedly many, some not yet imagined by any of us) is completely ignored: American troops remain for the long-term (however drawn-down and dug in) and, as has been the case over the last four-plus years, the situation continues to deteriorate. The military solution that General Petraeus and his commanders are relying on has yet to create anything other than instability, mayhem, and death. So, what if it turned out that the long-term maintenance of some form of American occupation was, in fact, not protection from, but the very path to an unimaginable sectarian bloodbath (as has been the case so far)?
The history of the last four years should tell us that this scenario is far more plausible than either of the alternatives now being presented. In fact, these years seem to offer a simple, if ignored, lesson: The Iraqis would have been better off had we never invaded; or if, after toppling Saddam, we had departed almost immediately; or if we had left in the fall of 2003 -- and so on for all these dismal, ever more disastrous years.
The fact is that we humans are generally lousy seers (and, when it comes to prediction, the President, the top officials of his administration, and his commanders have proven themselves especially poor at predicting the future). It's time to set the future -- and so fiction, fantasy, and speculation -- aside. At the heart of the withdrawal debate in America should lie an obvious set of truths. As a start, no matter how continually we war game the future, it will never be ours. We will always be surprised.
While bad things did happen in Vietnam after our departure, none of them could have been called a"bloodbath," while the bloodbath that was our presence there did indeed end. Vietnam is now, of course, a peaceful American ally in the region.
In Iraq, with our departure, there could indeed be a near-genocidal civil war, a partition of the country into three or thirty-three parts, and even a brutal regional war -- or there could not. In fact, any of these things -- as the present threatened Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan reminds us -- could happen while our troops remain in residence. All this aside, deaths in Iraq are already approaching staggering levels without our departure. After all, if the Lancet study's estimate of 655,000"excess deaths" by mid-2006 is accurate, then imagine what that number must be an even bloodier year later.
We don't know what the future holds. We do know what the present holds and that we could do something about.
The full-scale withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is an option that should, at least, be accorded serious attention, rather than automatic dismissal in the mainstream. Of course, a lot of this depends on whether you believe, in the end, that the United States is part of the problem or part of the solution in Iraq.
In the imperial mindscape of Washington, it is impossible to conceive of the U.S. as not part of the solution to almost any problem on the planet. But what if, in Iraq, that can't be so as long as we remain in occupation of the country? Then, perhaps it would be worth opting for the present and taking a gamble on the unknown, rather than banking on Rumsfeld's endless"known knowns." Perhaps it's time to bring not only the word, but the idea of withdrawal in from the cold.
Copyright 2007 Tom Engelhardt
Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2007 - 15:19
SOURCE: NYT (7-22-07)
None of us can control our ancestors. Like our children, they have minds of their own and invariably refuse to do our bidding. Presidential ancestors are especially unruly — they are numerous and easily discovered, and they often act in ways unbecoming to the high station of their descendants.
Take George Bush. By whom I mean George Bush (1796-1859), first cousin of the president’s great-great-great-grandfather. It would be hard to find a more unlikely forebear. G.B. No. 1 was not exactly the black sheep of the family, to use a phrase the president likes to apply to himself. In fact, he was extremely distinguished, just not in ways that you might expect. Prof. George Bush was a bona fide New York intellectual: a dabbler in esoteric religions whose opinions were described as, yes, “liberal”; a journalist and an academic who was deeply conversant with the traditions of the Middle East.
There was a time when the W-less George Bush was the most prominent member of the family (he is the only Bush who made it into the mid-20th-century Dictionary of American Biography). A bookish child, he read so much that he frightened his parents. Later he entered the ministry, but his taste for arcane controversy shortened his career, and no church could really contain him. Ultimately, he became a specialist at predicting the Second Coming, an unrewarding profession for most, but he thrived on it.
In 1831 he drifted to New York City, just beginning to earn its reputation as a sinkhole of iniquity, and found a job as professor of Hebrew and Oriental languages at what is now New York University. That same year, he published his first book, “The Life of Mohammed.” It was the first American biography of Islam’s founder.
For that reason alone, the book would be noteworthy. But the work is also full of passionate opinions about the prophet and his times. Many of these opinions are negative — as are his comments on all religions. Bush often calls Muhammad “the impostor” and likens him to a successful charlatan who has foisted an “arch delusion” on his fellow believers. But he is no less critical of the “disastrous” state of Christianity in Muhammad’s day. And throughout the book, Bush reveals a passionate knowledge of the Middle East: its geography, its people and its theological intensity, which fit him like a glove. For all his criticism of Muhammad, he returns with fascination to the story of “this remarkable man,” who was “irresistibly attractive,” and the power of his vision....
Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2007 - 14:16
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (Click on the SOURCE link for embedded links) (7-25-07)
' [t]he two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents. The committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qa'eda in Iraq, officials said, but not those[Shiite] militia groups the US accuses Iran of funding and training. '
If the US is allying with Iran against the Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda, this is a very major development and much more important than some carping over Shiite militias. (My guess is that 98% of American troops killed in Iraq have been killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas). If the report is true and has legs, it will send Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal ballistic. The Sunni Arab states do not like "al-Qaeda" in Iraq, but they are much more afraid of Iran than of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who are fighting against US military occupation.
A document leaked to the New York Times reveals that US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus have a two-year plan for security in Iraq, aiming for a pacification of Baghdad by summer of 2008.
My own suspicion is that summer, 2009 is about when most of the troops will be brought out of Iraq. I can't imagine the anti-war forces getting 2/3s of both the House and the Senate and being able to over-ride Bush's vetoes, and he seems determined to keep the US presence in Iraq for the rest of his presidency. There may be a drawdown (to 100,000?) in summer-fall of 2008, both because it will be needed in order not to break the army and because the plan will either have worked or not worked by then. (It would also generate headlines that would not hurt the Republicans, and I think some Iraq policy is made on that partisan basis). It seems likely that anti-war candidates of both parties will capture both houses of congress in '08, and only a dramatic and unexpected development could throw the White House to a pro-war Republican such as Giuliani. So, the leaders on the ground there may as well plan that far out. But so far the surge has not stopped guerrilla attacks from rising to unprecedented levels, has not stopped guerrillas from striking elsewhere when they are blocked in Baghdad, and has not in fact provided space for political progress or reconciliation. So whether things will actually be better in summer of '08 is murky to say the least. Certainly, I hope this horrible daily violence can end, for the sake of the Iraqis themselves. Ironically, if there were an end to violence, it might impel the Iraqi public and politicians, having begun to feel more secure, to ask the US forces to leave. I think fear of the Sunni Arab guerrillas is the only thing that has forestalled Grand Ayatollah Sistani from issuing a fatwa or ruling that the foreign forces must leave Iraq.
Posted on: Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 21:01
SOURCE: Salon (7-24-07)
In a videotape that CNN characterized as having been "intercepted," excerpts of which appeared on an anti-terrorist Web site last week, a grayer bin Laden appears in fatigues against a mountainous backdrop, arguing that the Prophet Mohammed himself wished for martyrdom. In reality, though the Prophet had been prepared to sacrifice his life to defend the early Muslim community, he forbade suicide. Before the 1980s, there had never been a suicide bombing in the Muslim world; the technique was pioneered by the Marxist (and largely Hindu) Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Bin Laden's little sermon was intended to hijack the Prophet and Islam for the purposes of al-Qaida.
But the very fact that bin Laden could still deliver his poisonous message to the Muslim world six years after his attack on New York and Washington killed some 3,000 people is first and foremost a remarkable testament to the incompetence and fecklessness of the Bush administration. The tape, the new NIE and events in Pakistan and Afghanistan all suggest that, shockingly, al-Qaida is more deadly now than at any time during the past half-decade.
The new National Intelligence Estimate, released early last week, said that al-Qaida "has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" inasmuch as it had once again set up a safe haven in northern Pakistan and was reassembling its top leadership. The Iraq war and the success of Salafi jihadis in fighting the U.S. there have, moreover, allowed bin Laden's organization "to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks."
Meanwhile, events in Pakistan show a pro-American dictatorship shaken by demonstrations of fundamentalist Islamic power. President Musharraf has long been a linchpin of the Bush administration's "war on terror."...
Posted on: Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 20:50
SOURCE: Dissident Voice (7-25-07)
Neocon officials in the Defense Department call them “low-hanging fruit” — as though countries were produce ripe for picking and eating. The term refers to nations targeted for regime change that might be achieved with minimal strain, at least when compared with the effort needed to topple the regime in Iran. Some neocons are beginning to concede that the effort might not be feasible at this time (not that they would be climbing the tree and plucking the fruit; they’d stand below advising on how it should be done). They’re advocating instead that the Bush administration move soon against Syria.
From late 2003 to late 2005 it looked to me as though Syria would be the next “Terror War” target, largely because of Bush’s rhetoric, Israeli aggression against Syria and the Israeli propaganda campaign against Syria (suggesting that the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been transported over the border into the Arab state). But then the Israeli government and Lobby urged the Bush administration to focus its energies on attacking Iran. (Asked by the administration for suggestions for a new leader in Syria to be installed after the toppling of Bashar al-Assad, the Israelis said they couldn’t think of one. This position has been repeated as recently as March 2007.) In any case the Israeli government sees Iran as the “existential threat” to itself, Syria more of an irritation.
But the advocated Iran attack has been long-delayed. The neocons have lost some influence, although they remain highly dangerous and influential. Rapid Islamophobes like Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, Eric Edelman and Eliot Cohen retain their posts, while neocon ideologues such as Bill Kristol enjoy access to cable TV audiences and readers of op-ed pieces in the most widely-read newspapers. The latter very often articulate the view of Vice President Cheney’s circle. Cheney is known to be frustrated at the postponement of the planned Iran attack.
In this context, former Bush speechwriter and Christian rightist Michael Gerson published an op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday calling for an attack on Syria to stop its alleged support for the resistance in Iraq. He revives the horticultural metaphor. “Syria. … is what one former administration official calls ‘lower-hanging fruit,’” Gerson writes, adding “Syria’s Baathist regime provides a base of operations for its Iraqi Baathist comrades involved in the Sunni insurgency.” He immediately adds, “Suicide bombers from Saudi Arabia and North Africa arrive by plane in Damascus, and, with the help of facilitators, some 50 to 80 cross into Iraq each month. The Syrians say they lack the ability to stop them; what they lack is the intention.” He calls for “forceful action against Syria’s Ho Chi Minh Trail of terrorists.”
Absent here is any indication of a mature understanding of the complexity of the Arab world. We’re to believe that Syrian Baathists (secularists) are helping their “Iraqi Baathist comrades” by facilitating anti-Baathist, Islamist Saudis and North Africans’ passage into Iraq? It doesn’t make sense. Those jihadis, the Los Angeles Times reported last month, include 45% Saudis; 15% are either Syrian or Lebanese, 10% North African, 30% other. U.S. generals on the ground have repeatedly acknowledged that these fighters are a tiny fraction of the forces resisting the U.S. occupation. The Saudis are responsible for the bulk of suicide bombings, and through their actions acquire a disproportionate ability to affect the overall political and military situation, but they have become increasingly shunned by the mainstream Iraqi resistance. They certainly feel little camaraderie with Baathists of any nationality!
The Syrian government has repeatedly stated that it is trying to prevent the passage of jihadis over its long border with Iraq into the U.S. occupied country. It (like Iran) enjoys cordial relations with the Iraqi regime brought to power by the U.S. The idea that it would help create a “trail of terrorists” at a time that it’s in the Bush administration’s crosshairs, accused of responsibility for the Hariri assassination and support for Palestinian and Lebanese “terrorism,” is inherently implausible, and the suggestion that the existence of such a trail is a product of Syrian and Iraqi Baathist cooperation is laughable given the composition of the “insurgency.” The Syrian government, concerned about its own survival, has indeed been seeking negotiations with the U.S. to resolve differences between the countries.
The Ho Chi Minh Trail analogy is stupid. That Trail was a well-coordinated logistical system that brought fighters and supplies from one part of Vietnam to another part of Vietnam through Laotian and Cambodian territory controlled by Marxist allies. The Syrian “Ho Chi Minh Trail” to which Gerson alludes is the supply line from the Euphrates (Iraqi) border town of al-Qaim to Baghdad, through which foreign fighters interested in joining the jihad against the U.S. invaders often pass. It is not the production of a state in alliance with a movement seeking national reunification. It’s a route for the movement of international Islamist fighters produced by the power vacuum created by an invasion.
But why should facts matter to Michael Gerson? As Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001 to June 2006, he may have come up with the “axis of evil” phrase (although some attribute this to David Frum). As a member of the White House Iraq Group, tasked to disseminate frightening disinformation about Iraq preparatory to the attack on Iraq in March 2003, he proposed the “smoking gun turns into a mushroom cloud” metaphor used by Bush, Cheney and Rice in late 2002 to frighten the nation into war. He was selected as on of the top 25 Christian evangelicals in America by Time magazine in 2005. His is a faith-based notion of geopolitical reality.
Many evangelical activists look forward to the violent transform the Greater Middle East, that biblical prophecy might be fulfilled and Jesus come back soon. According to the Book of Revelation, there must be a great war surrounding Israel before that happens, involving kings to the east of the Tigris and Euphrates. That implies war with Persia (Iran). So some want the U.S. to provoke war with Iran. But if that’s not doable just now, why not attack evil Syria?
I find Gerson’s orchard imagery interestingly biblical. Expanding on it, I’d suggest he wants to pluck the most succulent fruit: the Iranian peach. But if that fruit is out of reach, he urges, let us snatch up the Syrian date! (But dates are actually higher up than peaches so it might not be so easy. Date harvest, by the way, is typically in October.)
I personally see the Devil at work here. I hear the snake telling innocent Eve: “Eat of the fruit!” Recall how in the myth that bold little bite led to absolute disaster.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - 21:12