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: VDH's Private Papers (12-4-10)
The latest WikiLeaks trove raises once more the following two issues — the circumstances of the release of classified documents and their contents. We won’t know the full extent of the diplomatic archives for days, but so far the particulars seem as embarrassing as they are underwhelming.
We are told that the Obama administration by hook or crook wanted to close Guantanamo, that occasionally US diplomats spy, that Pakistan is unstable, that Saudi Arabia is duplicitous in wanting America to bell the Iranian nuclear cat while their elites subsidize al Qaeda, that we are planning for the eventuality of North Korea’s fall, that China conspires against Google, that Libya’s Gaddafi had a hot blonde “nurse” with him, that the US military was critical of the Brits, that the Royal Family is sometimes naughty, and all number of other things we would expect diplomatic missions to hear, gossip, editorialize, and intrigue about — and which usually find their way into the mainstream press sooner or later.
The danger of releasing these confidential diplomatic cables, then, is probably not their content per se but the destruction of the trust and reputations of many American diplomats who on future occasions, in far more critical contexts, will lament the loss of their access, friendships and credibility....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 16:29
SOURCE: CNN.com (12-6-10)
The political pressure on the administration to tackle deficit reduction is mounting. Even before he began negotiations with Republicans last week, President Obama conceded ground by announcing a federal pay freeze.
He has given indications that, like President Jimmy Carter in 1978, he intends to shift his focus from unemployment to deficits in response to the "message" from the midterms.
Yet Obama should be extremely cautious before he shifts the focus of his agenda. Emphasizing deficits over unemployment threatens to carry huge political costs for Democrats. The latest unemployment numbers are a stark reminder of the terrible shape of the economy. Regardless of the conventional wisdom, moreover, the move won't leave him in a stronger political position. At a time when many economists believe that the time is not right to move toward deficit reduction, given that the economy is still fragile and unstable, Obama is heading into a political trap.
The major political problem for Obama is that making deficit reduction an immediate priority is unlikely to win over Republican support. The record since 2008 has been that even when Obama gives ground to the GOP on issues like health care and economic policy, Republicans have rarely offered their support in return. Rather, the GOP has demanded more from the president, while continuing to attack the administration as left-of-center....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 15:50
SOURCE: Business World (12-6-10)
Crises are a chance to learn. For the past 200 years, with the exception of the Great Depression, major financial crises originated in poor and unstable countries, which then needed major policy adjustments. Today’s crisis started in rich industrial countries -- not only with subprime mortgages in the United States, but also with mismanagement of banks and public debt in Europe. So what will Europe learn, and what relevance will those lessons have for the rest of the world?
Europe’s contemporary problems offer striking parallels with previous problems on the periphery of the world economy.
In successive waves of painful crisis -- in Latin America in the 1980’s, and in East Asia after 1997 -- countries learned a better approach to economic policy and developed a more sustainable framework for managing public-sector debt. Today it is Europe’s turn.
The European crisis is coming full circle. Initially a financial crisis, it morphed into a classic public-debt crisis after governments stepped in to guarantee banks obligations....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 15:49
SOURCE: TomDispatch (12-6-10)
[Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author, most recently, of Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009).]
A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.
Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.
Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.
But have no doubt: when Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.
Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.
Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America's global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic powernow under way, roughly from West to East" and"without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States' relative strength -- even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.
No such luck. Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world's second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America's current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.
By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China's global network of communications satellites, backed by the world's most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.
Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d'Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy's prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China's economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.
Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65% of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.” Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America's closest economic partners are backing away from Washington's opposition to China's rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”
Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.
Economic Decline: Present Situation
Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar's privileged status as the global reserve currency.
By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11% of them compared to 12% for China and 16% for the European Union. There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.
Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400% increase since 2000. A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” during the previous decade. Adding substance to these statistics, in October China's Defense Ministry unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.
Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010. The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened. By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.
Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar's role as the world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy,” observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world's central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”
Simultaneously, China's central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”
Economic Decline: Scenario 2020
After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world's reserve currency. Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.
Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace. Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.
Oil Shock: Present Situation
One casualty of America's waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America's gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world's number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century. Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global future.”
By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world's natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”
Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP's sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.
Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise -- and sharply at that. Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources. The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports. Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36% of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66%.
Oil Shock: Scenario 2025
The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock. By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill. Angered at the dollar's plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a “basket” of Yen, Yuan, and Euros. That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further. At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan. Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran's exploitation of the world largest natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.
Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China's new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman. Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.
With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025. All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region -- logistics, exchange rates, and naval power -- evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12% of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.
The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.
Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.
Military Misadventure: Present Situation
Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.
Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.
Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014
So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.
It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.
Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.
Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America's Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.
World War III: Present Situation
In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American “lake.” Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain's global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.
With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing's official Global Timesresponded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”
Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.
To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance. Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones -- reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.
Last April, the Pentagon made history. It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet. The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.
World War III: Scenario 2025
The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.
It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand's operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China's People's Liberation Army.
The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.
Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China's 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits. The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.
As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware's devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.
A New World Order?
Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.
As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.
Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic. They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.
As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order. At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.
In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.
In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up. He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-styleslums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make “the 'feral, failed cities' of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”
At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.
Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region -- Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.
All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.
If America's decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.
If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high. Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country's role and prosperity in a changing world.
Europe's empires are gone and America's imperium is going. It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain's success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 15:19
SOURCE: The New Republic (12-6-10)
The age of mass killing, the 1930s and 1940s, was also a moment of environmental panic. World War I had disrupted free trade, and the new Europe was divided between those who needed food and those who controlled it. By the 1960s, improvements in seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides would make surpluses rather than shortages the problem. But, during the crucial 1930s and 1940s, when the decisions were made that sealed the fate of millions, European leaders such as Hitler and Stalin were preoccupied with mastering fertile soil and the people who farmed it.
World War I, in which both Hitler and Stalin played a role, had seemed to show that conquest of cropland meant security and power. It ended in 1918 during a failed German attempt to colonize Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe. To us, the “Ukrainian breadbasket” is a strange notion—perhaps as strange as the concept of “Saudi oil fields” will be 70 years from now. In the 1930s, however, it was at the center of strategic discussions in Moscow and Berlin. The Soviets held Ukraine and wanted to exploit its black earth; the Nazi leadership, ruling a country that was not self-sufficient in food, wanted to take it back.
Both Hitler’s Holocaust and Stalin’s Terror took place during an interval of environmental risk: between the identification of a critical environmental problem and the introduction of the technologies that would solve it. National Socialism and Stalinism both identified enemies to be eliminated, of course; and today, when we talk about Nazism and Stalinism, we understandably emphasize the hatred—the racial hatred of Hitler and the class hatred of Stalin. But there was an economic and environmental side to their ideologies as well: Both Hitler and Stalin made killing seem to serve a vision of economic development that would overcome environmental limitations. Perhaps we today tend to ignore this dimension because noting environmental limitations smacks of making excuses for horror. Or perhaps we see the economy as a realm of rationality and so assume that economic thought must not be implicated in apparently emotional projects such as mass killing. Or perhaps we have simply forgotten the environmental constraints of an earlier period, so different from those of our time.
We face our own environmental limitations and so have very good reason to recover this history. We have entered a new interval of environmental risk, an era in which we know that global warming is taking place but do not yet have the means to slow it. We Americans tend to see events of great importance as unique and the end of history around every corner. Of course global warming is an unprecedented challenge, and of course the Holocaust was an unparalleled tragedy. Yet the relationship is not as distant as we may think. We must use what we know of the dire environmental politics of the past to prepare for the calamities yet to come. We can recall that the most dangerous of ideologies were those that unified a promise of environmental mastery with the demonization of the group that seemed to stand in the way. Perhaps, by recalling this history, we can prevent a new age of mass murder....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 15:07
SOURCE: Rowman & Littlefield (12-6-10)
The ongoing publication of secret U. S. Department of Defense and State documents by Wikileaks points once again to the important role that government records can play in documenting abuse of power. But there are other ways to obtain important government documents without relying on unauthorized disclosures. Using the Freedom of Information Act, I recently obtained the 3,500-plus page FBI file on W. Mark Felt, who died almost two years ago. The file suggests new ways of looking at the demise of Richard Nixon and the role of the FBI in American society.
To begin with, when Felt’s role as Deep Throat first was made public in 2005 few in the media, with the exception of the Albany Times Union, adequately appreciated that he did not act alone. At least three other top-level FBI officials or agents worked with him to coordinate the leaks to the press. What might properly be called a “coup” inside the government, led by Felt, forced the President to resign. The actions of this FBI faction were extraordinary. Instead of targeting political liberals or radicals, they went after the chief executive using information as a weapon.
Felt’s motives have been discussed at length. He saw himself as a patriotic whistleblower acting to preserve the integrity of government. Nixon broke the law during Watergate and so the President should be exposed. Critics see less noble purposes. Felt resented being passed over for the Director’s job by Nixon after J. Edgar Hoover died in early May 1971. In addition, Felt acted as a vigilante against Nixon because the President wanted to run “dirty tricks” intelligence operations directly out of the White House bypassing the FBI altogether. The latter point is critical: Felt hoped to preserve the dominant role of the FBI to spy on Americans in domestic politics. Felt called it preserving the FBI’s “independence.”
FBI files show that the Felt faction engaged in a high-level of deception within the Bureau to protect its secret contact with the press. Soon after the Watergate break-in, Director L. Patrick Gray III put Felt in charge of finding sources of FBI leaks to the press. In short, the fox had been put in charge of protecting the chickens.
On several occasions, Felt and his collaborators investigated others knowing they had no part in the leaks. For example, in the summer of 1972 an agent working with Felt conducted several dozen interviews of FBI personnel in the hunt for the leaker. In another instance, Felt wrote a bogus memo suggesting that the source of leaks to the Washington Post came from outside the Bureau. In a third memo dated Sept. 11, 1972, Felt told one of his conspirators to “forcibly remind all agents of the need to be most circumspect in talking about this case with anyone outside the Bureau.”
By the fall of 1972, Nixon suspected Felt as the source of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s articles. When Nixon in early 1973 urged Gray to make Felt submit to a lie-detector test, Gray refused. Nixon later recalled the conversation:
’Pat,” I said. ‘I want you to check these leaks.’
“He said, ’Oh, they couldn’t be from the Bureau.’
“I said, ‘Yes they are…some are.’ And I said, ‘We have from very good authority that they’re from Felt.’
‘Oh, they could not be from Felt.’
“I said, ‘Dam it, they may be’ and I said, ‘You ought to give him a lie-detector test.’
“’Oh, we can’t do that,’ he said. ‘But,” he said, ‘I vouch for Felt.’”
In his 2008 memoir, Gray described this meeting with the President as a 30-minute “tirade” against leaks coming from the FBI. Gray refused to accept the President’s view of the source of the leaks. But Gray’s successor, Clarence M. Kelley, started a formal investigation the next year to ascertain if Felt had served as Deep Throat. On June 20, 1974, Felt -- now retired -- wrote a personal letter to the Director defending himself in false, blunt terms. “My contacts with the press have been limited. On only one occasion did I ever ‘leak’ information and that was years ago and on instructions from the Bureau….I am not ‘Deep Throat.’”
That this deception lasted for so many years is not too surprising. In early 1975, agents inside the Bureau suspected Felt continued to engage in press leaks despite his retirement. Felt again wrote the Director to deny it. “I want you to know that I am not the source of the unfortunate [text redacted] stories appearing yesterday and today in the ‘Washington Post,’” he said. He admitted a reporter had called him. “I tried to talk him out of writing the story but we both know that front page by-lines sometimes become more important to reporters than the facts.”
Felt’s declassified FBI file helps us understand the great lengths he went to cover-up his role in bringing down the President.
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 14:32
SOURCE: Slate (12-3-10)
...For a party (whether of the Tea or Grand Old variety) that sees the Constitution as something so perfect as to have been divinely inspired, the idea that it needs to be altered fundamentally is beyond crediting, something like putting the Fifth Commandment up to a popular referendum. But the Tea Party vision of the Constitution has never been one of fidelity to the document itself, or even to the Framers. Instead, it's a devotion to those scraps and snippets of the Constitution they accept, an embrace of only the Framers they admire, and an eagerness to jettison anything that conflicts with or complicates that vision, including the rest of the Constitution....
There is so much wrong with the Repeal Amendment that it's difficult to know how to begin to respond. The Constitution is—by design—a nationalist document. It is also—again by design—an anti-democratic document. American history reveals precisely what happens when state or regional interests are allowed to trump national ones, and the Constitution has been at its best (for example, the Reconstruction Amendments) when it has addressed (and, better yet, resolved) that tension....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 13:58
SOURCE: Huffington Post (12-4-10)
While the mainstream media focuses on whether Julian Assange is a sex criminal in charge of a terrorist organization, I got a rude reminder of my own sense of unease at the latest revelations from WikiLeaks. It came unexpectedly at a local restaurant. Together with a friend and my wife, I went out to dinner, only to be seated next to a well lubricated group celebrating the fiftieth birthday party of some unfortunate soul on the receiving end of black "Over the Hill" balloons and alcohol-fueled off-color jokes. Between the loud clapping, the table thumping, and the incessant cackling, we couldn't hear ourselves think, let alone talk. I'd blame the restaurant for sitting us next to a remarkably boisterous and oblivious group of people -- except the people weren't oblivious. They knew they were loud, and they simply didn't care. To them, we didn't exist.
After we asked the restaurant staff to move us, I could hear the partiers snickering about how selfish we were in wanting them to be just a little bit quieter (actually, we just wanted them to stop clapping in our ears like five-year-olds). As we got up to move, a spokesperson for the birthday group said they were sorry, but they were in a public place and could therefore enjoy themselves however they wanted. In other words, she was saying we were the intolerant ones for asking to move away from their clapping and foot-stomping and yelling. When I replied that I had no objection to their having a good time, as long as their behavior didn't ruin the good times of others, another partier told me that I should have stayed home. If only I had.
Boorish, "in your face" behavior is everywhere. Most of the time, I'm able to avoid it, or walk away from it, but not tonight. Even as we walked away from the restaurant and passed our loud partiers at the curb, one of them spied us and sneeringly said, "Oooh, everyone be quiet now." We just kept walking.
Afoot in America is an astonishing sense of imperious entitlement. People are told they can have it all -- heck, that they deserve it all -- and to hell with anyone who raises an objection. Rugged individualism is not enough; roughshod individualism is the new American ethos.
Now, what has this to say about WikiLeaks? Take a close look at many of the State Department cables and tell me how you would feel to be on the receiving end of roughshod American imperiousness. So what if we kidnap the wrong German citizen and torture him? Not only do we have no need to apologize: We'll even bully the German government into silence. And we can bully Spain too, if need be, to inhibit Spanish attempts to prosecute Americans for torture or murder. Need more information about the United Nations and its diplomats? Let's not only spy on them in traditional ways, but let's steal their passwords, their biometric data: Heck, let's even take DNA samples from them. If they complain, too bad: They shouldn't have taken a drink from the cup we offered them. And the list goes on: We'll even strike secret deals with Britain to hide our cluster bombs.
In these memos, it never seems to be America's fault. Being a loud and boorish and imperious American means never having contritely to say you're sorry. I got a reminder of that tonight at a local eatery; it seems many different peoples around the world get their reminders from their local American embassies.
Are we oblivious? Do we just don't care? Neither question will matter if the resentments we breed overseas find their way to America's homeland. Doubtless we'll be partying loudly and obnoxiously until the bitter end.
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 13:43
SOURCE: National Review (12-3-10)
Old laws predicated on human nature cannot so easily be discarded — even by utopians who think they have the power to cool the planet and stop the rising seas. Borrowed money really has to be paid back. Governments cannot operate without confidentiality. Nations perish if they cannot protect themselves from existential threats. Watching a therapeutic Barack Obama grow up and learn these tragic lessons is as enlightening as it is sometimes scary.
When they are out of power, modern leftists advocate massive government spending and large deficits. They applaud when Republicans and conservatives sometimes prove as profligate as any big-government liberal. But when invested with the responsibility of governance, they come to understand that Keynesian “stimulus” must eventually cede to the same unhappy logic as the private household’s indebtedness....
Here in America the same fiscal rules have not disappeared. In California, Governor-elect Jerry Brown will have few choices in January 2011. Since he cannot raise taxes much in a state that already has the nation’s highest income and sales taxes, he can only find a way to cut expenditures. He must then either finesse such reductions with a sort of green philosophy of “small is better” or plead that his reactionary predecessor gave him, a compassionate liberal, no choice. Either way, the creditors and bondholders must be paid. Even Barack Obama, after spending $1.3 trillion more this year than the government took in, now seeks to save a few billion dollars by freezing federal wages.
In short, from Sacramento to Athens the world is reminded that obligations, despite in-vogue euphemisms like “stimulus” and “Keynesian,” really do have to be met. There is an iron law that transcends politics and limits the application of fiscal liberalism: Print more money and money becomes less valuable; default just once and all future credit is lost or intolerably expensive....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 13:39
SOURCE: LA Times (12-5-10)
The widely reported deal negotiated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Israel committing itself to a nonrenewable 90-day freeze on settlement activity in return for 20 F-35 fighters and a U.S. promise to block anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations — illuminates with startling clarity the actual terms of U.S.-Israeli relations.
What impresses above all is the gaping disparity between the American offer and the Israeli response. The United States today finds itself in the position of a suitor proffering his beloved ever more munificent gifts while receiving in return ever more perfunctory tokens of affection. You don't need Dear Abby to tell you that something's gone amiss....
One might expect the United States to find an arsenal consisting of an estimated 200 nuclear warheads worthy of notice. One might also expect Israelis to take comfort in the knowledge that, alone among nations in the region, they hold at the ready such massively destructive power. Instead, Washington pretends that the Israeli arsenal doesn't exist, thereby opening itself to charges of entertaining a double standard. Meanwhile, Israelis nurse feelings of vulnerability as if the Jewish state were still David surrounded by a host of Goliaths.
Among a people for whom Auschwitz is not merely a memory but seems a looming prospect, this sense of insecurity is deeply entrenched. Whether such anxieties reflect collective paranoia or a sober appreciation for the persistence of anti-Semitism is beside the point. What Americans have yet to recognize is this: Nothing that the United States can do will put Israeli fears to rest. Indeed, by offering ever more weapons and by conferring ever more privileges, Washington ends up validating those fears....
Posted on: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 12:40
SOURCE: NYT (12-5-10)
LET’S say you can’t readily lay your hands on “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” or those of Winnie the Pooh. And let’s say the political mood around you is bleak; gridlock is the order of the day. Why not turn to a different management guru, a woman who left some 2,000-year-old teachable moments, each of them enduring and essential?
At 18, Cleopatra VII inherited the most lucrative enterprise in existence, the envy of her world. Everyone for miles around worked for her. Anything they grew or manufactured enriched her coffers. She had the administrative apparatus and the miles of paperwork to prove it.
From the moment she woke she wrangled with military and managerial decisions. The crush of state business consumed her day. Partisan interests threatened to trip her up at every turn; she observed enough court intrigue to make a Medici blush. To complicate matters, she was highly vulnerable to a hostile takeover. Oh, and she looked very little like the other statesmen with whom she did business.
Herewith her leadership secrets, a papyrus primer for modern-day Washington:
Obliterate your rivals. Co-opting the competition is good. Eliminating it is better. Cleopatra made quick work of her siblings, which sounds uncouth. As Plutarch noted, however, such behavior was axiomatic among sovereigns. It happened in the best of families....
Posted on: Saturday, December 4, 2010 - 19:29
SOURCE: American Thinker (12-2-10)
Why would President Obama place American prestige, money, and influence on the line for a three-month restriction on Jewish building in areas conquered by Israel in 1967? Another round of negotiations is doomed to fail, since Palestinian leaders have already refused to resume talks unless the freeze applies to eastern Jerusalem. Why is Obama pushing this snowball, knowing that any substantive agreement is unlikely in such a short time, if at all?...
What if, however, Obama's goal has nothing to do with any "peace process," agreements, or concessions? What if, magician-like, he and his administration are distracting from their hidden agenda: delegitimizing Israel?
In April, Obama suggested that the safety of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America's "vital national security interests," were linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He blamed Israel for the impasse.
Obama's strategy to weaken and isolate Israel by forcing concessions is evident in his focus on Israeli settlements as "illegal" and "unacceptable," his extreme protests against any and all Jewish home-building in Judea and Samaria (even in Jerusalem), and his direct challenge to Israel to expose its nuclear capability and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Demanding another "freeze" for three months fits the pattern of maligning Israel....
Posted on: Friday, December 3, 2010 - 12:59
SOURCE: National Review (12-1-10)
We know illegal immigration is no longer really unlawful, but is it moral?
Usually Americans debate the fiscal costs of illegal immigration. Supporters of open borders rightly remind us that illegal immigrants pay sales taxes. Often their payroll-tax contributions are not later tapped by Social Security payouts.
Opponents counter that illegal immigrants are more likely to end up on state assistance, are less likely to report cash income, and cost the state more through the duplicate issuing of services and documents in both English and Spanish. Such to-and-fro talking points are endless.
So is the debate over beneficiaries of illegal immigration? Are profit-minded employers villains who want cheap labor in lieu of hiring more expensive Americans? Or is the culprit a cynical Mexican government that counts on billions of dollars in remittances from its expatriate poor that it otherwise ignored?
Or is the engine that drives illegal immigration the American middle class? Why should millions of suburbanites assume that, like 18th-century French aristocrats, they should have imported labor to clean their homes, manicure their lawns and watch over their kids?...
Posted on: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 19:13
SOURCE: Huffington Post (12-2-10)
As Israeli Jews were preparing to light their first Hanukkah candle, the Prime Minister of Gaza, Ismael Haniyeh, told a press conference:"We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees."
Speaking for his Hamas party, he added that if a referendum of all Palestinians -- in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora -- agreed to a peace deal with Israel,"Hamas will respect the results, regardless of whether it differs with [Hamas] ideology and principles." Haniyeh also said that"a priority of his government was to avoid a military escalation with Israel by persuading other militant factions to preserve a de facto ceasefire."
Was it just coincidence that Haniyeh, who rarely holds press conferences, chose the eve of Hanukkah to repeat what Hamas political chief Khaled Meshal has already said several times? Perhaps Haniyeh has studied history and knows that the common story of Hannukah -- brave Jewish warriors, led by the Maccabees, defeating a foreign tyrant -- is a vast oversimplification. Perhaps he knows that the Jews of the Maccabeean era were caught up in a bitter cultural civil war, one that is mirrored in the Israeli Jewish cultural split today.
Many ancient Jews did resist the Hellenistic king Antiochus Epiphanes, not merely because he was a foreigner, but because he represented new and discomforting ideas: national borders didn't mean so much any more, people and goods and ideas should move freely around the world, what the people of the world share in common is more valuable than what divides them. Other Jews embraced these ideas, and so they embraced the foreign ruler, or at least found his entry into Jerusalem acceptable.
Even if Ismael Haniyeh does not know this history, he knows that he faces an Israeli Jewish public divided by similar differences in values today.
Many Jews keep alive the spirit of the Maccabees. They see the Jews as a group set apart from all others. They prize that separation as a mark of their distinctiveness. At the same time, though, they complain that they are forced to be set apart because they're unjustly besieged, victims of undeserved enmity. So they respond by separating themselves even more. They build an what they call an"Iron Dome" anti-missile system, even though it will do little to protect them from missiles.
They build an enormous wall between themselves and their neighbors, the West Bank Palestinians, for the sake of security, they say. Israeli columnist Bradley Burston calls them"the Jews of the Wall." Yet the longer the wall grows, the more they feel like victims. Indeed,"they want to be told that they are eternal victims," as Israeli pundit and peace activist Uri Avnery has written."People here are so eager for words and images that tell them... that they're still one step from Auschwitz, that their backs are to the wall."
These Jews must have a threatening enemy on the other side of the wall. Their worldview requires it. Once that enemy was"the Arabs." Then it was"the Palestinians." Now that their leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared his commitment to a two-state solution, it can no longer be all Palestinians who are framed as the great threat. So Hamas must play that role.
Hence the Jews of the Wall in Israel -- and their many allies in the U.S. and around the world -- must simply refuse to listen to Ismael Haniyeh's words of reconciliation. So they perpetuate the fiction, so eagerly swallowed by most of the U.S. mass media, that Hamas is adamantly committed to destroying the Jewish state. Only occasionally do those media allow Hamas leader Meshaal to speak for himself, holding out the very same peace offer that Haniyeh gave the Israelis as a Hanukkah gift.
Nevertheless, when Meshaal and Haniyeh reach a hand of peace across the border to deliver such a gift there are Jews in Israel and around the world willing to receive it. These are the moral descendants of those other Jews of ancient times, the ones who looked for what they shared in common with others and prized what they found, their common humanity, above anything that set them apart.
Burston calls them"the Jews of the Gate," because they insist on finding ways to reach across borders and make connections with values, cultures, and lives of their neighbors in other lands. And they ready to live in peace with their Palestinian neighbors, even if those neighbors democratically elect a parliament with a Hamas majority.
Touring the United States, Burston found that"the voices of young American Jews of the Gate have never been stronger." Like all Israelis, though, he knows that in his own land the Jews of the Wall are in the ascendant.
To show their strength, they responded to the conciliatory Hamas gesture with yet another show of aggression in the place that Palestinians as well as Jews hold most sacred: Jerusalem. Within hours of Haniyeh's press conference, Haaretz reported:
"The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee announced Wednesday its plan to build 625 new housing units in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The move comes despite wide international opposition to Israel's construction in East Jerusalem, with U.S. President Barack Obama calling it 'unhelpful' to peace efforts."
"Unhelpful" is, of course, a massive understatement. The Israelis know full well that the more they build in East Jerusalem the harder it will be for the Palestinians ever to use their side of the city as their capital. And no Palestinian leader will ever sign a peace agreement that denies his people a capital in Jerusalem. It would be political suicide. Jewish building in East Jerusalem is thus a way of bringing even the most distant possibility of a negotiated peace to a screeching halt. That was the Israeli government's Hanukkah gift to the Palestinians -- and to the Obama administration.
It was surely a most unwelcome gift in Washington. According to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot," continued construction in Jerusalem is a central issue in Israel's negotiations with the US. ... Sources close to the negotiations said the two nations have reached an impasse on the deal."
This leaves a looming question: What Hanukkah gift will Barack Obama deliver to the Israelis and Palestinians? If he wants to, he can deliver an insistence that the Israelis cease new construction in East Jerusalem. He's done it before with significant success.
For most of the past spring and summer Israel observed what the Independent called"an undeclared freeze on Jewish construction in East Jerusalem." Bowing to U.S. pressure,"Netanyahu had restrained settlement building," with only a few exceptions.
Even when Netanyahu OK'd some new building in East Jerusalem, in October, Yedioth Aharanoth confirmed that he"was apparently forced to give up plans to market another 600 apartments after the US administration made it clear that this would put an immediate end to peace talks with the Palestinians." Construction of another 1,300 homes in Jerusalem were"frozen in practice," the paper added.
As the Israeli government allows the latest building projects to begin, no one knows how many they may be refusing. Netanyahu scores no political points at home for refusing. He scores points only in Washington and around the diplomatic world.
The Obama administration has lots of carrots and sticks it can hold out in front of the Israelis during this Hanukkah season. It might even announce that, if the negotiations remain stalled, the U.S. will present its own plan for borders that will" create the new Palestinian state on the equivalent of 100 percent of the land beyond the 1967 Green Line with one-to-one land swaps" and demand that Israelis as well as Palestinians simply give that plan a yes or no -- an idea now being promoted by J Street, the biggest and most moderate group representing American"Jews of the Gate." Though J Street may hesitate to come out and say it, everyone knows that any American plan will include East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
This is an idea that strikes fear into the hearts of the"Jews of the Wall," because they know that when the U.S. speaks firmly even right-wing Israeli politicians must listen. And they suspect that, when forced to say yea or nay to a concrete plan for peace, most Israelis will choose the Gate over the Wall.
As Israeli Jews light the rest of their Hanukkah candles, they should keep in mind that the plan they may one day receive from Washington and be forced to decide on is very much the same plan Hamas has offered to them as a Hanukkah gift. What do they gain by waiting? Why shouldn't they accept the gift of peace now?
Posted on: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 18:14
SOURCE: NY Daily News (12-1-10)
In 1963, journalist James Koerner published a scathing critique of American schools of education. Charged with preparing future teachers and principals, ed schools were falling down on the job. Courses were "puerile, repetitious, dull and ambiguous"; faculty were "inferior," even "anti-intellectual" - and so were their students, who imbibed a thin pseudoacademic gruel that was the laughingstock of the American university.
Why was this failing culture allowed to continue? Koerner's answer was simple: Ed schools held a monopoly on the preparation of educators. Collaborating with accrediting agencies and state officials, they made their mindless coursework a precondition for working in the profession.
Nearly a half-century later, ed schools remain what Stanford education Prof. David Labaree calls the Rodney Dangerfield of American academia: We don't get no respect. But we're also losing control over the preparation of future educators. Unless we make a new argument for ourselves, we're doomed....
That needs to change if we want ed schools to survive and to thrive. Instead of pretending that they have all the answers, ed schools should advertise themselves as places to explore your own. What is "education," anyway? How have different people defined it historically?
That also means admitting how much we don't know about education. But life is for finding out. If ed schools reframe the preparation of educators around discovery, not dogma, students will come to us; if we don't, the students will disappear. So will the American ed school. And deservingly so.
Posted on: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 15:30
SOURCE: Globe and Mail (12-1-10)
Canada is well positioned to make a landmark statement in the coming weeks to recognize gender identity within the Criminal Code and the Human Rights Act. Since New Democratic MP Bill Siksay’s private member’s bill was presented to the Commons justice committee in the summer, it has garnered the support of the Canadian Bar Association and the major public sector union PSAC, and was recently endorsed by Vancouver city council.
Mr. Siksay’s efforts to garner official protection against unlawful and discriminatory treatment of transsexual and transgendered persons would go a great way in destigmatizing those whose lives fall outside what dominant society considers as normal.
While Canada has made great strides in opening marriage and adoption to same-sex partners, there is still a case to be made for ensuring vital social and legal protections to members of transsexual and transgendered communities. Adopting Bill C-389 would not end discrimination. But it would go a long way in protecting those who still face physical violence, economic disadvantage and social ostracism for being perceived as different....
Posted on: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 14:47
SOURCE: CS Monitor (12-1-10)
The US Embassy in Beijing monitors air quality hourly and issues reports on BeijingAir Twitter feed. One Friday late last month, (Nov. 19) the air in Beijing was so polluted, so smoggy, that the tweet had no established term to describe it. So, it simply reported that the air was “crazy bad.” I suspect we all pretty much get the idea, but let me try to be a little more precise about what “crazy bad” means.
On an air quality index of 0 to 500 (the AQI), “crazy bad” is off-the-charts, beyond the 500 upper limit. The number is a measure of ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide in the air. According to the AQI, a score of zero to 50 represents good air quality, 51 to 100 means moderate air quality, and 101 to 150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups. A score between 301 to 500 means “don’t even think of breathing it if possible,” or in more formal AQI terms: “Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.”...
Posted on: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 14:43