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: National Review (3-31-11)
By bombing Libya, President Obama has accomplished some things once thought absolutely impossible in America:
(a) War-mongering liberals: Liberals are now chest-thumping about military “progress” in Libya. Even liberal television and radio commentators cite ingenious reasons why an optional, preemptive American intervention in an oil-producing Arab country, without prior congressional approval or majority public support — and at a time of soaring deficits — is well worth supporting, in a sort of “my president, right or wrong,” fashion. Apparently, liberal foreign policy is returning to the pre-Vietnam days of the hawkish “best and brightest.”
(b) Europe first: Many Americans have long complained about the opportunistic, utopian Europeans. Under the protective U.S. defense shield, they often privately urged us to deal with dangerous foreign dictators — while staying above the fray to criticize America, at the same time seeking trade advantages and positive global PR. But now the wily Obama has outwaited even the French. He has managed to shame them into acting, with a new opossum-like U.S. strategy of playing dead until finally the Europeans were exasperated — almost as if the president were warning them, “We don’t mind the Qaddafi bloodletting if you, who are much closer to it, don’t mind.” The British Guardian and French Le Monde will be too knee-deep in the Libyan war, busy chalking up Anglo-French “wins” and worrying about European oil concessions, to charge America with the usual imperialism, colonialism, and militarism. We are almost back to the 1956 world of the Suez crisis....
Posted on: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 20:00
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (3-31-11)
Stop the spread of sharia law! Ban gay marriage and abortion!
As the 2012 elections inch closer, GOP lawmakers and presidential hopefuls are tripping over each other to denounce the alleged threat posed by Islam to the American body politic. They're also trying to rally so-called values voters with appeals to conservative cultural themes, especially on marriage and reproduction.
Memo to Republicans: Muslims are cultural conservatives, too. And if you can stop maligning them for a moment, they might move over to your column.
It has happened before. Consider American Catholics, who voted overwhelmingly for Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, our only Catholic president. They were also widely vilified by evangelical Protestants, who warned that JFK would put America under the heel of Rome....
Posted on: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 12:30
SOURCE: New Yorker (3-28-11)
...Two points are striking. First of all, Cronon is not only a political moderate, he’s a passionate Wisconsin patriot. He moved to Madison as a child, did his B.A. at the University, and learned his environmentalism as an explorer of the Wisconsin landscape and a reader of a local hero, the naturalist Aldo Leopold. In 1992, at a time when academic stars had begun to flee strapped public universities for richer private ones, Cronon, by then a professor at Yale, left to go back to Madison. An independent, he has expressed his respect for the past traditions of the Wisconsin Republican Party. If the current officers of the party were really acting in the interest of their state, they wouldn’t be going after Cronon, who is one of its treasures. (Given that they misspelled his name in their complaint about his response, they may not know or care about any of this.)
Second, the Republicans seem remarkably fragile. A professor writing a blog post gives them the shivers. It’s a good thing they chose politics, and not the kind of career where the going can really get rough. Professors, for example, teach their hearts out to surly adolescents who call them boring in course evaluations and write their hearts out for colleagues who trash their books in snarky reviews. These Wisconsin Republicans may never have survived ordeals like that. Happily, Cronon has been toughened by decades of academic life. He’ll be blogging—and teaching and writing—long after Wisconsin voters have sent these Republicans back to obscurity.
Posted on: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 10:30
SOURCE: Al Jazeera (3-30-11)
Mark LeVine is a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine and author, most recently, of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Random House 2008) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009).]
If there is one thing that the Arab world's "Facebook Generation" does not suffer, it is hypocrisy, either by its own governments or by its foreign allies and patrons.
Yet it is impossible not to recognise the rank hypocrisy in supporting the rights of anti-government protesters in Libya, while turning a blind eye to the same in Bahrain, where government troops have massacred dozens of unarmed civilians; in Yemen, where the regime of president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been firing live ammunition into peaceful crowds; in Saudi Arabia, whose military has been sent into neighbouring countries to brutally suppress people's demand for the most basic rights and freedoms; in the Palestinian territories, where non-violent demonstrations for an end to Israeli settlements have been completely ignored by an American administration who, until recently, vowed that a settlement freeze would form the basis of its Middle East policy....
In our frequent travels across the region, we have heard repeatedly from activists and ordinary people alike that they cannot accept American military intervention in one country and acquiescence and perhaps tacit support for crackdowns in others.
Activists in Egypt wait in vain, as Clinton was pointedly told in Cairo in her recent trip, for the US to speak up about the continuation of arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, torture, and emergency rule....
...[W]hatever his actions in Libya, it seems that Mr. Obama has yet to grasp this very basic fact.
Posted on: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 10:10
SOURCE: Al Jazeera (3-30-11)
...Even before Obama landed in Rio, Brazil, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, joined with China and Germany to abstain from the vote authorising "all necessary measures" against Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Since then, its opposition to the bombing has hardened. According to the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), Brazil's foreign ministry – still, for the most part, staffed by the diplomats who charted Lula's foreign policy – recently issued a statement condemning the loss of civilian lives and calling for the start of dialogue.
Lula himself has endorsed Dilma's critical position on Libya, going further in his condemnation of the intervention: "These invasions only happen because the United Nations is weak," he said. "If we had twenty-first-century representation [in the Security Council], instead of sending a plane to drop bombs, the UN would send its secretary-general to negotiate."
His remarks were widely interpreted to mean that if Brazil had been a permanent member of the Security Council – a position it has long sought – it would have vetoed the resolution authorising the bombing rather than, as it did, merely abstaining from the vote.
These comments were the first indication that the ex-president, still enormously popular and influential in Brazil, planned to continue to openly weigh in on his successor’s foreign policy.
Argentina and Uruguay likewise have voiced strong disapproval of the intervention. On one level, this censure reflects Latin America's commitment to the ideal of non-intervention and absolute sovereignty. But on another, less elevated and more commonsensical level, it reflects a belief that the diplomatic community needs to return to a standard in which war is the last rather than the first response to crisis....
Posted on: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 10:07
SOURCE: Salon (3-29-11)
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour recently acknowledged that the Civil War was fought over slavery. As reported by Politico, Barbour recognized that "Slavery was the primary, central cause of secession." That may not seem like news, but many Southerners have insisted that the "War of Northern Aggression," as they call it, was fought over more palatable issues, such as states' rights or economic autonomy. That is nonsense, but it still took some courage for Barbour, in an interview with professor Robert S. McElvaine of Millsaps College, to repudiate a long-held myth about the nobility of the "Lost Cause."
Of course, Barbour's repudiation of secession is no doubt prompted, at least in part, by his all-but-declared candidacy for president. As a national candidate he will have to appeal beyond his Southern base, and that means rejecting Confederate apologia in favor of, well, actual history.
Now, if only the federal government would do the same thing.
Unbelievably, the official study guide for the U.S. citizenship test still lists three acceptable answers for the question about the causes of the Civil War: slavery, economic reasons and states' rights. The latter two answers, as Gov. Barbour now freely admits, are simply wrong. In fact, they are worse than wrong, because they obscure a central fact about American history. As Barbour put it, "the Civil War was necessary to bring about the abolition of slavery. Abolishing slavery was morally imperative and necessary, and it's regrettable that it took the Civil War to do it. But it did."
Needless to say, the Civil War, with its 600,000 casualties, would hardly have been necessary if it had been about nothing more than the division of power between the central government and the states, let alone some amorphous "economic reasons." And yet, that is precisely the lesson that will be learned by any aspiring citizen who diligently studies the government-provided model answers to the naturalization test....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 17:57
SOURCE: I.H.E. (3-30-11)
Should Palestinian and other Arab schools teach their students about the Holocaust?
This is not an academic question. Many Palestinian and Arab political organizations recently pounced on reports that a new human rights curriculum being prepared for use in Gaza schools operated by Unrwa, the United Nations aid agency for Palestinian refugees, might include historical references to the Holocaust. Their reaction underscores the urgency of answering this fundamental question: Should Palestinians (and other Arabs) learn about the Holocaust? Should this historical tragedy be included in the Arab curriculum?
We — a Muslim-Palestinian social scientist, and a Jewish-American historian — believe the answer is yes. Indeed, there are many reasons why it’s important, even essential, that Arabs learn about the Holocaust. And much of this has nothing to do with Jews at all.
One of the sad realities of many modern Arab societies is that Arab students have been denied history, their own and the world’s. For decades, millions of Arabs have lived under autocrats resentful of the legacy of the leader they replaced and fearful of the leader-to-come. Although Arabs revere the study, writing and teaching of history, and have produced many famous historians, their rulers often tend to view history as a threat. The result is that many historians in Arab countries are more like the court chroniclers of long-dead dynasties, and entire chapters of history have been expunged from the curricula that Arab governments teach their students....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 10:13
SOURCE: NYT (3-30-11)
WHERE has President Bashar al-Assad of Syria been this past week?
Thousands of Syrians across the country have staged demonstrations against the government, and dozens of protesters have been reported killed by security forces. The cabinet was dismissed on Tuesday, although that’s a meaningless gesture unless it’s followed by real reform. Through it all Mr. Assad has remained so quiet that rumors were rampant that he had been overthrown. But while Syrians are desperate for leadership, it’s not yet clear what sort of leader Mr. Assad is going to be.
Will he be like his father, Hafez al-Assad, who during three decades in power gave the security forces virtually a free hand to maintain order and sanctioned the brutal repression of a violent Islamist uprising in the early 1980s? Or will he see this as an opportunity to take Syria in a new direction, fulfilling the promise ascribed to him when he assumed the presidency upon his father’s death in 2000?...
In 2004 and 2005, while writing a book on him, I had long interviews with Mr. Assad; after the book was published, I continued to meet with him as an unofficial liaison between Syria and the United States when relations between the two countries deteriorated. In that time I saw Mr. Assad evolve into a confident and battle-tested president....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 10:11
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (3-27-11)
As I expected, now that Qaddafi’s advantage in armor and heavy weapons is being neutralized by the UN allies’ air campaign, the liberation movement is regaining lost territory. Liberators took back Ajdabiya and Brega (Marsa al-Burayqa), key oil towns, on Saturday into Sunday morning, and seemed set to head further West. This rapid advance is almost certainly made possible in part by the hatred of Qaddafi among the majority of the people of these cities. The Buraiqa Basin contains much of Libya’s oil wealth, and the Transitional Government in Benghazi will soon again control 80 percent of this resource, an advantage in their struggle with Qaddafi.
I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed. I can still remember when I was a teenager how disappointed I was that Soviet tanks were allowed to put down the Prague Spring and extirpate socialism with a human face. Our multilateral world has more spaces in it for successful change and defiance of totalitarianism than did the old bipolar world of the Cold War, where the US and the USSR often deferred to each other’s sphere of influence.
The United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya has pitched ethical issues of the highest importance, and has split progressives in unfortunate ways. I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here.
On the surface, the situation in Libya a week and a half ago posed a contradiction between two key principles of Left politics: supporting the ordinary people and opposing foreign domination of them. Libya’s workers and townspeople had risen up to overthrow the dictator in city after city– Tobruk, Dirna, al-Bayda, Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Misrata, Zawiya, Zuara, Zintan. Even in the capital of Tripoli, working-class neighborhoods such as Suq al-Jumah and Tajoura had chased out the secret police. In the two weeks after February 17, there was little or no sign of the protesters being armed or engaging in violence....
The United Nations Security Council authorization for UN member states to intervene to forestall this massacre thus pitched the question. If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.
The arguments against international intervention are not trivial, but they all did have the implication that it was all right with the world community if Qaddafi deployed tanks against innocent civilian crowds just exercising their right to peaceful assembly and to petition their government. (It simply is not true that very many of the protesters took up arms early on, though some were later forced into it by Qaddafi’s aggressive military campaign against them. There still are no trained troops to speak of on the rebel side)....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 06:40
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (3-29-11)
The US-Nato intervention in Libya, with United Nations security council cover, is part of an orchestrated response to show support for the movement against one dictator in particular and by so doing to bring the Arab rebellions to an end by asserting western control, confiscating their impetus and spontaneity and trying to restore the status quo ante.
It is absurd to think that the reasons for bombing Tripoli or for the turkey shoot outside Benghazi are designed to protect civilians. This particular argument is designed to win support from the citizens of Euro-America and part of the Arab world. "Look at us," say Obama/Clinton and the EU satraps, "we're doing good. We're on the side of the people." The sheer cynicism is breathtaking. We're expected to believe that the leaders with bloody hands in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are defending the people in Libya. The debased British and French media are capable of swallowing anything, but the fact that decent liberals still fall for this rubbish is depressing. Civil society is easily moved by some images and Gaddafi's brutality in sending his air force to bomb his people was the pretext that Washington utilised to bomb another Arab capital. Meanwhile, Obama's allies in the Arab world were hard at work promoting democracy.
The Saudis entered Bahrain where the population is being tyrannised and large-scale arrests are taking place. Not much of this is being reported on al-Jazeera. I wonder why? The station seems to have been curbed somewhat and brought into line with the politics of its funders...
Posted on: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 02:53
SOURCE: NYT (3-29-11)
On March 29, 1961, the states completed ratification of the 23rd Amendment, which gave residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections. The anniversary is worth remembering, both because the amendment was an important step toward full political equality for citizens of the nation’s capital and because it was frustratingly incomplete.
A half-century later, the District of Columbia’s population, estimated in the new census at 601,723, is larger than Wyoming’s and only slightly smaller than Vermont’s. Yet Washingtonians still have no meaningful voice in Congress and lack full authority over their own affairs.
Washington is an undemocratic anomaly, despite the grand ideals of equal rights carved into the city’s stone monuments. Its second-class citizenship is a legacy of racial injustice and, more recently, partisanship in Congress.
To preserve the capital’s independence from politics in the states, the nation’s founders provided in the Constitution for a federal district over which Congress would “exercise exclusive legislation.” Nonetheless, Congress soon chartered a city government. By 1848, all of the capital’s white male residents were entitled to vote for a mayor and city council....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 10:08
SOURCE: The Nation (3-28-11)
More than a million people teach at colleges and universities in the United States, but only one faces a Republican demand for his e-mails: William Cronon, who teaches history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison....
The Republican Party of Wisconsin last week filed an open records request demanding access to any e-mails Cronon sent or received since Jan. 1 containing the search terms “Republican,” “collective bargaining,” “rally,” “union” or the names of eight Republicans targeted for recall by liberal activists. That seems to be legal under the state’s version of the federal Freedom of Information Act....
What provoked the Republicans was Cronon’s first-ever blog post, published at his new website, “Scholar as Citizen.” The demand for his e-mail was filed right after that appeared; thus that blog post provides the key to understanding why the Republicans want to stop Bill Cronon. It was titled “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere?” Cronon’s post didn’t make a complex argument, the way his books do. Instead it presented a simple fact, pointing to a little-known group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model laws which are then introduced by Republicans in state legislatures—for example, laws eliminating collective bargaining with state employee unions. ALEC has been in operation since the seventies and claims its members introduce 1,000 pieces of legislation every year in all fifty states.
The power of this simple fact lies in the way it disrupts the Republicans’ explanation of what they are doing in Wisconsin. They say the new law there ending collective bargaining with public employee unions is an emergency response to this year’s fiscal crisis. They say it’s a response crafted by local Wisconsin state representatives to help their neighbors who are facing big new tax burdens. Cronon suggested that none of this is true: the law is not a response to the current fiscal crisis, it’s been a Republican priority for decades; it’s not a Wisconsin idea, it comes from a national Republican think tank. And the goal is not to protect the little guy in Wisconsin but rather to help the big corporations that fund Republican operations....
Posted on: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 16:41
SOURCE: The Atlantic (3-24-11)
President Obama's pragmatic approach to foreign policy has long frustrated observers. His decisions -- drawing down forces in Iraq while surging troops into Afghanistan, leaving the Fifth Fleet docked in Bahrain while the Sixth Fleet pummels Libya -- have laid him bare to charges of inconsistency and incoherence.
A Politico headline sums up the common complaint: "In Search of the 'Obama Doctrine." "I certainly don't see any Obama doctrine," sniped Max Boot. "Instead what I see is the president frantically reacting to the press of events." In an effort to explain itself, the administration summoned a small group of generally-sympathetic wonks to the West Wing. Brian Katulis, for one, walked away unconvinced, puckishly tweeting: "Can you help me find something? I'm looking for that Obama doctrine on national security."
The problem, of course, is that the president is committed to not applying a single, simple frame to a complex and evolving world. Doctrines are antithetical to pragmatism. Yet in our increasingly democratic age, as the electorate insistently wrests control of foreign affairs away from the mandarins, they are also indispensable tools of persuasion. And a president who cannot persuade the public of his approach, tying together disparate policies into a convincing package, risks losing the ability to implement or sustain his vision.
This is the paradox of pragmatism: the flexibility most likely to produce success is often least likely to consolidate political support....
Posted on: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 09:39
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (3-24-11)
In taking the country into a war with Libya, Barack Obama's administration is breaking new ground in its construction of an imperial presidency -- an executive who increasingly acts independently of Congress at home and abroad. Obtaining a U.N. Security Council resolution has legitimated U.S. bombing raids under international law. But the U.N. Charter is not a substitute for the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress, not the president, the power "to declare war."
After the Vietnam War, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which granted the president the power to act unilaterally for 60 days in response to a "national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." The law gave the chief executive an additional 30 days to disengage if he failed to gain congressional assent during the interim.
But, again, these provisions have little to do with the constitutionality of the Libyan intervention, since Libya did not attack our "armed forces." The president failed to mention this fundamental point in giving Congress notice of his decision on Monday, in compliance with another provision of the resolution. Without an armed "attack," there is no compelling reason for the president to cut Congress out of a crucial decision on war and peace.
This is particularly striking since, in the Libyan case, the president had plenty of time to get congressional support. A broad coalition -- from Senator John McCain to Senator John Kerry -- could have been mobilized on behalf of a bipartisan resolution as the administration engaged in the necessary international diplomacy. But apparently Obama thought it more important to lobby the Arab League than the U.S. Congress....
Posted on: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 09:27
SOURCE: NYT (3-26-11)
AT first glance, the numbers released by the Census Bureau last week showing a precipitous drop in Detroit’s population — 25 percent over the last decade — seem to bear a silver lining: most of those leaving the city are blacks headed to the suburbs, once the refuge of mid-century white flight.
But a closer analysis of the data suggests that the story of housing discrimination that has dominated American urban life since the early 20th century is far from over. In the Detroit metropolitan area, blacks are moving into so-called secondhand suburbs: established communities with deteriorating housing stock that are falling out of favor with younger white homebuyers. If historical trends hold, these suburbs will likely shift from white to black — and soon look much like Detroit itself, with resegregated schools, dwindling tax bases and decaying public services.
Detroit is not the only American city to face persistent residential segregation, but it is among the worst: it has ranked among the 10 most segregated metropolitan areas in the United States since the mid-20th century (though the rate of black-white segregation there has fallen markedly in the last decade, as blacks have moved into once-exclusive white neighborhoods)....
...[M]any believed that Detroit’s pattern of racial segregation was simply a matter of market forces. Or they attributed the whiteness of the suburbs to black racial inferiority: blacks, they said, did not have the discipline to own homes. Still others assumed that blacks didn’t move to the suburbs because they couldn’t afford it.
But those explanations were just convenient myths. Blacks and whites alike wanted to own their own homes and gardens, find better schools for their children and live on safe streets. But unlike whites, blacks did not have the freedom to move where they pleased. Detroit had many all-white suburbs with affordable housing, but qualified black homeowners could not get mortgages to move there....
Posted on: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 08:35
SOURCE: NYT (3-26-11)
A REVOLUTION resembles the death of a fading star, an exhilarating Technicolor explosion that gives way not to an ordered new galaxy but to a nebula, a formless cloud of shifting energy. And though every revolution is different, because all revolutions are local, in this uncertain age of Arab uprisings and Western interventions, as American missiles bombard a defiant Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, as the ruler of Yemen totters on the brink and Syrian troops fire on protesters, the history of revolution can still offer us some clues to the future....
...[T]he life span of a dynasty corresponds to the life span of an individual,” wrote Ibn Khaldun, the brilliant 14th-century Islamic historian-statesman. All these Arab “monarchies” have rested on the prestige of a religion (Saudi Wahhabism or Iranian Twelver Shiism), a personality (in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution; in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, the memory of the most popular Arab ruler since Saladin, President Gamal Abdel Nasser; in Saudi Arabia, the founder-king Ibn Saud) or a heredity link (Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s descent from Muhammad). But “prestige ... decays inevitably,” ruled Ibn Khaldun....
Such dictators are often so sclerotic that they do not even realize there is a revolution until it is upon them. In 1848, Prince Metternich, the Austrian chancellor, was so old that he literally could not hear the mobs outside his own palace. When the riots started, I imagine Colonel Qaddafi or King Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain had a conversation something like this one:
“So what is it? A riot?” asked King Louis XVI in Paris in 1789.
“No, Sire,” replied his confidant La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, “it is a revolution.”
Leaderless revolutions without organization have a magically spontaneous momentum that is harder to crush. Lenin had just reflected that the revolution would never happen in his lifetime when in February 1917, hungry crowds in Petrograd overthrew Nicholas II while the revolutionaries were abroad, exiled or infiltrated by the secret police.
This time, headless spontaneity has been aided by Facebook, which certainly accelerates the mobilization of crowds — and the transmission of Western culture, whether it concerns Charlie Sheen’s soliloquies or the joys of American democracy. But technology’s effect is exaggerated: in 1848, the revolution that most resembles today’s, uprisings spread from Sicily to Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest in mere weeks without telephones, let alone Twitter. They spread through the exuberance of momentum and the rigid isolation of repressive rulers....
“Very pleasing commencements,” wrote Edmund Burke, observer of the French Revolution’s spiral from freedom to terror, “have often shameful, lamentable conclusions.” Look at Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution against Syria and its ally Hezbollah, which has ended with a Syrian-backed, Hezbollah-dominated government. The first success of revolution creates the exuberant dizziness of democratic freedom that we saw in Cairo and Benghazi. In Europe in 1848, in Russia in 1917, there were similarly exhilarating springs.
Often temporary leaders arise — think of Aleksandr Kerensky, the strutting Russian prime minister for some months before the Bolsheviks seized power — but every revolution has its figures who provide fig leafs for the hard men. Khomeini appointed Mehdi Bazargan, a democrat, as his prime minister, who ended up resigning during the hostage crisis.
The fiesta does not last long. The disorder, uncertainty and strife of a revolution make citizens yearn for stable authority, or they turn to radicalism. Certainly, extremists welcome this deterioration, as Lenin, that laconic dean of the university of revolutionology, expressed it with the slogan: “The worse, the better.” (At that point, extreme solutions become more palatable: “How can one make a revolution without firing squads?” asked Lenin.)...
The wisest judgments belong to statesmen who knew much about crushing and making revolutions. “Old Europe is at the beginning of the end,” reflected the ultraconservative Metternich as he was beset by revolutions, “but New Europe however has not yet even begun its existence, and between the End and the Beginning, there will be Chaos.” Lenin understood that the ultimate question in each revolution is always the unfathomable alchemy of power: who controls whom. Or as he put it so succinctly: “Who whom?”
Posted on: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 08:31
SOURCE: CNN.com (3-21-11)
Major crises can inflict great political damage on U.S. presidents. Regardless of all the weapons that come with the office, presidents throughout American history have discovered that they can quickly be overwhelmed when events spin out of control.
The ways in which presidents respond to these crises have a profound impact on their political standing.
President Obama is still in a good political position for the 2012 election. Most of the Republicans who have toyed with the possibility of running would be candidates with significant vulnerabilities. And the Tea Party's power among Republicans could alienate moderate voters.
But over the past few months, Obama has had to confront crises at a dizzying pace. And these events swirled against the background of a chronically high unemployment rate that has been the most frustrating challenge that this administration has faced. Some critics say Obama has not been leading in these areas, that he is shifting his position as events unfold and that he lacks a strong plan for handling these multiple situations....
Jimmy Carter learned how politically damaging these kinds of crises could be -- particularly once the public came to believe that the White House didn't seem to be in control of events....
Posted on: Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 17:21
SOURCE: CS Monitor (3-24-11)
A few summers ago, I took my daughter and a few of her friends to see the rapper Lil Wayne in concert. He bounded onto the stage in a blaze of blinking lights, then served up the usual menu of songs about gangsters, hustlers, and pimps.
And the mostly white audience cheered.
Why? There were many reasons, I’m sure, but here’s the most troubling one: The images in the songs confirmed white listeners’ lowly view of black people. That put me into a deep funk, which continued long after the concert was over.
Now I’m in a funk again, thanks to remarks about Duke University basketball by Jalen Rose. In a new ESPN documentary about the so-called “Fab Five” hoops team at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, Mr. Rose (a member of the Fab Five) says that he and the other African-Americans on the Michigan squad believed that Duke “only recruited black players who were Uncle Toms.”...
These are all good questions, but they ignore the role of the white community in this scenario. And that’s too bad, because Rose’s comments – like many rap songs – reinforce every anti-black prejudice in the white mind.
If African-Americans with two-parent families and formal education are somehow sellouts or Uncle Toms, after all, that means “real” or authentic blacks are uneducated people who live in single-parent homes. If you were a white person who openly despised African-Americans, wouldn’t that be sweet music to your ears?...
...[A]s this sad episode has demonstrated, plenty of black people still think that an educated and successful African-American is just “acting white.” The “real” blacks are down in the “hood,” immersed in drugs and crime and irresponsible sex.
And, lest we forget, plenty of white people agree. You can see them at any rap concert, shucking and jiving to the most bigoted stereotypes in the American racial lexicon. Every time an African-American indulges in these images, a white person consciously – or unconsciously – applauds. And that might be the most upsetting image of all.
Posted on: Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 14:43
SOURCE: The New Republic (3-24-11)
It may have come as a surprise to many people that Germany—the lynchpin of the NATO alliance on the European continent and a close ally of the United States since 1949—voted to abstain from the U.N. resolution authorizing force against Muammar Qaddafi. The country was a staunch advocate of humanitarian intervention in the Balkans, and it is most definitely not led by a government of leftists who are given to denunciations of American imperialism. Indeed, Chancellor Merkel’s affinity for American values is so pronounced that President Obama recently awarded her our highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Why, then, has Germany been so adamant in its opposition to the Libya intervention?
The answer begins with the fact that two competing narratives of history are currently jostling for supremacy in German politics—each of which presents a dramatically different approach to the memories of World War II and the Cold War. One important thing to note about these narratives is that they are not simple matters of left and right: They cross both ideological and party lines.
The first narrative downplays the connection between force and freedom. It deemphasizes the fact that only Allied arms defeated the Nazi regime, while tending to accentuate the role of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, the West German and West European peace movements, and Mikhael Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost as the causes of the end of the Cold War. In some accounts, the hard line taken by the Western alliance before and during the 1980s and the role of Eastern European dissidents who delegitimized Communist ideology get less attention or are mentioned only as factors that endangered peace....
Posted on: Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 14:37
SOURCE: Tablet Magazine (3-24-11)
A few months ago, as I was finishing my book on the Eichmann trial, a friend asked me, “What do you know now that you did not know before you began your work?” I launched into a discourse on the various details of this fascinating trial. Before I could get too far, he stopped me. “No, I’ll read the book to get the story. Instead tell me what you now know in your gut that you did not know before.” He paused for a second and then added, possibly aware that it was a strange question to ask a scholar about a topic to which she has devoted an extended period of time and effort: “What’s the bottom line?”...
Thinking about the anti-Semitism, which is the foundation stone of denial and the refusal—denial?—of so many people to take the topic seriously, made the “bottom line” of the Eichmann trial and, by extension, the Holocaust patently clear. It is quite simple and straightforward. Had the world taken Nazi anti-Semitism more seriously from the outset of the rise of the Third Reich the subsequent tragedy might have been quite different....
Most of all, the actions of not just Adolf Eichmann but all those who played a role in the Final Solution remind us that we should pay particular heed to threats that emanate from those who have the ability to do real harm. During the past five years we have heard a stream of Holocaust denial, overt anti-Semitism, and threats against Israel emanate from the mouth of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Many people have dismissed him as a deranged person whose crazy comments are best ignored. Some scholars have gone to great efforts to explain away his threats against Israel. That is to engage in a form of self-delusion, if not denial. Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial is linked directly to his animus toward Israel. In 2009, after questioning the existence of the Holocaust, he declared it a ploy used by the Jews to get the West to accede to the creation of Israel. This, of course, comes on top of his infamous Holocaust denial conference in 2006. The Iranian Foreign Ministry, which was an official host of the gathering, made common ground with some of the world’s most infamous deniers and anti-Semites. It offered them a chance to express their animus toward both Israel and the Jews. The conference constituted a virtual Who’s Who of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, including Robert Faurisson, one of the leading “theorists” of the movement who lives in Vichy France; Australian Fred Tobin, whose Adelaide Institute is a bastion of denial activities; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; and Bradley Smith, founder of the Committee on Open Debate on the Holocaust, which was responsible for placing a series of ads in college and university newspapers denying the Holocaust. The conference itself followed the Iranian contest on Holocaust-denial cartoons, which had the official imprimatur of Ahmadinejad....
Seventy years ago people had an acceptable reason to say, “We could never fathom that Hitler meant what he said.” Today we no longer have that luxury. At the very least it behooves us to take Ahmadinejad and those among his fellow Muslim leaders and opinion-makers seriously. Their Holocaust denial is part of their contemporary political agenda....
Posted on: Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 14:26