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: WaPo (4-8-11)
All wars are terrifying gambles, but the wars justified with moral claims of humanitarianism carry a distinctively harrowing set of risks and problems — above all, the challenge of preventing massive human catastrophes with limited means. In Libya, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama are already beginning to confront many of the classic dilemmas that bedeviled their predecessors facing massacres and genocide in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.
The big democracies usually stand idly by during the worst atrocities, including the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. Simply to defend core national security interests, the Western allies might have been better off this time concentrating on threats in North Korea, Pakistan or Yemen. (After the United States invaded Iraq, Condoleezza Rice reportedly warned George W. Bush about Darfur: “I don’t think you can invade another Muslim country during this administration, even for the best of reasons.”) If Western strategists saw a more complex interest in furthering the democratic impulses of the Arab revolutions, Libya still may not have seemed of paramount importance compared with, say, Egypt or Tunisia.
But what seemingly counted most in Libya was that civilians in Benghazi might, as Obama said last month, “suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
This raises the first inevitable problem: Since the goal is the defense of humanity, and there are humans facing violence in many places, how do you intervene in one spot and not another without drawing accusations of hypocrisy? After all, horrific mass atrocities happen all over the world; there are other countries that have endured worse slaughter than Libya without eliciting Western interventions. As the writer David Rieff has noted, during debates about rescue in the Balkans in the 1990s, skeptics would say, “I’ll see your Bosnia, and raise you one East Timor.”..
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 10:19
SOURCE: Newsweek (4-10-11)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that information technology—in particular social networking through the Internet—is changing the global balance of power. The “Facebook Generation” has already been credited with the overthrow of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. For a brief period, the darling of Tahrir Square was the young Google executive Wael Ghonim.
Yet there is another side to the story. It is not only proponents of democracy who know how to exploit the power of online networking. It is also the enemies of freedom.
Ask yourself: just how did the murderous mob in Mazar-e Sharif find out about the burning of a Quran in Florida? Look no further than the Internet and the mobile phone. Since 2001 cell-phone access in Afghanistan has leapt from zero to 30 percent.
Or consider the fact that, before Facebook took down a page called “Third Palestinian Intifada”—which proclaimed that “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews”—it had notched 350,000 “likes.”
It seems paradoxical. In Samuel Huntington’s version of the post–Cold War world, there was going to be a clash between an Islamic civilization that was stuck in a medieval time warp and a Western civilization that was essentially equivalent to modernity. What we’ve ended up with is something more like a mashup of civilizations, in which the most militantly antimodern strains of Islam are being channeled by the coolest technology the West has to offer...
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 10:08
SOURCE: NYT (4-10-11)
DID Cathleen P. Black, the former publishing executive who was removed last week after just three months as New York City’s schools chancellor, fail because she lacked a background in education?
In this respect, she has had quite a bit of company over the decades. In 1996, Washington hired a former three-star Army general, Julius W. Becton Jr., to take over its low-performing schools; he left, exhausted, after less than two years. For most of the last decade, the Los Angeles Unified School District was run by non-educators: a former governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, and then a retired vice admiral, David L. Brewer III. They got mixed reviews. Raj Manhas, who had a background in banking and utilities, ran Seattle’s schools from 2003 to 2007, balancing the budget but facing fierce opposition over his plans to close schools.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who had hired Ms. Black without public discussion, quickly replaced her with a deputy mayor steeped in education policy. But the real issue is not the superintendent’s or chancellor’s background, but the excessive emphasis that politicians, educators and parents place on the notion of leadership rather than on empirical evidence about what improves education.
Even as the specific fixes advocated for schools have changed, the role of school-district leaders has gotten greater attention — and the selection process has become more political....
Posted on: Monday, April 11, 2011 - 09:15
SOURCE: NYT (4-10-11)
GEORGE ORWELL is usually a footsure guide across political battlegrounds. In late 1943, when the tide had turned in the Allies’ favor, he wrote about postwar trials. Oddly, he advocated Hitler and Mussolini slipping away. His verdict for them would not be death unless the Germans and Italians themselves carried out summary executions (as they eventually did in Mussolini’s case).
He wanted “no martyrizing, no St. Helena business.” Above all, he disdained the idea of a “solemn hypocritical ‘trial of war criminals,’ with all the slow cruel pageantry of the law, which after a lapse of time has so strange a way of focusing a romantic light on the accused and turning a scoundrel into a hero.”
For once Orwell missed his step. The Allies did stage a trial of the Nazi war criminals, at Nuremberg. (My father, Hartley, was the chief British prosecutor.) The trial had flaws. To some it will always seem to be “victors’ justice” and it can be called hypocritical in that the Soviet Union, guilty of many of its own crimes against humanity, was an equal partner with the democratic prosecutors and judges.
But, over all, it succeeded very well. It was solemn, as it should have been, and what Orwell called “the pageantry of the law” was neither cruel nor slow — the trial began in November 1945 (remarkably this was only six months after the German surrender) and was all over by the following October. Would that anything could be done so efficiently today....
Nuremberg not only dispatched justice swiftly, it also created a historical narrative that has survived. Robert H. Jackson, the chief American prosecutor and the driving force behind the trials, told President Harry S. Truman that he had assembled more than five million pages of evidence. The files of the SS alone needed six freight cars to carry them. Subsequently the tribunal published 11 volumes of documents and 20 volumes devoted to the proceedings alone. The eminent British historian Alan Bullock wrote of his excitement at reading through these records: whatever the arguments about justice, “from the point of view of the historian the Nuremberg trials were an absolutely unqualified wonder.” Nuremberg was essential in creating memory and senses of responsibility, in Germany itself and far beyond....
Posted on: Sunday, April 10, 2011 - 13:11
SOURCE: Salon (4-10-11)
Gore Vidal tells of an apocryphal pilgrimage each April 12, the anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death at Warm Springs, Ga. The trek, organized by the Dutchess County New York Republican Central Committee, supposedly wends its way up the old Albany Post Road from Poughkeepsie to Springwood, FDR's beloved Hyde Park home. According to Vidal, the mythic mission is meant to reassure twitchy Republicans that the 32nd president still rests in something approaching peace at the Hyde Park Presidential Library -- that he has not risen for some new 21st century "rendezvous with destiny."
Fable or not, Roosevelt's mythic resurrection is not just a wisp-of-the-political-wind. Today, perhaps more than any time in generations, the American right seems unable to rest easy until all vestiges of the social welfare programs associated with FDR's New Deal are dead and buried with him.
More imposing (if less charming) than Roosevelt's Hudson River home and library, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace in Palo Alto is Hyde Park's physical, political and spiritual antipode. Ten miles from California's restless Pacific coast, the 25-story sandstone Spanish-Colonial Hoover Tower is the tallest structure on the forearm of the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose. It is part of Stanford University's campus, and it is home to the intellectual cream of the New Deal-phobic American right.
The physical and geographical dissimilarities between the Hoover Institution and Roosevelt Library make a solid gantry for any examination of the fundamental political and personal antagonisms between Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover and how succeeding generations of their kith have hefted the political cudgel to carry on that fight. Friendly acquaintances early in their careers, the two men became the bitterest of rivals, opponents and ultimately enemies in what was arguably the most momentous clash of American political ideology in the 20th century. In the 1932 presidential campaign, the distinctions could not have been more starkly drawn: New York versus California, city versus frontier, Episcopal urbanity versus Quaker simplicity, yachting versus fly-fishing -- and, most important, government intervention versus economic hands-off.
* Continue reading
In '32 it was Roosevelt's "New Deal" that trumped Hoover's "New Day," beginning the unprecedented regime of social and economic interventionism that remains a critical national inflection point, one that Roosevelt partisans still believe saved the republic, and that Hooverites still violently attack as the beginning of the American welfare state.
In this clash, there remains a central enigma in what, with the possible exception of McCarthyism, remains America's most fiercely fought ideological conflict: Why was the uniquely capable Hoover so ill-equipped to meet America's worst economic crisis, while the seemingly out-of-his-depth Roosevelt managed to attack the Depression so effectively? Leave it to the Hooverites. Generation after generation, they have dedicated themselves to chipping away in an obsessive, decades-long campaign to discredit and overturn the "socialistic" theories and practice of the New Deal.
Throughout Roosevelt's never-to-be-equaled 12-year presidency and for over 60 years since, New Deal social welfare policies have rooted themselves in the American political briar patch. Yet, despite the popular acceptance of Social Security, Medicare and the panoply of today's New Deal-inspired social and economic programs, the Hooverite intellectual holding action has successfully fended off the final victory of Roosevelt's liberal vision over Hoover's free-market conservatism. Their ongoing counterattack is informed by the philosophies of Hoover, braced by the work of the institution bearing his name, and paid for by the free-market capitalists who still worship at Hoover's stately Stanford obelisk.
Today, 92 years after its founding, the Hoover Institution continues to venerate free enterprise, from which, according to the organization's mission statement, "springs initiative and ingenuity â€¦ in which the Federal Government should undertake no governmental, social or economic action except where local government, or the people, cannot undertake it for themselves." It is a sentiment widely disseminated in institution publications like the "Hoover Digest," a quarterly running stories with titles like "Permanent Tax Cuts: The Best Stimulus," "Why Detroit's Next Chapter Should Be Chapter 11" and other similarly oriented works by rightist public policy thinkers like Daniel Pipes, Victor Davis Hanson, Fouad Ajami and Niall Ferguson.
They and others under the Hoover Institution umbrella are today's intellectual sword-bearers in the Grand Duel between America's 31st and 32nd presidents, which survived Roosevelt's 1945 death and Hoover's 1964 passing. The Duel is a constant presence in the daily discourse of the modern era. In 2009, for example, the New York Times' Adam Cohen rebuked conservative talk show host Monica Crowley for her contention that the New Deal actually prolonged the Great Depression, an exemplar of popular, modern Hooverite doggerel. For his part, Cohen took this as a not so veiled assault on Obama economics -- a viewpoint, according to Cohen, that neither the Americans of the 1930s nor their modern-day heirs would buy. "They knew," wrote Cohen, "that FDR was on their side in a way that Herbert Hoover and his fellow free marketers hadn't been."...
Posted on: Sunday, April 10, 2011 - 12:10
SOURCE: Salon (4-8-11)
Newt Gingrich can't get enough American exceptionalism. In "A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters," due out soon, the former House speaker and prospective Republican presidential candidate gives a new definition to the term, linking it directly to conservatives' understanding of the importance of the individual relative to the power of government. "That is why President Obama and the Left hate American Exceptionalism," he writes. They hate it because it stops them from expanding government power? That’s a pretty crazy argument.
Gingrich holds a Ph.D. in history, so he shouldn't mind if we investigate where the notion of American exceptionalism came from as we track what it has come to mean. Let’s begin with some early examples of the phenomenon:
In 1771, Connecticut clergyman and future Yale president Timothy Dwight published a poem that spoke to a continent's promise. "AMERICA’S bright realms arose to view, / And the old world rejoic'd to see the new." The newness of America, its unexplored expanse, produced a kind of ecstatic expectation among Revolutionaries, which enlarged as Britain acknowledged independence in 1783. In that year, another of Yale's presidents, Ezra Stiles, proclaimed that a "great people" would arise in America; and that by the year 2000 they would outnumber the Chinese, as a nation "high above all nations which [God] hath made."
In his momentous First Inaugural Address in March 1801, Thomas Jefferson called America "the world’s best hope." That same month, to Dr. Joseph Priestley, scientist and theologian, he wrote, even more sublimely: "We can no longer say there is nothing new under the sun. For this whole chapter in the history of man is new. The great extent of our republic is new." Jefferson and his peers were men of the 18th-century Enlightenment, at once idealists and pragmatists. Their complete adoration of science augmented a belief that the world would improve as tyranny was overthrown, the cause of education promoted, religious superstition undone, and the lives of all people enriched. Americans rejoiced in calling theirs an "infant empire," morally strong and liberty-loving....
Posted on: Friday, April 8, 2011 - 18:05
SOURCE: CNN.com (4-5-11)
Though Georgia is a continent and an ocean away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, we can be confident that an 86-year-old man in that state knows full well the fears the Japanese cleanup crews are experiencing.
The Georgian's name? James Earl Carter, the 39th president of the United States. Almost 60 years ago, and then a young U.S. Naval officer working at the dawn of the nuclear age with the U.S. atomic submarine program, Carter was physically lowered into a damaged nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, and exposed to levels of radiation unthinkable today after an accident.
"We were fairly well instructed then on what nuclear power was, but for about six months after that I had radioactivity in my urine," President Carter, now 86, told me during an interview for my new book in Plains in 2008. "They let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now. It was in the early stages and they didn't know."
Despite the fears he had to overcome, Carter admits he was animated at the opportunity to put his top-secret training to use in the cleanup of the reactor, located along the Ottawa River northwest of Ottawa....
Posted on: Friday, April 8, 2011 - 14:19
SOURCE: CNN.com (4-5-11)
...Now that President Obama has officially announced his re-election campaign, it's time to see how his opponents will position themselves. As the candidates start to emerge for 2012, it is becoming clear that the potential contenders are embracing several different traditions and approaches to Republican politics.
First there is big business Republicanism. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney best embodies the wing of the GOP that has championed the concerns of the business and financial community.
During the 1930s, NYU historian Kimberly Phillips Fein has shown, business leaders like the DuPont family mobilized to rail against FDR's regulatory initiatives. This faction of Republicans has usually challenged economic regulations and fought for tax reductions, though they have endorsed government subsidies that protect the corporate world....
Another Republican tradition has been called conservative populism. Some Republicans have tried to appeal to working and middle class voters who traditionally voted Democratic, while supporting economic policies that are at least on the surface more favorable to upper income Americans. These Republicans have argued that limited government, balanced budgets, and traditional social values will ultimately strengthen America's middle class much more than government benefits....
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, congresswoman Michele Bachman and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have staked their claims on these arguments. Pawlenty once said the GOP needs to become the party of "Sam's Club, not just the country club."...
Yet another strand of conservatism is establishment Republicanism. Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich best represent this tradition. In the 1960s and 1970s, Republicans could still claim to be something of an oppositional force in a Washington that was dominated by Democrats, but this has been a hard argument to make since Ronald Reagan became president....
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 17:34
SOURCE: Daniel Pipes at his blog (4-6-11)
When Pastor Terry Jones, 59, announced an intent to burn a Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2010, the U.S. government, fearing attacks on American troops abroad, put intense pressure on him to desist and eventually he called off his plans.
Pastor Terry Jones prepares for his mock trial of the Koran.
The event was intentionally ignored in the United States, in the hopes of limiting its impact, but little stays secret in the Internet age. Within two days, news of the conflagration had reached Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the country's presidents roundly denounced Jones, bringing his action to wide notice. On April 1, infuriated Afghans lashed out, killing twelve in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif; the next day, suicide bombers dressed in women's clothing attacked a coalition base in Kabul and street mobs in Kandahar again killed twelve.
(This, it bears observing, was just five more dead than in September 2010, when nineteen were killed as Jones only threatened to burn the Koran.)
Who is morally to blame for these deaths, Jones or the Islamists who seek to apply the laws of Islam in their entirety and as severely as possible?
Not surprisingly, Jones called the killings a" criminal action" and asserted that"We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities."
In contrast, Barack Obama characterized the Koran burning as"an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry" while calling the violent responses"dishonorable and deplorable." Members of Congress overwhelmingly blamed Jones:
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat of Nevada) said, he will"take a look" at introducing a resolution to condemn the Koran burning.
- Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (Democrat of Illinois) held that"this pastor with his publicity stunt with the Koran unfortunately endangers the lives of our troops and the citizens of this country and a lot of innocent people."
- Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina) expressed a wish to"find a way to hold [American] people accountable" and called free speech"a great idea, but we're in a war." (For a critique of Graham's embarrassing statement, by Ann Barnhardt, click here.)
- Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (Republican of Michigan) requested every American to"be thoughtful and mindful of each citizen's responsibility to do their part to make sure our soldiers come home safely."
Afghans near Kabul burn Pastor Terry Jones in effigy.
Indeed, some non-Islamist American Muslim leaders concurred with this sentiment. M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in Arizona blamed the killings on extremist leaders who exploited the Koran burning as an excuse for violence. The imam of an Ahmadiyya mosque in California, Shamshad Nasir, said his community"rejects any killing in the name of religion anywhere, even if it is done in the name of the most sacred scriptures."
As I wrote last September, when Jones threatened to burn a Koran, the"violence stems from Islamic law, the Sharia, which insists that Islam, and the Koran in particular, enjoy a privileged status." That insistence, which has been asserted in the West since 1989, when Ayatollah Khomeini put an edict on Salman Rushdie for his novel, The Satanic Verses, must not be indulged. Islam is one religion among others, with no claim to superior status. Indeed closing down the claim to Islamic supremacism may be the single greatest challenge to modernizing Islam.
However distasteful, Jones' act is both legal and non-violent. He is not responsible for the 43 deaths; the repugnant, barbaric ideology of Islamism is to blame. When will U.S. politicians realize this basic fact and stand up robustly for the civil liberties of American citizens? Critiquing Islam, tastefully or distastefully done, is a Constitutional right. Indeed, done intelligently it is a civilizational imperative.
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 17:30
SOURCE: Turkish Weekly (4-6-11)
Can central banks contain inflation? We once thought they could. Over the past 20 years, central banks around the world, including the United States Federal Reserve, pursued price stability with remarkable success. But now, in the wake of the financial crisis, a tide of distrust is sweeping the world – including a new and widespread fear that central banks are incapable of controlling inflation.
In the US, the Tea Party has made a return to the gold standard a part of its platform, and Utah is debating making gold and silver coins legal tender. German inflation worries have pushed the government into a much harsher stance on debt relief in Europe. In China, fear of inflation is unleashing large-scale discontent.
Inflation fear was already present before the new challenges of 2011 raised questions about long-term energy prices. As pro-democracy protests shake Arab authoritarian regimes, the prospect of sustained conflict threatens a global economy still dependent on oil, while the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and nuclear accident raises doubts about the security of nuclear energy.
The main anchor of central banks’ monetary policy over the past 20 years was an inflation-targeting framework that developed from academic interpretation of the problems involved in targeting monetary aggregates. After successful experiments in smaller economies, New Zealand in 1990 and then Canada in 1991, and later in Sweden and the United Kingdom, the conviction developed that the new approach represented a superior way of dealing with the problem of inflationary expectations....
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 16:35
SOURCE: Palestine Telegraph (4-5-11)
Gaza, (Pal Telegraph) - "If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone report would have been a different document." Thus opens Judge Richard Goldstone's much-discussed op-ed in The Washington Post. I have a strong feeling that the editor might have tampered with the text and that the original sentence ought to have read something like: "If I had known then that the report would turn me into a self-hating Jew in the eyes of my beloved Israel and my own Jewish community in South Africa, the Goldstone report would never have been written at all." And if that wasn't the original sentence, it is certainly the subtext of Goldstone's article.
This shameful U-turn did not happen this week. It comes after more than a year and a half of a sustained campaign of intimidation and character assassination against the judge, a campaign whose like in the past destroyed mighty people such as US Senator William Fulbright who was shot down politically for his brave attempt to disclose AIPAC's illegal dealings with the State of Israel.
Already In October 2009, Goldstone told CNN, "I've got a great love for Israel" and "I've worked for many Israeli causes and continue to do so" (Video: "Fareed Zakaria GPS," 4 October 2009)....
We have been there before. In the late 1980s, Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote a similar, sterile, account of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Palestinian academics such as Edward Said, Nur Masalha and Walid Khalidi were the ones who pointed to the significant implications for Israel's identity and self-image, and nature of the archival material he unearthed.
Morris too cowered under pressure and asked to be re-admitted to the tribe. He went very far with his mea culpa and re-emerged as an extreme anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racist: suggesting putting the Arabs in cages and promoting the idea of another ethnic cleansing. Goldstone can go in that direction too; or at least this is what the Israelis expect him to do now.
Professionally, both Morris and Goldstone tried to retreat to a position that claimed, as Goldstone does in The Washington Post article, that Israel can only be judged by its intentions not the consequences of its deeds. Therefore only the Israeli army, in both cases, can be a reliable source for knowing what these intentions were. Very few decent and intelligent people in the world would accept such a bizarre analysis and explanation.
Goldstone has not entered as yet the lunatic fringe of ultra-Zionism as Morris did. But if he is not careful the future promises to be a pleasant journey with the likes of Morris, Alan Dershowitz (who already said that Goldstone is a "repentant Jew") between annual meetings of the AIPAC rottweilers and the wacky conventions of the Christian Zionists. He would soon find out that once you cower in the face of Zionism -- you are expected to go all the way or be at the very same spot you thought you had successfully left behind you....
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 16:24
SOURCE: Newsweek (4-3-11)
Ever since Britain and France set out to dismember the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago, the West has been engaged in an incoherent, haphazard, episodic, but more or less relentless effort to impose its will on the Middle East. Methods have varied. Sometimes the “infidels” have employed overt force. At other times they have relied on covert means, worked through proxies, or recruited local puppets.
The purposes offered to justify Western exertions have likewise varied. With empire falling into disfavor, the pursuit of imperial aims has required conceptual creativity. Since 1945 resistance to communist subversion, a professed antipathy for brutal dictators, support for international law, and an enthusiasm for spreading freedom have all been pressed into service (albeit selectively) to legitimize outside intervention. Today’s “responsibility to protect” extends this tradition, offering the latest high-minded raison d’être for encroaching on the sovereignty of Middle Eastern states whenever the locals behave in ways that raise Western ire....
The results? As with the British, so with the Americans: an endless series of plots, alarms, excursions, and interventions ensued. Indeed, to combine first British and then American efforts to pacify the Middle East into a single seamless narrative is to describe an epic march to folly. Despite stupendous Western expenditures—the United States spent trillions trying to decide the fate of Iraq alone—the region as a whole has remained unpacified, untamed, unstable, and unpredictable. And now the ongoing Arab uprising has demonstrated that the people of the Middle East have an organic capacity to engineer change themselves, demolishing the patronizing notion that they (and by extension their neighbors) need outside oversight, guidance, or protection....
...Libya is an outlier. It won’t be and can’t be a bellwether. Apart from enabling policymakers in Washington, London, and Paris to reclaim a sense of self-importance, Western intervention in Libya will have little effect on the drama now unfolding in the Middle East. Pundits can talk of the United States shaping history. The truth is that history is shaping itself, while we are left to bear witness....
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 16:14
SOURCE: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (4-1-11)
FAIRBANKS — The residents of Alaska owe a debt of gratitude to Gov. Sean Parnell for proposing a cut of billions of dollars in oil taxes, but not for the substance of the proposal. He has not explained his 180-degree reversal on the tax issue. He has not explained why he now opposes the tax policy he has been supporting since it first passed and had endorsed less than a year ago during his election campaign. His administration seems unwilling or unable to provide solid evidence or do the research to prove that this idea makes fiscal sense.
But Parnell and the oil producers have correctly highlighted the long-term crisis facing Alaska that has been too easy for the uninformed public and timid politicians to ignore for too long: the continuing decline in oil production. At the current rate, this drop will lead in the not-too-distant future to the shutdown of the trans-Alaska pipeline and financial catastrophe for the state....
Alaska hit the jackpot with the discovery of Prudhoe Bay, and we have been living off that fortune ever since, even as the flow through the pipeline has declined for more than 20 years. We need to face reality; the easy oil money is almost all gone. We can’t responsibly plan for the future by hoping to win the lottery again, even if somewhere a second Prudhoe Bay lies still undiscovered....
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 16:00
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (4-6-11)
It's now clear that the Libya campaign won't last "days, not weeks," as U.S. President Barack Obama promised, but rather, months -- and maybe years. Before U.S. involvement stretches that long, however, the administration will have to confront the 60-day time limit set by the War Powers Resolution, during which the president may take unilateral military action without a congressional resolution. After the 60th day, if Congress refuses to consent to the operation, the president is required to withdraw from Libya within 30 days. Today is day 19....
...Indeed, the administration suggested on March 24 that "time-limited, scope-limited military action" isn't the sort of thing the Constitution had in mind when giving Congress the power to declare war.
This narrow redefinition of "war" represents a fundamental breach with constitutional tradition. "Time-limited, scope-limited military action" is as old as the republic. In 1798, the newly formed United States launched its first military struggle as a "limited war" with France. Instead of standing on the sidelines, Congress passed four separate statutes spelling out the scope and limits of the conflict. The Supreme Court then made it clear in 1800 that limited, as well as unlimited, wars must be approved by Congress....
In the modern era, all U.S. conflicts have been limited wars. The last time Congress pledged to devote "the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government" was when it declared war on Germany in World War II. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War (perhaps the most scarring limited war), Congress saw the need to pass the War Powers Resolution, which aimed to "fulfill the intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States" by ensuring that the "collective judgment of both the Congress and the President" would control the use of force.
President Richard Nixon vetoed the resolution in 1973 precisely because it placed constraints on unilateral war-making by the executive office. But as the measure had the broad support of ordinary Americans, it was passed by a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House. This judgment, made by a generation that had struggled through World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, should not be dismissed lightly....
Posted on: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 15:38
SOURCE: National Review (4-6-11)
Almost every promise, almost every reset proclamation from Barack Obama about the struggles against, and those within, the radical Muslim world has either been withdrawn or proven bankrupt.
On the day the president announced his reelection bid, his administration renounced its loud promises to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a New York civilian court. While blaming Congress for the flipflop, Team Obama conceded that it had no public support for such a sensational courtroom drama — and knew that the trial of the mastermind of 9/11, a few blocks from the site of his mass murdering, might have endangered the president’s reelection.
Consider the rest of the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols, all of which Senator Obama demagogued and promised to overturn, or at least curtail, if he was elected president. Yet Obama has now embraced military tribunals, kept Guantanamo open (and will probably put new prisoners in it), left the Patriot Act largely untouched, vastly expanded the Predator targeted-assassination program, continued renditions, declared preventive detention and the suspension of habeas corpus legal and necessary in the case of terrorists, surged in Afghanistan, and kept to the Bush-Petraeus-Maliki agreements on scheduled troop withdrawals from Iraq. President Obama assumes two facts: Such policies are critical in keeping us safe; and they can be embraced without worry over demagogic attacks by the likes of Senator Obama.
Candidate Obama’s campaign opposition to all of the above, except the war in Afghanistan, weakened American credibility at a critical juncture in the war in Iraq, and helped propel him to victory over Hillary Clinton as a more passionate and leftward critic of George Bush. That he has now simply copied Bush’s anti-terrorism agenda, gussied it up with some ridiculous euphemisms, and banned descriptive terms like “war on terror” and “radical Islam” exposes him as hypocritical, naïve, and weak. Hypocritical: If these measures were bad in 2008, why are they good in 2011? Naïve: Did Obama really believe that campaign rhetoric was synonymous with the responsibility of governance? Weak: Why boast about ending Bush’s protocols only to give up on repealing them at the first sign of political pushback?..
Posted on: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 09:57
SOURCE: LA Times (4-5-11)
Watergate was "the ultimate stress test" for the nation, says Timothy Naftali, director of the Nixon Library. It was also a stress test for the National Archives and the Nixon Library.
The Nixon Presidential Library and Museum's original exhibit about Watergate, designed in 1990 by Nixon loyalists before the National Archives took over operation of the library, explained Watergate as a third-rate burglary exploited by the president's enemies to reverse the results of the 1972 election. Now, with the long-awaited opening of the library's new Watergate exhibit, the public finally has a museum that tells the full story of what President Ford called "our long national nightmare"— and tells it with authority and rich detail, mobilizing up-to-the-minute interactive technology that might even engage middle school students brought here on tours.
That story is still devastating. The exhibit makes clear how, with the country in turmoil over an unpopular war, the president became obsessed with "enemies" and formed a secret unit, "the plumbers," to carry out illegal assignments. When its members got arrested breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee, the president discussed paying them hush money, talked about how to pardon them before they could tell their story, and then ordered the CIA to tell the FBI to stop its investigation of presidential wrongdoing....
Posted on: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 09:04
SOURCE: Pajamas Media (4-4-11)
Despite all the legally binding treaties, covenants, and agreements that established the Palestine Mandate in 1922 and empowered its British administration to ensure that this area would become “the Jewish National Home,” it’s strange that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are condemned as “illegitimate,” “illegal,” and “violations of international law.” How did this happen?
Bashing “the settlements” is commonly used to delegitimize Israel, negate the right of Jews to live in their homeland, and promote a second Arab Palestinian state. But are these charges valid? In order to answer this question one must refer to the law, the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV), specifically Article 49.
Does GC IV apply to Israel? Do settlements violate GC IV? Is Israel occupying another country? Did Israel compel a transfer of populations, considered illegal under GC IV? Who has sovereignty? These questions have occupied generations of legal experts and politicians, filled library shelves, and generated much confusion....
To whom does this territory legally belong? Jordan claimed it as its “West Bank” until 1988; Israel was willing to exchange it for peace, but the Arabs refused. In 1971, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the official “guardians” of GC IV, arbitrarily declared that Israel’s presence in “occupied territories” violated GC IV and was therefore illegal....
[But] logically, since Jordan renounced its claim to Judea and Samaria in 1988, and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, recognizing its current border, the only other possible valid legal claim, defined in the Mandate, is that of Israel; Palestinians have no claim because the area was never a Palestinian state....
Posted on: Monday, April 4, 2011 - 20:33
SOURCE: American Interest (blog) (4-2-11)
Niccolo Machiavelli is one of those rare writers so well known that his name has become an adjective; ‘Machiavellian’ means crafty and ruthless. And over the centuries, Machiavelli’s most famous book, The Prince, has vexed moralists for its seeming defiance of all moral laws.
The ruler, Machiavelli tells us, must not just learn to do good; he must learn to do evil — and learn to do it well. It is better, he tells us, to be feared than to be loved. A ruler must not be afraid to commit atrocities — but he must commit them at the right time so that they will serve their intended purpose. It is wise to break promises to the weak, and often necessary for a successful ruler to lie. It is useless to think of wars as just or unjust — it is only necessary to know when wars can bring success.
Machiavelli has been a scandal for almost 500 years — a shocking contradiction at the heart of the western canon. A long moral and philosophical tradition going back to the ancient Hebrews and Greeks insists on the opposite: that to do good is to do well. God will bless those who deal justly and punish those who mistreat their fellow beings.
Since Aristotle tutored Alexander of Macedon, the wise have counseled the great to be good. Machiavelli says that is all balderdash, and counsels rulers to be devious and ruthless rather than honorable and fair. He is so shocking that we can’t quite make our peace with him — but also too smart to ignore.
Today, the shadow of Machiavelli hangs over American foreign policy debates...
Posted on: Monday, April 4, 2011 - 07:51
SOURCE: New York Post (4-4-11)
When President Obama made his Cairo speech two years ago, apologiz ing for nearly everything America had done in the Mideast since Jimmy Carter, some of us worried that the goal was nothing less than terminating US influence there. Two signal events last week at either end of that volatile region suggest that's exactly what's happening.
The first was the decision to pull US ships and planes out of combat operations in Libya and to leave the rest to NATO unless the rebels are on the brink of destruction. The second, even more disturbing, was the report that, at the height of the anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain two weeks ago, the Pentagon ordered our ships and personnel at our naval base there to clear out, leaving only a skeleton staff.
Our naval base at Manama is the biggest in the region. It's the home of the Fifth Fleet, the guardians of Persian Gulf stability, and plays host to successive US carrier groups that keep watch over a hostile Iran.
Yet it seems the administration was ready to hand the place over to any anti-American or pro-Iranian demonstrators poised to take over in Bahrain, until the Saudis finally intervened and sent in troops -- thus saving our strategic bacon as well as their own...
Posted on: Monday, April 4, 2011 - 07:45
SOURCE: Newsweek (4-3-11)
You remember Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit Murder on the Orient Express? The problem for the great Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot was that there were far too many suspects. The strange death of the European Union may prove to be a rather similar case.
So used are we to hearing the process of European integration likened to an unstoppable train that we discount the idea it could ever stop in its tracks. Yet the reality is that Europe has been quietly disintegrating for some time.
Outwardly, it’s true, Europe’s leaders still appear to be inching toward their long-cherished goal of “ever closer union.” Last month they agreed to set up a new European Stability Mechanism to deal with future financial crises. It’s still a long way from being the United States of Europe, but most Americans assume that’s the ultimate destination: a truly federal system like their own. Think again. Not only has the economic crisis blown holes in the finances of nearly all EU states, it has also revealed a deep reluctance on the part of those least affected to bail out the hardest hit...
Posted on: Monday, April 4, 2011 - 02:40