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: NYT (8-30-11)
Posted on: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 17:55
SOURCE: New York Newsday (8-30-11)
Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of history and education at New York University, is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory."
Is the GOP becoming the "anti-science party"?
That's what Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman warned last week, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he's right. Example A is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently suggested that man-made climate change was a vehicle for scientists to aggrandize themselves rather than an accurate way of describing the world.
Listen closely, however, and you'll hear echoes of the "postmodern" attack on science that was popular in certain precincts of the academic left two decades ago. In grad school, I was told science was simply one way of looking at the world. But its practitioners cloaked it in the universalistic dogma of "objectivity" -- note the inevitable air quotes -- and successfully imposed their dogma on the rest of us.
That's pretty much what Perry maintains today. "I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects," he said earlier this month, during a discussion of climate change. He also claimed that other scientists were "questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change."...
Posted on: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 17:52
SOURCE: WSJ (8-31-11)
Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chairman of Hoover's working group on Islamism and the International Order.
On the face of it, the similarities of the undoing of the terrible regimes of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi are striking. The spectacles of joy in Tripoli today recall the delirious scenes in Baghdad's Firdos Square in 2003—the statues pulled down, the palaces of faux grandeur and kitsch ransacked by people awakening to their own sense of violation and power, the man at the helm who had been full of might and bravado making a run for it, exposed as a paranoid and pretender, living in fear of his day of reckoning.
In neither case had the people of these two tormented societies secured their liberty on their own. In Baghdad, the Baathist reign of terror would have lasted indefinitely had George W. Bush not pushed it into its grave. There had been no sign of organized resistance in that terrified land, not since the end of the 1991 Gulf War and the slaughter that quelled the Shiite uprising.
Libya offered its own mix of native resistance and foreign help. A people who had been in the grip of a long nightmare saw the Arab Spring blossom around them. On their western border, the Tunisian kleptocracy had fallen and the rapacious ruler and his children and in-laws had scurried out of the country. Ruler and ruled in Libya saw themselves in the Tunisian struggle, for Gadhafi had been an ally of the Tunisian strongman.
But it was Egypt, the big country on Libya's eastern frontier, that shook the Libyan tyranny...
Posted on: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 06:20
SOURCE: NYT (8-29-11)
Posted on: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 13:51
SOURCE: The New Republic (8-24-11)
Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of The New York Times Book Review, is writing a biography of William F. Buckley Jr. This article originally appeared in the September 15, 2011, issue of the magazine.
It was not so long ago that George W. Bush seemed to embody the future of conservatism. He had entered office amid doubts about his rightful place there, but pressed ahead nonetheless with grand ambitions, conducting an ideologically potent foreign war while also promising much at home. Which led some to wonder: Was this lavish spender really a conservative? Bush’s champions rushed in to explain. The president, Fred Barnes wrote approvingly in The Wall Street Journal in August 2003, was a “big government conservative.” He believed, that is, in “using what would normally be seen as liberal means—activist government—for conservative ends.”
Bush, influenced by neoconservatives inside his administration and beyond, practiced a conservatism that placed almost all its faith in the muscular powers of the executive—particularly in its aggressive prosecution of the war on terrorism. Even at the end of his presidency, as Republicans began to distance themselves from Bush, some continued to defend his style of conservatism. William Kristol, in a column published a month after Barack Obama’s victory, pleaded with conservatives to “think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of ‘small-government conservatism’” when “in the real world of Republican governance, there aren’t a whole lot of small-government Republicans.”
How quaint this seems today. Like so many others, Kristol has since scampered over to the small-government side; he recently nursed dreams of a Paul Ryan-Mario Rubio ticket in 2012 and joined the starve-the-government crusade of his onetime adversary, Grover Norquist. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is desperately fleeing the health care reform he engineered in Massachusetts, even as a once-marginal figure like Michele Bachmann now commands a loyal national following.
Today, Bush’s presidency appears to have been an anomaly. In fact it was the terminus of a completed phase—call it imperial conservatism—in which every Republican president was a big-government conservative, in action if not in words. Just as the cold war gave Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon cover for their big-government schemes, so did the war on terrorism protect Bush as he enlarged the federal bureaucracy and increased federal spending. But, as the immediacy of 9/11 recedes, an older conservative ideology—one that was eclipsed for much of the imperial age—has found new life.
THE MODERN RIGHT can be understood as a conflict between two different species of conservatism: presidential and legislative. While a Democratic president like Woodrow Wilson sought to expand the reach of his office, his Republican successors (Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover) sought to restrain it. The grand projects of Franklin Roosevelt, meant to combat the Great Depression, alarmed many on the right. To them, the growth of the executive at the expense of Congress implied the loss of America’s town-hall virtues, its ideal of a self-governing citizenry. “Subservience in legislative halls is the spot where liberty commits suicide,” Herbert Hoover declared in a speech denouncing Roosevelt’s impending third term. In those years, and even at the outset of the cold war, the dominant Republican politicians were not presidential nominees like Wendell Willkie and Thomas Dewey, but legislators like Robert Taft and Joseph McCarthy, tribunes of the party’s Midwestern “Old Guard.”...
Posted on: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 10:32
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (8-28-11)
In his latest book, The End of Anger: A New Generation's Take on Race and Rage (Ecco), published in May, the journalist Ellis Cose argues that middle-class African-Americans are uniquely optimistic about the future. A few months later, however, the Pew Research Center disclosed that from 2005 to 2009, the racial wealth gap had reached a record high, with wealth falling by 53 percent among black households. That news arrived as President Obama and Congress brokered an end to the debt-ceiling standoff, laying the groundwork for deficit cuts that will disproportionately affect black Americans. Meanwhile, prominent voices in the black public sphere have been urging African-Americans to defend Obama against his detractors. How to reconcile Cose's optimism, Pew's findings, and the appeals of African-Americans to circle the wagons, even as Obama appeases Republicans by sacrificing black constituencies and interests? Simply put, you can't.
The dissonances of the past few months indicate how class complicates black politics. African-Americans have traditionally perceived their fates as linked, so for some, the thinking goes, public criticism of Obama undermines the collective interests of the black community. This view, expressed recently by the Rev. Al Sharpton and the radio personality Tom Joyner, reflects the anxiety and optimism of striving black professionals, many of whom regard the president as a symbol of black middle-class triumph. But their insistence on keeping quiet, however well-meaning, carries dangers that black-studies scholars are well positioned to highlight and critique....
Such denunciations capture what Ellis Cose—in an earlier book—characterized as the rage of a black privileged class. Scorned and marginalized in their own professional lives, they identify with Obama as a symbol of self-affirmation. Yet this attitude threatens to distort black discourse at a crucial moment. Emphasizing Obama's heroics prioritizes personal charisma over collective ability and wisdom. Why is the president more deserving of support than members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus, a number of whom have lobbied against Tea Party Republicanism, pressed for jobs programs and public-investment initiatives, and refused to vote for the draconian debt-ceiling compromise? Of what value is the president's virtuosity if it bolsters a longstanding liberal retreat from issues of racial and economic inequality? What good is his "cool" if it masks, as the entertainer and civil-rights veteran Harry Belafonte has claimed, Obama's lack of moral courage?...
Posted on: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 10:23
SOURCE: Newsweek (8-28-11)
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, was published in November.
It still works. Western military intervention—no matter how halfhearted and apparently ineffectual—is still sufficient to tip the balance against a rogue regime. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi had the same distinctive qualities as his entire career: a strange mixture of the bloody and the farcical, like a cross between Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. But fall he did, even if, as I write, he has still eluded capture. This much is certain: his overthrow would not have happened without the support, mostly but not exclusively in the air, that NATO provided to the rebels against his rule.
It still works. Last week, exultant rebels in Tripoli clambered on Gaddafi’s vainglorious statue of an American warplane in the grip of a mighty Libyan fist. Turns out that in the age-old game of missile-revolt-dictator, the political equivalent of rock-paper-scissors, missile still beats dictator. Slobodan Milosevic could have told him. So could Saddam Hussein.
It still works. The outcome in Libya was decided by the United States and its European allies. China may have the world’s fastest-growing economy, but its leaders have been more or less irrelevant. Last week, they belatedly recognized the legitimacy of the rebels’ National Transitional Council. Doing so only after the rebels were inside Gaddafi’s compound redefines “behind the curve.”
It still works. But it’s not enough...
Posted on: Monday, August 29, 2011 - 07:01
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (8-26-11)
Richard J. Evans is regius professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge.
The annual dissection of GCSE results, announced on Thursday, is well under way, and as usual, commentators have been wringing their hands about the decline of history as a subject. Conservative MPs have described the situation as "alarming", while the Daily Telegraph accuses schools of "refusing to offer GCSEs in history". They echo concerns voiced by Michael Gove, the education secretary, and historians Niall Ferguson and Simon Schama, who advocate a facts-based approach to a core narrative of British history as a means of stopping the rot.
Much of this alarmism is exaggerated. History has been an optional subject since GCSEs were introduced in the 1980s Then it was taken by just over a third of students; in 2011 by just under a third. The decline in entries this year has been just over 1%. Hardly drastic. And a major reason why more students aged 14-16 don't take history is the requirement to study English, maths, science, religious studies, citizenship and ICT up to school-leaving age, while history is optional after 14.
Alarmists conveniently pass over the fact that entries for history at A-level have been steadily increasing for a decade, with numbers up an astonishing 9.5% this year. So complaints that history is "disappearing from our schools" are misplaced. Nevertheless, there are undeniably problems that need to be faced: most seriously the tendency of some schools to reduce history teaching up to the age of 14 in favour of subjects more central to league tables; notably Maths and English,merge it with other subjects in generalised "humanities" teaching; and appoint non-historians to teach it....
Posted on: Saturday, August 27, 2011 - 11:18
SOURCE: Newsweek (8-14-11)
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, was published in November.
Small wonder the Chinese news agency was on gloat mode during the week of Aug. 8. The U.S. stock market fell off a cliff, bounced briefly, and then fell again. The Federal Reserve admitted the economy is close to stalling. And in China? Oh, just the usual. Exports surging to record heights, that sort of thing.
At first sight, recent events have exemplified the great shift from West to East that is the biggest story of our time. Even before the odds of a “double-dip recession” shot upward, the International Monetary Fund was forecasting that China’s gross domestic product would overtake that of the United States by 2016. And as everyone knows, China is now America’s biggest foreign creditor.
And yet, in several weeks of traveling through China, I’ve found myself wondering if Beijing is tempting fate by so openly relishing America’s current misfortunes. Apart from a few days in Beijing, I’ve eschewed the favorite destinations of Western visitors. I’ve been to Yanan, where Mao established his grip on the Communist Party in the 1930s, and where people in outlying villages still literally live in caves. I’ve been to Xian, to see the burial place of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor, who hammered China into a single Middle Kingdom more than two millennia ago....
Posted on: Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 16:13
SOURCE: NYT (8-25-11)
Rick Shenkman is the publisher of the History News Network and author of "Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter." He wrote this for the New York Times's "Room for Debate" feature on the question, "What if Republicans Close the E.P.A.?"
Not even Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the conservative movement, attempted to abolish the E.P.A. — and with good reason. There was an easier way to sabotage environmental regulations, which was after all the goal. It was to put deregulators in charge of the agency and then cut its budget. The first year of his administration, E.P.A. enforcement actions referred to the Justice Department fell by 69 percent. Only a scandal involving one Anne Gorsuch Burford, the now forgotten administrator of the agency, prevented its wholesale dismantling just a decade after it was established by (surprise!) Richard Nixon.
Nixon had roared into Washington to cleanse the Augean stables to the cheers of conservatives hostile to big government. Alas, for their sake, he turned out to be a stealth happy regulator, helping establish, in addition to the E.P.A., the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Office of Consumer Affairs, among other initiatives.
Why was Nixon persuaded to establish the E.P.A.? Like the leading lights of the progressive movement, he was appalled by government inefficiency. The E.P.A. nicely consolidated functions that previously had been the responsibility of 44 agencies and 9 departments. (In the topsy-turvy world of G.O.P. politics, it is now claimed that abolishing the E.P.A. will enhance government efficiency. The claim on behalf of one bill introduced this spring is that consolidating the departments of energy and the E.P.A. will save a “staggering” $3 billion the first year alone.)
Ten years after its founding, the E.P.A. had become so much a fixture in Washington that Reagan never considered abolishing it outright. Only the Energy Department, established just a few years earlier by Jimmy Carter, was slated for abolition, and it survived. In Reagan’s diary is a curious passage in which he brags that “I promised to do away with the Energy Dept. Jim Edwards (Sec.) has carried this out.” This entry is recorded on Page 56. Some 617 pages and seven years later, the Energy Department is apparently still in existence as Reagan bemoans the request of bureaucrats for a $21 million increase in its budget. Moral of this story: Getting rid of departments ain’t easy.
There is another entry in Reagan’s diary that caught my eye as I was researching his record. It is the entry from Wednesday, March 16, 1983. Reagan notes in passing that he “dropped in on a meeting with several dept. heads from the E.P.A.” following the resignation of Anne Gorsuch Burford, who had been cited for contempt of Congress. Reagan continued: “We’re trying to boost their morale.” The statement fascinates. Was the intention to buck them up so that they could continue writing new regulations? Or was it to bolster their spirits as they unwrote regulations? The latter is more likely. When people hostile to government are put in charge, it’s seldom to make government more efficient, no matter what they say.
Posted on: Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 16:04
SOURCE: National Review (8-24-11)
NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.
Since 2009, the example of the economic boom following World War II has been used by Keynesians to justify their record “peacetime” levels of borrowing intended to lift the U.S. out of the doldrums. Indeed, the more the contemporary borrowing fails, the more the vast indebtedness of the war years is invoked to reassure us. On occasion a wry lament follows that if only a spaceship full of dangerous aliens were to appear, we might have the requisite excuse to follow our grandfathers into a new collective frenzy of economic stimulus and public debt.
Citing the benefits that accrued from World War II, of course, is ironic for lots of reasons — aside from the horror of 50 million dead. Modern liberalism has argued that defense spending, in all its manifestations, is ipso facto an uneconomical use of national resources. Money spent building an artillery gun and training a youth to fire it supposedly could be better spent subsidizing higher education or producing a hybrid car — as if the modern college turns out better disciplined, more motivated, and better educated young people than does the Marine Corps or Air Force; as if deterring aggression is more costly than meeting it on the battlefield at a disadvantage; as if the habitual exactness and lasting skills acquired in building a huge fleet carrier are comparable to those required for building a Chevy Volt....
[And] the world abroad in 1946 was hardly similar to the world in 2011. Review the prior status of our present global competitors: India was a backward colony and in civil turmoil. War-torn China was about to embark on the most self-destructive social experiment in human history. Two-thirds of a centrally planned Soviet Union was in shambles. Western Europe was near starving after years of bombing and Nazi strangulation. The future export powerhouses of Japan and Germany were in ruins. Brazil was pre-modern. The miracles of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea were still imaginary. A victorious Britain was full of self-doubt and exhausted, busy dismantling its colonial empire and nationalizing its steel, transportation, health, and energy industries....
But if we must go back to the post–World War II era for an example to enlighten us about what the current Obama policies presage, then the similarities to the present are not to be found in 1940s America. A better guide is Clement Attlee’s 1946 United Kingdom, which, like Obama’s 2011 America, sought to retrench from the world scene, lead from behind, and establish a much-vaunted high-tax, big-government, cradle-to-grave redistributive welfare state — one whose legacy we have just witnessed in London’s streets.
Posted on: Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 11:03
SOURCE: National Review (8-25-11)
The war in Libya about to end, at least the anti-Qaddafi part of it, is one of the most unusual in modern history. It began as a rebellion that the regime appeared it could probably, narrowly, suppress. French author and very public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy visited Benghazi, Libya’s second city and the seat of the rebellion, and telephoned the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and told him: “French flags are being flown out of the windows of Benghazi, and if France doesn’t assist the rebels, their blood will be on our flag.” This was somewhat tortuous reasoning, as if all a dissident group in one country needed to do to gain the support of another (relatively powerful) country was to show some enthusiasm for it....
France has no historic concern with Libya. However, France does have a Muslim problem. Having occupied Algeria in 1830, and treated it legally as a province of France and not a colony, France — when it vacated Algeria in 1962 after a fierce and bloody war of independence — had to receive not only the one million Europeans, in the Algerian population of nine million, who fled the vengeance of the rebels, but also more than a million Arabs who had been loyal to France. Almost 50 years later, the Muslim (mainly Arab) population of France has grown to seven million in a population of 60 million.
Many of them can be presumed to be enthusiastic French citizens, but many are afflicted by the social disease of millions of other Muslims across Europe, and are very antagonistic to the nation and culture that is their host. The backlash against Muslim violence and other provocations has become a powerful issue in France, and, at the time of Lévy’s call from Benghazi, for the first time in the Fifth Republic (founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1958, and the most successful governmental system France has ever had), a racially exclusivist and right-wing populist party (the National Front) was running almost even in the polls with the Gaullists, who have won eight of this Republic’s ten presidential elections, and the Socialists, who won the other two elections....
Posted on: Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 11:00
SOURCE: The China Beat (Blog) (8-24-11)
James A. Millward is Professor of Intersocietal History at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Bloomberg, and more recently The Washington Post, have run stories about the visa problems of scholars who contributed to Xinjiang: China’s Muslim Borderland, a volume edited by Frederick Starr and published by M.E. Sharpe in 2004. The Bloomberg piece was exhaustively reported; the reporters who wrote it, Dan Golden and Oliver Staley, conducted interviews with Chinese as well as western participants in the episode, and all in all did a good job with a complicated story.
Inevitably, however, the Bloomberg piece creates some misconceptions, and these are as likely to be reinforced as cleared up in news reports that build on it, as the Washington Post story of last weekend shows. Now seems the time both to correct the problematic aspects of the Bloomberg piece and also to discuss lessons we may take away from the entire episode. There are a couple of key issues involved. Of special importance to scholars of China: are you in danger of being banned for what you write? My answer below will be, “not really.” And for universities, grant agencies and other institutions involved in academic exchanges with China, the episode raises the question of what you should do in the face of official Chinese interference in curriculum, research, guest lectures or other academic matters. I will suggest that a strong and collective response, organized by institutions and not left to the affected scholars themselves, is imperative. The reason for such a response is not simply to help individual scholars get visas, but to make the point that academic exchange must be unhampered and reciprocal and to set the right tone for future academic interchange with China.
1. Why were contributors to this book refused visas?
Believe it or not, it was not the content per se of the Starr volume that caused the trouble. Those who have read it, in China and outside, are surprised that it caused such a furor. This volume on Xinjiang doesn’t touch directly on the most sensitive issues of human rights or terrorism, for example. Is it different in approach and argument from writing on Xinjiang published in China? Of course. Could it have been translated into Chinese and openly distributed in China? No. But in this it is no different from anything written outside China on such “sensitive” 敏感 issues as contemporary Chinese politics, Taiwan, Tibet, the environment, Falun Gong, the Cultural Revolution or CCP history. We can’t know for sure (few if any people are ever told explicitly why a visa is denied), but it seems that the contributors to this volume were refused visas more because of context than content, because of the fact of the book’s existence and the manner in which authorities learned of it, rather than what was in the book itself. The following are among the special circumstances that led to the trouble:
•Politicization of the project:
Editor Frederick Starr, not a China specialist, contacted the Chinese embassy at the very start (without prior knowledge or consent of the contributors), seeking official Chinese collaboration. I believe this put the work on radar screens it otherwise would not have got on. A better approach would have been to work through Chinese academic contacts, either individual scholars or the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Also possibly contributing to the problem was the fact that meetings associated with the book were held in Washington, D.C. Besides this, there was the unfortunate Chinese rendering of the initial working title, “Xinjiang Project,” as Xinjiang gongcheng 新疆工程. Unlike “project,” a term innocuous enough in English, “gongcheng” has political connotations. The more neutral xiangmu 项目, or even simply yanjiu 研究, would have been preferable and more accurate. The fact that the book was mischaracterized in Chinese as a US government-funded project arises from these and related circumstances. The book received Luce Foundation funding, and meetings were held at Johns Hopkins SAIS. The only government involvement was that which Starr sought from the Chinese government.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 14:44
SOURCE: Grove City College Center for Vision & Values (8-24-11)
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism," and his latest release, "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."
Posted on: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 11:51
SOURCE: National Interest (8-22-11)
Benny Morris is a professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-GurionUniversity of the Negev. His most recent book is One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (Yale University Press, 2009).
The head of Israel's opposition, Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, had it right when she said last Friday that Israel's southern border with Egypt was "no longer a border of peace.” She was referring at once to the complex attack across the Sinai border the day before by Palestinian terrorists, which left eight Israelis dead (six of them civilians, including two middle-aged sisters) and two dozen wounded, and to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1979. The purport of Livni's statement was underlined by Egypt's announcement Saturday withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv and demanding an Israeli apology for the death of three of its soldiers as a result of Israel's responses to the terrorist attack. (The Egyptians, under U.S. pressure, subsequently withdrew their threat to recall the ambassador, but are insisting on an Israeli apology and on compensation for the families of the Egyptian dead—though they have said nothing about compensation for the families of Israel's dead, due to their own negligence.) The Egyptians were also miffed at Israeli criticism of Egypt's negligence in allowing the terrorist raid, launched from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, to take place.
The raid, mounted by 10–15 Palestinian fighters from the Gaza Strip's Resistance Committees, led to a flurry of Israeli counterstrikes against terrorists in Gaza and Sinai, and then to terrorist rocket attacks against Israel's southern cities, including Ashdod and Ashkelon.
Placing the weekend's events along the Sinai-Israel border in a wider regional context, it can be seen that the popular uprising half a year ago in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria which ousted the 30-year-old regime of President Hosni Mubarak is steadily, perhaps inexorably, leading to the unraveling of the peaceful, if very formal, relations that have reigned between the two countries since Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the treaty on the White House lawn. Such an unraveling bodes ill for the future of Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Muslim relations more generally...
Posted on: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 05:35
SOURCE: American Interest (blog) (8-22-11)
Walter Russell Mead is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of The American Interest.
With the forces of humanitarianism and international law, or at least the forces of his tribal and religious enemies, closing in on his Tripoli lair, Africa’s King of Kings and Loon of Loons is on the verge of overthrow.
And in Damascus, Butcher Assad, the world’s most notorious opthamologist, watched the Great Loon’s last stand as he contemplated the prospect of economic sanctions that could cut into his bullet and thug budget, reducing the rate at which he is able to slaughter his opponents and possibly even threatening his hold on power.
Via Meadia has wanted both the Loon and the Butcher gone for a long time; we only wish the Dear Leader of North Korea and the Lion of Zimbabwe were packing their luggage under similar time pressure. They can be strung up in the streets like Mussolini, they can kill themselves in their last redoubts like Hitler, they can go to the Hague like Milosevic, or they can go to Saudi Arabia like Idi Amin. (Not acceptable: going like Baby Doc to the south of France.) But they need to go.
What this means for the people of Libya and Syria will only slowly become clear. The Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions were less disruptive and violent than the Libyan civil war, and both countries possessed institutions stronger than anything left in Libya today. The future is still murky in Egypt and Tunisia; six months from now the future of Libya will likely also still be hard to predict.
Strikingly, much of the celebratory commentary over the fall of Tripoli overlooked the comparison to the fall of Baghdad when jubilation soon gave way to other emotions. “Mission accomplished!” was the dominant theme on the nets. Memories are short in the Tweet Age, but 2003 was not all that long ago...
Posted on: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 05:28
SOURCE: Jacksonville Journal-Courier (8-23-11)
Steve Hochstadt of Jacksonville is a professor of history at Illinois College. His column appears every Tuesday in the Journal-Courier and is available and on his blog at stevehochstadt.blogspot.com.
Libertarianism is mainstream. It seems as if the libertarian moment has finally arrived, when Americans grasp the significance of the national Libertarian Party motto: “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom.”
The level of anti-government sentiment in the U.S. is startling. Liberals think the Democratic president and his Democratic Congressional colleagues have failed miserably to promote liberal policies, and talk about taking their disapproval to the streets. Republicans have been preaching an anti-government line since Ronald Reagan was president, and have shown more than once their willingness to thwart the normal working of the federal government.
Self-promoting ideologues, like Glenn Beck, adopt a Libertarian cover to hide fascist ranting. Congressman Ron Paul, who talks like a Libertarian, is making a respectable run for the presidency.
But the Libertarians can’t win. The two big parties have so entrenched themselves behind a wall of laws and practices, that the rise of a popular third party is nearly impossible. Among 7,300 state legislators across the country, less than one-third of 1 percent are from other parties. Only in Vermont has a third party had any success: Three percent of state representatives belong to the Vermont Progressive Party, which was founded to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 12:59
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (8-19-11)
Timothy Snyder is professor of history at Yale University. An expert on eastern Europe and the second world war, he has published numerous books and written articles for periodicals such as the New York Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, New Republic, Prospect and the Nation. His latest book is Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010).
As Michele Bachmann contends for the Republican nomination, we might ask what her Tea Party means for her native midwest. In southwestern Ohio, where I was born and raised, mantras of low taxation and small government have become the way to avoid discussing the challenges of globalisation. Beneath this region's soothing triple green of maize, soybeans, and copses of trees is a soil that serves the world. Places like Clinton County, where my family has lived for two centuries, are the American epicentres of an inspiring but pitiless global economy. Global competition has made family farming here all but impossible, and the region's sowing and reaping is now done by combines that are in effect mobile, high-tech agricultural factories. The labourers no longer needed in the countryside found work in these parts with the international courier service DHL, which in the last decade used Clinton County as its domestic hub. When parent company Deutsche Post suddenly closed DHL's US domestic operations in 2008, 7,000 men and women lost their jobs.
Clinton County is a good example of what happens when harsh global economics go unsoftened by policies of national welfare. The county seat, Wilmington, has a population of only about 12,000. Its businesses had already taken a beating from Wal-Mart, and could hardly absorb the unemployed. Most of the 7,000 newly jobless had health insurance through their workplace, and when they lost their jobs, they lost their coverage. Some fell ill or even died from entirely treatable conditions. For the last two years the headlines of the Wilmington newspaper have been dominated by stories of basement labs for the production of methamphetamine, which reporters simply call "meth." In recent weeks this has given way to news of arrests of heroin dealers. Despite or perhaps because of their struggles, the farmers and workers of Clinton Country are overwhelmingly Republican.
When I first heard of Ohioans taking part in the "Tea Party" in 2009, I assumed that the name referred to late-afternoon political networking over scones. The people from my home state whom I knew to be enthusiastically involved had made their fortunes much earlier, and were quite rich. When I realised that the reference was to American colonial tax revolts against Britain of the 1770s, I was dumbstruck. As anyone who went through Ohio's public schools should know, the American patriots of the day were not protesting against paying taxes. They were demanding to be represented by the government that taxed them, which is something quite different. What American patriots opposed was not taxation itself, but taxation without representation....
Posted on: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 07:34
SOURCE: Daily Star (Lebanon) (8-21-11)
John Sainsbury is a professor of history at Brock University.
A frail man, Anna Hazare, goes on a hunger strike to protest corruption in India. Thousands rally to his cause in New Dehli. The old man is arrested and protests spread nationwide. Rahul Gandhi, scion of the family that dominates the ruling National Congress Party, orders Hazare released. Hazare refuses to leave prison until the government promises to allow his campaign to continue freely. The government buckles and Hazare continues his fast.
For those with long memories or some knowledge of history, the events playing out in India evoke a sense of déjà-vu. They recall the non-violent campaign of Mohandas Gandhi — revered by his followers as “Mahatma” (Great Soul) — to win independence for his country and the erratic response of the ruling British to his methods. (Mohandas Gandhi, it should be noted, shared the name of the powerful Gandhi dynasty, but he was not its ancestor.)
The parallels are stronger given that Hazare was himself a disciple of Gandhian philosophy.
But before we run too far with the idea that history is repeating itself, we need to recognize some differences…
Posted on: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 07:29
SOURCE: London Review of Books (8-25-11)
... Had politics not intruded and had Obama heeded the advice of centre-left economists, these are the steps he might have taken. First, do nothing about the debt, at least not now. The debt can be significantly reduced only if the economy improves. The best way to encourage that is for the government to spend, which will add to the debt in the short term but reduce it in the long term through revenues generated by growth. Second, once the economy is healthy, increase taxes, particularly on the wealthy. As a share of GDP, revenues are at their lowest levels since 1950. With the exception of a brief interregnum in the late 1980s and early 1990s, top marginal rates are the lowest they’ve been since 1931. Corporate taxes in the US are the lowest of any OECD country. The notion that taxes shouldn’t be raised, not only to fund necessary and desirable expenditure but also to cut the debt, runs counter to common sense. Last, cut military spending. As the economic journalist Doug Henwood has observed, if the US simply returned to the spending levels of 2000 – when ‘the Pentagon didn’t have to hold bake sales’ and spending was 3.7 per cent of GDP as opposed to the current 5.4 per cent – it could save $3.6 trillion in the next decade, 72 per cent more than the debt-ceiling deal negotiated by Obama and Congress will save.
Instead, Obama and Congress took the opposite path, which was paved 40 years ago by the anti-tax philosophy of the American right. In February 2010, Obama convened a bipartisan commission to balance the budget by 2015, effectively making debt reduction a top priority. After the November midterm election, when the Republicans took back the House with the help of the Tea Party, Obama froze the pay of federal workers and endorsed a more aggressive austerity programme. Cuts were proposed and tax increases dismissed: not just once (with the extension of the Bush tax cuts in December) but twice (with the first phase of the debt deal, which eliminates $900 billion solely through spending cuts) and now potentially a third time (with the second phase of the deal, which eliminates an additional $1.2 trillion solely through spending cuts if a congressional committee can’t produce an alternative package of tax increases and spending cuts by November). While the deal does include defence cuts – though it’s unclear if these are cuts or simply slower rates of growth, and whether and how most of them will happen – Obama’s latest comments, and those of his defence secretary, suggest they could be traded for benefit cuts....
Historically, debt crises resulting from wars have catalysed politically progressive advances and even precipitated revolutions. Both Charles I and Louis XVI found themselves entangled in military conflicts their tax systems couldn’t fund. Debts eventually forced both into fatal confrontations: Charles with Parliament in 1640 and Louis with the Estates General in 1789. Beyond financial exigency, the revolutions that overthrew these sovereigns drew on arguments the kings themselves had to make in order to raise taxes and fund their wars. As Richard Tuck has suggested, it may have been Charles himself who opened the door to democracy in England. Levying an ancient tax on coastal towns (ship money) to fund a naval expedition against the Dutch, the Crown made the claim that the people’s safety was the highest ground for political action – an axiom of republicans through the ages – superseding any law or constitution. Though used to justify absolutism, Charles’s rhetoric about the ‘interests of the people’ carried a subversive democratic implication: these are not my wars, they’re yours, and you ought to do everything you can to see that they are won. Parliamentary forces could counter that if the interests and safety of the people were the gold standard of politics, it should be the people’s elected representatives who decided what that interest or safety consisted in and how it ought to be secured.
Posted on: Thursday, August 18, 2011 - 11:17