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 (7-17-12)
NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.Barack Obama, both substantively and symbolically, ran in 2008 as a much-needed healer. He was to bring the nation together as never before — a vow taken to heart by millions of voters of all backgrounds who ensured Obama’s 2008 victory. His biracial background and his uncanny ability to navigate through both Harvard Law School and the politics of Chicago community organizing seemed to make him ideally suited to usher in a postracial era — as was acknowledged, albeit quite crudely and insensitively, by both Harry Reid and Joe Biden in the 2008 campaign. Yet quite the opposite development tragically has followed from Obama’s election. From the beginning of the 2008 campaign — evident in the exasperation of Bill Clinton (“they played the race card on me”) during the Democratic primaries — racial tensions have heightened, rather than lessened. We get a glimpse of the new strains in popular culture from the widely different reactions to the Trayvon Martin case: Black leaders point to racism in the treatment of “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman; whites cite rush-to-judgment bias against Zimmerman, as, in comparison, the wholesale carnage among black youth in Chicago is hardly discussed. When the president announced that the son he never had might have resembled Trayvon, one wondered what would have been the reaction had Bill Clinton weighed in right in the midst of the O. J. trial, lamenting that the second daughter he never had might have looked like the slain Nicole. Are the daily accounts of black-on-white violence and flash-mobbing that splash across, say, the Drudge Report racist in their emphases, or are the mainstream media’s efforts to ignore the incidents completely more likely to be racially illiberal?..
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 16:10
SOURCE: Philadelphia Inquirer (7-17-12)
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory" (Yale University Press). He can be reached at email@example.com.
Should the NCAA slap Penn State with a one-year "death penalty," barring the university's football team from competition?
That's the question that has been on many lips since former FBI Director Louis Freeh released his report detailing university officials' cover-up of child sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. But it's the wrong question.
The issue isn't what should be done to Penn State; it's what Penn State should do.
And the answer is as clear as Nittany Lion blue: Penn State should forfeit one season of its own accord — before the NCAA or anyone else makes the decision for it.
That's what Florida A&M University did to its famous marching band following the death of drum major Robert Champion last year. Thirteen band members were charged with hazing Champion, whose death was attributed to a severe beating....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 14:58
SOURCE: CNN.com (7-2-12)
(CNN) -- White House officials rightly breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. President Obama and his supporters are optimistic that his re-election prospects are stronger and his lasting impact on domestic policy will be much greater.
But the battle has only begun. Even after legislation is enacted, as the political scientist Eric Patashnik says in his book "Reforms at Risk," its survival is not assured. The key to success is whether a program lasts over time and builds strong political support to protect it from future attacks. As Patashnik and political scientist Jeffrey Jenkins wrote in a recent blog post, before the Supreme Court ruled: "The partisan and ideological struggle over health-care reform is likely to continue under any scenario."
Congressional Republicans will likely continue attacking the program's funding. House Speaker John Boehner has vowed to push for its repeal.
Mitt Romney has said he will do the same if he is elected president....
Posted on: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:49
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (7-11-12)
Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Intstitute Engaging Israel Research Fellow in Jerusalem. His next book, “Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight against Zionism as Racism,” will be published by Oxford University Press this fall.
Showing a remarkably Israeli insensitivity to international public opinion—or is it a charmingly Zionist assertion of independence?—the Levy Committee, chaired by the retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, has declared settlements legal and what is broadly called the “occupation” of the West Bank not a classic occupation under international law. The predictable Pavlovian reaction has Right Wing settlers calling for more settlement and Is-crits internally and externally condemning these rapacious, racist, imperialist colonialists.
Following the script, here on Open Zion Hussein Ibish called the Levy Report “The Anti-Balfour Declaration.” After making the subtle, clever argument that the Israeli government has to decide whether it wants to use the legal status of occupier to justify military measures and treat them as temporary or treat the territories as permanent extensions of Israel, with all the resulting democratic and demographic headaches, Ibish succumbs to the kind of moralistic rhetorical exaggeration that makes discussions about Israel and Palestine so combustible. Brandishing the A-word, apartheid, he writes: “When systematic ethnic discrimination is intended to be maintained rather than temporary, it is a crime under international law. Although Israel is not a signatory to the treaty, this is how the Statute of Rome, which outlines the work of the International Criminal Court, defines Apartheid.”...
Posted on: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 13:45
SOURCE: TomDispatch (7-12-12)
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the recently published Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt). This piece is the latest article in his series on “the changing face of American empire,” which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation.
They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks. Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.
Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map. Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa. It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”
In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make. They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.
On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes. The same is true in other African countries. The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.
According to Pat Barnes, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Camp Lemonnier serves as the only official U.S. base on the continent. “There are more than 2,000 U.S. personnel stationed there,” he told TomDispatch recently by email. “The primary AFRICOM organization at Camp Lemonnier is Combined Joint Task Force -- Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA's efforts are focused in East Africa and they work with partner nations to assist them in strengthening their defense capabilities.”
Barnes also noted that Department of Defense personnel are assigned to U.S. embassies across Africa, including 21 individual Offices of Security Cooperation responsible for facilitating military-to-military activities with “partner nations.” He characterized the forces involved as small teams carrying out pinpoint missions. Barnes did admit that in “several locations in Africa, AFRICOM has a small and temporary presence of personnel. In all cases, these military personnel are guests within host-nation facilities, and work alongside or coordinate with host-nation personnel.”
In 2003, when CJTF-HOA was first set up there, it was indeed true that the only major U.S. outpost in Africa was Camp Lemonnier. In the ensuing years, in quiet and largely unnoticed ways, the Pentagon and the CIA have been spreading their forces across the continent. Today -- official designations aside -- the U.S. maintains a surprising number of bases in Africa. And “strengthening” African armies turns out to be a truly elastic rubric for what’s going on.
Under President Obama, in fact, operations in Africa have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years: last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders. And this only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.
To support these mushrooming missions, near-constant training operations, and alliance-building joint exercises, outposts of all sorts are sprouting continent-wide, connected by a sprawling shadow logistics network. Most American bases in Africa are still small and austere, but growing ever larger and more permanent in appearance. For example, photographs from last year of Ethiopia’s Camp Gilbert, examined by TomDispatch, show a base filled with air-conditioned tents, metal shipping containers, and 55-gallon drums and other gear strapped to pallets, but also recreation facilities with TVs and videogames, and a well-appointed gym filled with stationary bikes, free weights, and other equipment.
After 9/11, the U.S. military moved into three major regions in significant ways: South Asia (primarily Afghanistan), the Middle East (primarily Iraq), and the Horn of Africa. Today, the U.S. is drawing down in Afghanistan and has largely left Iraq. Africa, however, remains a growth opportunity for the Pentagon.
The U.S. is now involved, directly and by proxy, in military and surveillance operations against an expanding list of regional enemies. They include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa; the Islamist movement Boko Haram in Nigeria; possible al-Qaeda-linked militants in post-Qaddafi Libya; Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Central African Republic, Congo, and South Sudan; Mali’s Islamist Rebels of the Ansar Dine, al-Shabaab in Somalia; and guerrillas from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen.
A recent investigation by the Washington Post revealed that contractor-operated surveillance aircraft based out of Entebbe, Uganda, are scouring the territory used by Kony’s LRA at the Pentagon’s behest, and that 100 to 200 U.S. commandos share a base with the Kenyan military at Manda Bay. Additionally, U.S. drones are being flown out of Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia and from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, while drones and F-15 fighter-bombers have been operating out of Camp Lemonnier as part of the shadow wars being waged by the U.S. military and the CIA in Yemen and Somalia. Surveillance planes used for spy missions over Mali, Mauritania, and the Sahara desert are also flying missions from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and plans are reportedly in the works for a similar base in the newborn nation of South Sudan.
U.S. special operations forces are stationed at a string of even more shadowy forward operating posts on the continent, including one in Djema in the Central Africa Republic and others in Nzara in South Sudan and Dungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. also has had troops deployed in Mali, despite having officially suspended military relations with that country following a coup.
According to research by TomDispatch, the U.S. Navy also has a forward operating location, manned mostly by Seabees, Civil Affairs personnel, and force-protection troops, known as Camp Gilbert in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. U.S. military documents indicate that there may be other even lower-profile U.S. facilities in the country. In addition to Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. military also maintains another hole-and-corner outpost in Djibouti -- a Navy port facility that lacks even a name. AFRICOM did not respond to requests for further information on these posts before this article went to press.
Additionally, U.S. Special Operations Forces are engaged in missions against the Lord’s Resistance Army from a rugged camp in Obo in the Central African Republic, but little is said about that base either. “U.S. military personnel working with regional militaries in the hunt for Joseph Kony are guests of the African security forces comprising the regional counter-LRA effort,” Barnes told me. “Specifically in Obo, the troops live in a small camp and work with partner nation troops at a Ugandan facility that operates at the invitation of the government of the Central African Republic.”
And that’s still just part of the story. U.S. troops are also working at bases inside Uganda. Earlier this year, elite Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the Uganda People's Defense Force, which not only runs missions in the Central African Republic, but also acts as a proxy force for the U.S. in Somalia in the battle against the Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab. They now supply the majority of the troops to the African Union Mission protecting the U.S.-supported government in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
In the spring, Marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force (BNDF), the second-largest contingent in Somalia. In April and May, members of Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, of the Texas National Guard took part in a training mission with the BNDF in Mudubugu, Burundi.
In February, SPMAGTF-12 sent trainers to Djibouti to work with an elite local army unit, while other Marines traveled to Liberia to focus on teaching riot-control techniques to Liberia’s military as part of what is otherwise a State Department-directed effort to rebuild that force.
In addition, the U.S. is conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia. AFRICOM also has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and Nigeria.
The size of U.S. forces conducting these joint exercises and training missions fluctuates, but Barnes told me that, “on an average basis, there are approximately 5,000 U.S. Military and DoD personnel working across the continent” at any one time. Next year, even more American troops are likely to be on hand as units from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Dagger Brigade,” are scheduled to deploy to the region. The roughly 3,000 soldiers in the brigade will be involved in, among other activities, training missions while acquiring regional expertise. "Special Forces have a particular capability in this area, but not the capacity to fulfill the demand; and we think we will be able to fulfill the demand by using conventional forces," Colonel Andrew Dennis told a reporter about the deployment.
Last month, the Washington Post revealed that, since at least 2009, the “practice of hiring private companies to spy on huge expanses of African territory… has been a cornerstone of the U.S. military’s secret activities on the continent.” Dubbed Tusker Sand, the project consists of contractors flying from Entebbe airport in Uganda and a handful of other airfields. They pilot turbo-prop planes that look innocuous but are packed with sophisticated surveillance gear.
America’s mercenary spies in Africa are, however, just part of the story.
While the Pentagon canceled an analogous drone surveillance program dubbed Tusker Wing, it has spent millions of dollars to upgrade the civilian airport at Arba Minch, Ethiopia, to enable drone missions to be flown from it. Infrastructure to support such operations has been relatively cheap and easy to construct, but a much more daunting problem looms -- one intimately connected to the New Spice Route.
“Marco Polo wasn't just an explorer,” Army planner Chris Zahner explained at a conference in Djibouti last year. “[H]e was also a logistician developing logistics nodes along the Silk Road. Now let's do something similar where the Queen of Sheba traveled." Paeans to bygone luminaries aside, the reasons for pouring resources into sea and ground supply networks have less to do with history than with Africa’s airport infrastructure.
Of the 3,300 airfields on the continent identified in a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency review, the Air Force has surveyed only 303 of them and just 158 of those surveys are current. Of those airfields that have been checked out, half won’t support the weight of the C-130 cargo planes that the U.S. military leans heavily on to transport troops and materiel. These limitations were driven home during Natural Fire 2010, one of that year’s joint training exercises hosted by AFRICOM. When C-130s were unable to use an airfield in Gulu, Uganda, an extra $3 million was spent instead to send in Chinook helicopters.
In addition, diplomatic clearances and airfield restrictions on U.S. military aircraft cost the Pentagon time and money, while often raising local suspicion and ire. In a recent article in the military trade publication Army Sustainment, Air Force Major Joseph Gaddis touts an emerging solution: outsourcing. The concept was tested last year, during another AFRICOM training operation, Atlas Drop 2011.
“Instead of using military airlift to move equipment to and from the exercise, planners used commercial freight vendors,” writes Gaddis. “This provided exercise participants with door-to-door delivery service and eliminated the need for extra personnel to channel the equipment through freight and customs areas.” Using mercenary cargo carriers to skirt diplomatic clearance issues and move cargo to airports that can’t support U.S. C-130s is, however, just one avenue the Pentagon is pursuing to support its expanding operations in Africa.
Another is construction.
The Great Build-Up
Military contracting documents reveal plans for an investment of up to $180 million or more in construction at Camp Lemonnier alone. Chief among the projects will be the laying of 54,500 square meters of taxiways “to support medium-load aircraft” and the construction of a 185,000 square meter Combat Aircraft Loading Area. In addition, plans are in the works to erect modular maintenance structures, hangers, and ammunition storage facilities, all needed for an expanding set of secret wars in Africa.
Other contracting documents suggest that, in the years to come, the Pentagon will be investing up to $50 million in new projects at that base, Kenya’s Camp Simba, and additional unspecified locations in Africa. Still other solicitation materials suggest future military construction in Egypt, where the Pentagon already maintains a medical research facility, and still more work in Djibouti.
No less telling are contracting documents indicating a coming influx of “emergency troop housing” at Camp Lemonnier, including almost 300 additional Containerized Living Units (CLUs), stackable, air-conditioned living quarters, as well as latrines and laundry facilities.
Military documents also indicate that a nearly $450,000 exercise facility was installed at the U.S. base in Entebbe, Uganda, last year. All of this indicates that, for the Pentagon, its African build-up has only begun.
The Scramble for Africa
In a recent speech in Arlington, Virginia, AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham explained the reasoning behind U.S. operations on the continent: “The absolute imperative for the United States military [is] to protect America, Americans, and American interests; in our case, in my case, [to] protect us from threats that may emerge from the African continent.” As an example, Ham named the Somali-based al-Shabaab as a prime threat. “Why do we care about that?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, al-Qaeda is a global enterprise... we think they very clearly do present, as an al-Qaeda affiliate... a threat to America and Americans.”
Fighting them over there, so we don’t need to fight them here has been a core tenet of American foreign policy for decades, especially since 9/11. But trying to apply military solutions to complex political and social problems has regularly led to unforeseen consequences. For example, last year’s U.S.-supported war in Libya resulted in masses of well-armed Tuareg mercenaries, who had been fighting for Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi, heading back to Mali where they helped destabilize that country. So far, the result has been a military coup by an American-trained officer; a takeover of some areas by Tuareg fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, who had previously raided Libyan arms depots; and other parts of the country being seized by the irregulars of Ansar Dine, the latest al-Qaeda “affiliate” on the American radar. One military intervention, in other words, led to three major instances of blowback in a neighboring country in just a year.
With the Obama administration clearly engaged in a twenty-first century scramble for Africa, the possibility of successive waves of overlapping blowback grows exponentially. Mali may only be the beginning and there’s no telling how any of it will end. In the meantime, keep your eye on Africa. The U.S. military is going to make news there for years to come.
Posted on: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 12:39
SOURCE: Tabsir (Blog) (7-12-12)
Daniel Martin Varisco is a professor of anthropology at Hofstra University.
The French savant and satirist Charles-Louis de Secondat, better known as Baron Montesquieu penned his Lettres Persanes in 1721, almost three centuries ago. This was long before the age of computers or the idea that eventually germinated in the head of Steve Jobs and blossomed into the Mac (and I do not mean the big kind you eat). I suspect that Montesquieu wrote by candle light with a quill for a pen, but he would have been delighted to type away on a Macbook, especially since it comes prepackaged with both a French keyboard and a Persian font. But, alas, poor Usbek and Rica would not be able to board an Air France flight to New York, connect to Atlanta and then walk into an Apple Store and buy a much smaller Air than the one they flew from Charles de Gaulle.
Shocking, is it not. But as Jamal Abdi writes in today’s New York Times, how to be a Persian has taken on new meaning in our globally-fixated-on-terrorism age:
Last month, Sahar Sabet, a 19-year-old Iranian-American woman, was improperly prevented from buying an iPad at an Apple store in Alpharetta, Ga. After she had gone over the various options with two Apple sales clerks, a third clerk, who had overheard Ms. Sabet speaking Persian to her uncle, intervened. He asked what language they were speaking and, when he found out it was the language of Iran, he said she could not buy anything because “our countries do not have good relations” — never mind that she intended to give it to her sister in North Carolina.
Of course, Montesquieu himself could walk into Le Apple Store in Paris and come out high on his own Airs. So I can only wonder what he might have added in the new updated version of Le emails persane. Perhaps it would go like this:
Rica to Roxana in Paris
Forgive the very long time that has expired since you, my sweet red rose, have in fact expired as well. My dear French friend Baron Montesquieu now regrets that he placed you on your deathbed in Letter 161, so in this new edition using a digital format you are not going to die. I am sure you find that a relief, even though at an age of about 320 you no doubt have a few wrinkles on that lovely Garden of Rustam face which I remember so fondly. But in Paris I was able to find some superb revitalizing face cream that the ladies all use, so you will blossom in youthful exuberance as soon as this herbal blessing reaches you. As I am now in Georgia of a place called the United States, I will send it to you via Priority Mail. I hear that this postal service is much faster than the old system that took weeks. Besides there seem to be no camels here except those kept in a kind of prison. They are so enslaved by Iblis here that they actually roll the dried flesh of camels into small sticks, light them up and let them dangle from their mouths.
France was very exciting, as I wrote in my letters, but as they now have a socialist President and our religion condemns socialisme as against the spirit of our shariah, I decided to fly (yes fly, can you imagine that!) to a place far beyond the land of the Franks, a really new world you have never heard of, with the pretentious name of the United States. United indeed, but against us poor Persians!
This country must be inhabited by the jinn as they have marvels you cannot begin to imagine. The flying machine was quite a marvel, taking Usbek and me above the clouds and as close to heaven as any mortal dare attempt. The most amazing thing to me is a small box that houses a legion of afarit, more than Solomon had in his service when he visited the Queen of Sheba. It is called a “cumpooter” or some such strange word, and there are two main rivals. One is the house of “Peecee,” which is cheap, but the best is the “Mac” which they call an Apple, although it is completely inedible. Indeed, the fruits of Ispahan far outsweet any of the tasteless scraps they call fruit here in this new world.
Imagine, my dear Roxana, a machine that writes for you. You just let your fingers come into contact with letters, even our superior Persian letters and words magically appear on a screen. I wanted more than anything to own one of these and bring it back to Persia. I have plenty of money, thanks to the royalties on my friend Montesquieu’s edition of my old letters, so price is no object. But the strangest thing happened when I tried to buy one. Here is exactly what happened after I entered the store.
“Hi and welcome to the Apple Store. How can I help you?”
“May God preserve your soul, young man. I want to buy one of these wondrous magical machines that have harnessed the spirits.”
“Well, the nearest bar is outside the mall. They have quite a selection of international beers. Or are you looking for a wine bar?”
“Mon Dieu, the unbelievers have even invaded this far-off paradise. I am not looking for those kinds of evil spirits, but the good kind that work miracles, like in your Air.”
“Well, I see that you are French, Sir, so rest assured that the Apple warranty is good for all of Europe.”
“Sacré bleu, I am not French, but Persian, and very proud of my country.”
“Persian? You mean as in the Axis of Evil Iran?”
“Well, Iran is the old name, but when I left my country three centuries ago, it was Persia. And its share of evil was no more than any country of you Occidentals.”
“Oh, well, unfortunately we cannot sell you a computer if you are Persian?”
“What difference does it make that I am Persian? I was told that this is a land with no discrimination. I can assure you I have plenty of cash and I will pay whatever I need to.”
“Trying to bribe me, are you? I will have to contact Homeland Security!”
Can you imagine, my dear Roxana, such a tragic turn of events? Before I could do anything, I was taken to the nearest airport and sent back to France. And to think I found it difficult to be Persian three centuries ago. May Allah preserve me; Comment peut-on être Persan today?
Posted on: Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 11:40
SOURCE: The Nation (7-9-12)
Jon Wiener’s new book, How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America, will be published in October.
From “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” to “A dream is a wish your heart makes”: Ronald Reagan and Walt Disney are together at last in an unprecedented Disney exhibit at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is the nation’s official repository for the memory of the man who, his supporters say, ended the cold war and defeated global communism. And for the next ten months the Reagan Library also is featuring the largest exhibition ever assembled of Walt Disney treasures, organized by the Official Disney Fan Club D23. It’s also the largest temporary exhibit in the history of the Reagan Library: 12,000 square feet, with 500 objects including drawings, costumes, models and other stuff, over half of which have never been seen by the public.
I had one question: why?
The National Archives operates the Reagan Library and Museum. The mission of the Archives is to “serve American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government.” So why is it displaying drawings of Bambi and Cinderella and the actual car from The Absent-Minded Professor?...
Posted on: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 10:37
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (7-6-12)
Harold James is Professor of History at Princeton University and the European Institute in Florence, and Professor of International Affairs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Europe's crisis is now poised at the moment that divides recovery and renewal from decline and death. Whereas a few weeks ago, commentators and financial analysts argued that only a few months remained to rescue Europe, leading politicians, lurching from summit to summit, have recently talked in terms of days.
Summer crises are a familiar feature of European history – and of financial history. Indeed, the 20th century was shaped by three summer crises, whose seriousness was heightened in each case by the absence of major policymakers, who were on vacation.
In two years, Europeans will commemorate the centennial of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, and the subsequent "July crisis" that triggered the first world war that August. On 13 July 1931, the German banking system collapsed, ensuring that what was previously an American economic downturn became the worldwide Great Depression. On 15 August 1971, president Richard Nixon ended the United States' commitment to a fixed gold price, leading to a decade of global currency instability....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 21:54
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (7-9-12)
A few years ago, I was invited to speak at an event sponsored by a historic site. At the organizer's request, I submitted a brief biography of my accomplishments, listed in typical academic style.
When I checked into the hotel, the clerk handed me a copy of the program. Once ensconced in my hotel room, I eagerly read the bios of the other speakers—and felt the blood drain from my face. My co-presenters were leading practitioners of public history. None of them had a Ph.D.—a fact I had noticed somewhat smugly when I had been asked to speak—but they had written books, curated exhibits seen by tens of thousands of visitors, and been invited by foreign governments to assist in major public-history projects.
Next to their bios, my own—in which I had blithely listed fellowships, obscure prizes, and an academic monograph—looked out of touch. That night, at dinner, my co-presenters teased me about how I, a Ph.D., was obviously slumming by participating in the event. But in reality, I felt hopelessly outclassed....
Contrary to what I believed when I was teaching recalcitrant 18-year-olds, most Americans do love history. They may have hated it in the classroom (which indicates that we need to rethink how we teach history), but they love it as adults....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 12:52
SOURCE: Greensboro News & Record (6-29-12)
Lisa Levenstein is an associate professor of history at UNCG.
...Anne-Marie Slaughter feared that she sacrificed her feminist credentials by admitting that she left her high-ranking job at the State Department so she could spend more time with her family.
The problem with this debate is that it rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of feminist history.
The women’s movement never promised mothers they could “have it all.”...
Rather, feminists in the 1970s demanded a range of social supports to enable women who wanted to hold full-time employment to successfully negotiate the competing demands of their jobs and families. Feminists also argued that women’s labor in the home was “real work” and deserving of respect and financial compensation....
Posted on: Sunday, July 8, 2012 - 15:05
SOURCE: Huffington Post (7-6-12)
Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben and Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies and Director of the Center for History and Social Change at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
It's time we elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt to a fifth term as president. Specifically, we need to re-re-elect the Roosevelt of 1936.
Accepting his party's nomination that June for a second term, Franklin Roosevelt delivered the most radical speech ever given by an American president. Comparing the corporate elite of the 1930s to the royalists of 1776, he told the 100,000 people gathered at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and the millions of Americans listening on the radio, "These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power." Which, he confessed, was exactly what he and the party he led intended to do....
Looking backward to the 1930s, we can rightly carp and complain. Standing in 1936 looking forward, we can rightly marvel and envy. Despite fierce conservative and corporate opposition, Roosevelt and his fellow Americans were well on the way to remaking America. They were subjecting big business and the banks to public account, empowering the federal government to address the needs of working people, establishing a social security system, organizing labor unions, improving the nation's public infrastructure and environment, refashioning popular culture, and imbuing themselves with fresh democratic convictions, hopes, and aspirations for the struggles to come.
But now, in 2012, we can only look forward -- either with hope and determination or with fear. Let's go with hope and determination, and start by metaphorically re-re-electing FDR of 1936....
Posted on: Saturday, July 7, 2012 - 19:20
SOURCE: NYT (7-5-12)
William E. Forbath is a professor of law and history at the University of Texas.
WORK and opportunity, poverty and dependency, material security and insecurity: for generations of reformers, the constitutional importance of these subjects was self-evident. Laissez-faire government, unchecked corporate power and the deprivations and inequalities they bred weren’t just bad public policy — they were constitutional infirmities. But liberals have largely forgotten how to think, talk and fight along these lines.
And they’ve done so at the wrong time. The Supreme Court is again putting up constitutional barriers against laws to redress want and inequity. While it handed liberals a victory on the Affordable Care Act, it also gave a boost to conservatives to revive the old laissez-faire Constitution in the polity and courts: new doctrine and dictums for their attack on the welfare and regulatory state.
But there is a silver lining for liberals as well: in much the same way that the conservative court of the 1930s forced Franklin D. Roosevelt and his allies to construct the constitutional foundations of the New Deal state, today’s court challenges the White House, the Democrats and the liberal legal community to reassert a constitutional vision of a national government empowered “to promote the general Welfare” and — in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s terse formula — “to regulate the national economy in the interest of those who labor to sustain it.”...
Posted on: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 13:56
SOURCE: LA Times (7-2-12)
Max Boot, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the forthcoming Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present.
Posted on: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 07:18
SOURCE: PJ Media (7-2-12)
Ronald Radosh is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at The Hudson Institute, and is the author or co-author of 14 books, including The Rosenberg File (1983 and 1997); Commies: A Journey through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left (2001) Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War (2001); Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party (1996) and Red Star Over Hollywood:The Film Colony’s Long Romance with the Left (2006).
Mitt Romney has a big problem, and it is one that he shares with many conservatives and Republicans who seem to believe that given the horrendous nature of Obama’s policies, he has to do very little to win. Unfortunately, a Romney victory in November is anything but a sure thing.
The polls right now show a very close race. And as most observers have noted, the outcome will be decided by a few voters in the swing states that Romney must conquer if he is to overtake the president. The latest Real Clear Politics compendium of all the polls shows Obama with a 3.5% lead in the general election, 47.6% for Obama compared to 44.1% for Romney.
When you break the polls down to look at the data in the critical swing states and see which candidate has more of the crucial Electoral College votes — the only thing that really count — the RCP data give Obama at present 221 and Romney only 181, with 131 a toss-up. So if the election were held today, there is more chance that Obama would get the necessary 270 electoral college votes. The swing states that are presently in neither man’s column include Michigan, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. And Pennsylvania, that many thought would possibly now be a sure bet for Romney, is ranked as leaning to Obama....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 11:35
SOURCE: The National Interest (7-2-12)
Robert G. Rabil served as a chief of emergency for the Red Cross in Lebanon during the country's civil war. He is associate professor of political science and the LLS Distinguished Professor of Current Events at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of Syria, United States and The War on Terror in the Middle East and most recently Religion, National Identity and Confessional Politics in Lebanon: The Challenge of Islamism.
Major world powers, meeting in Geneva over the weekend in an effort to strike a meaningful pose on the ongoing crisis in Syria, failed to do so. There was no consensus on calling for the removal of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad from power, and the ultimate agreement favoring a political transition lacked any real meaning. Russia and China, as expected, blocked the other seven nations from issuing a statement calling for Assad’s removal. Meanwhile, Syria experienced a particularly bloody spurt of violence, with more than 100 people killed.
Thus will the Syrian crisis continue along the lines of what the UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsou, has tacitly called a civil war. Both the Syrian government and the opposition forces resist acknowledging this reality, but it is reality nonetheless. The nation faces the danger of being overtaken by sectarian cleansing....
Posted on: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 11:02
SOURCE: National Review (7-3-12)
The 2012 election will hinge on the economy, not on U.S. foreign policy, unless there is a major overseas crisis — an Israeli attack on Iran, an Iranian detonation of a nuclear weapon, a Middle East war, a North Korean attack, or something of that sort. That said, there is much to lament in the current administration’s foreign policy. But Mitt Romney should be careful in critiquing the status quo, given that it is full of paradoxes and contradictions.
The war on terror? Forget the absurd euphemisms like “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters,” the hypocrisy of railing against waterboarding three known terrorists while blowing up over 2,000 suspected terrorists (and anyone near them), and the half-hearted efforts of both using and trying to close Guantanamo and envisioning Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court. What Obama said he wanted to do and what he actually did do are quite different things. In truth, he embraced or expanded almost all the Bush-Cheney protocols that he demagogued against as a state legislator, a senator, and a presidential candidate. That he gave George W. Bush absolutely no credit for surging in and saving Iraq, or setting up the procedures for operations like those that killed bin Laden, is again a matter of ingratitude, not foreign policy, given that the war on terror is now a successful eleven-year continuum.
Posted on: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 10:50
SOURCE: NYT (7-2-12)
Eileen Boris, a professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Jennifer Klein, a professor of history at Yale, are the authors of “Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State.”
NOT long after announcing his candidacy in 2007, Barack Obama spent a day working alongside Pauline Beck, a home health care aide in Oakland, Calif. Together, they cooked breakfast and lunch, cleaned house and did the laundry. Last December, the president mentioned his day with Ms. Beck when he proposed placing most home-care employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, from which many of them have long been excluded.
Mr. Obama proposed revising a Labor Department rule so that it would give home attendants and aides the protections, like overtime pay, that most American workers take for granted. The department opened an extended comment period and received some 26,000 statements, two-thirds of them positive. It is now deliberating on a final rule.
With a work force of about 2.5 million, two-thirds of whom would be affected by the proposed rule, home health and personal care is the second-fastest-growing job category in the country, projected to double by 2018. As women, immigrants and service workers have become the new face of labor, what happens to home care matters for the shape of our economy, the fate of unionism and the establishment of a decent standard of living for all.
Mr. Obama’s proposal has come up against Republican opposition. On June 7, a dozen Senate Republicans, led by Mike Johanns of Nebraska, sought to pre-empt Mr. Obama’s initiative and consign home-care workers to perpetual second-class status. Senator Johanns introduced the Companionship Exemption Protection Act, which would permanently codify their exclusion by defining “companionship services” to include “meal preparation, bed making, washing of clothes, errands” and “assistance with incontinence and grooming.” In assuming that adequate care can come only from suppressing wages, these Republicans seek to pit the interests of care receivers and givers against one another....
Posted on: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 16:10
SOURCE: AHA Today (6-19-12)
James Grossman is executive director of the American Historical Association. Allen Mikaelian is a PhD student at American University.
Is it appropriate to reference “Jim Crow” when discussing the rash of new laws and measures further regulating who can vote and under what conditions? Do the rhetorical analogies fit the historical facts? Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning watchdog best known for mercilessly wielding its trademarked Truth-o-Meter™, is somewhere between skeptical and incredulous. Last year, the editors of Politifact counted one Democrat’s statement evoking Jim Crow as a finalist for “lie of the year.” Politifact Georgia took to task a mayoral candidate for making an analogous comparison between a crackdown on undocumented workers and the infamous “black codes” (enacted a generation earlier than the Jim Crow era and quickly erased by Reconstruction). More recently, Politifact Florida called a Democratic U.S. Representative’s reference to poll taxes “half true.”
Each time, Politifact editors called on historians to help them judge. Each time, their analysis and resulting judgments raised important questions about how historians, journalists, and politicians evaluate the nature of truth and how the past can best be mined for constructive analogy. Amid this useful conversation between heated political rhetoric and cool journalistic analysis, historical thinking finds its place at the table as uncomfortable as it is essential.
The Politifact editors do their research. On this issue, they’ve consulted prominent historians, legal scholars, and political scientists. Our colleagues on the list include such historians as Eric Foner, Robert Korstad, Glenda Gilmore, Jane Dailey, Alex Keyssar, William H. Chafe, Thomas Adams Upchurch, Leslie V. Tischauser, James C. Cobb, Randall Miller, Paul A. Cimbala, David Colburn, Morgan Kousser, and Michael Fitzgerald. The Politifact editors clearly have made an effort to get the best thinking on the subject....
Posted on: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 16:03
SOURCE: NYT (6-30-12)
Posted on: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 11:23
SOURCE: NYT (6-30-12)
ANTON CHEKHOV once remarked that “one must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” In the term that ended last week, the Supreme Court reached a liberal outcome in cases involving President Obama’s health care law, Arizona’s draconian immigration statute and mandatory life sentences for juveniles. But the conservative majority also laid down a cache of weapons that future courts can use to attack many of the legislative achievements of the New Deal and the Great Society — including labor, environmental, civil rights and consumer protection laws — and to prevent new progressive legislation. Far from being a source of jubilation, the term may come back to haunt liberals....
From the 1930s through the Warren and Burger courts, the Supreme Court largely deferred to the political branches’ judgments about the scope of these powers; it was their partner, not their adversary. The court recognized — as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her opinion on the health care case — that the political process was the primary vehicle for limiting government’s powers.
Under the last chief justice, William H. Rehnquist, the court began to turn, particularly on Congress’s commerce and enforcement powers. The court limited some statutes — notably, a section of the Americans With Disabilities Act that allowed state workers to sue their employers and a section of the Violence Against Women Act that gave victims of gender-motivated violence the right to sue in federal court — but upheld others, including other applications of the disabilities law, a provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and a statute criminalizing possession of homegrown marijuana....
Posted on: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 10:34