Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Brenden Miniter, assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com, in WSJ (Feb. 10, 2004):
Unlike most families, the federal government can perpetually spend more than it takes in and still remain fiscally sound. That's because unlike us mortals, Uncle Sam isn't going to retire. His income isn't going to top off in middle age and slip in his golden years. The occasional but short-lived downturn notwithstanding, it will continue to grow with the economy, forever.
With that in mind, President Bush made a reasonable gamble early in his administration--that deficits matter less than economic growth. When he took office the country was already in a recession, and less than nine months later it was plunged unexpectedly into war. Mr. Bush remembered the experience of Ronald Reagan, who faced down an even steeper recession with tax cuts. During Mr. Reagan's administration Washington ran large deficits too, but he is now revered for winning the Cold War and restoring the economy (not to mention the country's sense of optimism).
So why is Mr. Reagan a hero, while President Bush is taking so many hits even from the right for running up the government's tab?
Part of the reason is that ex-presidents are judged differently. While seeking the presidency and while in office, Mr. Reagan was attacked by plenty of Republicans. It was, after all, George Bush père who dubbed Mr. Reagan's tax-cutting proposals"voodoo economics." And David Stockman, Mr. Reagan's budget director, looked at his president's proposed budgets and pronounced"deficits as far as the eye can see."
Mr. Reagan managed to remake the Republican Party into an instrument for limited government and lower taxes. Conservatives hoped his landslide victory in 1980 would mean a similar remaking of the political establishment. After all, the GOP also won control of the Senate that year and gained enough House seats to have an"ideological majority" with the support of conservative Southern Democrats, today a dying breed. Soon, however, Republican pragmatists and"moderates" were sprinkled throughout the administration, forcing Mr. Reagan to overcome opposition from within his own party. And course, the Democrats, led by Massachusetts liberal Tip O'Neill, still controlled the House. Winning several large issues against these odds made Mr. Reagan even more of a hero on the right. Conservatives consoled themselves with his defense increases and tax cuts, excusing uncontrolled domestic spending as the price of doing business with House Democrats.
That bargain made sense in the 1980s. But now Republicans hold the White House and have controlled Congress since 1994 (except for a brief Senate interlude thanks to Jim Jeffords). Yet somehow spending seemed easier to control when Newt Gingrich was imposing discipline on Bill Clinton. The excuse now--"if only the Senate weren't so evenly divided"--isn't holding up to scrutiny. It's all giving many Republicans the sense that we have met the enemy and he is us .
Amity Shlaes, writing in the Financial Times (London) (Feb. 9, 2004)
John Kerry, Howard Dean, George W. Bush and Joe Lieberman all have something in common, and it is not merely that they spent January running for the US presidency. They are all Yale men.
But then Bush v Clinton was also a Yale v Yale event. A Yale graduate has occupied the Oval Office for a decade and a half now. Assuming Hillary Clinton (Yale Law School, 1973) is all her fans hope, the reign of Yale could stretch to 2012.
Observers argue that Yale's dominance reveals something shameful: moneyed dynasties rule the US. The fact that several of the politicians (both Bushes, John Kerry) belonged to a Yale senior society, Skull and Bones, seems to underscore the claim of exclusivity.
But we can also argue the opposite: that Yale's dominance today proves the value of adopting a conscious policy to effect meritocratic change.
This is a story that starts with old Yale, founded in 1701. That Yale enjoyed bright periods and distinguished graduates. But it also suffered long stretches of mediocrity, during which it was known principally for its peculiar rallying cry,"Boola, Boola". Compared with the University of Chicago after the second world war, for example - or the University of Wisconsin before it - Yale was not so exciting. The only president Yale produced for a century and a half was William Howard Taft - remembered by most Americans as the president so corpulent that he is reported to have got stuck in a White House bathtub.
Yale's problem was that it cared more about class than quality. The college excluded all qualified women, nearly all qualified blacks, many qualified Jews and some qualified Catholics. It routinely rejected pupils from public schools - the state schools of towns and cities - on principle. It lagged behind Harvard when it came to accepting outstanding students. Eugene Rostow, who later became Lyndon Johnson's under-secretary of state, was a Yale undergraduate in the 1930s. In a student publication, the Harkness Hoot, Rostow noted that there were no Jewish faculty members. This was a message to the serious Jewish student that"his academic ambitions can never be realised".
In the 1960s, however, two successive Yale presidents, A. Whitney Griswold and Kingman Brewster, set about making a new Yale. As Dan Oren writes in his book, Joining the Club, the pair hired Arthur Howe and R. Inslee Clark as admissions officers, who insisted that Yale must open its gates wider if it wanted to achieve greatness. By 1964, the share of freshmen admitted from public schools stood at 56 per cent, compared with 36 per cent in 1950.
In the early 1970s Yale admitted its first women to the college. The new arrivals were quicker and tried harder than the old Yale boys. Admissions policy became"need blind"; the university picked students first, then figured out how much financial support they required, and delivered much of it.
Today this outcome looks as though it must always have been inevitable. But it was not."Let me get down to basics," a member of the Yale Corporation told"Inky" Clark."You're admitting an entirely different kind of class than we're used to. You're admitting them for a different purpose than training leaders." Mr Clark insisted that admitting talent and creating leaders were one and the same. The Corporation official disagreed."You're talking about Jews and public school graduates. Look around you at this table. These are America's leaders. There are no Jews here. There are no public school graduates here."
In the 1960s and 1970s it was Yalies marching for the Black Panthers or protesting against the invasion of Cambodia who garnered national attention. But in retrospect, the bigger news was the internal revolution."This was a switch to a meritocracy both for students and faculty," recalls Donald Kagan, the Yale classicist and historian. The new Yale made everything seem possible, and this in turn made the university enormously attractive. Its environment inspired new Yalies such as Senator Joe Lieberman, who came from public high school in Stamford, Connecticut. George Pataki, New York's governor (Yale, 1967), recalled how Yale showed his Hungarian family they might rise in America. When Mr Pataki's brother was admitted to Yale without a scholarship, his postman father went to the admissions office and told them:"There must be something wrong here. You denied him a scholarship." As Mr Pataki noted:"In a matter of days, Yale worked out a significant scholarship for my brother."
At the new Yale, the children of older money - John Kerry (Yale, 1966), Howard Dean (Yale, 1971) - were forced to compete with students from very different backgrounds. As for George W. (Yale, 1968), he simultaneously partook of the Old Yale and, as a cowboy populist, rejected it. For students from these privileged backgrounds, the new policy raised questions that their predecessors would not have had to consider and produced complicated, thoughtful men and women - in short, leaders.
To focus on Yale too much, however, misses the point. For the positive consequences of the 1960s' emphasis on opportunity are visible across the country. What this nearly-all-Yale campaign year reveals is the long-lasting power of a discrete and beneficial policy shift, even when that shift comes lamentably late. Or, as a Yalie would put it:"Boola, Boola."
Charles R. Morris, author of Money, Greed and Risk, in the NYT (Feb. 7, 2004):
If President Bush can maintain the recovery through his re-election campaign, he will be in rarefied company. Richard M. Nixon, in fact, may be the only recent president to accomplish this feat, timing a recovery from a midterm recession to coincide with his 1972 race. The reason this is so hard is that, despite all the bragging about creating jobs or speeding growth, presidents really have few economic tools at their disposal. Most federal spending is outside a president's direct control locked up in things like retirement programs that chug along pretty much by themselves. The same is true of taxes and interest rates. A president can set the agenda, but taxes are ultimately controlled by Congress. Interest rates fall under the domain of the independent Federal Reserve.
Yet Nixon proved that if a president plays his weak hand ruthlessly without restraint or regard for long-term consequences he can make the economy sit up and roll over at his command. In the end, of course, the Nixon "recovery" was short-lived and America soon paid a steep price for it. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush's economic performance so far is eerily similar.
Back in the early 1970's, with both high inflation and slow growth, Nixon's economic challenge may have been even more intractable than Mr. Bush's. So, with his re-election in jeopardy, Nixon and his Treasury secretary, John B. Connally, bludgeoned both the Congress and Federal Reserve into a truly radical experiment. Congress passed wage and price controls and the Federal Reserve simultaneously increased the money supply.
The gamble was that a big jolt of money would rev up the economy while the price controls would suppress inflation. It worked, allowing Nixon to win in 1972. But success came at a huge cost. Once the price controls were removed through 1973 and 1974, all the suppressed inflation came roaring out, hitting the double digits and plaguing the second half of the 1970's. Worse, the resulting collapse of the dollar led to the 1973 OPEC "oil price shock." Altogether, it was one of history's most expensive election campaigns.
Many analysts worry that a Bush-style recovery could be similarly catastrophic. Taking a page from the Nixon playbook, Mr. Bush has wielded his fiscal tools aggressively. Over the last two years, there has been a half-trillion dollar swing in the federal books, from a $100 billion surplus in 2001 to a deficit of about $400 billion in 2003, and an expected $521 trillion in red ink for 2004.
Frank Rich, in the NYT (Feb. 8, 2004):
To survey the progress of America's political culture over four decades, you need rerun only two TV shows, each starring a Massachusetts Democrat with the initials J.F.K.
On June 16, 1960, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in a natty suit, sat next to the brilliant and much-mourned Jack Paar on NBC's "Tonight Show" and fielded more than 30 minutes' worth of questions from his host, the droll comedian Peggy Cass and the New York studio audience. The subjects were the U-2 incident, the failed Soviet summit, Cuba and "the Catholic question." Mr. Paar tried to elicit a laugh only once, asking the senator to recall amusing anecdotes from the primary campaign trail. Kennedy was stumped, and when his one example ("I was made an honorary Indian") landed with a thud, the two men scampered back for safety to the cold war.
On Nov. 11, 2003, Senator John Forbes Kerry appeared on the same NBC show, now presided over by Jay Leno from Burbank. But instead of strolling onstage in his senatorial uniform, the candidate arrived, via Harley-Davidson, attired in a brown leather jacket, black boots, a denim shirt and jeans. Mr. Kerry fielded a few questions about his then-lagging campaign, but that was secondary to his comic "material." The candidate mused that the show's other guest, the puppet Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, might be his pick as a ticket mate and quipped, "Can you imagine Triumph debating Dick Cheney?"
Well, you had to be there. Mr. Kerry doing comedy is cognitive dissonance run amok. Though the senator does ride a Harley-Davidson in real life (it was a less proletarian Ducati before the campaign), his entire performance reeked of phoniness. A dour Boston Brahmin was trying to pass himself off as a wisecracking biker. And he was doing so after having given an interview (to Julia Reed of Vogue) criticizing President Bush's handlers for identical theatrics: "They put him in a brown jacket and jeans and get him to move some hay or drive a truck, and all of a sudden he's the Marlboro Man."
But if the late-night TV performance intended to reveal the "authentic," non-Washington John Kerry was inauthenticity incarnate, Kennedy's "Tonight Show" turn of 11 election cycles earlier was nearly as bogus. By the standards of 1960, a presidential candidate's appearance on an entertainment program was considered a bit shocking; no politician had done it before. In his introduction, Mr. Paar felt it necessary to prep the audience at length. After noting that the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," Lawrence Spivak, did his job "very well," he added: "I have noticed if you watch political programs, they ask political questions and the answers are political. . . . When it's all over, no one's said anything. In this relaxed atmosphere of the `Tonight Show' you meet people who aren't on guard and not as tense and perhaps not as political."
Or so he wished. Though Paar was as charming and human and witty as ever (especially when he had to interrupt his guest to hawk such sponsors as Lip Quick and ReaLemon), Kennedy responded with fat paragraphs of well-practiced stump boilerplate. Paar would later commend the candidate for his "very brave and courageous" act of appearing on a show where "anything can happen," but the candidate made sure nothing would happen. He still didn't have the nomination locked up and his political agenda was not to appear too young. So he offered a phony persona that was exactly the inverse of Kerry's act 43 years later: he suppressed his natural wit and youthfulness to make himself seem as stolid and humorless as his opponent, Richard Nixon. In the debates yet to come Kennedy would prove far more up-to-speed than Nixon about how to manipulate the still young medium of TV. (He didn't hang with the Rat Pack for nothing.) The character he presented, however fictionalized, was golden. But whether we ever saw the "real" Kennedy in his public persona remains a subject of historical debate.
Henry Siegman, writing in the Financial Times (London) (Feb. 10th, 2004)
It would have been hard to imagine in the aftermath of the second world war that the issue of anti-Semitism would once again require the attention of decent men and women within the lifetime of Holocaust survivors. It would have been even harder to imagine that the state of Israel, whose creation was intended by its Zionist founders as a cure for the malignancy of anti-Semitism, would itself be seen as being at the heart of this disease's recrudescence.
These thoughts are occasioned by the European Commission's preparations for a conference on anti-Semitism next week, and by a recent essay by Omer Bartov, a professor of history at Brown University*. There is much in this essay that serves importantly to identify the dangers of a re-emerging cultural and political anti-Semitism. Particularly disturbing is tolerance of an anti-Semitism that has polluted much of the religious and political discourse in Islamic countries.
Nevertheless, Mr Bartov recognises the problem of confusing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism. He finds that the"policies of the current Israeli government in the territories are indeed contrary to the strategic and moral interests of the Jewish state", a point that takes some courage to make these days.
Yet one has to ask whether criticism of objectionable Israeli policies is justified only if these policies are seen as damaging to Israel's"strategic and moral interests". That this would be a dangerously narrow view was illustrated recently by the astounding comments of Benny Morris, the Israeli historian of Israel's War of Independence, in an interview with the Ha'aretz newspaper (January 9).
Mr Morris said that David Ben Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, realised at the outset of the war that the new state of Israel would face impossible demographic problems unless the areas that came under Israeli control were" cleansed" of their Arab inhabitants. Ben Gurion, he said, issued"operational orders that state explicitly that (Israeli forces) were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves". Mr Morris concedes that these actions constituted war crimes, but insists they were justified by circumstances, for they served Israel's political and moral interests, namely securing the return of Jews to their historic patrimony.
To insist on the legitimacy of criticism of unjust Israeli policies is not to condone its transformation into blatant anti-Semitism. Those who preach the destruction of the Jewish state should not be allowed to hide behind the unfortunate policies of Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister. Supporting the cause of Palestinian nationhood does not require denial of the right of Jews to live in their own state.
It is important to add that the desire of Palestinians to return to territory they consider to be their patrimony is not to be construed as anti-Semitism. For most Palestinians a return to what they consider to be their legitimate home is no more motivated by an ideological imperative to destroy Jews and their homeland than the Jewish return to Zion is shaped by a Jewish desire to destroy the Arab community in Palestine. Rather, both sides have come up against the hard truth that return cannot be achieved without destroying the other unless they are prepared to divide the land equitably. This is an endlessly complicated task that will not be made easier by inappropriate accusations of Palestinian anti-Semitism or of Zionist hatred of Islam.
The struggle against anti-Semitism is not helped by wilful or misguided exaggeration. Prof Bartov recognises the danger from"hysterics" who seem not to know"that Hitler and the Third Reich are history". He notes that Jews are more prosperous, more successful and safer in the US than they have ever been, and"the same could even be said about the nervous Jews of western Europe".
The important question to be asked about criticism of unjust Israeli policies should not be how anti-Semites might exploit such criticism, but rather how these policies can be changed. Preventing injustice should hold a higher priority for friends of Israel, not to mention Israelis themselves, than preventing the exploitation of criticism of that injustice by anti-Semites, who in any event are never at a loss to find reasons for their hatred. Jews who do not regard this as a priority not only fail their Jewish heritage but also perversely help to make the anti-Semites' case.
President Bush's unusual appearance on"Meet the Press" yesterday underscored two important points about the coming election: Bush himself is likely to be the main issue and, despite the many advantages of incumbency, he is beginning the year in a defensive crouch.
His aggressive responses to moderator Tim Russert underscored both what his admirers and critics see in him - the resoluteness and the stubbornness - except this time he was answering questions that largely challenged his judgment, and the combativeness seemed strained.
"I'm a war president," Bush declared at one point."I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. And again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. And the American people need to know they've got a president who sees the world the way it is. And I see dangers that exist, and it's important for us to deal with them."
Statements like those won Bush many admirers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but this time they were presented in the context of explaining a war he started because, he said at the time, there was"no doubt" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Now, while Bush insisted his decisions were based on solid evidence, came about after full consideration of less-lethal options, and are still soundly justified, his very certitude seemed to suggest otherwise. The interview made clear that Bush is still absolutely sure of himself even as some around him, such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, acknowledged that lack of weapons of mass destruction would have changed the calculus on going to war.
Bush's current justification for the war is almost identical to his justification before the war, except he now stresses that Hussein had the" capacity to make a weapon" of mass destruction, rather than the actual weapons.
In fact, weapons inspector David Kay's interim report last fall alluded to"weapons of mass destruction-related activities" but made it clear that Hussein was far from being able to develop a nuclear weapon. The report quotes Iraqi scientists as discussing ways to make chemical and biological weapons, but offered no evidence yet of the agents that would be needed to make them.
Bush's justifications were probably strong enough to satisfy those disposed to support military action in the Middle East, but they seemed certain to unleash a round of questioning from skeptics.
Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, the winner of 10 Democratic primaries or caucuses, issued a statement calling on Bush to"take responsibility for his actions and set the record straight."
The fact that Bush chose to appear on"Meet the Press" signaled to analysts that the Democratic campaign was drawing blood.
"There's been a constellation of events, some of which Bush can control and some of which he can't, that have put him on the defensive," said Boston University historian Michael Corgan."The White House obviously feels they can't just sit back and wait until September to ramp up their campaign."
Among the events cited by Corgan - and covered in Russert's interview - were Kay's testimony that"we were all wrong" about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the insistence of Iraq's Shi'ite leaders on early elections, a potentially destabilizing move that jeopardizes Bush's promised changeover of power by June 30; criticism by many conservatives of the growing deficit; and slower-than-expected job creation.
Bush sought to lower expectations for a smooth road to democracy in Iraq, and expressed confidence in the economy.
When Russert confronted the president with a General Accounting Office report stating that rising debts would force the government either to cut half its discretionary spending by 2040 or institute a huge tax hike, Bush responded deftly: He portrayed his insistence on tax cuts as a sign of his empathy for the average person looking for a job.
Moments like those showed that Bush still carries an unusual ability to communicate his priorities in simple terms that register with average voters. It is an ability he will obviously put to use later in the campaign, when events may be more favorable.
Laura King, writing for the Los Angeles Times (Feb 8, 2004)
Years before he became prime minister, Ariel Sharon was fond of taking visitors to a bare, rocky West Bank hillside overlooking Israel's narrow but densely populated coastal plain. There, in a set-piece speech, with wind-ruffled maps at hand, he would forcefully insist on Israel's need in the name of self-defense to hold fast to this piece of strategic high ground -- never mentioning that this same stony earth was the heartland of the Palestinians' dreamed-of future state.
Sharon, a lifelong military man, has always viewed the world from a battlefield perspective. But now, in what could be the twilight of his political life, his notion of how to hold the high ground -- that is, how best to defend the Jewish state against all threats -- has fundamentally changed.
Sharon's vision of a Greater Israel, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, has given way to acceptance of the idea that the Palestinians will one day have a state of their own on part of that territory. But the Israeli leader, ever the tactician, has clearly demonstrated that he wants that to happen on his own terms -- not those of the Palestinians, probably not those of the American administration, and certainly not those of the rest of the outside world.
This evolution in the 75-year-old Sharon's thinking found its latest expression last week in a dramatic initiative that could result in Israel relinquishing nearly all the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip -- which the prime minister once described as a crucial line of defense that Israel would never give up.
In the months before that, Sharon put residents of remote West Bank Jewish settlements on notice that their communities, too, were marked for uprooting. He indirectly floated the once-heretical idea of officially sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians and last year spoke for the first time of the massive Israeli military presence in the West Bank and Gaza as an"occupation."
One Israeli columnist has dubbed it Sharon's"Dance of the Seven Veils" -- a series of carefully stage-managed, incremental pronouncements, often swiftly softened afterward by underlings to make them more palatable to right-wing political allies and a domestic audience left wary and embittered by more than three years of ferocious warfare with the Palestinians.
But however couched and conditional they might be, Sharon's statements of the last 18 months, taken together, amount to an utter transformation of his political persona.
The onetime champion of the Jewish settlement movement is now regarded by settlers as perhaps the greatest threat to its existence. The man who always held that force was the only language the Palestinians understood now speaks calmly and philosophically of the need for two bloodied peoples to simply separate from one another.
The old general who has played some part in every one of his country's wars since Israel's founding in 1948 stands ready, it seems, to cede battle-won territory without so much as a treaty in return.
"I think Sharon did realize in these last two years that for many reasons, that he simply will not be able to hold on to the territories," said Yoram Peri, a political analyst at Tel Aviv University."He didn't really change his mind on peace issues, but he is confronting reality. A field commander doesn't come out and say, 'I withdraw,' but instead he finds a way to do this to his best advantage."
During the same period, though, Sharon has also displayed his blunt-edged side, the one that years ago earned him the sobriquet of"The Bulldozer." Sharon has embarked on the construction of a barrier in the West Bank that Palestinians denounce as the baldest of land grabs. Under him, Jewish settlements have continued to grow, despite strong American pressure to halt the expansion.
He is widely blamed for helping engineer the fall of one moderate Palestinian Authority prime minister, and for doing little to help the Palestinian successor stave off what many predict will be a similar fate.
Perhaps most significantly, the Israeli leader -- even while pledging himself to an American-backed blueprint for peace based on the premise that Israel and the Palestinians will negotiate terms for Palestinian statehood -- has been steadily laying the groundwork for an Israeli-imposed solution that he calls his disengagement plan.
Under this strategy's still-emerging outlines, Israel would unilaterally withdraw to what it considers defensible borders -- defined at least initially, by all indications, by the more than 400-mile West Bank barrier that is still under construction -- and discuss statehood terms with the Palestinians only when the Israeli government is ready to do so.
The Palestinians fear that such a course of action will predetermine the outcome of any negotiations, and ultimately leave them with a territory so truncated and fragmented as to be a state in name only.
"Sharon will evacuate Gaza, if he indeed does so, believing that doing so will make it easier for Israel to hold on to large swaths of the West Bank," the respected Haaretz newspaper predicted in an editorial last week."There is no place for negotiations with the Palestinians in such a narrow perspective ... nor is there any room in such a perspective for a viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel."
Sharon has promised that he will move ahead with his plan only if the American-backed"road map" fails. But the peace plan has achieved no traction in the nine months since its launch, and with the U.S. election season in full swing, there is strong skepticism among both Israeli and Palestinian officials that the United States will play any significant role in coming months -- the window during which Sharon has indicated his government will begin to act.
The prime minister has directed his national security advisor, Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, to chart security lines that Israel can militarily defend until there is a Palestinian government in place with which Israel is prepared to negotiate. Israel refuses to have any dealings with the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat, and has indicated that if the appointed Palestinian prime minister is unable to act independently, it will not engage him in serious dialogue either.
Those close to Sharon insist that he is acting in the interests of peace, and that the land hand-overs he has outlined are wrenchingly painful to him.
"He is entirely sincere, and anyone who does not believe that does not understand his character," said Eli Landau, a businessman and a longtime close friend of the prime minister.
"I watched him through the years, saw how he nurtured and watched over every Jewish settlement, so to be prepared now to do what he is prepared to do is for him a real tragedy," Landau said."But now he is the leader. He stands at the top of the pyramid, and he can see this is the only way forward."
Sharon's defenders scoff at the notion that the prime minister's timing for unveiling the Gaza initiative is intended to deflect attention from his interrogation by police in connection with bribery allegations involving a failed development venture. Both the disengagement plan and the scandal have been in play for months, they point out, insisting that the timing is coincidental.
However, the possibility of a bribery indictment still hangs over the prime minister, a contingency that might drive him from office, throw the Israeli political scene into disarray and probably scuttle his initiatives of recent months -- particularly if his hard-line heir apparent, Benjamin Netanyahu, is to take the reins. A complicated nexus of factors helped nudge Sharon toward the view that Palestinian statehood was inevitable, analysts said.
In more than three years of fighting, it has become apparent to all that Palestinian militants cannot achieve anything approaching a military victory over a vastly superior Israeli force. But they can and do continue to strike Israeli cities and towns, using a seemingly inexhaustible supply of suicide bombers to kill and maim Israeli civilians.
A battle-weary Israeli public last year was intrigued by and surprisingly supportive of several unofficial peace plans calling for large-scale territorial concessions in exchange for peace with the Palestinians.
Also galvanizing debate in recent months has been the premise that Palestinians in the territories and Arab citizens of Israel, with their faster population growth rate, will soon outnumber Jews in the area comprising Israel proper, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A parade of prominent Israelis, led by former parliament Speaker Avraham Burg, have bluntly warned that demographics will eventually make it impossible for Israel to retain both its democratic character and its Jewish nature -- unless it relinquishes the Palestinian territories.
"Look, Sharon is not [Yitzhak] Rabin," said Peri, the analyst, who was a political advisor to the assassinated prime minister."Late in his life, Rabin realized that the Palestinians are a nation, that we have to deal with them as partners. Sharon has not changed on that issue, but this is a matter of realpolitik -- he sees what is happening, and his aim is to achieve as much territory as possible."
Despite the tremendous difficulties that lie ahead, there are strong indications that Sharon is serious about proceeding with the evacuation of Gaza settlements and, later, isolated West Bank communities.
Already, the government is minutely calculating the costs of relocating settler families -- an issue expected to figure soon in talks with the Bush administration.
Right-wing allies have not yet pulled out of Sharon's government, but say they will do so as soon as it becomes clear he intends to proceed with the pullbacks he has outlined. In a scene that would have been unthinkable just months ago, a crowd of Gaza settlers gathered Friday outside Sharon's sheep ranch in the Negev desert, shouting angry slogans against him.
The prime minister has also been seeking to marshal the support of the defense establishment, an arena in which he is supremely comfortable but whose leading figures were reportedly caught off guard by his proposed Gaza initiative. Hawkish Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz backs the idea, and although some high-ranking field commanders reportedly harbor reservations, they have been ordered not to air them publicly.
Military historian Meir Pail, a longtime observer of Sharon, believes that unilateral moves in the absence of a political agreement with the Palestinians are a long-term recipe for disaster. But he also says Sharon is likely to stay the course he has set for himself.
"The political question -- the lack of any agreement -- is very dangerous, and I'm talking as a military man when I say this," Pail said."But Arik Sharon is a tough guy, very thick-skinned, and he will carry through what he has set out to do.
"He's behaving very, very much like himself."
Fred Kaplan, in Slate (Feb. 9, 2004):
[Tim] Russert asked [President Bush] whether he supported that war. Bush replied that he did, sort of. The president added:
The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is a lesson that any president must learn, and that is to set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.
This is the great conservative shibboleth about the Vietnam War—that we lost the war because Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and to a lesser extent President Lyndon Johnson, put too many constraints on the generals, telling them which targets they could and could not hit. But it's very odd for George W. Bush to be reciting this case because the two wars he's commanded, in Afghanistan and Iraq, have been, in this sense, the most"political" wars in recent American history.
While Bush himself may not have done much micromanaging of the war, his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, not only helped pick targets, but rearranged the structure of the units sent into battle. In preparing for Iraq, he ordered the removal of several heavy-artillery battalions from Army divisions. In the weeks leading up to the invasion of Afghanistan, he rejected several war plans submitted by Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. Central Command, until the general devised an unprecedented combination of troops and special operations commandos that conformed to Rumsfeld's concept of" military transformation " and smaller, lighter forces.
The interesting thing about this blatant intrusion into the nuts and bolts of military planning is that Rumsfeld was right . With the advent of very precise"smart bombs," aerial drones with real-time video transmissions, and computerized command-control networks that allowed for much greater coordination between air forces and ground troops, the Army didn't need so much artillery; air power could break up enemy defenses in a way that, in an earlier era, only artillery could. Or at least Rumsfeld was right in the battlefield phase of the war. He should have paid more attention to his generals in planning how many troops would be needed after victory was declared.
But the point here is that if civilian interference is"the thing about the Vietnam War that troubles" George W. Bush, why wasn't he troubled about the way his own wars were planned and fought, for better and for worse? Or has he ever really been troubled about the Vietnam War, back then or now? And was he aware of the intense internecine fighting between Rumsfeld and the Army over the war plans for Iraq? The main message that President Bush tried to send during his session with Russert was that he is a leader in command."I'm a war president," he said at the start."I make decisions here in the Oval Office on foreign policy matters with war on my mind." But in some of his remarks that followed, the president cast doubt on how much he's even in the loop.
Paul Waugh, writing in the Independant (London) (Feb. 7, 2004):
ONE WAS faced with an enemy that had the biggest army in history, had overrun half of Europe and was bombing British cities on a daily basis.
The other was faced with an enemy that couldn't use its air force in its own airspace, was crippled by sanctions and possessed weapons that it now turns out were more imagined than real.
Most historians wouldn't dare to compare Winston Churchill's wartime leadership with Tony Blair's experience in the run up to the war on Iraq.
Although Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein were probably equally deranged, it is difficult to find any serious academic who would agree that the two posed similar threats to Britain.
But after a week in which the Government's case on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction appeared once more to be embarrassingly thin, it was perhaps not surprising that some cabinet ministers lashed out in frustration to defend the Prime Minister.
The exasperation of Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Environment, with stories about the details of the so-called 45-minutes claim finally spilled over when she made the comparison between Mr Blair and his predecessor of 60 years earlier.
The final straw appeared to be Michael Howard's call for Mr Blair's resignation on the grounds that he had not known MI6's assessment that Saddam's chemical weapons were for the battlefield and not cities hundreds of miles away.
Ms Beckett, who fairly represented many of her colleagues' anger at the Tories' move, said that it was"nit-picking of the highest order"."Do you suppose Winston Churchill went round asking precisely the kind of munition they had in the Second World War and would that have been a valuable use of his time?" the Environment Secretary asked.
Unfortunately for Ms Beckett, there were plenty of people ready to step forward to declare that, yes, of course Churchill would have done precisely that.
Even more unfortunately, the former prime minister's grandson just happened to be Nicholas Soames, the shadow Secretary of State for Defence.
"Margaret Beckett has the impertinence to invoke the name of Winston Churchill in the same breath as Tony Blair, saying that Churchill would never have considered it his responsibility to have been informed of details of munitions and weaponry. She could not be more wrong. This is ignorance of the first order.
"My grandfather was obsessed with military detail and would have regarded it as his solemn duty as Prime Minister to have ensured that the reasons for going to war were detailed, valid, legal and honourable, and above all accurate," Mr Soames said.
"Blair and the No 10 machine were so obsessed with spin and hype that they were ignorant of, and disinterested in, the hard military realities. The difference between these weapons matters very much indeed in any careful and detailed military assessment."
It is true that Churchill frequently tried to micromanage many aspects of the military effort, from the response to the V1 and V2 rockets to equipment in the Far East.
The historian David Starkey told The Independent:"Unlike Mr Blair, Churchill had been a soldier and knew all about weapons. He also, of course, had Lord Cherwell as his special adviser and was kept right up to date with all the latest information."
He added:"Churchill actually worked - he didn't spend his time sitting on a sofa.
"It seems that this government has more in common with the Ottoman empire in decay - while the Ottoman empire was ruled from a divan, this government is ruled from a sofa."
Bill Eichenberger, writing in the Columbus Dispatch (Feb. 3, 2004):
In two best sellers, historian James Bradley has addressed conflict in the Pacific during World War II.
Flags of Our Fathers (2000) tells the story of the six "boys" who raised the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the battle for the island of Iwo Jima.
The photograph of the event is considered the most-reproduced image in history.
Flyboys (2003) tells the story of the eight airmen who were shot down on or near the island of Chichi Jima and captured by the Japanese near the end of the war. The airmen were executed and, later, their captors convicted of war crimes at a secret trial.
Not once in the combined 782 pages does Bradley use the words patriot or patriotism .
"I've interviewed hundreds of veterans of the Pacific, and I've never had one of them say the word patriotism, " the author said in a recent telephone interview. "The guys on Iwo Jima, the guys on the aircraft carrier didn't want to be there. They wanted to be at home. They were there because they had to be. They were truly fighting for their country."
He knows whereof he speaks: His father, John, helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima.
Patriotism, Bradley said, is a word not for his father's generation but for younger generations -- "a glean that someone who wasn't there puts on a horrific experience."
Responses to Flags of Our Fathers raised flags for him.
"I got a lot of letters that said, 'Wouldn't it be great to return to such a patriotic time?' Those letters turned my head. Iwo Jima was a massacre on both sides. I thought at the time I'd written a book about a time we'd never want to go back to."
He feels a kinship with historian Paul Fussell, who wrote in the book The Boys' Crusade :
"The historiography I've been drawn to abjures attractive cuteisms like 'the Big Red One,"Hell on Wheels,' and 'the Rainbow Division,' as well as charming troop-friendly allusions to things like 'the deuce-and-a-half truck.' The world of ground warfare can never be truly recalled by such stuff, which belongs to the history of sentimental show business, not the history of real human action and emotion, especially as triggered by intimate horror, death, and sorrow."
In Flags of Our Fathers and especially Flyboys, Bradley looks unflinchingly at such death and sorrow. And, controversially, he does so from the viewpoints of the Americans and the Japanese.
Flyboys recounts a scene in which the mother of Glenn Frazier, a flyboy beaten to death on Chichi Jima, asks one of his friends to point out the island on a map:
" 'Oh! It's so far away,' Mrs. Frazier said. Then she broke down and sobbed in Lyle's arms."
Kazuyo Funato, who lost two siblings when the United States dropped napalm on Tokyo, took his mother to the graves:
" 'She'd pour water on them and say: 'Hiroko-chan, you must have been hot. Teruko-chan, you must have been hot.' "
Bradley understands that not every World War II veteran appreciates the balance.
"They think I'm criticizing them, and I'm not," he said. "I told a veteran once: 'Sir, if I had been of age during World War II, I would have been fighting right beside you. Anybody would have. It was war.' "
Brad Knickerbocker, writing in the Christian Science Monitor (Feb. 4, 2004):
Fighting for the "little guy" against wealthy, powerful interests has been a staple of American politics since the first New England patriots railed against King George III's tax policies.
Today, in similar manner, the leading Democratic presidential contenders are trying to present their effort as a populist uprising against a plutocratic administration in which wealth is the basis of power. They remind voters incessantly that while Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm got large contracts for work in Iraq (some of them without bid), 3 million jobs have been lost on President Bush's watch. Or that the drug industry, oil companies, and HMOs are profiting at the expense of average Americans. Or that paychecks for middle-class and lower-income workers have lagged in comparison with managers and executives at the upper end of the pay scale.
It's not exactly class warfare, since unprecedented numbers of Americans now own stock and therefore are capitalists. But the rhetoric has taken a decidedly populist turn.
Does this message resonate with Americans, especially those who have yet to choose sides in the presidential race? A recent Time/CNN poll has 57 percent of the public (and 63 percent of independents) agreeing that Mr. Bush "pays too much attention to big business."
"A lot of Democrats see this as a new Gilded Age, with a widening gap between wage earners and the elites," says Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin. "Clearly, this sort of heightened populist rhetoric responds to [the perception that] the Bush administration is a throwback to the days before the New Deal. Bill Clinton, to a degree, revived that in 1992."
It didn't work, however, for Al Gore in 2000 (although there were other factors, like renegade Ralph Nader, not to mention a controversial Florida vote count). So why should it work for a Democrat this time?
One major difference: Mr. Gore was warning against the theoretical threat of a corporate takeover of the White House. This time, Democratic contenders say there's solid evidence that such a takeover already is under way.
Columnist Anne Applebaum, writing in the Wash Post (Feb. 4, 2004):
Nearly 60 years ago last week, Auschwitz was liberated. On Jan. 27, 1945, four Russian soldiers rode into the camp. They seemed "wonderfully concrete and real," remembered Primo Levi, one of the prisoners, "perched on their enormous horses, between the gray of the snow and the gray of the sky." But they did not smile, nor did they greet the starving men and women. Levi thought he knew why: They felt "the shame that a just man experiences at another man's crime, the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist."
Nowadays, it seems impossible to understand why so few people, at the time of the Auschwitz liberation, even knew that the camp existed. It seems even harder to explain why those who did know did nothing. In recent years a plethora of respectable institutions -- the Vatican, the U.S. government, the international Jewish community, the Allied commanders -- have all been accused of "allowing" the Holocaust to occur, through ignorance or ill will or fear, or simply because there were other priorities, such as fighting the war.
We shake our heads self-righteously, certain that if we'd been there, liberation would have come earlier -- all the while failing to see that the present is no different. Quite a lot has changed in 60 years, but the ways in which information about crimes against humanity can simultaneously be "known" and not known hasn't changed at all. Nor have other interests and other priorities ceased to distract people from the feelings of shame and guilt they would certainly feel, if only they focused on them.
Look, for example, at the international reaction to a documentary, aired last Sunday night on the BBC. It described atrocities committed in the concentration camps of contemporary North Korea, where, it was alleged, chemical weapons are tested on prisoners. Central to the film was the testimony of Kwon Hyuk, a former administrator at a North Korean camp. "I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber," he said. "The parents, son and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing." The documentary also included testimony from a former prisoner, who says she saw 50 women die after being deliberately fed poison. And it included documents smuggled out of the country that seemed to sentence a prisoner to a camp "for the purpose of human experimentation."...
Later -- in 10 years, or in 60 -- it will surely turn out that quite a lot was known in 2004 about the camps of North Korea. It will turn out that information collected by various human rights groups, South Korean churches, oddball journalists and spies added up to a damning and largely accurate picture of an evil regime. It will also turn out that there were things that could have been done, approaches the South Korean government might have made, diplomatic channels the U.S. government might have opened, pressure the Chinese might have applied.
Historians in Asia, Europe and here will finger various institutions, just as we do now, and demand they justify their past actions. And no one will be able to understand how it was possible that we knew of the existence of the gas chambers but failed to act.
Tim Rutten, writing in the LAT (Feb. 4, 2004):
[Mel] Gibson has allowed himself to be characterized as a Catholic and has reinforced that impression by seeking the Vatican's approval of his film and then publicizing a purported papal endorsement. Reams of sympathetic publicity continue to describe Gibson as "a devout Catholic."
In fact, he is not. Catholics belong to churches that recognize the pope as their religious leader. If you don't, you're not a Catholic. It's as simple as that. What Gibson would rather not discuss is his membership in a schismatic group that has appropriated various pious practices and sacramental rites from preconciliar Roman Catholicism, but which rejects the contemporary church's leaders and teachings. Among the most important of those teachings is a complete rejection of any interpretation of the Passion that attributes a particular or continuing responsibility for Christ's execution to the Jewish people.
Because Gibson attends -- indeed, finances -- a church that rejects such teachings, other questions arise: For instance, in an interview with commentator Peggy Noonan to be published in the forthcoming Reader's Digest, Gibson says, "My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life."
Fair enough, but Hutton Gibson -- the filmmaker's father -- is a well-known Holocaust denier.
Reader's Digest declined to make a full text of the interview available to The Times, but in the brief promotional excerpt released this week, Noonan is quoted as asking, "You're going to have to go on the record. The Holocaust happened, right?"
Gibson replied, "Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933. During the last century, 20 million people died in the Soviet Union."
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, responded that "reading this, I have to conclude that, at best, Mr. Gibson is ignorant and, at worse, he is insensitive. War was not the cause of the Holocaust; Jews died because of who they were. The Holocaust is different in kind from other historical tragedies because it's about people being slaughtered for who they were. Comparing it to the famine in the Ukraine, which was terrible, is nonetheless ignorant and insensitive."
Foxman also said he was "troubled by the cavalier way in which he treats the question of his father's influence. I respect people who respect their elders. But Mr. Gibson says his father never lied to him and yet he has been lying for years to the world about the Holocaust. Saying everything his father said is true puts him in a very strange position, since his father is a public Holocaust denier."
Walter V. Robinson, writing in the Boston Globe (Feb. 5, 2004):
A detailed Globe examination of the records in 2000 unearthed official reports by Bush's Guard commanders that they had not seen him for a year. There was also no evidence that Bush had done part of his Guard service in Alabama, as he has claimed. Bush's Guard appointment, made possible by family connections, was cut short when Bush was allowed to leave his Houston Guard unit eight months early to attend Harvard Business School.
Bush received an honorable discharge in 1973. The records contain no indication that Bush's commanding officers, one of them a friend, ever accused him of shirking his duty.
In an interview yesterday, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, asserted that Bush "fulfilled his military requirements." Bartlett acknowledged that Bush's "irregular civilian work schedule could have put strains on when he served, when he performed his duty."
Before the Globe report in May 2000, Bush's official biography reported erroneously that he flew fighter-interceptor jets for the Houston Guard unit from 1968 to 1973. In a 1999 interview with a military publication, Bush said that among the values he learned as a pilot included "the responsibility to show up and do your job."
Most Democrats consider Moore's accusation of desertion unsupportable.
Still, according to the records and interviews in 2000, Bush's attendance record in the Guard was highly unusual:
* Although he was trained as a fighter pilot, Bush ceased flying in April 1972, little more than two years after he finished flight school and two years before his six-year enlistment was to end, when he was allowed to transfer to an Alabama Air Guard unit. The records contain no evidence that Bush performed any military duty in Alabama. His Alabama unit commander, in an interview, said Bush never appeared for duty.
* In August 1972, Bush was suspended from flight status for failing to take his annual flight physical.
* In May 1973, Bush's two superior officers in Houston wrote that they could not perform his annual evaluation, because he had "not been observed at this unit" during the preceding 12 months. The two officers, one of them a friend of Bush and both now dead, wrote that they believed Bush had been fulfilling his commitment at the Alabama unit.
Two other officers, in interviews, offered a similar account of Bush's absence, saying they had assumed Bush completed his service in Alabama.
* Bush's official record of service, which is supposed to contain an account of his duty attendance for each year of service, shows no such attendance after May 1972. In unit records, however, there are documents showing that Bush was ordered to a flurry of drills - over 36 days - in the late spring and summer of 1973. He was discharged Oct. 1, 1973, eight months before his six-year commitment ended.
Through Bartlett, Bush insisted in 2000 that he had indeed attended military drills while he was in Alabama during 1972 and in 1973 after returning to his Houston base. At the time, Bartlett said Bush did not recall what duties he performed during that period.
Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired colonel who was the personnel officer for the Texas Air National Guard at the time, said in an interview four years ago that the records suggested to him that Bush "had a bad year. He might have lost interest, since he knew he was getting out."
Lloyd said he believed that after Bush's long attendance drought, the drills that were crammed into the months before Bush's early release gave him enough "points" to satisfy the minimal requirements to earn his discharge. At the time, Lloyd speculated that after the evaluation of Bush could not be done, his superiors told him, 'George, you're in a pickle. Get your ass down here and perform some duty.' And he did."
From NPR (Feb. 5, 2004):
The flu epidemic of 1918 ranks with the Black Death of the Middle Ages as one of the deadliest contagions of all times. The virus swept across the Earth, killing an estimated 20 million people in little over a year. In the United States, more than half a million people died from the illness between September 1918 and June 1919. To this day, no one knows why the virus was so deadly.
Called the Spanish flu, the illness started with aches and fever. As the disease progressed, its victims' faces turned dark, the soles of their feet blackened and they coughed blood. In days, sometimes hours, those infected essentially drowned, their lungs heavy, sodden and engorged with a thin, bloody liquid.
Nearly everyone caught the flu in 1918 in some form; 2.5 percent of its victims died, making the strain 25 times more deadly than any flu before or since.
The flu left behind many questions: why was it so deadly, why were young, apparently healthy people particularly affected, and why did it never reappear? Researchers continue to look for those answers, and two studies published this week in Science magazine shed new light on the killer strain's origins. Analysis of a protein coating the virus suggests it started out as an avian virus. Another study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , shows that combining pieces of the 1918 strain with a mouse flu virus results in a very lethal flu.
As NPR's Richard Knox reports, the findings trouble health officials who worry a similar scenario is developing in Asia. The region is currently battling a massive avian flu outbreak, which has infected hundreds of millions of birds and killed 16 people. So far, evidence suggests the virus isn't easily spread among humans. But health officials fear the bird virus might combine with a human flu virus, unleashing another potentially uncontrollable pandemic among people.
Joshua Micah Marshall, writing in the New Yorker (Feb. 2, 2004):
For leftist critics of America's role in the world, it has long been a baleful article of faith that the United States is an agent of “neo-imperialism,” exerting its power through global capital and through organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After September 11th, a left-wing accusation became a right-wing aspiration: conservatives increasingly began to espouse a world view that was unapologetically imperialist....
In “Empire,” which appeared last spring, the acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson presented the British Empire as a model of how to secure global stability, foreign investment for developing countries, and simple good government. “What the British Empire proved is that empire is a form of international government that can work—and not just for the benefit of the ruling power,” he wrote. Through more than three hundred slick, illustrated pages, Ferguson mapped the past onto the present, identifying the building blocks of Britain's empire with their contemporary American analogues. For Britain's gunboats, America's F-16s and Tomahawk missiles—always prepared to knock around troublemakers on the empire's periphery. For Britain's missionary and social-uplift societies, today's N.G.O.s. In place of Britain's long-running policing action against the slave trade, similarly high-minded campaigns against ethnic cleansing.
Why did the British imperium come to an end? The standard histories tell us about great-power rivalries, a diminishing technological gap between overlords and subjects, growing independence movements among the colonized. Some conservative scholars have suggested, however, that the British Empire fell apart because of war-induced impoverishment and national fatigue. Finally, they say, the Brits just lacked will. But in 2002 America had will in abundance, and more money and guns than the British had ever had. Ferguson was challenging us simply to face up to what we already were. In the closing pages of his book, he wrote, “Americans have taken our old role without yet facing the fact that an empire comes with it.” We were, in his view, an empire “that dare not speak its name . . . an empire in denial.”...
An “empire of bases” is what Chalmers Johnson calls it in his new book, “The Sorrows of Empire” (Metropolitan; $25). It is not, for him, an edifying spectacle. Much in Johnson's account is no different from what might be found in a host of other left-leaning critiques of American power, but the trajectory of his career sets him apart. For decades, Johnson, an Asia specialist, was one of those stock figures of the Cold War: the defense analyst and academic in constant orbit of the C.I.A. Then, late in his career, he began to reconsider his Cold War commitments, particularly in East Asia. The way America garrisoned allied countries like Japan and South Korea put him in mind of the de-facto empire that the Soviets had created in Eastern Europe. Once he made that turn, he never looked back. ...
President Clinton came to office intending to keep foreign entanglements to a minimum. That isn't what happened, of course. Despite dire predictions that every military engagement would lead to a quagmire, America found that it could strike with virtual impunity almost anywhere on the globe, and military forays became more common....
The trend was accelerated by changes in the structure of the military. The Pentagon had for decades divided the world into a series of regional commands—sometimes known as cinc doms, after the acronym for commander-in-chief, the title held, until recently, by those who command them. (The last of these— centcom , which covers the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the Horn of Africa—was created in 1983.) But a reorganization of the Pentagon in 1986 vastly increased the power of the cinc s by having them report directly to the President as well as to the Secretary of Defense, unlike the chiefs of the military's four services, who report to civilian secretaries. By the late nineties, the officers who led these commands—men like General Wesley Clark, at the European Command; Marine General Anthony Zinni, at centcom ; and Admiral Dennis Blair, at Pacific Command—were far more powerful than the various ambassadors who conduct the nation's diplomatic business in the countries under each cinc 's oversight. Johnson notes that when, in October, 1999, General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in Pakistan, President Clinton called in protest and asked that his call be returned. Musharraf called Zinni instead. “Tony,” Musharraf reportedly said, “I want to tell you what I am doing.” So the trend hasn't been simply a militarization of foreign policy. It has also been a diplomatization of the American military. In the architecture of empire, the cinc s functioned like proconsuls or regional managers of Pax Americana, with plenty of money and guns and no little ingenuity.
If America, militarily unchallenged and economically dominant, indeed took on the functions of imperial governance, its empire was, for the most part, loose and consensual. In the past couple of years, however, neo-imperialism, this thing of stealth, politesse, and obliquity, has come to seem, so to speak, too neo. Especially as the war on terror began, hard-liners who were frustrated by Clinton's bumbling and hesitations saw no reason to deny that America was an imperial power, and a great one: how else to describe a country that had so easily vanquished Afghanistan, once legendary as the graveyard of empires? The only question was whether America would start running its empire with foresight and determination, rather than leaving it to chance, drift, and disaster.
Adam Clymer, writing in the NYT (Feb. 5, 2004):
Democrats who once rebelled at having their presidential choices dictated by big-city bosses seem to have cheerfully handed over that power to small-town Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire. And this year New Hampshire may have subcontracted its role to Iowa.
How else can John Kerry's five victories, with about two-fifths of the total vote on Tuesday, be explained? After all, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey, only about one-third of prospective voters in those primary states said they knew enough about the Democratic candidates to make an informed choice. What the voters did know was that Mr. Kerry had won in Iowa and New Hampshire, and that polls showed that he was winning or gaining in their states. ...
Missouri may be the best example from Tuesday's primaries of the voters' choosing on the basis of front-runner status. Neither Mr. Kerry nor any other candidate had campaigned in the state until a week ago today, assuming that Dick Gephardt, the native son, had it locked up....
Oddly enough, it was Missouri that helped start the process that led to this spate of bunched-up primaries. At the boss-dominated 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Missouri's delegation was controlled, absolutely, by Gov. Warren Hearnes. Some of the meetings that had elected delegates were held in secret. One was held at night on a speeding bus. In that case it was impossible for supporters of Eugene McCarthy to participate.
In reaction to the behavior of Governor Hearnes and the other bosses, a party commission headed by George McGovern wrote the new rules that substantially survive today. It said its objective was to give Democratic voters a"full, meaningful and timely opportunity" to participate in the nomination process. Those rules encouraged states to hold primaries.
William Broad, writing in the NYT (Feb. 3, 2004):
In 1989, when the first President George Bush announced his plan to send American astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, he called the proposed space station"our critical next step in all our space endeavors." It would be a base in the weightlessness of space where big rockets would be assembled and blast off on voyages of exploration:"a new bridge between the worlds."
Now, with the outpost hurtling through space 240 miles above Earth and with 16 nations struggling to complete the most challenging engineering project of all time, the station has suddenly become a $100 billion dead end.
The current President Bush made no mention of it as a steppingstone in his speech on Jan. 14 reviving the call for missions to the Moon and Mars. Instead, he spoke of it as a site of biomedical research and an"obligation" that the United States had to help finish.
Mr. Bush gave no clear indication how, or whether, the United States planned to use the station after its prospective completion in 2010. With NASA focusing its efforts and its budget on the Moon and Mars, the station's prospects are uncertain.
"I'm worried that they're going to cut off the space shuttle before we have another vehicle that can fly," said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who is the only current member of Congress to have flown in space."And that will drastically reduce space station use."
What happened? How did the station go from star to sideshow? Experts cite a litany of factors: cost overruns, design changes, new perceptions of technical risk after the shuttle disasters and shifting national priorities. For instance, orbital changes to accommodate Russia after the cold war made it harder to use the station as a launching pad.
The tale has no real bad guys, the experts say, but many false promises.
"It was always a steppingstone to the stars," said Dr. Howard E. McCurdy, a space historian at American University."It was sold as all things to all people."
Dr. Alex Roland, a former NASA historian now at Duke University, said a moral of the story was that Congress and the public needed to work harder to hold the space agency accountable for its dreams.
"They keep getting trapped in their own rhetoric," he said."They're willing victims of it. But as public policy it's a disaster because it feeds unrealistic expectations."
At the start of the space age, visionaries invariably saw outposts in earth orbit as jumping-off points. Dr. Wernher von Braun, in a famous 1952 article, told of a huge inhabited wheel."From this platform," he said,"a trip to the Moon itself will be just a step."
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick's movie"2001: A Space Odyssey" featured a giant outpost in Earth orbit that was a way station to the Moon and Jupiter.
Finally, after decades of fantasies, President Ronald Reagan proposed in 1984 that the United States actually build a space station. It too was envisioned as a hub for colonies on the Moon and Mars. For Mr. Reagan, the station also represented a way to challenge the Soviet Union. In the cold war, Moscow made human outposts a hallmark of its space activities.
But Congress did not vote construction money to pay for either Mr. Reagan's vision or that of the first President Bush. Not until 1993 did a new a new vision for space take shape, this one emphasizing harmony over rivalry. That September, President Bill Clinton announced that Russia had joined the station effort as a full partner. Its giant rockets were seen as a boon for the project and a good backup if the shuttles should again fail catastrophically, as the Challenger did in 1986.
"One world, one station," said Daniel S. Goldin, NASA's administrator at the time.
There was just one problem. For the Russian rockets to reach the grand unified station, it would need a different orbit.
Shuttles flying out of Florida usually go into an orbit at an angle of 28.5 degrees to the Equator. The original station, meant to be built piecemeal as the shuttles carried up parts, was to have taken shape there.
But Russian rockets blast off in Kazakhstan, much higher on the globe than Florida. They cannot fly much lower than 51.6 degrees latitude without running the risk of dropping spent rocket stages or astronauts during an emergency re-entry on Mongolia or northern China. So the Clinton administration decided to erect the station at 51.6 degrees, hailing it as a"world orbit" accessible to all spacefaring nations.
Orbiting at 51.6 degrees, the new station could no longer act as the perfect jumping-off point for the Moon and beyond, experts said.
Ginia Belafante, writing in the NYT (Feb. 1, 2004):
Americans have historically maintained a high regard for complementarity in public marriages. The impish are better served by upright spouses than by charmingly impudent ones; the ponderous enlivened by the light of heart; the swaggeringly confident (Franklin Roosevelt) humanized by the sheepishly less self-assured (Eleanor).
Mitigating Kennedy's overweening passion was his wife's remove. Hardly a union of opposites, the Clinton marriage failed to satisfy. Politicians, particularly those aiming for highest office, score a public relations coup when their partners are perceived as completing them.
Though the value of her unbridled volubility has been the subject of debate since her husband's entry into the presidential race, Teresa Heinz Kerry has unquestionably animated the Massachusetts senator's bid for election. A foil to his stiffness, she is the sort who is happy to tell an interviewer - as she did on CNN Tuesday night - that her husband learned of his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire while in the bathroom. In the first instance Ms. Heinz Kerry delivered the news while he was shaving, and in the second instance as he made his way out of the shower.
In her stylishness and social facility, Ms. Heinz Kerry bears at least some likeness to Grace Goodhue Coolidge, the wife of Calvin Coolidge and a woman with the flapper-era equivalent of an enormously high personality rating. As a vice-presidential wife in the early 1920's, she had already become one of the best loved figures in Washington. As first lady, in a coy act of protest against Prohibition law, she named her collie Rob Roy after the Scotch cocktail.
"Coolidge was so incredibly laconic,'' noted Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a historian of first ladies and their political roles."His whole public persona was built around this idea of silent Cal.
"He was shy to the point of not really wanting to talk in public, and she had so much personality and warmth. He desperately leaned on her social ease, and she offset his peculiarly cranky way."
What is expected of someone bound by wedlock to a presidential contender has evolved as women's roles have changed. Though Eleanor Roosevelt addressed the Democratic National Convention in 1940, calling on her party to nominate her husband for a third term, she worked largely in the background, contrary to current assumption, during her husband's two previous bids for the White House.
Wives first assumed a highly visible role in presidential politics in 1960, at a time when middle-class women had become the country's most important consumer targets. On the occasion of his wife's funeral in 1993, Richard Nixon privately remarked that he felt unpopular on the campaign trail but always knew that"everybody liked Pat." Republicans, in fact, built a whole merchandising effort around Mrs. Nixon, distributing buttons and other paraphernalia that read"A Winning Team: Pat and Dick Nixon," or"I'm for Pat."
Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a column in the fall of 1960, distributed by the Democratic Party, in which she discussed health care, education and the atomic bomb. As the wife of the vice-presidential candidate, Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson traveled 35,000 miles stumping for various Democratic contenders. In 1964, with her husband running for president, Mrs. Johnson embarked on a train called the Lady Bird Special and toured eight Southern states to seek support for her husband.
During the women's movement of the 1970's, the voting public paid increasing attention to what a candidate's wife could bring to the table. Rosalynn Carter independently promoted the welfare of the mentally ill during her husband's presidential campaigns. While immersed in the Iranian hostage crisis during his 1980 re-election effort, Jimmy Carter sent his wife as one of his surrogates to campaign in the New Hampshire primary.
Today, as the debate around Mrs. Dean indicates, spousal involvement seems a cultural imperative - as long as the spouse does not appear to be doing so in service of her own ambitions.
Darrin M. McMahon, writing in the Boston Globe (Feb. 1, 2004):
HOWARD DEAN SPECULATES on National Public Radio that George W. Bush may have been warned of 9/11"ahead of time by the Saudis." University professors imply with an air of sophistication that the war in Iraq was a plot to fill contracts for Halliburton. Radio shock-jocks rant against the machinations of the United Nations and the"New World Order." And the conservative pundit Ann Coulter makes the rounds of the talk shows with a book,"Treason," built on the claim that the vilification of Joseph McCarthy was the"greatest Orwellian fraud of our time." The man who warned famously of a"great conspiracy" of communists, it seems, was himself the victim of a plot by"liberals" to blacken his good name.
Hillary Clinton may have given up her talk about the"vast right-wing conspiracy." But there are plenty of others on both sides of the political divide anxious to continue the conversation. In today's popular culture and even the elite media, plots lurk behind every door.
Nor is the anxiety confined to the United States. Last month, the British government opened official inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, fueling ongoing speculation that the couple was murdered in a secret plot. In France and Germany, books by the once-mainstream political analyst Thierry Meyssan ("L'Effroyable Imposture" -- The Big Lie) and the former Social-Democratic cabinet minister Andreas von Bulow ("Die CIA und der 11 September") have climbed bestseller lists with their shocking revelations that 9/11 was a plot by rogue elements within the US government. Uncle Sam, they claim, framed Osama. Meanwhile, major media outlets throughout the Islamic world charge that Israel, or an international Jewish cabal, were behind the World Trade Center attacks and countless other nefarious deeds.
It is tempting just to laugh at these views, dismissing them as the ranting of a lunatic fringe or the naive cynicism of the overeducated. But they are simply too prevalent to be ignored. The clearing house www.conspiracy-net.com , one of the many websites devoted to the subject, boasts over"one thousand searchable conspiracies," from child abductions in Nigeria to the invention of AIDS in CIA laboratories to the real motivations behind President Bush's proposed mission to Mars.
Are we living in a golden age of conspiracy theory? And if so, what stands behind this apparent upsurge in global anxiety? Fortunately, no shortage of observers has turned their attention to such questions. As Syracuse University political scientist Michael Barkun writes in"A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America" (California), the latest in a recent spate of academic studies on the subject,"obsessive concern with the magnitude of hidden evil powers" is just what one might expect in a turn-of-the-millennium culture"rife with apocalyptic anxiety."