Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (1-8-13)
Charlyne Berens is professor and associate dean at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is the author of Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward, from which parts of this article were drawn.
Having been there makes a difference.
Crawling on your stomach in the pitch dark while you hear the clink, clink of a column of Vietcong troops winding its way through the jungle only a few feet away. Fighting house to house, doorway to doorway in Saigon during the Tet offensive. Being wounded twice and promoted twice and decorated seven times.
Chuck Hagel was there -- in Vietnam from 1967-68, during some of the most intense fighting of the war. Now he is President Barack Obama's nominee to be America's next secretary of defense, and if he is confirmed, Hagel would be the first former enlisted man ever to lead the Defense Department. It's a safe bet that what he experienced in the jungles of Vietnam would make a difference in the way Hagel would approach his job at the Pentagon.
"War is not an abstraction," Hagel wrote in a piece for the Omaha World-Herald in 2004. "I know. I've been to war."
When he was in the Senate, Hagel tried to help his colleagues understand war through the lens of the people who would actually be doing the fighting and dying. "We see war up here in very antiseptic terms," he said. "We see it in bright policy terms. In human suffering terms? No." The terms are different, of course, for someone who has been there.
Years before he arrived in Vietnam at age 21, Hagel had already been interested in international relations. His friends teased him when he started subscribing to Time magazine in junior high.
But his experience in Vietnam intensified and shaped the adult Hagel's internationalist worldview. "Integration of the United States in the world is key," he said when I interviewed him in 2004. War may sometimes be an ugly necessity, but it is international relationships that maintain stability and security, he said.
The war Hagel confronted in Vietnam was ugly, indeed. Funny thing is, he wouldn't have had to go there...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (1-7-13)
David Rothkopf is CEO and editor at large of Foreign Policy.
This Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard Nixon. Conventional wisdom says Nixon was brought down by Watergate. The reality was that he was undone as much by the divisiveness of the Vietnam years as by any of the marked and material flaws in his character. Distrust of the Washington establishment and of the ugly, costly war into which it had mismanaged America created a polarized, volatile atmosphere. Nixon gave his enemies the sword they needed to undo him and produce the kind of wrenching change the era seemed to demand.
John Kerry and Chuck Hagel are two products of that era. By extension so, too, is their new patron and soon-to-be boss: Barack Obama (even though Nixon's resignation took place just five days after Obama's 13th birthday). Obama's choices for secretary of state and defense, respectively, Kerry and Hagel are both veterans of the Vietnam war, and although one became a liberal Democrat and the other a conservative Republican, both were defined by their Vietnam experience. Both developed a willingness to challenge conventional military wisdom and a desire to avoid more Vietnams in the future. For Hagel, this ultimately meant breaking with his own party when he saw America's involvement in Iraq heading in a dangerous direction.
For Obama, whose political bar mitzvah, or coming of age if you will, took place in the America of Vietnam, his career has been largely shaped by the liberal traditions that arose in response to and in the wake of that war. Certainly, that seemed clear during the 2008 campaign, when Obama took the more dovish stance in the primaries versus then-Senator Hillary Clinton. But it has seemed less evident during his presidency, when not only did Obama bring Clinton and Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates into his cabinet, but he also undertook a number of initiatives that suggested a deviation from that liberal tradition, from redoubling America's commitment to Afghanistan to military intervention in Libya to a major escalation in America's use of drone warfare, cyber warfare and special operations to project power worldwide.
The big question surrounding Obama and his second-term national security cabinet is whether the new team will reveal which of the seemingly contradictory impulses displayed by the president in his first term will ultimately be seen as his legacy. Are there clues in these choices that suggest an answer?..
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (1-7-13)
Gideon Rachman is a journalist who has been the Financial Times chief foreign affairs commentator since July 2006.
If you needed confirmation that American liberals and conservatives inhabit parallel universes, just consider the reaction to last week’s deal on the fiscal cliff. Conservatives saw a ruthless Barack Obama, ramming through his agenda. Liberals lamented a limp surrender by the president.
But these two very different lines of attack on Mr Obama have something important in common. Both liberals and conservatives remain addicted to the myth of the imperial president. They expect the occupant of the White House to be a towering figure – a Lincoln, a Roosevelt, a Johnson – who dominates politics and shapes history.
In reality Mr Obama is a prisoner of circumstances. He cannot pass laws or get a budget through without the consent of a House of Representatives that is controlled by his bitter ideological and political foes. No president – however brilliant, determined or wise – could create rational and effective policies from such circumstances.
Many liberals dreamt that Mr Obama would be set free by re-election. Without the burden of running for office, he would be the president of Hollywood dreams: speaking out boldly, vanquishing the bad guys.
Instead they are beginning to fear that Obama II will look much like Obama I...
SOURCE: New York Post (1-3-12)
Benny Avni is a New York Post op-ed contributor.
The Taliban seem to believe all they need to do now is wait ’til America hightails it out of Afghanistan (coming soon), then take the country back and remake it into the jihadi haven that Allah always intended it to be.
"They want to flee from Afghanistan just as they turned tail and ran from Vietnam," a Taliban statement boasted Wednesday. "When America faced utter destruction in Vietnam, they came up with the formula ‘declare victory and run.’ And [now they] want to utilize the formula of ‘transfer security and run’ here in Afghanistan."
Vietnam, of course, is where America lost its groove. But then we got it back, didn’t we?..
SOURCE: WaPo (1-2-13)
Aaron David Miller is vice president for current initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and has advised Democratic and Republican secretaries of state on the Middle East. His books include the forthcoming Can America Have Another Great President?
Who lost Syria? Comments of some U.S. senators, analysts and journalists, including the editorial board of this newspaper, suggest there is no doubt: Bashar al-Assad and his thugocracy are primarily responsible for the killings, but the tragedy of Syria is also a direct result of a terrible failure of leadership on the part of the international community, and of the United States in particular.
Syria, it is charged, is Barack Obama’s Rwanda.
Don’t believe it.
The idea that Syria was anyone’s to win or lose, or that the United States could significantly shape the outcome there, is typical of the arrogant paternalism and flawed analysis that have gotten this country into heaps of trouble in the Middle East over the years.
One of the virtues of the Arab Spring/Winter is that Arab people came to own their politics — for better or worse. This sense of ownership was often painful to watch — democracy isn’t always liberal — but it brought authority and legitimacy to the political turbulence roiling that region since late 2010. That made change real and home-grown. The United States and Israel were not central to the myths, tropes and narratives of these historic changes, nor should they be.
Some have argued for intervention by attempting to draw a parallel to Libya: We helped the rebels bring down Moammar Gaddafi, this thinking goes. Why not do the same in Syria?
Three interconnected realities provide the answer...
SOURCE: Daily Beast (1-1-13)
Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky is also editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.
While most liberals were stewing at Barack Obama yesterday for his "capitulation" on tax rates, I confess that I was feeling philosophical about it, and even mildly defensive of him. He is negotiating with madmen, and you can’t negotiate with madmen, because they’re, well, mad. I also spent part of yesterday morning re-reading a little history and reminding myself that rascality like this fiscal-cliff business has been going on since the beginning of the republic. So now I’d like to remind you. It’s always the reactionaries holding up the progressives—and usually, needless to say, it’s been the South holding up the North—and always with the same demagogic and dishonest arguments about a tyrannical central government. We’ll never be rid of these paranoid bloviators, and if no other president could stop them I don’t really see why Obama ought to be able to.
This history of legislative hostage-taking begins with the odious three-fifths compromise, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for census purposes. That much I trust you know. What you may not know is that the Southern states, backers of the three-fifths rule in this case in order to get greater representation in the House of Representatives, had opposed a different three-fifths rule earlier, back in the Articles of Confederation days. Then, three-fifths of all slaves were going to be counted for purposes of deciding how much federal tax each state owed.
In other words, the South had said, count slaves as part human for the purposes of taxation? Nevah! Count them as part-human for the purposes of representation, however—well, Yankee, now you’re talking. The South is still doing exactly the same thing today, never paying its freight, its cornpone pols inveighing against the evil government while the Southern states are collectively the most dependent on Washington largesse of all states and regions. The hypocrisy has a long pedigree...
SOURCE: Time (12-28-12)
Bruce Crumley Time's Paris bureau chief, and has covered French and European news since 1989.
The recent visit of French President François Hollande to Algeria received praise for addressing the painful historical wounds that continue plaguing relations between the two countries. In doing so, Hollande acknowledged the "brutal and unjust" manner in which France treated its former Algerian colony — a sober recognition that pointedly stopped short of the full apology officials in Algiers have long demanded. Still, coming a full 50 years after Algeria won its independence with a long and gruesome war, Hollande’s words drew a thundering ovation from the Algerian parliament during his Dec. 20 address.
"Over 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system," Hollande said during his two-day visit. "This system has a name: it is colonialism, and I recognize the suffering that colonialism inflicted on the Algerian people."
But despite the praise — and protest — Hollande’s comments generated on both sides of the Mediterranean, he failed to touch on two terrible, living consequences of France’s legacy in Algeria. First among those is the historical background in which the continuing discrimination and ghettoization of millions of French Arabs are rooted — much like the increasingly open expression of Islamophobia within French society. Second is his failure to acknowledge the deeply corrupt, brutal and military-supported Algerian power structure that has dominated the country since independence — one that Paris has preferred to placate and patronize, even as it presses for democracy elsewhere...
SOURCE: National Interest (12-26-12)
Paul R. Pillar is director of graduate studies at Georgetown University's Security Studies Program and a former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. He is a contributing editor to The National Interest.
I was born just early enough to have some faint but direct memories of the stain on American history that became known as McCarthyism. One recollection is of my parents watching on television in 1954 substantial portions of the Army-McCarthy hearings, which was the first Congressional inquiry to be nationally televised. Although I was too young to understand it at the time, those hearings marked the beginning of the end of Joseph McCarthy's red-baiting campaign of slander. Before the end of the year he would be formally censured by the U.S. Senate.
One important factor in stopping McCarthy's reputation-ruining rampage was the working of media in those early days of the television era. Media coverage of the 1954 hearings, which lasted several weeks and in which accusations and counter-accusations were made and confronted in concentrated form within a single hearing room, made it impossible to turn a blind eye to what McCarthyism was about. The gavel-to-gavel television coverage, bringing such a dramatic event into living rooms across the country for the first time, was especially influential.
Another important factor was the willingness of visible figures to call McCarthy to account and to shame him, clearly and directly. A key figure was Joseph Welch, the prominent lawyer who served as chief counsel for the U.S. Army at the hearings. When McCarthy attempted to apply his usual method of innuendo and guilt-by-association to a junior lawyer at Welch's firm, Welch labeled McCarthy's tactics as "reckless cruelty" and spoke the most eloquent and memorable line of the hearings:
You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?...
SOURCE: National Review (12-27-12)
Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner.
In combing through the results of the 2012 election — apparently finally complete, nearly two months after the fact — I continue to find many similarities between 2012 and 2004, and one enormous difference.
Both of the elections involved incumbent presidents with approval ratings hovering around or just under 50 percent facing challengers who were rich men from Massachusetts (though one made his money and the other married it).
In both cases, the challenger and his campaign seemed confident he was going to win — and had reasonable grounds to believe so.
In both elections, the incumbent started running a barrage of negative ads defining the challenger in the spring. And in both elections, the incumbent had at least one spotty debate performance.
In both elections, each candidate concentrated on a more or less fixed list of target states, and in both elections the challenger depended heavily on outside groups’ spending that failed to achieve optimal results.
The popular-vote margins were similar — 51 to 48 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, 51 to 47 percent for Barack Obama in 2012.
The one enormous difference was turnout...
SOURCE: LA Times (12-26-12)
Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the Institute for Policy Studies' weekly on excess and inequality. This piece is adapted from his new book, The Rich Don't Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970.
Close your eyes in Washington these days and you can almost hear the echoes of 1932. Eighty years ago, just like today, a fiscal crisis almost totally dominated the nation's capital.
Then, as now, fiscal conservatives demanded immediate action to fix a federal budget awash in red ink. And then, as now, average Americans wondered why all the fuss about deficits. The Depression was in its third year, and millions had no jobs. Why were politicians haggling about balancing the budget?
Is history simply repeating? If so, bring that repeat on, with the same final result. That 1932 fiscal crisis produced an unexpected, and stunning, watershed in U.S. history, the moment when America's rich and powerful began to lose their lock-grip on the nation's political pulse...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (12-24-12)
John Arquilla is professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and author of Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military.
SOURCE: WSJ (12-23-12)
Mr. Kaplan is chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm, and author of The Revenge of Geography (Random House, 2012).
SOURCE: Daily News (12-23-12)
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
SOURCE: Huffington Post (12-22-12)
SOURCE: Defining Ideas (Hoover) (12-19-12)
Toshio Nishi is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Japan has been apologizing since the summer of 1945; apologizing to its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific and to the United States. Have we, the Japanese, been kowtowing to the point that no nation believes our sincerity? Or do the Asia-Pacific nations demand more of our prostration? The scene is perhaps like an addict needing a more potent drug every passing day: the drug being Japan’s apology, and the addict you could easily guess.
Don’t the Japanese get sick and tired of our same miserable behavior? Yes, we do. Indeed, a proverbial swing has moved a little toward the center, and Japan has become assertive and recently proclaimed ownership for some little rocks sticking out of the water in the Sea of Japan.
China and South Korea are shocked to see Japan’s unexpected nationalistic, neo-militaristic resurgence. The United States wisely stays out of this potentially volatile shouting match. There is a very good reason for unfriendly bickering. Below the rocks, under the seabed, huge oil and natural gas deposits have been discovered.
Something is going on under the surface of a polite Japanese society that previously enjoyed unprecedented wealth and now is suffering from two decades of recession (but is still without much crime). Granted, the largest earthquake and tsunami in our memory and the four nuclear meltdowns never before experienced in our history have wrecked our daily lives. Yet, on its surface, Japan remains calm and collected. The people’s indignation, however, is heating up within...
SOURCE: National Review (12-19-12)
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
The political slogan "Forward" served Barack Obama well during this year’s election campaign. It said that he was for going forward, while Republicans were for "going back to the failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place."
It was great political rhetoric and great political theater. Moreover, the Republicans did virtually nothing to challenge its shaky assumptions, though a few hard facts could have made those assumptions collapse like a house of cards.
More is involved than this year’s political battles. The word "forward" has been a political battle cry on the left for more than a century. It has been almost as widely used as the Left’s other favorite word, "equality," which goes back more than two centuries.
The seductive notion of economic equality has appealed to many people. The pilgrims started out with the idea of equal sharing. The colony of Georgia began with very similar ideas. In the Midwest, Britain’s Robert Owen — who coined the term "socialism" — set up colonies based on communal living and economic equality.
What these idealistic experiments all had in common was that they failed...
SOURCE: The Hill (12-19-12)
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s do this for the beautiful girls and boys of Newtown, whose happy smiles, wide eyes, caring hearts, and loving souls will never again warmly hug the families that love them or joyously open the presents that await them, as the nation that mourns them and loves them begins heartfelt thought and prayerful reflection during this holiday season.
Regarding the role of the National Rifle Association in a nation that has witnessed far too many killings of far too many innocents in a nation with far too many of the kind of weapons that are best left to Navy SEALs killing enemy terrorists, I write today to reach out.
A great political battle might be necessary, but a national consensus for unity and action would be far preferable. Not one child will be saved by renewing ancient political wars that inevitably lead to inaction that history will condemn as another appalling prelude to the next mass murder....
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (12-19-12)
Nabila Ramdani is a Paris-born freelance journalist and academic of Algerian descent. She specialises in Anglo-French issues, Islamic affairs, and the Arab World.
It is now half a century since Algeria, the jewel in the crown of Gallic imperialism, was finally granted independence, so ending 132 years of often barbarous rule from Paris that culminated in a war in which more than a million Algerians died. This week the French president, François Hollande, is on a two-day state visit to the country. His main task is effectively to offer a qualified apology for what happened, and thus "turn a page" in arguably the darkest chapter in France's recent history. Moreover, Hollande will use the platitudinous jargon of modern global government to make the case for increased economic integration between the two countries, highlighting France's continuing friendship with her oil- and gas-rich North African partner.
Apologies and clean slates are to be welcomed in any language. Bitterness over a uniquely savage history achieves nothing in terms of economic policy. France is now Algeria's main trade partner, and it has to compete with countries including Britain, China and the US for highly lucrative markets. Algeria's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, will use the two-day visit to show off positive business developments in the relationship between the two countries, including the building of a new Renault factory in Oran and the signing of at least 15 new contracts for the construction of trams, water-treatment plants, telecommunications and other infrastructure projects.
There is irony in Hollande, a socialist with an avowed dislike of the go-getting rich, seeking to expunge a dark colonial legacy with the promise of corporate profit. But he has displayed a genuine commitment to change. His presidential entourage in Algeria is one of the biggest ever, and he will become the first French head of state to address both houses of parliament in Algiers since the country's independence in 1962. Earlier this year Hollande broke the official state silence over the murders of as many as 200 Algerians (estimates of the exact number vary) during a pro-independence demonstration in Paris in October 1961, recognising the "bloody repression" of thousands of Algerians living in mainland France.
What Hollande's trip to Algeria fails to acknowledge, however, is just how oppressed so many French-Algerians still feel today...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (12-17-12)
The writer is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
For more than 30 years, from the mid-1970s to 2008, Keynesian demand management was in intellectual eclipse. Yet it returned with the financial crisis to dominate the thinking of the Obama administration and much of the UK Labour party. It is time to reconsider the revival.
The rebound of Keynesianism, led in the US by Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary, Paul Krugman, the economist-columnist, and the US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, came with the belief that short-term fiscal and monetary expansion was needed to offset the collapse of the housing market.
The US policy choice has been four years of structural (cyclically adjusted) budget deficits of general government of 7 per cent of gross domestic product or more; interest rates near zero; another call by the White House for stimulus in 2013; and the Fed’s new policy to keep rates near zero until unemployment returns to 6.5 per cent. Since 2010, no European country has followed the US’s fiscal lead. However, the European Central Bank and Bank of England are not far behind the Fed on the monetary front.
We can’t know how successful (or otherwise) these policies have been because of the lack of convincing counterfactuals. But we should have serious doubts...
SOURCE: New Republic (12-19-12)
Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law and the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.
Gun control is one of the great pieces of unfinished business for the Democratic Party. Although the party has never been unified in its support of restrictive gun laws – indeed, gun control historically transcends the usual party lines – for the past century Democrats have pushed for a more vigorous role for government in regulating guns. They’ve been largely unsuccessful, however, and lately Democrats have made Avoid Gun Control an informal plank in the party’s platform.
The Newtown massacre however may have changed all that.
Like health care, social security, and so many other issues central to the Democratic agenda, the party’s support for gun control stems from Franklin D. Roosevelt. For most of American history, regulation of guns was a matter of state law. State-level regulation, however, came under tremendous pressure during the 1920s and 30s, when Prohibition-era gangsters like Al Capone overwhelmed local police resources and traveling desperadoes like Bonnie and Clyde easily escaped capture by racing across state lines. FDR promoted a "New Deal for Crime," which, like his other New Deal policies, involved expanding the role of the federal government in serving the people.
Roosevelt’s original proposal for what would become the National Firearms Act of 1934, the first federal gun control law, sought to tax all firearms and establish a national registry of guns. When gun owners objected, Congress scaled down FDR’s proposal to allow only for a restrictive tax on machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, which were thought to be gangster weapons with no usefulness for self-defense.
Congress watered down FDR’s bill because of concerns about maintaining the right of people in rural communities, where there was little police presence, to have handguns for protection—not because of the Second Amendment. In congressional hearings into the NFA, Karl Frederick, the leader of the NRA, was called to testify. When asked if the Second Amendment imposed any limitations on what Congress could do in regulating guns, the NRA president’s reply was surprising: "I have not given it any study from that point of view."..