This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: Peter Steinfels in the NYT (9-30-06)
Apart from the Orthodox minority, most Jews, including those who acknowledge belief in the resurrection as a part of Judaism’s historical legacy, seem to rush by the idea as quickly as possible, rendering it perhaps as a metaphor for how one’s good works live on, but in any case ushering it to the margins of their tradition, a minor and dispensable theme in a Judaism that focuses on life.
Resurrection of the dead, it is argued, is a Johnny-come-lately notion, not found in the ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible, which treated mortality matter-of-factly. Instead, the doctrine was an innovation of the Maccabean period, found in the Book of Daniel, written between 167 and 164 B.C.E, when faithful Jews were being persecuted by the Hellenistic monarch Antiochus IV. With ideas borrowed from Zoroastrianism and other foreign sources, resurrection solved the puzzle of understanding divine justice when fidelity to the Law brought about not prosperity and length of years but martyrdom.
Professor Levenson’s new book, “Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life” (Yale University Press), is a frontal challenge to this account. But the reasons that it has become a staple of modern Jewish apologetics, he allows, “are not hard to find.”
On the one hand, the rejection or marginalization of resurrection offered a clear distinction between Judaism and a Christianity that celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus as the ground for human hope. On the other hand, it simultaneously aligned Judaism with the naturalistic and scientific outlook of modernity “of the sort that dismisses resurrection as an embarrassing relic of the childhood of humanity.”
Professor Levenson does not deny that an unambiguous belief in resurrection of the dead makes a late appearance in Judaism, or that some groups, like the Sadducees, mentioned in the Gospels and by the historian Josephus, never accepted it.
He argues, however, that this late appearance was “both an innovation and a restatement of a tension that had pervaded the religion of Israel from the beginning.” The full-fledged doctrine of resurrection was not primarily a response to the needs of the moment or the challenge of martyrdom. It flowed from “deeper and long-established currents in the religion of Israel.”....
SOURCE: NYT Editorial (9-30-06)
Without one, the United States has no chance of salvaging its battered reputation in the Islamic world. No chance of rallying moderate Arab leaders to fight extremists or contain Iran. And no chance of ensuring Israel’s lasting security. We just hope that Mr. Bush will now make the long neglected peace effort a central priority for the remaining years of his presidency.
With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveling to the region next week, Mr. Bush should give her an explicit mandate to press Israel, and not just the Palestinians, for real compromises. He should also give her the authority to talk to adversaries, and not just friends, about how to support the effort.
For years, Mr. Bush’s advisers have woven an entire mythology about how Middle East peace required tanks on the road to Baghdad, rather than diplomats on planes to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Damascus.
So it was surprising to hear one of Ms. Rice’s closest aides, Philip Zelikow, the State Department counselor, tell a think-tank audience that some sense of progress on the Arab-Israeli dispute is “just a sine qua non” for getting moderate Arabs and the Europeans to cooperate on Iran and the region’s many other dangerous problems. “We can rail against that belief. We can find it completely justifiable. But it’s fact,” Mr. Zelikow said....
SOURCE: HNN Staff (9-30-06)
Some of those memorandums were written by Philip D. Zelikow, a counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, including one in early 2005 in which Mr. Zelikow characterized Iraq as “a failed state” two years after the invasion, and another in September 2005, in which he said there was a 70 percent chance of success in achieving a stable, democratic state. That meant, Mr. Zelikow said, that there was a 30 percent chance of failure, including what he called a “significant risk” of “catastrophic failure,” meaning a collapse of the state Mr. Bush has tried to create.
The Washington Post also cited Zelikow in its account of the Woodward book:
[Condoleezza] Rice ... hired Philip D. Zelikow, an old friend, and sent him immediately to Iraq [when she became secretary of state]. She needed ground truth, a full, detailed report from someone she trusted. Zelikow had a license to go anywhere and ask any question.
On Feb. 10, 2005, two weeks after Rice became secretary of state, Zelikow presented her with a 15-page, single-spaced secret memo."At this point Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change," Zelikow wrote.
The insurgency was"being contained militarily," but it was"quite active," leaving Iraqi civilians feeling"very insecure," Zelikow said.
U.S. officials seemed locked down in the fortified Green Zone."Mobility of coalition officials is extremely limited, and productive government activity is constrained."
Zelikow criticized the Baghdad-centered effort, noting that"the war can certainly be lost in Baghdad, but the war can only be won in the cities and provinces outside Baghdad."
In sum, he said, the United States' effort suffered because it lacked an articulated, comprehensive, unified policy.
SOURCE: The Morning News (9-26-06)
By the way, Wood makes a very important point in his laudation of The Rise of American Democracy:
"It is one of the many ironies of American history that the wildfire spread of democratic politics in both the North and the South eventually made it impossible to solve the problem of slavery peaceably. To learn how the triumph of democracy nearly destroyed the United States, this book is a good place to start."
In addition to American Democracy, which is out in paperback this month, Wilentz has published, among others: In The Kingdom of Matthias (co-written with Paul E. Johnson); The Key of Liberty (with Michael Merrill); Chants Democratic; Major Problems in the Early Republic; and The Rose and the Briar (with Greil Marcus), a collection of historical essays and artistic creations inspired by American ballads. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous American periodicals, including Rolling Stone.
* * *
Robert Birnbaum: We are talking about your immense tome and other things. Let’s talk about what I want to talk about before we talk about—
Sean Wilentz: I’ll twist it around later.
RB: You can answer however you want. For whom was this book written?
SW: Everybody. I have written all kinds of things over the last 30 years. For professors, fellow professors, for students, for the general public, for politically interested people. All kinds of stuff—musical stuff that no one in other crowds will ever see. So I have had the chance, actually I have been lucky enough to be able to write for different audiences and write in different kinds of ways when I do. This was an attempt to write for everybody, the unborn as well as the born.
SW: [laughs] No, really, sometimes you want to be a writer—I don’t know if every writer does this but some writers, I certainly did—they do the Babe Ruth thing, they just say, “I’m going to hit it out of the ballpark,” and then people look at them like they are crazy and it’s an act of arrogance and hubris, and nine times out of 10 it fails. And maybe you don’t say it so much publicly, but you put [success] in your own mind, and that’s what I wanted to do. So that’s what I tried to do.
RB: Despite the fact that you hold an endowed chair at Princeton, a professor of long standing at a prestigious university, am I right in my assumption that you think of yourself as a writer who happened to find a comfortable sinecure at a university?
SW: [laughs] Well, if people thought of me that way, I’d consider it a compliment. I can’t say I started that way, and I can’t say it’s a sinecure because it’s a lot of work. ...
SOURCE: LAT (9-28-06)
Wakeman retired from UC Berkeley in June after spending his entire four-decade career there. He was the Walter and Elise Haas Professor of Asian Studies and a past director of the university's Institute of East Asian Studies.
His best known book was "The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in 17th Century China," a two-volume narrative history of a dramatic period in Chinese history that began with the suicide of the last Ming emperor.
Two years after it was published in 1985, it won the Joseph R. Levenson Prize of the Assn. for Asian Studies, which praised it as a "monumental" work that synthesized a broad range of Chinese, Japanese and Western sources.
Wakeman was an evocative writer who chose, "like the novelist he really wanted to be, stories that split into different currents and swept the reader along," said Jonathan Spence, the eminent China scholar at Yale University. "To me, Fred was quite simply the best modern Chinese historian of the last 30 years."
An activist as well as scholar, he played an instrumental role in building academic bridges between the United States and China during the 1970s and 1980s.
Through his work on various committees, including the U.S. Inter-Agency Negotiating Team on Chinese-American International Exchanges for which he served as education advisor, he enabled American historians and social scientists to travel to China and gain access to long-closed historical archives dating to the imperial era....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (9-25-06)
On Friday, the NEH released a formal response to the letter, calling it anything but thoughtful. Rather, the letter was characterized as containing “inaccuracies and distortions” and the scholars involved were accused of spreading “false and misleading information.”
The NEH response has further angered the historians — both for its substance and tone. Significantly, the endowment is going on record defending a policy in which what many key scholars consider a key part of peer review — analysis by experts — has been eliminated.
In addition, while the NEH says that complaints from the scholars about grant requirements were inappropriate, the endowment has changed the grant review criteria to explicitly state (as requested by the historians) that projects not be excluded for not being online and free.
Where this will leave the dispute is unclear — but if the NEH was hoping that its letter would reassure the historians, the agency is likely to be disappointed. Roger A. Bruns, president of the Association for Documentary Editing, the group that has led the protest to the NEH, said in an interview that he was stunned by the agency’s response. He said that while the agency was accusing historians of making distortions, it had not identified a single error of fact.
“Their policies are putting our projects in jeopardy, and all we were asking for was a meeting to talk about this, and they fire back with this insulting letter,” said Bruns. “They know that there are a whole lot of people concerned and complaining, and they don’t answer the concerns. I resent this response and don’t understand why they are doing this.”
The dispute that brought historical groups into conflict with the NEH concerns a relatively small, but important program — Scholarly Editions Grants — but scholars say that the underlying concerns affect the endowment’s programs as a whole....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (9-26-06)
SOURCE: John J. Miller at National Review Online (10-9-06)
The chair remains vacant, however, and Wisconsin is not currently trying to fill it. “We won’t search for a candidate this school year,” says John Cooper, a history professor. “But we’re committed to doing it eventually.” The ostensible reason for the delay is that the university wants to raise even more money, so that it can attract a top-notch senior scholar. There may be another factor as well: Wisconsin doesn’t actually want a military historian on its faculty. It hasn’t had one since 1992, when Edward M. Coffman retired. “His survey course on U.S. military history used to overflow with students,” says Richard Zeitlin, one of Coffman’s former graduate teaching assistants. “It was one of the most popular courses on campus.” Since Coffman left, however, it has been taught only a couple of times, and never by a member of the permanent faculty.
One of these years, perhaps Wisconsin really will get around to hiring a professor for the Ambrose-Heseltine chair — but right now, for all intents and purposes, military history in Madison is dead. It’s dead at many other top colleges and universities as well. Where it isn’t dead and buried, it’s either dying or under siege. Although military history remains incredibly popular among students who fill lecture halls to learn about Saratoga and Iwo Jima and among readers who buy piles of books on Gettysburg and D-Day, on campus it’s making a last stand against the shock troops of political correctness. “Pretty soon, it may become virtually impossible to find military-history professors who study war with the aim of understanding why one side won and the other side lost,” says Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who taught at West Point for ten years. That’s bad news not only for those with direct ties to this academic sub-discipline, but also for Americans generally, who may find that their collective understanding of past military operations falls short of what the war-torn present demands. ...
SOURCE: Harvey Blume in the Boston Globe (9-24-06)
Gracious as the offer was, in England, where Ferguson, 42, spends part of the year as an Oxford research fellow (he's also a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and the Los Angeles Times), he is known less for his disarmingly good manners than for inciting controversy. In ``The Pity of War: Explaining World War I" (1998), he proposed that the 20th century would have been less murderous had Germany won the First World War-a thesis that could easily irk an Englishman. In ``Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" (2004), and in numerous newspaper pieces, he challenges Americans to rethink their place in the world.
Ferguson maintains that the United States is unquestionably an imperial power, but because Americans don't like to think so, the US often fails to fulfill its imperial responsibilities. One crucial case in point for Ferguson is Iraq, where, in his view, an imperial power less in denial about itself would have known that such an invasion required forethought, vast resources, and the willingness to stick around for a very long time.
The theme of empire is central to the new book, as well. Ferguson believes the real problem with an empire shows up when it declines, at which time genocidal hatred is liable to break out among the ethnic groups it had governed. That's what happened, he argues, in the extraordinarily-often interethnically-violent 20th century, and what he worries may be underway in the Middle-East.
But before delving into the thorny issues, I had to lay a rumor to rest.
IDEAS: Is it true, as The New York Times reported in August, that you are part of John McCain's brain trust?
FERGUSON: I've met Senator McCain, and we've talked. That's it. I don't know where the idea that I'm part of his kitchen cabinet came from. In Britain we call electioneering the ``silly season," where such stories go around.
IDEAS: In ``The War of the World," you take it for granted that empires are the great engines of world history. But aren't other forms of political organization viable?
FERGUSON: Sure, but empires constantly recur. Most of what we call history is the history of empire, back to ancient times. They leave pretty good records of their doings.
IDEAS: What about nation states?
FERGUSON: For one thing, nation states are a relatively recent phenomenon: Even at the beginning of the 20th century, 82 percent of the world's population lived in empires. And the problem with transforming empires into nation states-Woodrow Wilson's central idea, and that of nationalists in Asia and Africa-is that the process is extraordinarily bloody. To imagine an ethnically homogeneous nation state is often to imagine ethnic cleansing....
SOURCE: UCLA International Institute (9-21-06)
Set up in 2000, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, better known by its Indonesian acronym CAVR, collected records on the period from 1974, when Portugal began to relinquish colonial control, through the 1999 election that made East Timor a sovereign nation, free after 24 years of occupation by Indonesia.
"It's important legally, it's important historically to outsiders, but it provides East Timor a basis to understand its own history," explains Robinson, a UCLA scholar of political violence and Indonesian and East Timorese history. In October, he will go back to Dili to oversee a year-long project to make a digital copy of the archive that will be housed in the British Library, beyond the reach of Indonesian military personnel and members of former East Timorese militias who are implicated in crimes.
Under its Endangered Archives Programme, the library will support the work of Robinson and a Dili-based team to back up the bulk of the archive's contents. Violence and instability that broke loose again in East Timor this May, when then-Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri dismissed almost half of the country's military, served as a further reminder for Robinson of the archive's vulnerability.
Between 1974 and 1999, CAVR reports, over 100,000 East Timorese were murdered or died from hunger or the collapse of health care as a result of the occupation. The London-based human rights group Amnesty International puts the number at 200,000. For a country that now has a population of one million, the toll was enormous.
SOURCE: Pittsburg Post-Gazette (9-24-06)
It's not often that a university can boast that the on-camera expert is one of its own. That was the case recently when California University of Pennsylvania assistant professor Paul Crawford appeared on the "Lost Worlds" segment about the Knights Templar.
Dr. Crawford, 45, who has a doctorate in medieval history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was formerly a professor of medieval and early modern history at Alma College in Alma, Mich. Before that, he lectured in ancient and medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
As the newly hired assistant professor of ancient and medieval history at CalU, he teaches Western civilization, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the craft of history or, as he describes it, "how to be a historian."
Dr. Crawford spent two days filming the Knights Templar segment, highlighting the religious order of fighting monks. It has aired several times since its initial July screening. Traveling to Syria for the program, he visited castles used by the knights in the two days of filming in mid-February. About five minutes wound up on screen.
The unique thing about him is that he is so interested in the crusades and the Knights Templar that he is able to draw students in, said Laura Tuennerman, chairwoman of the university's Department of History and Social Science.
SOURCE: ABC News (9-22-06)
President Eisenhower sketched a picture of himself looking larger than life, bare-chested, and with a head full of hair.
President Reagan doodled smiling cowboys alongside love notes to his wife.
Presidents Carter and Ford left no scribblings.
It's not the first thing a scholar might search for in the public record, but presidential doodles hold a certain fascination for the historically minded.
"Doodles are often the last remnants of unconscious, unscripted presidential writing," said David Greenberg, a historian who examined two centuries of scribblings by commanders in chief for a book appropriately called "Presidential Doodles."
The book includes the absentminded scratchings of 24 presidents — plus a note from President Bush — collected from public records and archives across the country.
Greenberg cautions against reading too much into a doodle, but he believes they offer a glimpse into the president's private side.
"So much of what we hear from a president is planned and vetted by focus groups. It's un-spontaneous. You see in these doodles the exact opposite. These doodles are done not only without regard to what the public is going to think but also what the president himself is thinking. It's often unconscious."
SOURCE: OregonLive.com (9-24-06)
Don't be put off by the ether-like smell wafting off the book's cover. Writers who earn their main coin in academic settings tend to front-load their books with these stuffy titles. (Anything too pop-sounding makes the other eggheads nervous.) True, this work is hundreds of pages of inside baseball about the 39th Congress and the minutiae that underpinned the far-reaching 14th Amendment, but Epps doesn't wander too far without surfacing with his refreshing you-are-there observations about the earnest guys who helped bring us civil rights.
The democratic experiment that became America has its roots in the Constitutional contortions of 1787, but Epps argues, convincingly, that the fight for the 14th Amendment well deserves the label of "second Constitution." It was during that 1866 season that this amendment was forged. The fight came about as former slaves (freed by the 13th Amendment) stood to be counted as citizens to the political benefit of Southern states, but without gaining the basic civil rights held by their white neighbors. The much-debated 14th Amendment essentially forced all states to extend the promise of the Bill of Rights, and thwarted the post-Civil War Black Codes that restricted African Americans' rights to live where they wished, take up legal disputes in court and so on.
SOURCE: newstimeslive.com (CT) (9-22-06)
The decision, stemming from a New London case, gave power to cities to tear down homes for shopping malls and hotel complexes for tax revenue.
On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the lawyers representing the parties in Kelo v. New London, the bitter case that pitted the city of New London against a homeowner, will be at WestConn for a debate.
It will be held in Room 125 of the Science Building on the midtown campus on 181 White St.
Brewster, an award-winning journalist and historian from Ridgefield, will be moderator. He was named a "distinguished professor" at WestConn last year.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision, that the city of New London could use eminent domain to claim private property so it could build a corporate office park.
The decision means that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private economic development. It was a defeat for several New London residents whose homes were to be torn down to build an office complex.
SOURCE: Groong/Armenian News Network (9-25-06)
The trial ended 1 1/2 hours after it began, with Judge Irfan Adil ruling that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that Shafak
committed a crime.
Shafak was charged under Article 301, which makes public denigrationof Turkishness, the Turkish Republic, the Grand National Assembly, the government, judiciary, military and security services a crime, according to the Associated Press.
Shafak's trial gained international attention, with more than 300 riot police surrounding yesterday's hearing. The trial came at an important time for the country, which is under evaluation to join the European Union.
The EU has warned Turkey that putting writers and journalists on trial for their speech could hamper its efforts to join the bloc, according to the Associated Press.
SOURCE: ABC (9-4-06)
According to a McCain aide, the article said, one of the senator's unofficial advisors as he ponders a possible run for the White House is the British-born Harvard historian Niall Ferguson.
Though relatively unknown in the United States, Ferguson is a controversial figure in the United Kingdom, where he continues to spend much of his time. Ferguson has been besieged by critics and admirers in Britain ever since the publication of his 2003 book "Empire" and its companion TV series.
For some time, much of Britain has regarded its imperial history with a mixture of shame and embarrassment. Indeed, the prominent think-tank, Demos, once suggested that Queen Elizabeth II ought to be forced on "a world tour to apologize for the past sins of Empire."
Ferguson stepped into this environment of national hand-wringing and self-hatred with a shocking proposition — that the British Empire should be regarded, like any empire, in a broad historical context. To even greater uproar, he suggested that it might actually have been of some global merit in that it helped spread democratic values around the world.
The public was enormously divided. To fans, Ferguson seemed a brave challenger of taboos, willing to take on issues most British citizens instinctively shy away from. To critics, he came across as a vile historical revisionist, an apologist for imperial crimes, and possibly just a poseur, adopting controversial positions solely for the sake of fame.
Indeed, theatre-going New Yorkers may have already encountered this take on Ferguson: He is widely regarded as the inspiration for the central character in Alan Bennett's drama, "The History Boys." This still-running Tony Award winner revolves around the recollections of fictional character, Tom Irwin, an amoral TV historian turned amoral political aide, famed for his willingness to argue the unthinkable.
And while many in Britain would raise eyebrows at the news McCain may be consulting with Ferguson, even in only a casual way, the link has received relatively little attention in America — although certainly, anyone who has seen the Bennett play might think that life is imitating art.
Writing on andrewsullivan.com in the eponymous blogger's absence, David Wiegel worried about what Ferguson's influence might mean for a possible McCain presidency. Wiegel called Ferguson a "foaming-at-the-mouth 'national greatness conservative.' " His piece concluded that, "a president with Niall Ferguson at his shoulder is a president who'll stretch our military even thinner across the globe."
This concern has been echoed by the London-based columnist Johann Hari, who wrote that Ferguson had been positioning himself to become "court historian to the imperial American hard right."
But are these conclusions fair? After all, as the prominent British historian Tristram Hunt observed, "You don't become a Harvard professor without being a historian of substance." Ferguson does indeed have highly regarded and nuanced works to his name, even while entering into some controversial areas of discussion and study.
For instance, Ferguson's 2004 book, "Colossus — The Rise and Fall of the American Empire," argued that the United States should face up to its status as a de facto empire. His intention, he said, was to encourage America to become an "effective liberal empire" that learned "humility" from the mistakes of its British forbear.
His resulting thoughts on the Iraq war received a fair amount of attention in Britain. Ferguson wrote that America's practice had all too often been to "fire some shells, march in, hold elections, and then get the hell out — until the next crisis." At the start of the war, he encouraged America to commit more resources to Iraq, and stay the course.
However, Ferguson has also expressed increasing dismay at the manner in which the war is being run, and often stresses that America must maintain its democratic credentials through its actions around the world.
This determination to protect American values may have been what brought him into McCain's unofficial orbit of influences. During the discussion last year about U.S torture practices, Ferguson wrote that, "The White House should shut up and back Sen. John McCain's bill, which would unequivocally ban torture by American military or intelligence personnel."
This was the second time in two months that Ferguson had mentioned McCain in his weekly column for Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper. The first occasion may even provide a potential insight into foreign policy under a putative President McCain.
In that passage, comparing America to ancient Rome, Ferguson noted the geographical similarity between present-day American foreign interests and the conquests of the Roman emperor Trajan. Quoting from the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon, Ferguson then turned his attention to how Trajan's successor, Hadrian, dealt with the "over-extension of the empire" that he inherited from his predecessor.
"By every honorable expedient, [Hadrian] invited the friendship of the barbarians; and endeavored to convince mankind that the Roman power, raised above the temptation of conquest, was actuated only by the love of order and justice."
Ferguson concluded this sounded like "a straightforward enough foreign policy for Mr. Bush's successor," before noting that he hoped that successor would be John McCain.
Neither Ferguson nor McCain responded to inquiries for this article, so the nature of their relationship, if any, is unclear. What is clear, however, is that McCain has tapped a controversial academic to be a member of his virtual "kitchen cabinet." There is, of course, an old saying that goes, "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." Ferguson has shown he is more than able to stand the heat, and given his reputation, there will surely be much more of it to come.
SOURCE: Press Release -- Historians Against the War (9-1-06)
With mid-term elections scheduled for November, we have the opportunity to focus campus attention on the vital issues of war and peace. Why is the United States still occupying Iraq? How and when can we withdraw? How does the Iraqi occupation relate to the current crisis in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon? And what are the prospects for a new war in Iran or Syria? How is the Bush Administration expanding the powers of the Executive Branch? And what are the domestic effects of its commitment to a prolonged “war on terrorism?”
Historians Against the War is urging our colleagues – professors and students - across the country to organize or participate in National Teach-In Days, October 17-19.
If you can help arrange an event at your school on any one of these three days, please email us at email@example.com so that we can begin compiling a listing and assisting with resources. If your organization can endorse this call, please contact us. We will post this call and additional information on our Teach-In page on our HAW website: http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/teachin/
While the exact format and themes will reflect the particular needs of your institution, Historians Against the War will be lining up speakers, preparing a web-page with helpful ideas, and establishing connections with national organizations (such as Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Parents, Iraq Veterans Against the War!).
The tragedies now unfolding in Iraq and across the Middle East underscore our responsibility as educators and citizens to enhance public knowledge, to stimulate thoughtful inquiry, and to end the American occupation of Iraq. We hope that you can join this urgent effort!
Organizations Endorsing the October 17–19 Iraq War Teach-Ins
(as of September 21)
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
National Youth and Student Peace Coalition/Randy Wilson (http://www.nyspc.org/)
Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund
Rouge Forum (http://www.pipeline.com/)
Student Peace Action Network
United for Peace and Justice
U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (Josh Ruebner)
Wheels of Justice
SOURCE: Editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (9-23-06)
Cornell, a professor at Ohio State University, passed through town the other day with much to say about regulating guns. Yet his aim isn't to take sides in the modern gun-control debate -- a squabble he thinks has strayed rather off-topic. It's far more interesting, he thinks, to look back to learn what this country's founders actually thought about gun regulation.
They couldn't imagine life without it, says Cornell. That's the point of his new book, "A Well Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America." In it, Cornell excavates the foundations of the ! Second Amendment and offers some startling conclusions.
"As long as we've had guns in America," says Cornell, "we've had gun regulation." In fact, the Second Amendment's chief purpose is to assure such regulation. Without it, the founders feared, anarchy might take hold.
The amendment was born of the founders' desire for "a well-regulated militia." Having opted against a standing army, the Constitution's cobblers determined that every able-bodied man would serve as a member of a local militia -- prepared to respond in unison against invasion.
"It would have been impossible to muster the militia without a scheme of regulation," says Cornell -- and the early Americans had one. "Muster rolls" kept track of militia members and their firearms. And every hamlet in the land had its own de facto gun registrar: the local gunsmith, who knew every gun and gun-owner in town.
There's one right the Second Amendment wasn't written to confer: an entit! lement to take up arms against the government. "The founding f! athers d rew a distinction between a well-regulated militia, which operates under the authority of the state, and an armed mob," says Cornell. History couldn't be clearer about this point: "Once you have constitutional government," Cornell points out, "you have no right of revolution anymore."
Indeed, "All these things that the gun-rights community has championed in the name of the founding fathers -- opposition to registration, promotion of concealed-carry and stand-your-ground laws, the notion that individuals have a right to take up arms against their government -- are antithetical to the original understanding of the Second Amendment."
They also contradict today's legal understanding of the amendment. "The reason the high court hasn't heard a case regarding the meaning of the Second Amendment in so long," says Cornell, "is that it's considered one of the most settled issues in American law." In other words, laws meant to curb gun violence are usually ruled con! stitutional. ...
SOURCE: Bruce Craig in the newsletter of the National Coalition for History (9-20-06)
Each year, the MacArthur Foundation awards an unrestricted fellowship to talented individuals who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication to their creative pursuits and marked capacity for self-direction.” The cash prize is given in the hope that recipients will pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.
This year’s winners include 25 individuals of which 15 are scientists, doctors, and astronomers. Of the remaining ten winners, there are two musicians; five writers, playwrights and journalists, and three artists/sculptors. When the history coalition contacted MacArthur Foundation to ask “where are the historians?” a spokespersons stated that “that there has not been a shift” in fellowship priorities or emphasis. According to the spokesperson, “over the 26-year trajectory, there have been many historians and there undoubtedly will be others in the future.”
The names of those people who nominate candidates for the fellowship remains a secret. According to the foundation website, each year over a hundred nominators are approached by the foundation to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond. The nominations are then evaluated by a Selection Committee (the deepest kept secret list) composed of about a dozen leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Recommendations are then made to the President and Board of Directors of the foundation. Typically, 20 to 30 fellows are named; to date over 700 individuals have received the award, including over 70 historians.
SOURCE: HNN Staff (9-22-06)
Fleming takes a multicultural perspective on the Revolution, emphasizing the contributions of a wide variety of groups. According to the book's description:
The dimensions of the patriot cause during the American Revolution were far more multicultural and multiethnic than we have for so long believed. Women, African Americans, Jews, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, European immigrants, and young adults played leading roles in the struggle for independence from Great Britain. Today it seems students and teachers want to know more about the past than what a few famous white men did. They want to understand how women and men of different cultures and backgrounds contributed to our early history, and to making America what it is today.
Disclosure: Mr. Fleming is a member of the board of directors of HNN.
SOURCE: Christopher Phelps in solidarity-us.org (9-21-06)
Slavin was born in Kiev in 1913 on the eve of the First World War. His parents were Lazar Slavin, owner of a lumber yard and forests, and Vera Slavin, a graduate of the University of Odessa and dentist trained at the Polytechnic Institute of Berlin. Both were ardent members of the Bund, the Jewish socialist and labor organization, for which his mother smuggled arms during the 1905 Russian revolutionary upsurge.
As a boy, Slavin was fluent in Russian. He read Pushkin and Tolstoy in the original. His father's devotion to Yiddish led to his enrollment in Hebrew school, which he hated and from which he was expelled, but he subsequently learned Yiddish in a school run by Der Arbayter Ring (the Workmen's Circle). Later in life, he mastered English, French and German, as well, making him competent in five languages.
After surviving the German occupation of the Ukraine during the First World War, the Slavin family was swept into the Russian revolutionary upheavals of 1917. His father considered the Bolsheviks fanatics and favored Alexander Kerensky, the moderate socialist leader.
The family business was confiscated, first by the counterrevolutionary Whites, because Lazar Slavin was a Jew, and subsequently by the Bolsheviks, who designated him a bourgeois. The Slavins survived the famine during the Civil War on rations by working as dentists for the Red Army.
In 1923, when Slavin was nine years of age, the entire family, including a younger brother and sister, emigrated to the United States. They settled in Ohio, to which his mother's two sisters had immigrated before the war. His father's Hebrew traditionalism led him to forbid his mother from entering dentistry school, denying her proper American credentials for her craft. Consequently, the family was severely impoverished after 1929, when the Great Depression hit.
Impressed by Socialist Party standard-bearer Norman Thomas, Morris Slavin joined the Young People's Socialist League as a teenager. When he met some Trotskyists, however, he found them "at entirely a different level, intellectually and politically, from the people I'd met in the SP."
As a result, he read Trotsky's My Life (1930), and in 1934 joined the Communist League of America, the Trotskyist organization in the United States. "I was 21 years old," he quipped in a 2002 interview. "I knew everything."
Slavin attended the December 1934 convention of the CLA at which the organization merged with the American Workers Party led by A. J. Muste to form the Workers Party of the United States. He participated in the subsequent revolutionary socialist phases of that decade, including entry into the Socialist Party in 1936 and the formation of the Socialist Workers Party in 1938.
Between 1932 and 1935, in the nadir of the depression, Slavin worked irregularly for Youngstown's street department repairing roads, cleaning sewers, and sweeping streets. After a year at Youngstown College, he attended the Ohio State University, from which he graduated in 1938 with a degree in history and English.
On campus in Columbus, he was involved in the student antiwar movement and contested with the Young Communist League. "The Stalinists hated our guts," he said. "They wouldn't talk to us."
The Trotskyist leader who most impressed Slavin was Max Shachtman, whom he first met in 1934 and considered "the most brilliant polemicist I ever heard." He witnessed Shachtman speak "with passion for four hours" at the 1934 convention, after which Shachtman's knuckles were bloody from pounding the podium.
At a Youngstown speaking event which Slavin helped organize, Shachtman spoke against the Stalin dictatorship's cynical frameup of many leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution on fraudulent charges. "The Stalinists threatened to bust up our meeting," Slavin recalled. "So we got hold of a few truck drivers. We had friends among them; in fact, the business agent was a friend of ours. So when they tried to get in, we just physically wouldn't allow it, unless they paid, like everyone else." The Trotskyists then permitted local Communists to speak, but Shachtman refuted their every objection: "When the Stalinists tried to ask him questions, he just mowed them down."
When Shachtman broke with Trotsky in 1940, Slavin followed suit. He still considered Trotsky illustrious but was unable to concur with his characterization of the Soviet Union as a "degenerated workers' state" on the basis of its nationalization of property alone.
Slavin joined Shachtman in the newly formed Workers Party and its successor organization, the Independent Socialist League, remaining a member until its dissolution in 1958. The WP and ISL, known on the left as the "Shachtmanites," advocated a socialist politics independent from both Washington and Moscow, the two Cold War camps.
After graduating from Ohio State in 1938, Slavin went to work in a steel mill in Niles, Ohio. He then worked at another steel mill in Youngstown, from which he was quickly fired for union advocacy. He then became a substitute teacher, a job that led to regular employment as a schoolteacher for a year and a half. In 1942, he was drafted into the Army and served in the field artillery during the Second World War for a year and a half before being discharged in 1943 because of illness.
From 1943 on, Slavin taught high school in Youngstown. Beginning in 1946, he started to moonlight, teaching evening classes at Youngstown College (later Youngstown University, then Youngstown State). Meanwhile, he took graduate courses part-time and received an M.A. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1961 from Western Reserve (now Case Western) in Cleveland.
Though he later wrote several review-essays on the question of Bolshevism's responsibility for Stalinism, it was impossible in the 1950s for Slavin to study the Russian history that had shaped his life and politics, because to travel to the Soviet Union in the Stalin era would have been dangerous for someone with his political background. Therefore, he chose to focus on the French Revolution, writing a dissertation entitled "Left of the Mountain: The Enragés and the French Revolution."
Slavin finally obtained regular university employment in 1961 at Youngstown State, where he taught for twenty years. He found it difficult, however, to carry out research given the demands of teaching, and in a striking inversion of most academic careers today, he enjoyed his publishing heyday after his teaching duties ended.
Slavin's three books, all issued after his supposed retirement, made a significant contribution to the understanding of the French Revolution in the "from below" school established by Albert Soboul. They were The French Revolution in Miniature: Section Droits-de-L'Homme, 1789-1795 (Princeton, 1984), The Making of an Insurrection: Parisian Sections and the Gironde (Harvard, 1986), and The Hébertistes to the Guillotine: Anatomy of a "Conspiracy" in Revolutionary France (Louisiana State, 1994).
These were followed by a collection of essays entitled The Left and the French Revolution (Humanities, 1995). The international regard for Slavin's scholarship was manifested in a festschrift, Rebels Against the Old Order: Essays in Honor of Morris Slavin (Youngstown State, 1994), edited by Boris Blick and Louis Pastouras.
Tall and thin, kindly and unassuming, Slavin remained a Marxist and a partisan of the left throughout his life. In his later years, he belonged to the Democratic Socialists of America and maintained cordial relations with radicals of many persuasions. He read New Politics, Against the Current, Jewish Currents, and Cahiers Léon Trotsky, contributing to them all.
"The thing that makes me sometimes depressed, although on the whole I'm still optimistic," he remarked in 2002, "is the fact that I thought in the 1930s that by ten, twenty years, we would certainly have a labor party, or at least a social-democratic party, some kind of left-wing party. But we are further than ever, much further than ever."
Slavin married Sophie Lockshin in 1940, to whom he remained devoted until her death sixty years later. He is survived by their daughter Jeanne Kaplan and her husband Stephen, both of Colorado, and by their children, Leslie and Michael.
SOURCE: Sandbox, the blog of Martin Kramer (9-20-06)
The full Cole quote provides but one more example:
The lazy conflation of Muslim fundamentalist movements with fascism cannot account for their increasing willingness to participate in elections and serve in parliamentary government. Hizbullah, for example, ran in the 2005 elections and had 12 members elected to parliament. Altogether, the Shiite parties of Hizbullah and Amal, who have a parliamentary alliance, have 29 members in the Lebanese parliament of 128 seats. Hizbullah and Amal both joined the national unity government, receiving cabinet posts. This is not the behavior of a fascist movement tout court.Tout court? How about applying this to a certain Israeli party that has participated in elections, served in parliamentary government, joined parliamentary alliances and national unity governments, and received cabinet posts? A party that has even surrendered power to its opponents in free elections? This can't be the behavior of a fascist movement, right?
Wrong, if that party is the Likud, and our analytical guide is Cole. "Likud's real roots lie not in the Bible but in Zionist Revisionism of the Jabotinsky sort, which is frankly a kind of fascism," Cole has written. He has described the party as "the proto-fascist Likud Party," and its previous government as "the aggressive, expansionist, proto-fascist Likud Coalition." So here we have a peculiar kind of science, in which one set of criteria is applied to the Muslims, tout court, and a completely separate set is applied to the Jews.
Of course, Cole's opening premise is absurd. No one who has read and understood a college world history textbook would argue that a movement's participating in elections or accepting cabinet posts is overwhelming evidence that it isn't fascist. Both the Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany contested elections before seizing power. But Cole's grasp of world history is so light that he's perfectly capable of forgetting this for at least as long as it takes to write a paragraph, especially if doing so serves his polemical purpose.
Not only is Cole unable to define fascism in a way recognizable to any historian of Europe (where it first arose), he doesn't even apply his own definition consistently in the Middle East. This is what Yale political scientist Steven Smith must have meant when he said that Cole's blog "opened people's eyes as to who this guy was, and what his views were.... It allowed us to see something about the quality of his mind."
SOURCE: Mark Oppenheimer in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (9-20-06)
One important public intellectual in the field of American history, for example, is Gordon S. Wood, a history professor at Brown University. Only a couple of the American-history graduate students I knew were aware of the tremendous influence he has on how millions of Americans learn history. He is the primary reviewer of books about Revolutionary-era America for The New York Review, and so his opinions about new and important works of history are read by a couple of hundred thousand college professors, law-school professors, journalists, National Public Radio hosts and producers, and assorted other curious parties who, as a class, shape the narratives that get fed to the rest of us on talk shows and in textbooks and newspaper op-eds. Wood, who was even mentioned by Matt Damon's character in the movie Good Will Hunting, also reviews books for The New Republic, which similarly gives a few other professors, like Sean Wilentz, frequent opportunities to pass judgment on new works in American history.
It's not that Wood, Wilentz, Garry Wills, Christine Stansell, Edmund S. Morgan, and George M. Frederickson control how Americans think about history — they have less influence than best-selling authors like David McCullough — but they have the influence that comes with writing for journals at the intersection of academe and the culture at large. They interpret scholarship for people who prefer to read journalism, and their opinions reverberate and multiply, if in ways that we cannot measure.
Most graduate students I knew had no idea that this was going on. They knew Gordon Wood as the author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution, but they weren't aware that far more Americans knew him for his book reviews. They knew him, in other words, as just another professor, rather than as a professor with special powers with which to project his take on American history. Students were aware of debates in The Journal of American History, but not of how those debates got simplified and clarified in the pages of The New York Review, The New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, or The New Republic. The situation might be different in other disciplines. Anthropology students might, for example, hunt down Clifford Geertz's words wherever they can be found, even in nonacademic journals, and young political scientists might read articles and opinion essays by Michael Walzer and Jean Bethke Elshtain in popular publications. But in the humanities — history, literature, and philosophy — most graduate students whom I knew, and even many professors, did not regularly read the publications that explained those scholars' ideas to laypeople....
SOURCE: Dennis Prager at frontpagemag.com (9-19-06)
This is the second part of my radio dialogue with an icon of the Left, Howard Zinn, professor emeritus of Boston University, author of A People's History of the United States. (Read Part One here.) The intention of this ongoing series of what major leftists think is to enable people to see clearly what they believe. Then people can much better make up their minds about which side of the culture war they wish to identify with.
After Professor Zinn argued in Part I that America has not been a force for good in the world, I proceeded with the following questions:
DP: I believe that we [Americans] fought in Korea in order to enable at least half of that benighted peninsula to live in relative freedom and prosperity; the half that we did not liberate is living in the nightmare, almost Nazi-like, condition of the North Korean government. Why don't you see that as a great good that Americans did?
HZ: I think that your description of the North Korean government is accurate. It's sort of a monstrous government. But when we went to war in Korea the result of that war was the deaths of several million people. And I question whether the deaths . . . were worth the result. . . .
DP: If America had never intervened, do we both agree that Kim Il-sung, the psychopathic dictator of North Korea, would have ruled over the entire Korean peninsula?
HZ: I think that's probably true.
DP: Do you believe that that would be a net moral or immoral result for the Korean people and the world?
HZ: That would have been an immoral result, but the result of the war itself was also immoral -- I'm talking about the killing of several million people. And what I'm suggesting is that the answer to . . . tyrannies like that is not war, which in our time always involves the massive killing of innocent people. . . . I think we have to find ways other than war to get rid of dictatorships and tyrannies.
DP: I would love that. But this is where we often consider people on the Left, at best, to be naive. . . . Let's talk about that naivete. You believe that there would have been another way to get rid of the Korean communists -- whom we both agree are monstrous -- as opposed to the Korean War. . . . This is the naivete of the Left, that ugly things can be gotten rid of in sweet ways.
HZ: Not sweet ways. I wouldn't say that. And I wouldn't say either in totally peaceful ways . . . by struggle and resistance but not by war. We have historical examples of what I'm talking about. The Soviet Union, Stalinism, was not overthrown by war. . . . Stalinism was really replaced, in time, by the Russian people themselves. . . . What I'm suggesting is that there are a number of places in the world where we have had tyrannies that have been overthrown without war. . . .
DP: Yes, there are. No one would deny that. And there are historical examples of where war is the only way to achieve a moral end.
HZ: Well, I'm not sure that's the only way.
DP: Was there another way to have gotten rid of Hitler?
HZ: In the case of WWII, I don't know what it would have taken to get rid of Hitler. We certainly had to resist him, we certainly had to get rid of him. . . . What bothers me most today is that people use WWII as an example for what we should do today. It's a very different situation.
DP: No, we use it as an example of where war is the moral choice. Are you prepared to say that war is ever the best moral choice?
DP: Never. Not even against Hitler?
HZ: Well, I'm not sure about WWII.
DP: Wow . . .
HZ: War has reached the point where when you wage war . . . there's always a war against innocent people. . . . Let's be very specific about today. Take the situation in Iraq. War is not a way to bring democracy to Iraq. We are not succeeding at it . . . we're killing large numbers of people.
DP: Why are we not succeeding?
HZ: Because there is so much resistance in Iraq to the presence of a foreign invader.
DP: No, there's so much resistance in Iraq to the presence of democracy. That's where you and I have a different read on the resistance. . . . You feel that they are resisting the United States, and I feel that they are resisting democracy by blowing up their fellow citizens and hoping for moral chaos and civil war.
HZ: Well there certainly is civil war in Iraq. And we have brought it to Iraq.
We have brought it by the occupation of our troops. . . . Iraq is in chaos. Iraq is in violence. And the United States military presence has done nothing to stop that. It's only aggravated it and provoked it. And the best thing we can do for Iraq right now is to get out of the place, and save the lives of our young people.
DP: What would happen if we did get out? Do you think that there would be fewer people dead or more?
HZ: I would hope that there would be fewer people dead.
DP: I believe if we left, the bloodbath would make what is happening now look like a very sad episode but not a bloodbath.
HZ: . . . The point is that war is the worst possible solution.
DP: That's where we differ. It isn't the worst possible. There are worse things than war. More people have died in North Korea . . . than died in the war that you thought we shouldn't have waged. . . . So it isn't the worst possible. It wasn't the worst possible versus the Japanese. It wasn't the worst possible versus the Nazis. Is it the worst possible in Afghanistan? Are we wrong there too?
HZ: It is the worst. In Afghanistan it was not a good idea to wage war on Afghanistan. Because the fact is that Bush did not know where Osama bin Laden was except that he was in the country. So what does he do? He bombs the country, kills 3,000 at least ordinary Afghans. That's as many as died in the Twin Towers. And today after these years of bombing Afghanistan, driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. What have we accomplished in Afghanistan? The Taliban is back.
DP: No, it's not back.
HZ: The Taliban now controls much of the country.
DP: But it doesn't control Kabul. It doesn't control the major cities. And women are now free to step out of their homes. Doesn't that matter to you? HZ: It matters a lot to me. But I don't think that liberation of women matters a lot to the Bush administration. . . .
DP: Whatever your view [about the war in Iraq] . . . would you say that by and large the people that we are fighting, the so-called insurgents, the people who blow up marketplaces and try to create civil war, are bad or evil people? Or would you not make a moral judgment?
HZ: I would certainly make a moral judgment about people who blow up things, who kill innocent people. And I would make a moral judgment on ourselves because we are killing innocent people in Iraq.
DP: So do you feel that, by and large, the Zarqawi-world and the Bush-world are moral equivalents?
HZ: I do. I would put Bush on trial along with Saddam Hussein, because I think both of them are responsible for the deaths of many, many people in Iraq, and so, yes, I think that. Killing innocent people is immoral when Iraqis do it, and when we do it, it is the same thing.
DP: Although we don't target them, but I won't get into that debate. I am just fleshing out your views.
HZ: Actually we should get into that. You know, as a former Air Force volunteer I can tell you, it is not necessary to target civilians. You just inevitably kill them. And the result is the same as if you targeted them.
DP: But we have a different punishment for premeditated murder and for accidental murder.
HZ: Yeah, but when you accidentally kill 100 times as many people as the other side kills in a premeditated way . . .
DP: But we haven't done that . . .
HZ: But we have.
DP: Not in Iraq we certainly haven't.
HZ: No, in Vietnam . . .
DP: Don't go to Vietnam every time I ask an Iraq question.
DP: Next, Israel and its enemies. Would you say that Israel and Hezbollah are also moral equivalents?
HZ: Well, first of all, I certainly oppose Hezbollah's firing rockets into Israel, and I think Israel reacted with absolutely unjustified immoral indiscriminate force. I mean, you look at the casualties on both sides, and the casualties among civilians in Lebanon is 10 times the casualties . . .
DP: Well, the casualties in Germany were 10 times those of the casualties in Britain. So are Britain and Hitler morally equivalent? You are making the assessment of morality on the basis of numbers killed.
HZ: No. I think regardless of the numbers, when you kill innocent people there is immorality. So there is immorality on both sides, but I think there is a case in the case of Israel where you have to get back to fundamental causes.
The fundamental cause of the violence on both sides is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and so long as that occupation continues . . .
DP: But they got out of Gaza. And according to President Clinton, the Palestinians were offered a Palestinian state with 97 percent of their land and 3 percent more from Israel.
HZ: Well that's according to President Clinton. But not according to a lot of people who have been studying the Middle East . . .
DP: A lot of people on the Left, but not a lot of people studying it.
DP: Professor Zinn, I thank you so much for your time.
SOURCE: Campaign Website (9-19-06)
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your consistent support of my United States Senate campaign. Your faith in our message helped all of us at the Lichtman campaign bring positive, fundamental change across the state of Maryland.
Although we did not prevail in this campaign, I can assure you that I, my wife Karyn Strickler, my staff, and our volunteers worked as hard as humanly possible to reach the voters of Maryland. Our campaign attracted nationwide attention for our many innovations, including our youth outreach program, novel advertising, and our lead on crucial issues. Long before the polls turned against the war, we were the first Democratic Senate campaign to propose a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Before the issue became trendy, we developed a plan to reduce our fossil fuel dependence by 50 percent over 20 years. We were the first campaign to support a specific single-payer health care plan to cover all Americans. And we were the only campaign to develop detailed proposals for protecting our civil rights and liberties.
I firmly believe that we changed the course of the debate in Maryland and nationwide. We gained more endorsements than any other campaign from national figures - George McGovern, John Anderson, Ray Mabus, Cleo Fields, and Daniel Ellsberg, among many others.
From the start, a year ago, I described this campaign as a boulder, which if it got moving would roll over the state of Maryland and begin a new era in state and national politics. Ultimately, the boulder did not move, but it was not for lack of effort, ideas, or support from wonderful people like you. I promise that I will continue to be of service as an educator, author, political analyst, and civil rights expert.
I will never forget you.
SOURCE: Journal of American History (9-1-06)
Even before Kroes began to speak, many knew the lecture would be an important statement. From Boston to Berlin, Bozeman to Bologna, scholars came to hear how this director of a leading European center for the study of American culture, this former president of the European Association for American Studies, would now frame the challenge that he had placed at the center of his career: How could Europeans contribute a distinctive perspective to the study of the United States? Some knew what to expect, for he had been trying out parts of his theme over the past year in talks in Europe and North America. Naoki Fukuhara, who covered Europe for a leading Japanese newspaper chain, had come from his base in Brussels, Belgium, to report on a speech his editors thought would offer an emerging European perspective on the United States.
In that speech, Kroes gave a new twist to his longstanding project. Europeans could make a distinctive contribution to American studies, as he had illustrated in some forty books he had written or edited, by exploring how, in exchanges of people, images, and ideas, Europeans used the United States to advance and retard their own political debates and cultural projects. For Europeans, the United States over the past two centuries had been "the site of the modern," as Rob frequently put it, the place where European ideas could be explored and developed more fully than in their more tradition-bound birthplace. Whether as immigrants to Montana, inhabitants of Europe who consumed American television programs, music, and clothes, or individuals trying to frame horizons of possibility and constraint in a globalizing world, Europeans used the United States to think about European needs and agendas. As the way of the future, American mass culture—a favorite theme of Kroes's work—represented the greatest hope for some Europeans and the worst nightmare for others, simultaneously the promise of and the threat to European civilization, but, above all, a source that Europeans could embrace, reject, and adapt to fit their own needs....