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: Toledo Blade (4-15-07)
But that day, their apartment near the World Trade Center was destroyed, buried in pulverized glass, asbestos, and masses of paper.
Shortly thereafter, his life took another turn: he was called to active duty from the Marine Corps Reserves. Colonel Bogdanos would spend much of the next four years in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he would discover a fascinating niche in the world of war: stolen cultural artifacts.
Investigator/soldier Bogdanos, 50, will share his zeal Thursday at 7 p.m. when he speaks in the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater at Authors! Authors!, sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. His 2005 book, Thieves of Baghdad, subtitled One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures, is 300 pages based on Bogdanos’s 45,000-word report to the military and co-written with William Patrick.
Expect a high-energy talk with moments of intense heat, opinion, and anecdotes full of drama and intrigue. Expect to hear about the countless gallons of tea he drank in Iraq (and ordered his soldiers to drink), a ritualistic requirement for winning the trust of everyone from museum directors and politicians to taxi drivers. The 5-foot, 7-inch Bogdanos speaks without a microphone, walks through the audience, shows about 100 slides, and quotes Homer and Jefferson.
And he’d like nothing better than for a member of the audience to stand up and volunteer to be the savior for the preservation of cultural heritage.
“I would like it to be someone else, who’s more important than I am, has decision-making authority, who has a budget, someone who has international cachet. I want it to be someone else. I will gladly hand over this mantle to anyone who wants it. The problem is I haven’t found anybody to want it in four years.” ...
SOURCE: Deseret News (Utah) (4-16-07)
SOURCE: Oliver Kamm at his blog (4-16-07)
I won't provide a link to his website, but I ought to record that the Holocaust denier David Irving takes strong exception to the reference to him in my article for The Times this weekend about the late Kurt Vonnegut. He hypothesises that the article was commissioned by the newspaper after pressure had been exerted upon it by an external body whose identity (or at least ethnicity) you will be able to guess immediately. It ought not to need saying, but I am in a position to know that Mr Irving's speculations are unfounded. The judgements expressed in the article are mine alone; they were not dictated to me by anyone else. It is perhaps worth commenting - purely for the record, and not because Mr Irving's remarks have any merit - briefly on the complaint.
Irving accuses me of"smearing" him by referring to his 1963 book The Destruction of Dresden as discredited. In addition, he accuses me of"real holocaust-denial" (his italics) for stating that there were not 135,000 deaths in the firebombing of Dresden. He states further:
My"number," as Kamm calls it, came from Hanns Voigt, after February 1945 the director of the Dead Person's Section of Dresden's Missing Persons Bureau. That might seem a not unreasonable source.
TRUE, Professor Richard"Skunky" Evans, another historian who lives by the smear, ignorantly dismissed Voigt in his High Court evidence (on oath) as being a"virulent fascist". What else could he say? In fact we now know that Voigt was a trusted, highly esteemed, and much decorated, member of East German society in the 1950s and was allowed by the Communist regime to emigrate without difficulty upon his retirement to West Germany. These true facts on Voigt will be another dossier on this website, later.
Irving's writings on Dresden were considered at length in the trial of Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt for libel, in the case brought against them by Irving seven years ago. The defendants presented them as evidence that Irving distorts historical facts in order to make them conform to his ideology. The judgement is reproduced in its entirety here, on the Nizkor website, and the section on Irving's book about Dresden is here.
The judgement is a rewarding and important read. I will not try to summarise what is already a cogent and succinct statement of the issues, but would direct you in particular to paragraph 13.126. There Mr Justice Gray states:"In my judgment the estimates of 100,000 and more deaths [at Dresden] which Irving continued to put about in the 1990s lacked any evidential basis and were such as no responsible historian would have made." A few sentences earlier in the judgement, he says:"[Irving] relied on the estimate of Hans Voigt ... that 135,000 had been killed. But, as stated in paragraph 13.126 below, none of this material casts significant doubt on the accumulation of evidence that the true death toll was within the bracket of 25-30,000." Further:"Voigt's evidence was uncorroborated and unlikely to be correct in the light of the number of deaths recorded on the official cards [that tallied victims according to garments, personal belongings, personal papers and wedding rings recovered from the corpses]. In my view, Irving should not have quoted numbers based on this evidence."
Incidentally, Professor Richard Evans, who was the principal expert witness for the defence, does indeed cite the phrase"virulent fascist" concerning Voigt in his book Lying About Hitler (2001, p. 152) - but it is not Evans's own description. Evans is explicitly quoting the judgement of the Mayor of Dresden (in what was then the GDR) in 1962, Walter Weidauer, and he clearly warns the reader that"this was typical of the language the Communists used for people who proved a nuisance to them". That example on its own is a nice illustration of the difference between a scrupulous historian such as Evans and a man who, in the words of the Court judgement,"has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence".
SOURCE: MSNBC (4-13-07)
"The Years of Extermination" and its precursor may be a definitive overview of the Holocaust—and a compact one, even though both volumes if bound together would total some 1,600 pages. But most of us have already heard these facts and figures. And while it's a moral duty—a spiritual duty, if you prefer—not to grow numb from the repetition, turning a deaf ear is a primal human reflex. We're especially prone to it when cries of pain are coming from six decades ago. Or, say, from some country you couldn't locate on a map. If you've ever had the impulse to skip one more op-ed about Darfur in The New York Times, you can be only so indignant about good Germans. Friedländer seems to understand that the same old horrors don't hold our attention anymore.
Some people may be disappointed by the lack of grisly photographs (he should have included a map, though). Friedländer doesn't soften the atrocities nor try to minimize our revulsion—as the excerpt from Gradowski's notebook shows—but he focuses on the larger narrative and doesn't indulge the prurient with gratuitous detail and imagery. Josef Mengele, for instance, rates only a brief reference. When he calls a Nazi functionary "sadistic," Friedländer generally leaves it at that. He finds dread enough in everyday details: a deported woman, for instance, dragging a bundle of possessions and provisions, with a thin stream of rice pouring out. What he offers is his radar for the weird, the inadvertently revelatory, the absurd, the downright insane. Lunacy, perhaps even more than thuggery, sadism and deliberate cruelty, was the essence of Nazism.
This seems overobvious: of course they were crazy. ("Evil" is a theological term—which isn't to say it doesn't fit, too.) But this very obviousness might be why we seldom see the Nazis' sheer lunacy emphasized lately, either in the academy or in the culture at large. (Prominent exceptions, such as the cult TV sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" and Mel Brooks's "The Producers," date back to the 1960s.) It might be a useful perspective to recover today. The deader Hitler gets, the more he becomes an emblematic, almost disembodied figure—a metonymy for Evil—despite such recent efforts as Norman Mailer's novel "The Castle in the Forest" to reimagine him as a nasty creature of flesh and blood. In wartime America, however, Hitler was a real, living menace—Kim Jong Il times 100—to be fought with every weapon from air raids to ridicule.....
SOURCE: http://www.larchmontgazette.com (4-12-07)
Professor Brinkley’s lecture was the third installment in a series focusing on African-Americans in United States history, which was funded by a grant from the Mamaroneck Schools Foundation.
The idea for the grant originated with MHS Assistant Principal Gail Kleiner. "Mrs. Kleiner approached me and asked if I would be interested in bringing historians to the high school,” said Elizabeth Clain, head of the Social Studies Department. Ms. Clain and three of her colleagues had attended a summer program run by the Gilder Lehrman Institute where they met several esteemed historians. Through contacts made there, the history enthusiasts of MHS have now been treated to the thoughts and musings of Professor Brinkley, James and Lois Horton, and Eric Foner. (See: Foremost Expert on Reconstruction at MHS.)
Professor Brinkley’s lecture evoked the era, between 1920 and the mid 1930's when African Americans centered in Harlem generated a high level of literature and art. He celebrated the lead figures of the movement: Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, and others. Race and racial identity were important themes.
“He spoke about the story behind the Harlem Renaissance, and how history is actually a chain of events,” explained a student impressed that “Professor Brinkley talked about more than just facts.”
SOURCE: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4-14-07)
Although now it appears the traffic has slowed considerably.
"I have found it quite lonely being interested in American architecture in England," said Saint, an author, critic and professor of architecture at Cambridge University. Few of his colleagues are smitten with it, and his students are more interested in American culture than American architecture, with the possible exception of works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames.
Saint made his remarks Thursday night at Oakland's Carnegie Music Hall, in a keynote address to the Society of Architectural Historians, which is holding its annual meeting here at the Omni William Penn Hotel. About 600 members from all over the United States and abroad have gathered for five days to share the latest scholarship in the field and to learn about their host city and its region.
In his 30-minute talk, Saint gave an abbreviated history of the architectural relations between the two nations, which in Colonial times -- 1620 to 1776 -- was a one-way street. But over the next two centuries, each country influenced the other's architecture and scholarship.
England's Garden City movement helped spawn the American suburb; the American skyscraper made its way to London, and architectural historians in England and America studied and wrote in depth about the buildings in each other's countries. But in the past two decades, he said, there seems to be waning interest.
"Do we respect and enjoy each other's architecture less? Are we bored by each other?"
One reason, he thinks, is that as scholars have become more cognizant of the influence of other cultures on American architecture, such as how the southern Germans and the Swiss brought over a barn type that became known as the Pennsylvania forebay, the net effect has been to minimize the Anglo-American link.
"Students are a pretty international bunch, but they admire few Americans," Saint said. "Why, I can't say," but he suspects that "American architecture is seen as too safe, too dominated by risk-averse clients and lawyers."...
SOURCE: Jamie Glazov at frontpagemag.com (4-10-07)
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Michael B. Oren, a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem research and educational institute. He is the author of the best-selling Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oxford, 2002), which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award; a history of the 1956 Sinai Campaign (Cass, 1993); as well as dozens of scholarly and popular articles on history and the politics of the Middle East. His writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Commentary, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of the new book Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776-Present. It is the first book to tell the history of America in the Middle East from the Founding Fathers to the present day in one volume.
FP: Michael Oren, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Oren: It’s a great pleasure and an honor to be here.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Oren: The idea first occurred to me when I was a graduate student in Middle East history at Princeton about twenty years ago. I was listening to a lecture on the emergence of modern Egypt and my professor happened to mention that, in the late 1860s, a group of Civil War veterans—former Union and Confederate officers—went to Egypt to help modernize its army. But when they got to Cairo, the officers discovered that most of the Egyptian army was illiterate, so they began to build a system of literacy schools. The Egyptian soldiers, though, showed up to class with their children, and so these veterans of Vicksburg and Gettysburg got into the business of teaching Egyptian children to read and write. And while they were at it, they also taught American values: patriotism, civic duties, and democracy.
I was fascinated by this story—like many Americans, I believe my country’s involvement in the Middle East began just after World War II—and I rushed to the library to read more about it. Yet, to my disappointment, I found that while there were many books on the history of British and French involvement in the Middle East, there was not one volume on America’s experience in the region. There was certainly no comprehensive history that would place these officers’ extraordinary story in any kind of meaningful, historical, context.
Flash forward some years to the aftermath of 9/11. Suddenly, it seemed to me, Americans were being asked to make some profound decisions in the Middle East—decisions that would impact not only their security but that of much of the world—but they lacked an historical framework for making them. And so, when my editor asked me “what’s the one book about the Middle East that must be written but that hasn’t?” I did not hesitate a moment. I told him: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.
FP: What are the origins of America’s support for Israel?
Oren: The roots of American support for Israel go back hundreds of years—indeed to the day that the first buckled shoe alighted on a rock along the Massachusetts shore. The owner of that shoe, William Bradford, proclaimed “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” Bradford was a leader of the Puritans, a dissenting Protestant movement that suffered greatly at the hands of the Church of England, and which sought strength in the books of the Old Testament. There the Puritans found a God who spoke directly to His people, in their language, and who promised them to rescue them from exile and restore them to their Holy Land.
The Puritans appropriated this narrative—they became the New Israel and the New World became the new Zion. Consequently, the Puritans and their descendents developed a strong sense of kinship with the Old Israel—the Jews—and an attachment to the Old Promised Land, then known as Palestine, part of the Ottoman Empire. Many of them concluded that, in order to be good Christians and Americans, they were obliged to assist God in fulfilling his Biblical promises to restore the Jews to their ancestral homeland. So was born the notion of restorations, which became an immensely popular movement in eighteenth and nineteenth-century America. John Adams declared that his fondest wish was that "100,000 Jewish soldiers…would march into Palestine and reclaim it as a Judean kingdom," and Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that the dream of restoring the Jews was dear to a great many Americans and pledged to help realize that dream after the Civil War.
Perhaps the greatest expression of restorationism occurred in 1891, when real estate mogul William Blackstone submitted a petition to President Benjamin Harrison urging the United States to spearhead an international effort to take Palestine from the Turks and return it to the Jews. The Blackstone Memorial, as it was called, was signed by 400 prominent Americans, including John D. Rockefeller, J. Pierpont Morgan, and William McKinley. Restorationism proved instrumental in moving Woodrow Wilson to endorse the Balfour Declaration, recognizing the Jewish people’s right to a national home in Palestine, and in convincing Harry Truman, a strict Baptist who had nearly memorized the Bible, to be the first world leader to recognize Israel in 1948.
Of course, the fact that Israel is a democracy struggling for survival in a profoundly undemocratic environment plays a role in America’s support of the Jewish state. So, too, does the extensive cooperation between the United States and Israel on military development, intelligence sharing, and training. But the core of the U.S.-Israel alliance lies in the faith of the American people, which remains—in contrast to Europe—intense.
FP: Human rights and social equality appear to be alien notions and un-existent realities in the Islamic Middle East. How come?
Oren: Concepts of human rights and social equality do exist in the Middle East but they are interpreted much differently then they are in the West. Under Islam, men are accorded rights that are denied women—in divorce proceedings, for example—and those strictures are stringently applied in many Arab societies, such as in Saudi Arabia. Similarly, there are no provisions for children’s rights virtually anywhere in the Middle East, no affirmative action, no bill of rights. Homosexuality is considered a capital offense by many Middle Eastern governments, including Iran and the Palestinian Authority. And yet, in response to charges of sexual repression and systematic rights denial, Middle Eastern Muslims often point out the exploitation of women in the West, the breakdown of family values, and widespread use of alcohol and drugs. Where we see progress and modernity, they see decadence and the trampling of age-old traditions. This is the fundamental source of friction between the West and the Middle East. It is a clash not merely of civilizations but of entire worldviews, of incompatible universes.
FP: What were the most fateful decisions made by U.S. Presidents vis-à-vis the Middle East?
Oren: Many historians would probably list Harry Truman's recognition of Israel in May 1948 as one of America's most fateful decisions in the Middle East. While Truman undoubtedly provided a major boost to the morale of Israeli forces fighting for their lives against invading Arab armies, in fact he provided no concrete assistance to the nascent Jewish state, and even imposed an arms embargo on it. The United States would have eventually recognized Israel, as did virtually all Western states, over the course of the following year. The Arab-Israel conflict, meanwhile, became a reality.
A far more influential event was, to my mind, Woodrow Wilson’s decision not to declare war against Turkey in 1917-1918. Remember that the United States entered World War I in April 1917, opening hostilities against Germany and Austria-Hungary, the two major members of the Central Powers. Wilson then had to decide whether to go to war against Ottoman Turkey, the third member of the coalition. Both houses of Congress staunchly supported the move, as did Teddy Roosevelt, the popular ex-president, who claimed that the slogan “making the world safe for democracy” would become nonsense if America ignored the tyrranical Turks.
But Wilson was also lobbied by Protestant missionaries and their supporters. If the United States went to war in the Middle East, they argued, the Turks would destroy nearly a century of American good works, hospitals, and schools. Moreover, they would massacre the missionaries much as they had the Armenians.
Wilson ultimately supported the missionaries. The grandson, son, and nephew of Presbyterian ministers, the president was closely associated with the missionary movements and greatly admired its success. And so the United States never went to war against Turkey and the ramifications of that decision were immense.
By the time of the armistice, in November 1918, Great Britain had nearly a million troops deployed between Cairo and Istanbul. French forces also occupied strategic positions in the area. The United States, by contrast, had not a single soldier stationed anywhere in the Middle East. The results of that vacuum soon became apparent at Paris, where the Allies gathered to draw the map of the new Middle East. Though his ideas for the region's future differed substantively from that of Britain and France, lacking military leverage, Wilson was powerless to prevent the British and the French from dividing the Middle East between them. Among their creations were Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestine Mandate - later to morph into Israel.
Another decision of massive ramifications was Dwight D. Eisenhower's support for Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in the 1956 Suez Crisis. Though Nasser had plotted against Arab moderates and had violated international agreements by nationalizing the Suez Canal, Eisenhower sided with the Soviet Union - this while Soviet tanks were crushing freedom-fighters in Hungary – to rescue Nasser from certain defeat at the hands of Britain, France, and Israel. A vastly strengthened Nasser proceeded to turn his Soviet-supplied arms against Arab moderates and ultimately aimed them at Israel. But imagine if Eisenhower had just stepped back and let Nasser fall. The Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 might have been averted. There would be no occupied territories, no intifadas or Hamas. Minus Nasser, the Middle East might look radically different today.
FP: Shed some light for our readers on why the word “Fantasy” is in the title of your book.
Oren: Fantasy relates to the highly romantic, and often erotic, image of the Middle East in the American imagination. The roots of that myth are quite deep, many of them stemming back to A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, that collection of ribald Persian tales which, after the Bible, was the second-most popular book on the American colonial bookshelf. The myriad Americans who read this book, and had no other reliable information on the Middle East, took it as truth: there really were flying carpets, genie-haunted lamps, and veiled but available harem girls. Such myths lured many Americans to see the Middle East for themselves.
Starting with John Ledyard, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson who became the first American explorer in Egypt in 1788, Americans flocked to the Middle East. By the mid-nineteenth century, Americans had surpassed the British as the largest group of tourists in the area. Among them were Elizabeth Cabot Kirkland, the wife of Harvard’s president, an African-American former slave named David Dorr, and the Civil War heroes William Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant. And while many of these travelers wrote devastating portraits of the Middle East, debunking the myths of A Thousand and One Nights, Americans remained enchanted. By the early twentieth century, Hollywood had seized on the Middle Eastern myth, producing such blockbusters as the Sheikh of Araby (1921), which rocketed Rudolph Valentino to stardom. There followed an almost endless series of Thousand and One Nights knock-off movies, followed by smash hits such as Indiana Jones and Sahara—all Middle Eastern fantasies.
Fantasy also had a profound impact on policy. Back in 1788, John Ledyard looked at the Bedouin of the desert and likened them to the pioneers of the American frontier. These were lovers of liberty who, unfortunately, were languishing under Ottoman tyranny. Remove that tyranny, Ledyard speculated, and the Arabs would rise up and naturally embrace democracy. Such myths played an influential role in America’s policy-making toward the Middle East—many Americans might have wondered why, on 9/11, these picturesque nomads would leave their oases to hijack civilian airliners—and in the decision to invade Iraq.
FP: Who were some of the more memorable characters and figures in America’s history in the region?
Oren: Among my favorite characters are George Bethune English, Harvard Class of 1807, who traveled to the Middle East as a Marine, jumped ship in Cairo, and converted to Islam. Later, as a general in the army of Egypt’s ruler, he led an expedition against Sudanese bandits in Darfur. He ended his career—and indeed his life—acting as President John Quincy Adam’s special agent in the Middle East, secretly mediating a treaty between the United States and the Ottoman Empire.
Another outstanding character was Philip Dickson, a crusty old Yankee from Groton, MA., who moved with his wife and twin daughters to Palestine in 1855. On a barren hilltop, optimistically christened Mount Hope, the Dicksons established a colony dedicated to teaching the Jews how to farm and so preparing them for eventual statehood. The Dickson daughters married two German Lutheran brothers, Frederick and Johann Grossteinbeck, and together the family struggled to overcome disease and hunger in order fulfill its mission.
In December 1856, the Dickson farm hosted an usual visitor—the author Herman Melville. He had come to the Middle East in search of an inspiration for his next novel; his last one, Moby-Dick, had sold a disappointing 3,000 copies. Melville lunched with the Dicksons and the Grossteinbecks, and later wrote rather disparagingly of them in his diary. The following month, the farm was attacked by Bedouins. Philip Dickson was struck mortally on the head while his wife and daughters were brutally raped. Frederick Grossteinbeck was shot in the groin and died an agonizing death. The only member of the colony to escape unscathed was Johann Grossteinbeck who, according to consular records, left Palestine and relocated to California.
Melville would allude to the attack on the Dickson colony in his 24,000-line epic poem, Clarel, but so, too, would Johann Grossteinbeck’s grandson, in his biblically-toned novel, East of Eden. John Steinbeck’s grandfather had met Herman Melville in the Middle East, in a colony created by Philip Dickson.
No favorite list of characters in American-Middle Eastern relations would be complete without mentioning Mark Twain. Still going by his real name, Samuel Clemens, Twain was a relatively unknown humorist in 1867 when two American papers commissioned him to report on his travels aboard the steamship Quaker City, bound for the Middle East. The steamship and its lackluster passengers visited Istanbul, Tangiers, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Twain’s observations of these lands and their inhabitants were ruthless. The Syrian women, he sneered, were so ugly that they “couldn’t smile after ten o’clock Saturday night without breaking the Sabbath.” Shocked by the cost of a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, he snorted, “no wonder Jesus walked.” Yet Twain was no less brutal in lambasting his countrymen, especially those who took sledgehammers to ancient monuments and knocked off fist-sized souvenirs. “American vandals,” he called them.
The Middle East made Mark Twain. Using his new penname, he published his collected dispatches as Innocents Abroad, which became the largest-selling book of late nineteenth-century America. “It sold more books than the Bible,” Twain characteristically quipped.
FP: So what role should the U.S. be playing in the Middle East today and in the near-future? What must it do in Iraq and how can it best fight the terror war in general?
Oren: Americans must understand that they cannot disengage from the Middle East. Iraq is not Vietnam. Americans withdrew from Vietnam in 1975 confident that the North Vietnamese would not pursue them to American cities. By contrast, the United States can evacuate it soldiers from Iraq--and it will, eventually--but the Middle East will pursue. Americans cannot detach themselves from the Middle East because the Middle East will remain for the foreseeable future attached to the United States. Elements in the region will continue to seek to harm American citizens and vital American interests. Leaders in Washington will still be called up to try to resolve Middle Eastern disputes. And the U.S. economy will remain intertwined with that of the oil-producing Gulf.
The question is, then: how can the United States interact with the Middle East in a more prudent and effective manner?
And the answer, I believe, can be found in America's centuries-old history in the region--the legacy of power, faith, and fantasy.
To defend themselves against persistent Middle Eastern threats, Americans will still have to employ power in the area. But at the same time, they must realize that power has its limits in the Middle East. Following Thomas Jefferson's example of first fighting and then concluding a peace treaty with the Barbary pirates, American leaders must learn when to strike back and when to negotiate. They must realize that military power, alone, cannot remake and sustain Middle Eastern states riven by tribal and ethnic hostilities. They must develop new forms of power to meet the rapid-changing dangers from the Middle East--familiarizing a generation of American servicemen and women in the languages and cultures of the region and strengthening economic strictures against the financiers of terror.
Americans must maintain their faith in the Middle East, especially their civic, secular faith in democracy, equality, and human rights. The United States should enhance its support--flagging of late--for Middle Eastern democratic movements and distance itself from the region's autocratic regimes. It must act according to its own principles and ethic codes and so avoid atrocities such as those committed at Abu Ghraib. At the same time, though, Americans must realize that their concepts of liberty may not be appropriate or transplantable to the Middle East, where ideas such as sexual freedom and unbridled free speech are alien if not abhorrent.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, Americans must learn to distinguish fantasy from reality in the Middle East. They can offer to assist the region to democratize, but without the illusion that its inhabitants are desperate to rise up and embrace American-style freedoms. They can open channels of communication to the enemies, such as Iran, but without believing that those enemies share America's interests in stability and peace or that they care about their citizens' safety in the same way America does. They can invest heavily in efforts to resolve conflicts between Arabs and Israelis or Shiites and Sunnis but all the while understanding that the United States, alone, cannot effect rapprochement among the region's adversaries and that some of these disputes will continue to roil indefinitely. The United States should and must reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and seek to develop alternative forms of energy, yet it must realize that oil will remain the determinant commodity for many years to come, and that the Middle East will still rank among its principal suppliers.
In short, the United States will continue to be involved in the Middle East--extensively and perhaps also existentially--but will hopefully be so in a more resilient, flexible, and sober manner.
FP: Michael Oren, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Oren: Thank you for this compelling and stimulating opportunity.
SOURCE: Johann Hari in the New Republic (4-13-07)
Andrew Roberts describes himself as "extremely right wing" and "a reactionary," and, in Great Britain, the 44-year-old has long been regarded as a caricature of a caricature of the old imperial historians. He famously lauds the British Empire--and its massacres and suppressions--as "glorious" on every occasion. He sucks up to the English aristocracy to the point that Tatler, the society journal, says, "[H]is adolescent crush on the upper classes is matched by virtually no one else in this country." One of the few things that can silence Roberts is a mention of his origins in the distinctly nonaristocratic merchant classes, with a father who owned a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. Much as he longs to be K&C (Kensington and Chelsea), to those he adores, he will always have the whiff of KFC.
Yet this Evelyn Waugh tomfoolery masks an agenda that the distinguished Harvard historian Caroline Elkins describes as "incredibly dangerous and frightening." To understand the core of Roberts's philosophy--from Waugh to war--it's necessary to look at a small, sinister group of British-based South African and Zimbabwean exiles he has embraced.
In 2001, Roberts spoke to a dinner of the Springbok Club, a group that regards itself as a shadow white government of South Africa and calls for "the re-establishment of civilized European rule throughout the African continent." Founded by a former member of the neo-fascist National Front, the club flies the flag of apartheid South Africa at every meeting. The dinner was a celebration of the thirty-sixth anniversary of the day the white supremacist government of Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, which was pressing it to enfranchise black people. Surrounded by nostalgists for this racist rule, Roberts, according to the club's website, "finished his speech by proposing a toast to the Springbok Club, which he said he considered the heir to previous imperial achievements."
The British High Commission in South Africa has accused the club of spreading "hate literature." Yet Roberts's fondness for the Springbok Club is not an anomaly; it is perfectly logical to anybody who has read his writing, which consists of elaborate and historically discredited defenses for the actions of a white supremacist empire--the British--and a plea to the United States to continue its work....
David Frum: Is the New Republic Losing Its Mind?
SOURCE: NYT (4-14-07)
The cause was complications of surgery for a broken hip, said the Very Rev. Martha J. Horne, dean and president of the Virginia Theological Seminary, where Dr. Fuller taught for many years.
In addition to expounding on his biblical criticism in about 20 books, Dr. Fuller translated works by the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in a concentration camp in 1945, accused of having had a role in a plot to kill Hitler. Dr. Fuller helped translate the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and wrote books on liturgical priorities and theology.
He also was a practicing Anglican priest for most of his adult life.
"I’ve tried to combine an honestly critical approach to the Bible and the New Testament with a firm commitment to the orthodox teachings of the church,” he said in an interview with The Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2001. “There’s always a tension between these things, but one has to live in that tension.”
In his long scholarly career, Dr. Fuller dissected the Bible, which he saw as a series of books and teaching traditions with multifarious layers. His interest lay not in archaeology, psychology, philosophy and other disciplines that are now part of Bible scholarship, but in the sacred text itself....
SOURCE: PETER STEINFELS in the NYT (4-14-07)
Now there is a fresh surge in this debate, with combat concentrated not only on how to apply these venerable moral principles to this particular war but also on how the principles should be understood in the first place.
Mr. Weigel delivers the latest rendition of his case in the April issue of First Things, an interreligious neoconservative monthly. At sharp odds is an editorial in the April 20 issue of the liberal Commonweal, edited by Catholic lay people (where this writer was an editor in the 1980s).
Still another view is offered by Msgr. Robert W. McElroy, a pastor in San Mateo, Calif., who is the author of “Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs,” published by Princeton University Press in 1992. His article is scheduled for publication in the April 30 issue of the Jesuit-edited weekly America....
Just-war theory considers a war morally justified only if it is fought for a just cause as a last resort by a legitimate authority acting with good intentions. The war must have a reasonable chance of success and of not doing more harm than good, and it should be conducted by moral means, avoiding, for example, deliberate attacks on civilians.
Mr. Weigel’s elucidation of this moral tradition has been notable for two emphases. For years, he has scolded the Catholic bishops and other just-war proponents for claiming that the teaching begins with “a presumption against war.” On the contrary, Mr. Weigel has argued, the “classic” doctrine treated war not as a moral anomaly that had to run a gantlet of moral tests before it could be justified but as “a moral category,” a neutral instrument of statecraft that could be used for good or ill. The tradition should never be removed from the obligation of nations (like the United States in Iraq) to assure security, justice and freedom.....
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at Cliopatria (HNN Blog) (4-13-07)
SOURCE: Detroit Free Press (3-31-07)
Even Detroit newspapers agreed that the cross between Hollywood and holy roller had hit the city like a spiritual cyclone. Front-page stories leered at her beauty and made fun of the idea that a woman could preach. But many reporters were in awe of her soul-saving show.
At the Masonic, the revival opened with dancing girls in rose-colored uniforms, followed by a choir waving handkerchiefs in choreographed movements and a huge, glowing white cross that rose on stage. Finally, Sister Aimee (as she was known nationwide) appeared in white robes and golden curls, preaching in a style that ranged from dance to dramatic monologue.
One Detroit reporter said he couldn't decide "if the proceedings were opera with religious leanings or religion with operatic leanings."
Forgotten by most Americans since her death in 1944, Sister Aimee is scheduled for resurrection at 9 p.m. Tuesday [4/3/07] on PBS. "American Experience: Sister Aimee" is an hourlong documentary based on the work of Oakland University historian Matthew Sutton.
His book, debuting in stores this week, is "Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America" (Harvard; $26.95). Sutton's relatives were among Sister Aimee's followers in her heyday, so he brought a personal curiosity to his research.
"She had flaws," Sutton said last week. "But she was an amazing innovator in American religion. She stood at the dawn of a lot of technological innovations and was able to harness them to preach a very traditional gospel."...
SOURCE: http://www.delmarvanow.com (4-11-07)
Williams, an author and professor emeritus of history at the University of Delaware, started his career as a high school teacher in Queens, N.Y.
SOURCE: WaPo (4-12-07)
Dr. Cox, an appraiser and collector who owned several early phonographs made by Edison, was alerted in 1984 by a North Carolina dealer that a California professor was willing to sell several rare documents signed by the famous inventor. The dealer bought one $600 sketch from the Californian and showed it to Dr. Cox.
"Bart recognized it and said it simply cannot be anything else" but documents missing from the federal historical site in New Jersey since 1976, said his wife of 33 years, Hannah Caffery Cox.
Working with the FBI, Dr. Cox and the dealer arranged a sting. Phillip Petersen, a former Stanford University language professor who had been fired for embezzling university funds, was arrested by the FBI. He pleaded guilty to the theft of more than 143 binders stuffed with unique Edison documents detailing the development of the phonograph and inventions related to it.
SOURCE: http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune (4-12-07)
Jay Martin, who most recently worked as a park ranger performing historic re-enactments at the De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Fla., will start his new job at the beginning of May.
Martin has a Ph.D. in history from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where he wrote his thesis on life aboard North American commercial sailing vessels in the 19th and early 20th centuries. According to his resume, he was executive director of a World War II maritime memorial in Tampa, Fla., for almost three years and director of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum for four years.
"I can say we're just tickled to death about him accepting the job," said Jay Blossman, president of the museum's board of directors. "We're looking forward to his expertise at the Maritime Museum. It's a great addition to the facility."
With an annual budget of around $200,000, the museum has never had the resources to hire an executive director with a background in the field. Southeastern Louisiana University, the museum's research partner, has agreed to split the cost of Martin's salary as well as provide him with benefits, in return for which Martin will teach classes or do other work for the school.
SOURCE: Harvard University Gazette (4-12-07)
The expedition, by the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program (CMHI), will focus on Yaxchilan, an ancient Maya city on the Usumacinta River, which forms the border between Mexico and Guatemala. The CMHI’s mission since its formation in 1968 is to record and disseminate information pertaining to all ancient Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions and their associated iconography.
During the height of its power, Yaxchilan dominated the Usumacinta region, its influence peaking during the eighth century. Located in modern-day Mexico and reachable only by boat, today it is known for its excellent carvings and narrative inscriptions.
The nine-member team will employ advanced technology in an effort to preserve the elaborate Maya hieroglyphics, images, and stone carvings that are free-standing or decorate various buildings at Yaxchilan.
Researchers will use an optical scanner to create a digital, three-dimensional image of each carving. The image will be stored in a computer file, much like a word document or a photograph. It can be examined, shared digitally, and even “printed out,” layer by layer, on a special, 3-D printer that creates a three-dimensional reproduction of the carving. ...
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (4-12-07)
* As violence has gone down in Baghdad, it is rising in the belt around Baghdad: "when we squeeze the water balloon in one place, it bulges somewhere else."
* Muqtada al Sadr, leader of the extremist Mahdi Army, has not been seen, but "he has been heard, rallying his followers with anti-American messages and encouraging his thugs to take on American troops in the south. Intelligence experts believe his militia is simply waiting out the surge."
* Closing markets has precluded some car bombs, but terrorists have simply changed tactics and now use suicide vests.
* In Tal Afar, a truck bomb hit the Shiite community and sparked retaliatory Shiite attacks.
None of these examples prove the point Biden is trying to make:
* We are not simply "squeezing the water balloon." Violence is up in the Baghdad belts because U.S. and Iraqi forces have been aggressively attacking al Qaeda bases in those areas that have been funneling weapons and fighters into Baghdad. Naturally when we attack his critical bases and lines of communication, the enemy fights back. The U.S. command has responded by sending more force into this area to exploit initial successes, which have played a role in keeping the AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) violence in Baghdad under control. Biden would do well to follow events more closely, and then he would see the interconnection between the Baghdad belts and the effort to secure Baghdad. He did not note, but might have, that violence has also increased in Diyala province as AQI fighters driven out of Baghdad and Anbar are seeking new bases. The U.S. command has responded by increasing forces in Diyala to fight the new threat, and is making progress. Ba'qubah has been partially cleared and operations against AQI bases there are continuing. But all this raises the question: Doesn't Biden believe that we should be fighting al Qaeda? Most of his colleagues in the Democratic party say that that is the only interest we have in Iraq. It's the interest that's being pursued by our operations in the Baghdad belts, Diyala, and Baghdad itself. Attacking the enemy increases violence in war. Indeed, it's often the only way to attain an important objective like defeating al Qaeda, an objective that seems to be, for the first time, coming nearer to our grasp....
SOURCE: HNN (4-11-07)
As we reported,"The origins of the imbroglio can be traced to complaints by Rosanne Adderley, the only African-American member of the department, that she was the victim of discrimination for years." After the story was published several of her colleagues protested to HNN that our story unfairly stigmatized Professor Adderley. They contacted members of our advisory board to complain that our coverage was biased. We explained that because Professor Adderley declined to be interviewed for the story it was difficult to present a balanced piece. The article featured quotes from her chief critics and none from her. We invited her supporters to provide a statement in her defense. On April 11 they posted the following comment on the discussion board attached to the article. It was signed by 35 people. The department of history numbers 21 people (excluding visiting professors), according to the Tulane website. Five, including the current chairman, signed the statement.
We, the 35 current and former members of the Tulane faculty listed below, find that this article represents Rosanne Adderley in a negative light that in no way corresponds with her professional identity at Tulane University. Rosanne Adderley has been an extremely active, positive, friendly, hard working and helpful colleague. Moreover, she is a person of utmost integrity, and we believe that all of her professional dealings are conducted in good faith as a matter of course. We assert unequivocally that this story is misleading. A grave injustice has been done here. The Rosanne Adderley that we know is not, as the article implies, a troublemaker. Indeed, she is the very opposite.
SOURCE: Education Week (4-11-07)
Ten private organizations and schools have already pledged $5,000 each for their place in the consortium announced last month, which will set policy for the journal and guide its direction, including the selection of a successor to the founding editor when he retires in 2010. Mr. Fitzhugh is also recruiting public school representatives.
SOURCE: NYT (4-11-07)
His death was announced by his family.
Mr. Maser won international acclaim with a biography of Hitler, “Hitler: Legend, Myth and Reality.” It was published in 1971 and translated into 22 languages.
Another work, “Hitler’s Letters and Notes,” gave insight into the dictator’s thoughts and theories.
Mr. Maser was praised for his painstaking research. He tracked down Hitler’s medical records from 1905 to 1945, which were for decades believed to have been lost, and was the first historian to assert, rightly, that the purported diaries of Hitler published by Stern magazine in 1983 were forgeries.
His credibility was compromised, however, when he claimed in the late 1970s to have tracked down Hitler’s illegitimate son, said to have been born of an 18-month liaison with a peasant girl....
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Ed.D.
President De Paul University
1 E. Jackson
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Dear Father Holtschneider:
I write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our concern regarding the tenure case of Professor Norman Finkelstein.
We fear that the generally accepted academic procedures which should have been used to evaluate Professor Finkelstein's scholarship, and thus his qualifications for promotion to tenure, may have been unduly politicized. We are particularly concerned that Professor Finkelstein has apparently been subjected to a campaign waged by an influential senior scholar outside his field from another university, which is designed to undermine his candidacy for tenure, on ideological rather than scholarly grounds.
The Middle East Studies Associati on of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 2700 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
We recognize that some people may regard Professor Finkelstein's scholarship as controversial. He has certainly engaged in some of the most charged debates about the history and historiography of the Arab-Israeli conflict and other topics. In the context of Professor Finkelstein's interventions in these debates he has had several highly publicized exchanges with Professor Alan Dershowitz of the Harvard University Law School, whose book The Case for Israel (Wiley, 2003) Professor Finkelstein has subjected to scat hing criticism on a variety of grounds.
According to Inside Higher Ed as well as a widely disseminated report by Professor Jon Wiener in The Nation, Professor Dershowitz went to extraordinary lengths to prevent the publication of Professor Finkelstein's critique Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of AntiSemitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press, 2004). Those reports indicate that Professor Dershowitz authorized what Professor Wiener described as "threatening letters" to the counsel, to the university regents, to the university provost, to seventeen directors of the press and to nineteen members of the press's faculty editorial committee. Professor Dershowitz also appealed to the governor of California to stop the publication of the book. Fortunately, both the University of California Press and the governor's office defended the principle of academic freedom in this case and refused to stop the publication of Professor Finkelstein's book.
According to a Chronicle of Higher Education story dated 5 April 2007, Professor Dershowitz has admitted to sending a dossier critical of Professor Finkelstein to members of DePaul's Law School and of its political science department. We regard this blatant and entirely unsolicited intervention in a tenure case by a very well-known faculty member from a different university as unacceptable. We fear that it may have unduly politicized and/or prejudiced your university's consideration of Professor Finkelstein's candidacy for tenure. This intervention is particularly distressing because it comes at a time when we have witnessed other instances of efforts by individuals or organizations to influence hiring, tenure or promotion decisions, based not on the candidate's scholarship but rather on his or her political views, real or imputed.
We also note that a memorandum dated 22 March 2007 and written by Chuck Suchar, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at DePaul University, to the University Board on Tenure and Promotion seems to conflate the tone of Professor Finkelstein's work with the substance of his scholarship. We would like to remind you that the American Association of University Professors clearly stipulates that scholars are to be evaluated strictly on the basis of their scholarship's academic merit and their teaching –not on their collegiality, nor on whether some may deem their scholarly work too controversial. In this regard we are also concerned that Dean Suchar's memorandum seems to judge Professor Finkelstein on the basis of his alleged failure to conform to what the dean describes as the "Vincentian value of ‘personalism,'" which is not generally accepted as a proper criterion for promotion to tenure.
We understand that Professor Finkelstein's tenure evaluation is not yet concluded. We urge you and your colleagues to ensure that that evaluation henceforth pr oceeds in a manner that conforms to generally accepted procedures, such that Professor Finkelstein is evaluated solely on the basis of his scholarship, his teaching, and his service to the DePaul community and to the academic fields in which he works.
1.Inside Higher Ed; The Nation.
SOURCE: NYT (4-12-07)
In the latest round, first reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard and a prominent defender of Israel, is trying to derail Mr. Finkelstein’s bid for tenure at DePaul University in Chicago. He has sent a blast of e-mail messages to faculty and administrators there accusing Mr. Finkelstein of shoddy scholarship, lying and anti-Semitism.
Mr. Finkelstein, who is going before a university-wide review panel on Friday, the third and final step of the tenure process, said that so far two committees — one from the political science department and one from the college as a whole — voted in favor of tenure. But the college dean rejected his advisory committee’s vote and recommended against an appointment.
“I am personally confident that had the process been without outside interferences, I would have gotten tenure,” Mr. Finkelstein said. (Tenure decisions will be announced in June, said Denise Mattson, a spokeswoman for DePaul.)...
This anthology exposes revisionist fallacies about Truman’s motives, the cost of an invasion, and the question of Japan’s surrender. Essays by prominent military and diplomatic historians reveal the hollowness of revisionist claims, exposing the degree to which these agenda-driven scholars have manipulated the historical record to support their contentions. They show that, although some Japanese businessmen and minor officials indicated a willingness to negotiate peace, no one in a governmental decision-making capacity even suggested surrender. And although casualty estimates for an invasion vary considerably, the more authoritative approximations point to the very bloodbath that Truman sought to avoid.
Volume editor Robert Maddox first examines the writings of revisionist Gar Alperovitz to expose the unscholarly methods Alperovitz employed to support his claims, then distinguished Japanese historian Sadao Asada reveals how difficult it was for his country’s peace faction to prevail even after the bombs had been dropped. Other contributors point to continuing Japanese military buildups, analyze the revisionists’ low casualty estimates for an invasion, reveal manipulations of the Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, and show how even the exhibit commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum hewed to the revisionist line. And a close reading of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s acclaimed Racing the Enemy exposes many grave discrepancies between that recent revisionist text and its sources.
The use of atomic bombs against Japan remains one of the most controversial issues in American history. Gathered in a single volume for the first time, these insightful readings take a major step toward settling that controversy by showing how insubstantial Hiroshima revisionism really is—and that sometimes history cannot proceed without decisive action, however regrettable.
SOURCE: PRNewswire (4-11-07)
The PBS plan also included the following elements: -- The additional narratives about experiences of the Latino and Native American veterans of World War II will be integrated into the documentary, the DVD, the Website and PBS' educational outreach materials. -- A Latino producer will be hired by Burns production company, Florentine Films, in consultation with PBS, to be part of the production teams that will create the additional content. -- The War will premiere on September 23, 2007 (during Hispanic Heritage Month) as scheduled with the inclusion of the new content. -- Additional national programming will be aired on WWII that will include and focus on the Latino contributions to the war.
The Defend the Honor Campaign was organized in early February to coordinate a national volunteer campaign to pressure PBS and Ken Burns to include Latinos in the documentary, The War. Based at the University of Texas at Austin's U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project headed by Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, the leadership of the Campaign first met with PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger on March 6, 2007 in PBS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. At that point, Kerger informed the group that PBS would not be making any changes to the Ken Burns film because it was already completed and they did not want to interfere with his artistic independence.
"This is a great victory for the Latino community and for our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the defense of this nation," stated Rivas-Rodriguez, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin who leads the project that documents the Latino role in the war.
"When we started this campaign in February, many people told us that we would never get PBS to change its mind on this issue, given its poor history with the Latino community," Rivas-Rodriguez said. "But it is a tribute to Paula Kerger that she listened and took our concerns seriously, especially since this problem predated her leadership of PBS. She is a person of great integrity and we look forward to working with her."
SOURCE: Press Release--http://www.washingtondecoded.com (4-11-07)
The inspiration for the website comes from an essay penned by George Orwell in 1946, just after the end of World War II. In"Politics and the English Language," Orwell observed that"Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
That sensibility captures the intent of Washington DeCoded, a non-partisan newsletter about the nation's capital that began publishing on-line on 11 March 2007. Washington DeCoded will not toe any partisan or ideological line. Its only purpose will be to try and explain issues of moment to its readers. Sometimes these issues will be the ones commanding headlines, but more often not.
Max Holland is also a contributing editor at The Nation magazine and the Wilson Quarterly, and sits on the editorial advisory board of the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter- Intelligence. His articles have also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, American Heritage, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, Studies in Intelligence, the Journal of Cold War Studies, Reviews in American History, and on-line at History News Network.
In 2001, Holland won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, bestowed jointly by Harvard University's Nieman Center and the Columbia University School of Journalism, for a forthcoming narrative history of the Warren Commission, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf. That same year he won a Studies in Intelligence Award from the Central Intelligence Agency, the first writer working outside the U.S. government to be so recognized.
Holland's books include: The Kennedy Assassination Tapes: The White House Conversations of Lyndon B. Johnson regarding the Assassination, the Warren Commission, and the Aftermath (Knopf, 2004); The CEO Goes to Washington: Negotiating the Halls of Power (Whittle Direct Books, 1994); and When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale from Industrial America (Harvard Business School Press, 1989).
Although articles appearing in Washington DeCoded are copyrighted, they may be freely distributed and/or printed for non-commercial use unless the copyright is held by another party.
Beginning March 2007, Washington DeCoded will feature monthly articles and book reviews about contemporary history, the political economy, presidential commissions, intelligence and counter- intelligence, 9/11, assassinations, the Cold War, archives and archival practices, secrecy, and U.S. government classification policy.
SOURCE: Alex Beam in the Boston Globe (4-10-07)
[Alex Beam is a Globe columnist.]
... Everyone is doing their bit [to celebrate Earth Day]. Me, I am reading the important book, "How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment and Nation in the Third Reich."
I know what you are thinking. I have fallen for a hoax. No one in their right mind would research and publish a book stating, "The Nazis created nature preserves, championed sustainable forestry, curbed air pollution, and designed the autobahn highway network as a way of bringing Germans closer to nature." Or: "The Nazis did in fact impact the landscape in ways far out of proportion to the short twelve years they were in power."
But in fact, three professors -- Franz-Josef Bruggemeier of Freiburg University, Mark Cioc from the University of California/Santa Cruz, and the University of Maryland's Thomas Zeller -- have done just that.
It is undeniably true that Adolf and his crew were A-number-one landscape-impacters. London got plenty impacted by the Nazis' environmental outreach program, as did cities like Leningrad, Stalingrad, Dresden, and Berlin. According to this book, the Nazis had big plans for spreading their green ideology eastward into Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. "In the vast territories conquered in the east . . . they saw the opportunity to create a better, greener, future, combining racist and environmental thinking," the authors write. How sad that the eastern European Jews didn't go along with the program! What soreheads.
It's incredible that anyone would actually publish sentences like these: "The Nazis, however, were not interested in turning Germany into a tree farm"; "World War II was the opportunity that many modernist landscape architects had been waiting for"; or, "In the end, everyone . . . agreed that it was the wrong moment to embark on any projects with organic farming."
Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.
To be fair, I did learn a lot. I already knew that Hitler was a vegetarian with a taste for nonalcoholic beer, but I didn't know that SS boss Heinrich Himmler also eschewed meat or that Hermann Goering had a "sincere interest in forest conservation." Nazi party secretary Rudolf Hess was a devotee of organic gardening. Did you know that there was an organic herb garden at Dachau? Marvelous! It's depressing how many historians insist on dwelling on the negatives.
Co-author Zeller directed me to some reviews. " 'How Green Were the Nazis?' is a must for those who want to be introduced to the controversial relationship of Hitler's regime with the natural world," says the website Humanities and Social Services Online. Striking a more realistic note, another reviewer comments that "the articles collected here provide little evidence that the Nazis were, in fact, sincere environmentalists."
No strangers to self-praise, the authors claim that their work "offer[s] a more nuanced and historically richer answer to the question, 'How green were the Nazis?' than previous efforts." I love the word "nuanced," which, like "layered," always ends up on the tongues of pseudo-intellectuals. Here, nuanced means "intellectually indefensible."
But perhaps I am being too harsh. Maybe all of World War II should be re-examined through a green filter. Think of the eco-carnage in the Ardennes forest as General George Patton and his brutish Third Army attacked the German environmentalists with their exhaust-spewing, tree-crushing tanks! Didn't they know the Nazis were just trying to create a big national park between the Atlantic and the Urals?
How green was Caligula , anyway?