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: PRNewswire (5-22-07)
Brooks, whose career has spanned senior positions at NBC, USA Networks and NW Ayer, joined Lifetime in January 2000. His many accomplishments include an American Book Award for The Complete Directory (the ninth edition will be out this fall) and a 2007 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album for the CD adaptation of his book Lost Sounds, which profiled the role of African- Americans in the earliest years of the recording industry.
SOURCE: PBS NewsHour (5-21-07)
Not long ago, the National Archives released tens of thousands of pages of documents and hours of audiotapes related to these two public figures. In his new book, "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power," historian Robert Dallek takes advantage of this new material to explore their complex relationship. I recently talked with Dallek at his home in Washington.
So much has already been written about Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Why did you want to take another look at these men?
ROBERT DALLEK, Presidential Historian: Well, because, Judy, so much material has come to hand in the last three, four years and, in particular, 20,000 pages of Henry Kissinger's telephone transcripts. They had been locked up in the Library of Congress by Kissinger until five years after he died, but he was pressured into opening them by the historical division of the State Department.
And so, in May of 2004, just three years ago, the material came to hand. And it's a goldmine.
Of course, there's always more Nixon tapes becoming available. People know all about the Watergate tapes. But, of course, there are 3,700 hours of Nixon tapes. And it's all very revealing and allows you to get an inside glimpse of what's happening at the White House and between these men. And I think it's the most transparent presidential administration I've ever studied or that we've probably ever had.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which you say is ironic.
ROBERT DALLEK: It's quite ironic, because, after all, Nixon and Kissinger were so secretive about what they were doing, the opening to China, relations with the Soviet Union, back-channel discussions, X-ing the State Department out of things, the shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East, the Vietnam negotiations. They were kept secret for quite a bit.
And here we are, 30-plus years later, and we have access to materials that give us a picture of Nixon and Kissinger and what they were doing....
SOURCE: Crimson (5-22-07)
Darnton will replace long-time library director Sidney Verba '53 on July 1 and assume Verba's post as the Pforzheimer University Professor. Verba announced his intention to retire in September after directing the University's 90 libraries for 23 years.
Darnton, a scholar in the "history of the book," will be returning to his alma mater after teaching at Princeton for nearly 40 years. He spent his undergraduate years in Adams House and served as a junior fellow on the Society of Fellows.
“The Harvard University Library is one of the country’s greatest intellectual assets, but it is enormously complex and expensive. It must maintain its leadership while helping to shape the new information society of the 21st century," Darnton said in a statement. “Having, as a historian, studied the world of books in the distant past, I now have an opportunity to do something for the cause of books and book learning in the present."
Hyman led the six-month long search for a new library director with the help of an advisory group composed of nine faculty members, two librarians and Lawrence M. Levine, the University's chief information officer.
SOURCE: Richard J. Evans in the Nation (6-4-07)
Having begun his research independently, Kershaw had by this time become closely involved with the "Bavaria Project," led by Martin Broszat, then director of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich. Like other historians working on the project, Kershaw sought to reconstruct the history of Nazi Germany "from the bottom up" by using the extensive reports of the SS Security Service and local government officials on public morale and the voluminous and very detailed accounts of popular opinion smuggled out to the exiled German Social Democratic Party leaders in Prague by agents based in Germany. The resulting picture was complex and highly differentiated. Instead of presenting the conventional postwar clichés of a ruthless dictator bending everyone to his will, Kershaw showed a huge variety of popular responses to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, ranging from resistance and opposition through dissent and indifference to enthusiasm and praise.
In this vision, relatively few Germans were committed Nazis; most were lulled into acquiescence by Nazi propaganda and Nazi achievements in one or another area, objecting--sometimes with success--only when the regime interfered directly with the innermost values of their daily lives, most notably in matters of religious practice. All of this of course raised the question of how the regime managed to put its policies into effect. In The "Hitler Myth" Kershaw showed how the propaganda image of the Führer provided until near the end of the war a repository for people's hopes and aspirations that deflected many of their discontents onto his subordinates or held out the prospect that he would eventually find a remedy. People were reluctant to believe that in reality Hitler was a man driven by a fanatical hatred of the Jews, a boundless desire for conquest and, at bottom, a deep contempt for the mass of ordinary Germans.
Kershaw's pioneering study of Hitler's propaganda image thus seemed to point naturally to the next step, a biography of the man himself. After a decade of research, the resulting two volumes--Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris (1998) and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis (2000), totaling nearly 2,000 pages--established themselves immediately as the standard works on the German dictator. Among their many virtues were their scrupulous scholarship, their meticulous sorting-out of fact from myth and, not least perhaps, Kershaw's new, more relaxed style of writing, displaying a hitherto unsuspected talent for taut narrative, gripping description and the atmospheric re-creation of past events and situations.
Kershaw came to the biography, as he confessed at the time, from the "wrong direction": not from the history of high politics and decision-making but from the history of everyday life and opinion in Nazi Germany. What resulted was a book that for the first time related Hitler convincingly to his historical context, that showed him as created by his times rather than acting independently upon them. The biography, indeed, rushes impatiently through Hitler's obscure early life, dismisses psychological speculation about his motives (his alleged fears of Jewish ancestry, supposed homosexuality, early failure as a painter, etc.) and devotes only minimal and evidently somewhat irritated attention to the few episodes we know about in his personal life.
In Kershaw's account Hitler appeared, in many ways, as a kind of blank space on which Germans, or rather key groups of them, projected their ambitions and aspirations. As time went on and he came to believe in his own myth, largely fashioned for him by others, Hitler assumed a more decisive--and ultimately disastrous--role in the formulation of policy, especially with regard to the war. This structuralist approach to the dictator's role in the Third Reich has led to the charge, leveled most recently by Christopher Browning in The Origins of the Final Solution, that "Kershaw portrays Hitler's role in actual decision making on Jewish policy," as in other areas, as "passive, simply assenting to pressures and proposals from others."
Perhaps, then, it is not surprising that in his latest book, Kershaw returns to the theme of decision-making, this time on a much broader scale. Here he offers a narrative and analysis of ten decisions, each influencing the ones that followed, starting with Britain's decision to fight on in the spring of 1940 and Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union, and moving through Japan's decisions to ally with Germany and Italy and then to strike at Pearl Harbor, the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini's somewhat belated decision to join the war, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's decisions to aid the British and then to escalate this into undeclared war against Germany, and Hitler's decisions to declare war on the United States and to attempt the extermination of Europe's Jews. As one might expect from Kershaw's previous record, he does not delve too deeply into the psychology of the world leaders whose actions in 1940 and 1941 shaped the course of World War II, and thus the parameters of the postwar order. Like Hitler in the two-volume biography, they remain remarkably bland and elusive. Indeed, at times they virtually disappear as individual actors altogether. Thus, for example, Kershaw concludes that "the colossal risks which both Germany and Japan were prepared to undertake were ultimately rooted in the understanding among the power-elites in both countries of the imperative of expansion to acquire empire and overcome their status as perceived 'have-not' nations."
Insofar as he is interested in the leaders as individuals, Kershaw is most fascinated by the constraints under which they operated and the broader factors by which their freedom of action was limited. Thus when Hitler rejected the advice of his military leaders to give priority to North Africa and the Mediterranean after the stunning victories they had achieved over France and the other Western European countries in 1940, he was, to be sure, driven by the ideological priority he had always given to the conquest of the Soviet Union. Yet at the same time, Kershaw argues cogently, "the decision to attack and destroy the Soviet Union...was strategically forced upon him. He had to gain victory in the east before Stalin could build up his defenses and before the Americans entered the war."
Such decisions, Kershaw underscores, depended not least on previous decisions made by others, and some of these were less governed by force of circumstance than others. The decision with which he opens the book is a case in point. In late May 1940, as it became clear that France had been defeated and it looked as if the British forces sent to aid the French would be killed or captured before they could be evacuated from the Continent, powerful voices within the British Cabinet, led by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, began to be raised in favor of seeking mediation through the Italians, first via Roosevelt, then, when that failed, in a direct Anglo-French approach to Mussolini. Newly appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to use all the rhetorical force at his command to quash the idea:
Signor Mussolini, if he came in as mediator, would take his whack out of us. It was impossible to imagine that Herr Hitler would be so foolish as to let us continue our re-armament. In effect, his terms would put us completely at his mercy. We should get no worse terms if we went on fighting, even if we were beaten, than were open to us now.
If Britain sued for peace, he said, it would be forced to disarm and become a slave state, under a puppet government run by British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley. In the event, the French decided to go it alone; their peace feelers were rudely rebuffed by Mussolini, who did indeed want to "take his whack." Nearly 225,000 British troops were evacuated from the Continent at Dunkirk, an event that Churchill's stirring rhetoric remarkably turned from a calamitous defeat into some sort of victory. And Britain fought on.
What would have happened if Halifax and his allies had carried the day in the Cabinet? Here, following Churchill's lead, Kershaw engages in some fascinating counterfactual speculation. Certainly, he argues, in the event of a peace between Britain and Germany in May or June 1940, Hitler would have demanded the sacking of the Churchill administration. But more likely as a successor than the unpopular and discredited Mosley would have been a widely admired politician such as David Lloyd George, Britain's prime minister in World War I and a self-professed admirer of Hitler. Lloyd George indeed envisaged a role of this sort, possibly under a restored King Edward VIII, whose sympathies with Nazi Germany and belief in the need for a separate peace with Hitler were also on record. This would have been something like the regime installed in France in 1940 under the hero of France's army in World War I, Marshal Philippe Pétain, though initially at least without its Fascist leanings. A rival government, possibly under Churchill, might have been set up in Canada. But with Britain effectively on Germany's side, the swelling tide of American aid would have been stopped, and Hitler would have been free to marshal all his forces, whenever he wanted to, for the long-desired invasion of the Soviet Union. And whatever he might say, Hitler would not have waited long before embarking on the dismemberment of the British Empire, contrary to the view expressed by some later historians such as Maurice Cowling, Alan Clark and John Charmley, who have argued that a separate peace with Germany in 1940 would have been the best way to have preserved it.
How legitimate is this kind of speculation? Kershaw is careful not to take it too far; indeed, he does not go much beyond the scenarios painted by Churchill himself on this occasion. Rather than draw imaginative pictures of what might have happened, Kershaw seeks to assess the alternatives open to the decision-makers. He does no more than hint that a peace with Britain in 1940 might have increased the chances of Hitler's defeating the Soviet Union. But in fact, those chances were never very great. Though Germany might have had "all the Continent's material resources at its disposal" in such an event, the Nazi exploitation of the defeated French and other economies was so ruthless that these counted for relatively little in the long run. The Soviet Union defeated Germany largely on its own.
Hitler's decision to invade Russia was made in the summer and autumn of 1940, prompted, Kershaw argues, not least by the German dictator's knowledge that with Britain still in the war, the vast resources of the US economy would soon be pouring into the British war effort in ever-increasing quantities. It is possible to imagine, as Kershaw does, that if the counsels of the German generals had prevailed and the German war effort been directed toward the conquest of North Africa and the Middle East, gaining vast oil reserves desperately needed by the Nazi economy and cutting off the main British supply route to the East through the Suez Canal, the fatal confrontation with the Soviet Union might have been postponed, perhaps indefinitely.
As it was, Hitler got the worst of both worlds. Turning to Mussolini's decision to join the war on the German side after the crushing defeat of France, Kershaw portrays the Italian elites as avid for a share of the spoils. Remaining neutral would have enabled Italy to have husbanded its weak resources in the traditional manner by playing one side off against the other. Mussolini should, perhaps, have remembered the sarcastic remark of a Russian negotiator at a peace conference in the late nineteenth century, that since the Italians were demanding an increase in their territory, he supposed they must have lost another battle. Disappointed with Hitler's refusal to accede to his demands in the West, Mussolini made the fatal decision to invade Greece. Soon, Italian military failures there and in North Africa had sucked the Germans into a theater of war in which they did not really want to fight.
Hitler would later complain that this diversion of German resources cost him the war by forcing him to postpone the invasion of Russia, officially known as Operation Barbarossa. If the invasion had taken place earlier, he claimed, the Germans could have defeated the Red Army before the rains bogged down the German advance in the fall. But as Kershaw points out, bad weather in May and early June would have postponed the invasion anyway. What is more, in the first weeks of the Russian campaign, Hitler anticipated victory well before the fall. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops were surrounded and killed or captured in vast encircling movements driven forward by fast-moving German armor backed up by complete German domination of the skies. The collapse of the Soviet regime seemed imminent.
Responsibility for the Russians' near defeat, Kershaw argues, must lie principally with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, whose decision to ignore the warnings pouring in from intelligence agents about an impending German invasion in June 1941 forms the subject of another chapter. What alternatives were open to Stalin? One that was put to him by leading generals the previous month was to launch a pre-emptive strike. The documentary traces of this have provided fuel for those who have tried to argue that Hitler invaded in order to stop the Red Army from marching westward. But Kershaw persuasively rejects this "far-fetched interpretation." Operation Barbarossa had been in preparation for many months before the idea of a pre-emptive strike by the Red Army was first mooted. Therefore the strike was to have been a defensive move.
After the war, one of its principal authors, Gen. Georgi Zhukov, admitted it would probably have been a dismal failure anyway. The Red Army and its leadership had been crippled by Stalin's purges in the late 1930s. The frantic arms program launched in 1939 had not gotten very far; Stalin did not think the Soviet military would be in a position to fight the Germans successfully until 1942. He rejected the idea out of hand. "Have you gone mad?" he exploded: "Do you want to provoke the Germans?" Stalin knew how poorly prepared his forces were, and he was playing desperately for time, even continuing deliveries of goods and raw materials under the Nazi-Soviet Pact signed in 1939 up to six days before the invasion.
Ideologically blinkered, the Soviet dictator would not tolerate any dissent from his own complacent assessment of the situation. Kershaw does not say what Stalin's ideological preconceptions were, but as a good Marxist-Leninist, Stalin was convinced that Hitler's regime was the tool of German monopoly capitalism, so that if he made available everything German business wanted, there would be no immediate reason to invade. Moreover, he thought it inconceivable that Hitler would launch an invasion while the war with Britain was still in progress. Surely the German dictator was aware of the folly of waging a war on two fronts? But Hitler held the Soviet Union in boundless contempt. One push, he thought, and the whole edifice of Communism would come crashing down.
It did not. By the end of 1941 the German armies had been fought to a standstill before Moscow, and though they made further, major advances in 1942, the factor most feared by Hitler, the growth of US aid for Britain and to a lesser extent also the Soviet Union, now came increasingly into play. Kershaw devotes two chapters to decisions made by Roosevelt. On October 30, 1940, the President promised American mothers and fathers: "Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war." By this time, he had already long been convinced that German expansionism posed a fundamental threat to the United States. He was right.
As Kershaw remarks, Hitler had always envisaged in the longer term "a war of the continents" in which a German-dominated Europe would launch a final struggle for world supremacy with the United States. But Roosevelt knew that he would never get Congress to support a declaration of war on Germany. So he preceded cautiously, step by step, to shore up first the British and then the Soviet war effort. "I do not think we need worry about any possibility of Russian domination," he declared shortly after the launching of Operation Barbarossa. Lend-lease, which made available vast quantities of war materiel to Britain and later Russia, was followed by the Atlantic Charter, implicitly allying the United States with Britain by stating the common democratic principles they sought to uphold, while a clash between a German U-boat and an American destroyer provided the pretext for persuading Congress to approve American warships protecting Allied merchant ships and convoys in the American half of the Atlantic in the interests of the "freedom of the seas."
Roosevelt's decision to wage undeclared war on Germany had an impact on two crucial decisions made by Hitler. The first of these was the German declaration of war on the United States on December 11, 1941. The introduction of lend-lease had already convinced Hitler that the Soviet Union needed to be defeated quickly, before American resources could be thrown into the fray on the Allied side. The more US naval forces intervened to protect British shipping, the more Hitler began to fear that unless he could unleash the full force of his submarine fleet against them, the battle of the Atlantic would be lost, and his attempt to cut off essential supplies of food, arms and raw materials from the British Isles would fail. Yet he continued to hesitate until the Japanese bombed the US Pacific naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This was, Hitler said, a "deliverance." "We can't lose the war," was his response. On December 11, the formal declaration of war on the United States was made.
The German declaration of war freed Roosevelt from his dilemma. Now the United States could enter the conflict openly and without any reservation or holding back. Kershaw asks, Was this a megalomaniacal act of folly on Hitler's part? No, is his answer: War with the United States was inevitable anyway, and the Japanese aggression would tie up American resources in the Pacific, allowing Germany to win the war in Europe before the full might of the US military was brought to bear on the Anglo-Soviet side. Even had Hitler not issued his declaration, the escalating submarine war in the Atlantic would have brought America in sooner rather than later. Hitler's decision, therefore, was not fateful after all--a verdict that, while convincing enough, rather undermines its inclusion in a book titled Fateful Choices.
The second decision prompted, at least to some extent, by America's growing involvement in the war, was, however, truly fateful: Hitler's decision to exterminate the Jews of Europe. In a sense, says Kershaw, there was no decision that could be "traced to a single order on a specific day." Certainly, explicit orders have survived from Hitler ordering the mass killing of Polish intellectuals and the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the areas of Poland incorporated into Germany after the German invasion of September 1939.
In 1941 Hitler's orders were less explicit, but according to Kershaw, the wide powers he gave to SS chief Heinrich Himmler, to "pacify" the newly conquered areas and kill Soviet political commissars and Jews who posed a security threat, were decisive. By early August 1941 Himmler's task forces and police units were indiscriminately massacring Jewish men, women and children in vast numbers, in a process of which Hitler was kept well informed.
In October 1941 the Nazi authorities began the eastward deportation of Jews from Berlin, Prague, Vienna and other Central European cities, sending them to ghettos into which vast numbers of Polish and East European Jews had already been forced, living in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Meanwhile, the shooting of Jews by the "task forces" and police units reached new heights. Himmler began to try to resolve the situation by using poison gas as a quicker method of murdering people in large numbers: first in mobile vans, then through the construction of stationary facilities in extermination camps, beginning with Belzec in November 1941. To this degree, at any rate, the pace of events was beginning to force the Nazi leadership to make a fundamental decision and coordinate the program of killing in an orderly way--hence the decision to call a conference of the leading administrative agencies involved, at the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, in November 1941, postponed to January 1942 because of the declaration of war on the United States.
Speaking privately to Nazi leaders the day after the declaration of war on America, Hitler made it clear that "the world war is here. The annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence." Reporting the speech to his underlings a few days later, the Governor-General of Poland, Hans Frank, was brutally explicit: "We must destroy the Jews wherever we find them." There were 3.5 million in his area alone. "We can't shoot these 3.5 million Jews," he said; "we can't poison them, but we must be able to take steps that will somehow lead to success in extermination." The decision had clearly been made, and it had been made by Hitler.
It is surprising, given the structure of this book, that in explaining Hitler's invasion of Russia, Kershaw does not give more prominence to Roosevelt's decision to bring about the de facto entry of the United States into the war. Through the summer and fall of 1941, Hitler repeatedly referred to what he saw as a malign worldwide Jewish conspiracy driving Roosevelt into an unholy alliance with Churchill and Stalin to bring about the destruction of Germany. All three statesmen, he believed, were under Jewish influence; and his private statements were backed up by anti-American propaganda pumped out by Goebbels's Propaganda Ministry in Berlin. Here is a link that Kershaw might have made more of.
As it turns out, therefore, not all the decisions analyzed in this book were fateful, and not all of them were, strictly speaking, decisions. But they were all connected in one way or another, and there is no doubt that together they helped determine the course of the war. Of course, one could easily pick alternative choices to the ten analyzed in this book, from British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's declaration of war on Germany in September 1939 to Hitler's refusal to let the German Ninth Army withdraw from Stalingrad at the end of 1942, from Churchill's order to bomb German cities the following year to the various decisions made by the key conspirators in the German Resistance's plot to kill Hitler in 1944, and so on. In the end, Kershaw does not really bother to argue for the fundamental importance of the period from May 1940 to November 1941 in shaping the course of the war; he knows that history isn't as simple as that. The way, indeed, would seem open for him to write a sequel, or even two sequels, to this book, covering the years 1942-43 and 1944-45. They would be well worth reading.
Such books, focusing on decision-making by wartime leaders, would seem at first sight to be far removed from the kind of social history in which Ian Kershaw began his career. But in some ways this contrast is deceptive. Kershaw nods in the direction of the individual in history: The "fateful choices" of Mussolini, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin and the rest, he says, "were directly determined by the sort of individuals they happened to be. At the same time, though," he goes on, "they were not made in a vacuum as arbitrary whims of personality. They were choices made under preconditions and under external constraints." One cannot help feeling that the personalities of the men who made the choices do not really interest Kershaw very much. In the end, then, this book is less about the fateful choices they made than about the factors that constrained them. That is precisely what lifts it out of the rut of ordinary military history and puts it into a class of its own.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
SOURCE: David Samuels in the Atlantic Monthly online (4-18-07)
A. Well, Nixon wasn’t my first White House experience. My first White House experience was as a Kennedy consultant. So if I hadn't had that, I probably couldn’t have done the Nixon period, because they taught me what can go on in a White House. But you’re not doing an article about me.
Q. The article is about Dr. Rice. But one of the things people tell me is you have to understand what it means for a younger person with some limited experience on the NSC to suddenly find themselves surrounded by these titans, these elephants, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney. What qualities of mind and temperament were necessary for you to keep your balance and do your job under similar circumstances, especially at the beginning?
A. Almost all of the departmental papers try to move an immediate decision. That’s a particular problem at the beginning of an administration because almost every department that was overruled in the previous administration tries to get it reversed in the new administration. And you have the paradoxical problem of having no files, because the previous administration has taken all the files. So you have to spend some time reconstituting the files.
But I was lucky. Nixon was a very conceptual President, and I surrounded myself with the most conceptual people I could find. So we made up our mind at the beginning that we would answer the big questions. First, what are we trying to do? What is the objective here? And actually, contrary to what almost everybody writes, we used the NSC mechanism. The NSC mechanism didn’t necessarily know what we would ultimately do with it, and they certainly had a shot at presenting what they thought should be done. And then I had my own staff. Anyway, that’s how it started.
Q. Going through Secretary Rice’s interviews, roundtables with the press, her published work—there’s an analogy that she draws again and again to this present moment in history and the beginning of the Cold War. It’s something that she does with me, and something that she does repeatedly in interviews. She says we are making decisions now that will set the groundwork for policy for the next 50 years. She talks about Dean Acheson, she talks about George Marshall. What do you make of the analogy between this moment in history and the beginning of the Cold War?
A. The essence of the beginning of the Cold War was that the state system as we knew it was beginning to drag. A new danger appeared in the center of Europe. And Europe, which had been the leading continent and the leading actor in world affairs, was declining and was no longer capable of carrying out its responsibilities. George Marshall and Truman guided America into an international system. They defined the international system, and conducted debates in this country.
Now, a number of things are going on simultaneously today that are not necessarily concurrent. In the North Atlantic, in Europe, the nation-state is disintegrating, but the new political unit, the European Union, has emerged here as a political non-factor. So in effect, Europe has no mechanisms for conducting strategic policy the way it used to be conducted by nation-states. Maybe that’s not possible for a transnational unit. That’s what we have to find out.
In the relations between states, war is no longer possible. That’s a new factor. How do you conduct foreign policy when you can’t have war, and you have populations that are not willing to make any sacrifice for anything, including domestic changes? On the other hand, America is still a nation, and that greatly affects our relation with Europe.
And we have Asia, which is more like Europe was in the 19th century, with the notion of equilibrium and balance of power, and so forth. Then you have the Middle East, which is like Europe was in the 17th century, torn by religious and sectarian conflicts. And on top of that, you have a new set of problems that have never existed before and can only be solved on a global basis—climate, energy, terror, for which there is no national mechanism really to deal with it....
SOURCE: American Conservative (5-21-07)
If Alexis de Tocqueville had sat in the bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium for an entire summer, he would have been an even more interesting read. Fortunately, we had our own master observer of Americana. That the essence of the nation’s character resides in its grandest pursuits as well as its simplest rituals is the legacy of David Halberstam.
Halberstam’s death on April 23 was a terrible loss. He was a graceful and compelling writer. His gift was taking a subject—sometimes complex, sometimes mundane or over-covered—and distilling it for readers into immediacy and timelessness. His insight was linked inextricably to his effortless, after-midnight type of eloquence. The Best and the Brightest, his seminal work on the Vietnam War, combines these qualities, and the topic seemed uniquely suited for his sense of style. What better way to capture the mission creep, the corruption, the maddening incapacity of the Diem regime and its successors, or the intellectual rot in Washington, than with one of Halberstam’s meandering, sparsely punctuated sentences?
Any meaningful discussion of Halberstam, and The Best and the Brightest in particular, means quoting at least some of his writing. It also requires thinking about the topic’s relevance and lingering lessons. After four years, the Iraq-as-Vietnam analogy is more than a bit tired. But despite its exhaustive details on the Vietnam War, the book’s real message is that the failures that led to the quagmire are an integral part of the nation’s identity. The main players—Kennedy, Johnson, Bundy, McNamara, Rostow, Rusk, Taylor, Westmoreland—are almost allegorical symbols of the brilliance, determination, hubris, myopia, and hypocrisy that both account for the nation’s greatness and cause periodic disasters. They were indeed the best and the brightest. But when “events are in the saddle and ride mankind,” as Emerson wrote, strengths can become fatal flaws. To Halberstam, General Westmoreland embodied that:
He liked the Vietnamese and was genuinely committed to their cause, but there was never a real sense or feeling for their frailties, fallibilities, their corruption, their loss of innocence (had they ever been innocent?). He was, finally, too American, too successful in the American and Western sense, too much a sterling product of a success-oriented country to feel the rhythms and nuances of this particularly failed society; he was the finest product of an uncorrupted country where doing good was always rewarded, one worked hard, played by the rules, went by the book, and succeeded. Success. Theirs was a corrupted, cynical society where the bribe, the lie, the decadence had become a way of life, where Vietnamese officers lied frequently and readily to their American counterparts. ... The Americans, particularly the military, were so straight and Westy was the classic example; he was so American, like all Americans in Vietnam he wanted the Vietnamese to be Americans, he saw them in American terms, he could never seem to see them as themselves.
Substitute a few words here and there—leaving in “corrupted” and “bribe” and “this particularly failed society”—and it’s just as relevant now in Baghdad’s alleys and marketplaces as it was a generation ago when the Ivy League, spreadsheets, and flowcharts met their match in the jungles and rice paddies....
SOURCE: Democracy Now (5-21-07)
MALCOLM X: …my house was bombed. It was bombed by the Black Muslim movement upon the orders of Elijah Muhammad. Now, they had come around to -- they had planned to do it from the front and the back so that I couldn't get out. They covered the front completely, the front door. Then they had come to the back, but instead of getting directly in back of the house and throwing it this way, they stood at a forty-five degree angle and tossed it at the window so it glanced and went onto the ground. And the fire hit the window, and it woke up my second oldest baby. And then it -- but the fire burned on the outside of the house.
But had that fire -- had that one gone through that window, it would have fallen on a six-year-old girl, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old girl. And I'm going to tell you, if it had done it, I'd taken my rifle and gone after anybody in sight. I would not wait, 'cause in -- and I said that because of this: the police know the criminal operation of the Black Muslim movement because they have thoroughly infiltrated it.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Malcolm X speaking at a rally of the newly formed Organization of Afro-American Unity, February 15, 1965. A week later he was shot dead at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
Today, we spend the our with Professor Manning Marable and hear more clips of Malcolm X. Professor Marable, one of the leading experts on the life and legacy of Malcolm X, a professor at Columbia University, close to completing an important new biography called Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. It will be published in 2009. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MANNING MARABLE: Thank you, Amy. It’s great to be back.
AMY GOODMAN: It is great to have you with us. It was six days after he was speaking about the forces that were infiltrating that Malcolm X was gunned down.
MANNING MARABLE: That's right, although there were pivotal decisions that were made after this address. Malcolm met with the key members of the two organizations that he had established: Muslim Mosque Incorporated, MMI, which was largely a group of former Nation of Islam members who left the NOI out of loyalty to Malcolm; and second, OAAU, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which was a secular organization of African American middle class and working class activists who joined Malcolm in building a more radical black nationalist movement in the mid-’60s.
The debate was, what do we do regarding the security of Malcolm X? The organization made two decisions that were highly contentious that evening: one, that none of Malcolm's bodyguards, usually provided by Muslim Mosque Incorporated, would wear guns on the day of the big rally, which was scheduled on Sunday afternoon at the Audubon on the 21st of February; and secondly, no one would be searched, which actually was the standard protocol over the last several months at the Audubon, because Malcolm did not want to frighten off middle class Negroes who were coming around and joining his movement.
But Malcolm's own home had been firebombed the Sunday night before. I talked with James 67X Shabazz, who was Malcolm's chief of staff, and others who eyewitnessed the assassination, and I challenged them personally and said, “How could you in good conscience have permitted Malcolm -- even though he was the leader of the organization, nevertheless, there is a process of consultation. You were a his right-hand men and women. How could you have allowed him to do this?” And they said to me, “Brother Manning, you just didn't know Brother Malcolm.” Then Malcolm insisted upon it.
So one of the riddles that I’m trying to solve in the autobiography is, why did Malcolm permit the context of the absence of security to occur on that particular day, especially at a time when the NYPD, the New York Police Department, and the FBI clearly set into motion decisions that facilitated the assassination on that day?
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain exactly what happened on February 21, 1965, from the time, actually six days before, that we just heard this clip.
MANNING MARABLE: Yes. To the best of our knowledge, the assassination conspiracy is directly at odds with what the New York District Attorney's office came up with in the murder trial of 1966. According to the New York prosecutors and the NYPD, there were three people who were responsible for the murder of Malcolm X: Talmadge Hayer, Thomas Johnson and Norman Butler. These three men were affiliated with the Nation of Islam. They were prosecuted and convicted of first-degree murder. At the time, New York State did not have a death penalty. They were sent to prison for a quarter of a century.
It is very clear to me that Butler and Johnson were not at the Audubon that day of the assassination. Talmadge Hayer was. He was shot by Reuben Francis, the chief bodyguard of Malcolm X. But the circumstances of the murder and all of the evidence that we have points to six men, not three, who were involved in the assassination; that the assassination was carefully planned for weeks; that, indeed, the day before the Audubon rally that Malcolm X and the OAAU held, that there was a one-hour walkthrough that night of the killers.
And what's curious were the actions of the NYPD and also the FBI. The NYPD ubiquitously followed Malcolm around wherever he spoke in the last year. They always had one to two dozen police officers. On this day, they pulled back the police guard. Many writers have already talked about this. But there were only two police officers in the Audubon at the time of the actual killing. And these two were assigned to the furthest end of the building, away from where the 400 people had gathered in the main ballroom. There were no cops outside. Usually, there were more than one or two dozen. So the police knew in advance something was going to occur that day. ...
SOURCE: Judith Dobrzynski in the WSJ (5-22-07)
Mr. Cole also says things others might find old-fashioned and perhaps even politically incorrect. "We have to look at the valleys and the peaks, but I do believe in American exceptionalism," he said by way of explaining his zeal. "This is the greatest country that has ever existed."
For these sentiments, Mr. Cole has elicited some praise, but also smirks and snickers. Last year, Washington Post critic Philip Kennicott wrote that his "dogmatic public statements on art and literature are increasingly embarrassing." Mr. Cole himself acknowledges some raised eyebrows in his audiences when he speaks of the homeland security connection, but adds, "I don't remember anyone laughing."
In any case, his remedy for the national affliction is a program called "We the People," which since its inception in 2002 has spent more than $50 million on teacher institutes and workshops, museum exhibits, research fellowships, digitization of historic newspapers, public programming at historic sites, and similar projects. The grants are, to quote one description on the NEH Web site, geared toward projects that "explore significant events and themes in our nation's history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America."
That approach departs dramatically from the "My History Is America's History" program it supplanted, a PC thing started in 1999 by Mr. Cole's predecessor, William R. Ferris. Still, when asked to explain the difference, Mr. Cole demurs. Pressed, he says that "we're not interested just in personal history and the history of your family; history is fashioned by people who really make a difference." Finally, on the third question, he is critical: "We did go off track with the emphasis on individual history."
At first glance, Mr. Cole seems an odd choice for the job of America's official history scold. He's a button-downed guy, though not so staid that he wouldn't wear a bright purple tie, which matched his purple pin-striped shirt, with his dark suit. He's spent his life as a scholar of Renaissance art, mainly at Indiana University, traveling to Italy about 50 times. As you may have guessed, he deplores some trends in museology--which is not insignificant, considering that the NEH makes grants to museums that amounted to almost $15.8 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2006....
[One trend he opposes is museums drawing large crowds for the sake of large crowds.]
While he concedes that a decade of museum expansions has probably caused a structural problem that necessitates attempts to draw huge crowds, philosophically he has a different view."I don't think we have to bring more people in, though we want them to come in," he explains."I'm not so interested in, whether you're a doctor or whatever, that you know when Masaccio was born, but I want you to know that art is important. I would like to give as many people as possible the opportunity to understand that art can improve the quality of life. It should be available."
If Mr. Cole, the art historian, finds art to be optional, however, he is also quick to get back to his main message, about history."I don't necessarily know that it's a bad thing if people don't know about art or classical music, but I think we should offer it as an opportunity--that doesn't mean you don't like country & western music or watch TV," he says."I don't feel that way about American history." It's essential. Here he tells the story of Ronald Reagan's parting words as president."He said this country comes from well-informed patriotism; it's that love of country, that love of place, that's necessary for any country's survival. You can call them myths if you want, but unless we have them, we don't have anything."...
SOURCE: Juan Cole at Informed Comment (blog) (5-22-07)
The Iranian government has now charged detained Iranian-American academic Haleh Esfandiari with trying to overthrow the current regime, according to the Washington Post's Robin Wright. This AP article calls it a"soft revolution."
How was she going to do this? By academic interchanges and conferences!
I think I speak for all college teachers in saying that we are all just kicking ourselves. We had never realized that we could get rid of a whole government that way. I mean, having interchanges and holding conferences is practically all we do. We'd never even been aware of affecting, in that way, who the department chairs were in our own institutions! We all have a list of regimes we'd like to see gone, so I guess we should plan out that fall colloquium on Spencer's Faerie Queen right away!
She is also accused of taking money from George Soros's Open Society Institute. I thought only Fox Cable News minded a thing like that! We now discover that the Iranian"Ministry of Intelligence" is an oxymoron.
I hear that David Horowitz and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are planning jointly to propose an Academic Bill of Rights that makes sure those nasty academic conferences don't end up having any effect on the real world, the running of which should be left to . . . David Horowitz and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Gary Sick, a political scientist at Columbia University and head of Gulf2000, reacted this way to the bizarre Iranian claims:
' Needless to say, any institution that was conducting exchanges with Iranians would have"invited Iranians to attend conferences, offered them research projects, scholarships ... and tried to lure influential elements and link them to decision-making centers in America" (as alleged by the" charges" broadcast today).
That is exactly what the [Institue for Policy and International Studies] (IPIS, the"think tank" of the Iranian foreign ministry) does with Americans. It invites them to Iran to attend conferences, it solicits research and writing that it then publishes, and it tries to attract the most engaged and influential Americans, with the very clear purpose of getting them to know Iran better and to give Iranians a perspective into American thinking.
That is what exchanges are about. It does not in any way imply that IPIS is trying to overthrow the US government; and the suggestion that the Wilson Center, by organizing conferences and providing a forum where leading Iranian scholars and thinkers could be heard by a US audience, was trying to overthrow the government of Iran is simply absurd.
The effort by Iran's security services to transform serious and legitimate scholars into spies is so transparently ludicrous that one is forced to ask what their real motives are in persecuting innocent people, and why the senior leadership of Iran, who know these charges to be false, do not assert themselves in this matter.'
Amnesty International has a convenient form for sending protest emails to the Iranian government.
Haleh's former students in particular are invited to sign for her at this Wilson Center site.
Also on Monday, the American Association of University Professors issued a protest letter.
May 21, 2007
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Dear President Ahmadinejad:
The American Association of University Professors, which for more than ninety years has been the foremost organization in the United States defending principles of academic freedom, is alarmed by reports that Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, was arrested in Tehran on May 8 on grounds that she is being investigated for “crimes against national security.” Dr. Esfandiari is a dual citizen of the United States and Iran and a frequent visitor to Iran. Her arrest was reportedly preceded by her being questioned at length over several months by Iranian intelligence officials about the activities and programs of the Wilson Center’s Middle East programs.
This Association cannot but view Dr. Esfandiari’s arrest as inimical to internationally accepted principles of the free pursuit of knowledge. We reject the premise that displeasure with what scholars write about government policies or with scholarly projects with which they are associated are appropriate bases for their being detained, questioned, and arrested by government authorities.
We urge that Dr. Esfandiari be released from prison immediately and that she be allowed to return to her academic work in the United States, consistent with the traditional freedom of the Iranian academic community and with principles of academic freedom that are essential to independent scholarly endeavors around the world.
cc: Lee H. Hamilton, Director, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Professor Zachary Lockman, President, Middle East Studies Association
Here is another letter of protest signed by academics, many of them experts in Iranian or Middle East Studies, and many of whom have taken lumps for opposing the Neocon plan to destroy the country:
' Statement by Scholars of Iran and the Middle East Protesting the Detention of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari by the Iranian Government
(Released on May 21, 2007)
The arbitrary detention and confinement of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, a prominent Iranian-American scholar and the director of the Middle East program at the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., is the latest distressing episode in an ongoing crackdown by the Islamic Republic against those who, directly or indirectly, strive to bolster the foundations of civil society and promote human rights in Iran. Over the past year-and-a-half, this onslaught has targeted prominent women’s rights activists, leaders of non-governmental organizations, student and teacher associations, and labor unions. In recent weeks, scores of women’s rights activists have been harassed, physically attacked and detained for no greater a crime than peaceful demonstrations and circulating petitions calling for the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices. University students across the country have faced expulsion, arrest, and imprisonment for peacefully protesting the erosion of the administrative and academic independence of their universities.
It is in this context that the months-long harassment, extra judicial arrest and incarceration of Dr. Esfandiari—which was admitted belatedly by the Iranian Government on May 13, 2007 (New York Times, May 14, 2007)—exemplify the relentless campaign by the leaders of the Islamic Republic against the most basic principles of human rights. We find Dr. Esfandiari’s case particularly disturbing because it is tinged with invidious anti-Semitic rhetoric and conspiratorial worldviews. The egregious charges leveled against her by the semi-official daily Kayhan, make Dr. Esfandiari the latest victim in the Iranian government’s repeated and escalating attempts to intimidate and silence human rights activists and promoters of civil society, as well as those who advocate the path of dialogue and moderation in Iran’s foreign policy. In her capacity as the director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, Dr. Esfandiari has been a staunch advocate of peaceful dialogue between Tehran and Washington in resolving their disputes.
We believe that, despite certain internal disagreements among members of its ruling elite, the Islamic Republic of Iran—as any other member of the United Nations—should be held fully accountable for its actions. Only through a clear and united stand against the many breaches of human rights and civil liberties in Iran can one hope to encourage those elements within the Islamic Republic who recognize the importance of human rights for Iran’s standing within the international community.
We call upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to strongly protest and condemn the arbitrary detention of Dr. Esfandiari, to call for her immediate and unconditional release, and to urge the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect, guarantee and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties to which Iran has long been a signatory. '
List of Signatories of the Statement in Support of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari
(May 21, 2007)
Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
Janet Afary, Purdue University
Gholam Reza Afkhami, Foundation for Iranian Studies
Mahnaz Afkhami, Women’s Learning Partnership
Reza Afshari, Pace University
Shahrough Akhavi, University of South Carolina
Kazem Alamdari, California State University
Abbas Amanat, Yale University
Hooshang Amirahmadi, Rutgers University
Jahangir Amuzegar, Independent Scholar
Ahmad Ashraf, Columbia University
Muriel Atkin, George Washington University
Bahman Baktiari, University of Maine
Kathryn Babayan, University of Michigan
Ali Banuazizi, Boston College
Sohrab Behdad, Denison University
Nasser Behnegar, Boston College
Maziar Behrooz, San Francisco State University
Sheila Blair, Boston College and Virginia Commonwealth University
Jonathan Bloom, Boston College and Virginia Commonwealth University
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University
Laurie A. Brand, University of Southern California
L. Carl Brown, Princeton University
Nathan Brown, George Washington University
Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland
Houchang-Esfandiar Chehabi, Boston University
Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Shahram Chubin, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Juan R. Cole, University of Michigan
Miriam Cooke, Duke University
Natalie Z. Davis, University of Toronto
Kamran Dadkhah, Northeastern University
John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Ali Ferdowsi, Nortre Dame de Namur University
Willem Floor, Independent Scholar
Amir Hossein Gandjbakhche, National Institutes of Health
Mark Gasiorowski, Louisiana State University
M. R. Ghanoonparvar, The University of Texas at Austin
Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, Harvard University
Sondra Hale, University of California, Los Angeles
Hormoz Hekmat, Editor, Iran-Nameh
Kashi Javaherian, Harvard University
Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis
Mehran Kamrava, California State University, Northridge
Mehrangiz Kar, Harvard University
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, University of Maryland
Farhad Kazemi, New York University
Nikki Keddie, University of California, Los Angeles
Laleh Khalili, SOAS, University of London
Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami, New York University
Dina Rizk Khoury, George Washington University
Azadeh Kian, University of Paris
Stephen N. Lambden, Ohio University
Zachary Lockman, New York University
Ali Akbar Mahdi, Ohio Wesleyan University
Lenore G. Martin, Emmanuel College and Harvard University
Rudi Matthee, University of Delaware
Ann Elizabeth Mayer, The Wharton School
Abbas Milani, Stanford University
Farzaneh Milani, University of Virginia
Ziba Mir-Hosseini, SOAS, University of London
Valentine Moghadam, Purdue University
Haideh Moghissi, York University
Azar Nafisi, Johns Hopkins University-SAIS
Rasool Nafisi, Strayer University
Vali Nasr, Naval Postgraduate School
Farhad Nomani, The American University of Paris
Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University
Saeed Paivandi, University of Paris (VI)
Misagh Parsa, Dartmouth College
Samantha Power, Harvard University
William B. Quandt, University of Virginia
Sholeh A. Quinn, Ohio University
Nasrin Rahimieh, University of California, Irvine
Ali Rahnema, The American University of Paris
Saeed Rahnema, York University
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Elizabeth Rubin, The New York Times Magazine
Sharon Stanton Russell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Robert M. Russell, Tufts University
Ahmad Sadri, Lake Forest College
Mahmoud Sadri, Texas Woman’s University
Tagi Sagafi-nejad, Texas A & M International University
Ali Schirazi, The Free University of Berlin
May Seikaly, Wayne State University
Sussan Siavoshi, Trinity University
Stephen Spector, Stony Brook University
Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations
Kamran Talattof, University of Arizona
Richard Tapper, SOAS, University of London
Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, University of Toronto
Majid Tehranian, Toda Institute for Global Peace
Mark Tessler, University of Michigan
Mary Ann Tetreault, Trinity University, San Antonio
Nathan Thrall, The Jerusalem Post
Chris Toensing, Editor, Middle East Report
Nayereh Tohidi, California State University, Northridge
A. L Udovitch, Princeton University
Farzin Vahdat, Vassar College
Lucette Valensi, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Stephen M. Walt, Harvard University
John Waterbury, American University of Beirut
Lawrence Weschler, New York University
Jenny White, Boston University
Judith S. Yaphe, George Washington University
Said Yousef, The University of Chicago
Hossein Ziai, University of California, Los Angeles
Marvin Zonis, The University of Chicago
News Story: A Scholar Detained (Inside Higher Ed)
SOURCE: Haaretz (5-21-07)
Despite his lack of training as a historian, Professor Kimmerling was identified with "the new historians" who provided alternative views on Israel's history. He also studied Israeli power structures.
Defining himself as a "sociologist of politics in the wider sense of the term," Kimmerling was for many years a guest columnist at Haaretz.
He will be laid to rest in a secular funeral at Kibbutz Mishmoret at 2 P.M. today.
His wife, Diana, said yesterday that Kimmerling had been hospitalized several times due to cancer, "but last Thursday he decided he didn't want to be tossed around from one hospital to another anymore. He wanted to die at home."
Over the weekend he went into a coma and died on Sunday evening.
"He loved to stimulate thought, he had ideas that were astoundingly original. He was a human being, a friend and a father," she said.
Kimmerling was born in 1939 in Transylvania, Romania. He was disabled all his life due to cerebral palsy. He had speech difficulties and was confined to a wheelchair, yet traveled to conferences worldwide. ...
SOURCE: Poland.pl (5-20-07)
Irving is a convicted Holocaust denier – he spent more than a year in an Austrian jail for denying the Nazis organized mass murder of six million Jews during World War Two.
According to Grzegorz Guzowski, the organizers received detailed materials on his work from Irving's publishers only a few hours before the deadline and hence did not have enough time to prevent the historian from setting up a table at the exhibition. Polish law does not forbid Holocaust denial but prohibits the promotion of fascism and defamation of people on racial and religious grounds.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (5-21-07)
In a new book, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace (Yale University Press), Ali A. Allawi argues that American forces failed to understand what they were getting into and made numerous costly mistakes along the way. He brings an insider's perspective to the subject: A longtime opponent of the Baathist regime, Allawi was living in exile and teaching at the University of Oxford in 2003 when he was chosen to be minister of trade under the Iraq Governing Council. He has since served as Iraq's first post-invasion civilian minister of defense, as an elected member of Iraq's Transitional National Assembly, and as minister of finance under Ibrahim al-Jaafari's transitional National Government.
We asked Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the influential blogger at Informed Comment (http://juancole.com), to interview Allawi, by e-mail, about the situation in Iraq. They talked about the occupation; the current Iraqi government and sectarian violence; and the military and political prospects for Iraq, occupation forces stationed there, and the country's Arab neighbors....
Cole: It seems likely that the British Labour Party will pull most U.K. troops out of southern Iraq during the next eight months. The patience of the American public is also not infinite. Some 25,000 U.S. troops have been killed or wounded, with the death toll marching toward 4,000 and at least 20 percent of the injuries serious. The public has turned to the Democratic Party in a bid to find someone who will extract them from this quagmire. It seems entirely possible that the 2008 elections will produce another political earthquake, and it seems highly unlikely that whoever comes to power in 2009 in Washington is going to want Bush's albatross hanging around their necks.
If the U.S. does reduce its troop strength to a half or a third what it is now, can the elected government survive? In what ways might Iraqis respond to such a big reduction in the U.S. military presence? Is not the coalition essentially handing the Shiite south to the Badr Corps [which is commanded by Sciri] and its local police allies (except in Maysan province, where surely the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr will take over)? Can a northern Sunni city like Mosul remain in Baghdad's control if there are no U.S. troops in Nineveh province?
Allawi: I do not believe that the withdrawal of U.S. troops will have a material effect on the level of violence. What it will do is finalize the sectarian character of the Iraqi security forces. At present, the U.S. is, ineffectively, trying to bolster the formation of a professional military that owes its loyalty to the central Iraqi state, and weaving ties between the senior officer corps of the Iraqi army and the U.S. military establishment. That is being constantly undermined and thwarted by a countereffort to ensure that the senior military cadres are loyal to those who control the government apparatus.
A U.S. pullout will simply lead to the abandonment of the formal policy of a nonsectarian military. The government, we must remember, disposes of very large financial resources that will be used to strengthen armed forces that are loyal to it rather than to a nebulous concept of a united Iraqi state. The battle lines will be drawn more sharply, but not necessarily in ways that would inevitably lead to the proverbial bloodbath. The majority Sunni areas will resist more forcefully the imposition of the writ of the central government, possibly by institutionalizing sectarian security forces such as the Anbar tribal levies, and authorizing the formation of similar units in Mosul and elsewhere....
SOURCE: Clive Thompson in Wired (5-21-07)
Niall Ferguson wonders about this a lot. He's a well-known economic historian at New York University, and a champion of "counterfactual thinking," or the re-imagining of major historical events, with the variables slightly tweaked. In a 1999 book Virtual Histories, Ferguson edited a collection of delightfully weird counterfactual hypotheses. One essay argued that if Mikhail Gorbachev had never existed, the USSR would still exist today. Another posited an alternative 18th century in which Britain allows its colonies to develop their own parliaments -- so the Americans never revolt, and the USA never exists.
The essays were fun, but Ferguson really craved a more holodeck-like experience. He wanted to have a computer simulation that would let him set up historical counterfactuals -- based on real-world facts -- and then sit back to see what happens. "I was always thinking that one day the right technology would come into my life," he told me.
Last year, it finally did. Ferguson was approached by Muzzy Lane, a game company that had created Making History -- a game where players run World War II scenarios based on exhaustively researched economic realities of the period.
As he played it, he realized the game was good -- so good, in fact, that it forced him to rethink some of his long-cherished theories. For example, he'd often argued that World War II could have been prevented if Britain had confronted Germany over its invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938. France would have joined with Britain, he figured, pinching Germany between their combined might and that of the Russian army. "Germany wasn't ready for war, and they would have been defeated," he figured. "War in 1938 would have been better than war in 1942."
But when he ran the simulation in Making History, everything fell to pieces. The French defected, leaving Britain's expeditionary force to fly solo -- and get crushed by Germany. His theory, as it turns out, didn't hold water. He hadn't realized that a 1938 attack would not leave Britain enough time to build the diplomatic case with France. ...
SOURCE: Meet the Press (5-20-07)
Historian Doug Brinkley, you are the editor. What is the importance of “The Reagan Diaries”?
MR. DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, it’s Ronald Reagan in real time. It’s—every day he was president, he would grab these maroon volumes, eight and a half by 11, and handwrite what he felt that day. He’d usually write them before he went to bed in the White House, occasionally bring them on Air Force One, Marine One. So we get to really see how Reagan really felt about people in his administration like Ed Meese and Mike Deaver, Al Haig, you know, George Shultz, on and on, but also, you know, the breakthrough diplomacy with Gorbachev, how he really dealt with Iran-Contra, on and on.
MR. RUSSERT: It is extraordinary how the president puts into paper and pen his innermost thoughts. The one thing that just leaps from the pages is his devotion, his even dependency on his wife Nancy. Here’s an entry from March 30th, 1981. “I pray I” “never face a day when she isn’t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.”
MR. BRINKLEY: Well, exactly. She’s throughout the diaries. There’re even funny examples when he has to spend the night alone without her. He goes to Canada early in his administration, and there’s—he can’t sleep in the same bed with Nancy, and he’s very disturbed by this. They’re in separate wings of a, of a building. And then at the end here, he has to spend his first day ever in his life at the ranch, right as his presidency was winding down, a day in Santa Barbara in the San—you know, the Reagan Ranch, without Nancy Reagan. So it was a true codependency, and a very special marriage, and it sparkles throughout the book.
MR. RUSSERT: Mike Deaver, how important—what kind of role did Nancy Reagan play in the Reagan presidency?
MR. MICHAEL DEAVER: Well, I, I don’t think there would’ve been a Ronald Reagan without Nancy. I don’t think he’d have been Governor Reagan, I don’t think he’d have been President Reagan without her. And that prayer of his at the end where he said “I hope I never have to spend a day without her,” well, his prayer was answered.
MR. RUSSERT: Ed Meese?
MR. ED MEESE: Absolutely. She did not get involved in the policy things in the White House, as some president’s wives had, but she was a good wife to him and somebody he could talk with about things. I’m sure he talked every night over what, with her, over what was going on. She also had, had a pretty good feel for people—who was serving him well, who wasn’t—and she communicated that with him. So I think she was an invaluable helpmate, really, to, to the president, who had the—tremendous pressures. And I think being with her relieved those pressures, the fact he could talk frankly with her and also the fact that she was standing by his side and with him. And that was a—it was really a balancing act, the fact that—she was a balancing feature, as far as he was concerned.
MR. RUSSERT: She wasn’t shy, and she always had his back.
MR. MEESE: Absolutely. And then, of course, she took on things on her own, too, that were helpful. When she took on the anti-drug campaign and gave her, virtually, full-time attention to that for many years, that was a powerful emphasis in terms of the public seeing the first lady making that her number one priority. It was very important at that time. As attorney general, of course, that was a major interest of mine and was very grateful for the great work that she did in that regard.
MR. RUSSERT: It is interesting how candid the president is about his relationship with his children. It even suggests, in reading this, that perhaps the relationship, the tightness of Nancy and Ronald may have had some effect on the kids and their relationship with their parents. Here’s an entry from October 21st, 1982: “Ron,” their son, “arrived for a family pow-wow. He had been rude to Nancy on a phone call, and when I phoned him about it, he said he thought” he “needed to clear the air.”
April 7th: “This evening Ron called all exercised because” Secret Service “agents had gone into their apartment while they were in” California “to fix an alarm. I tried to reason with him. I told him quite firmly not to talk to me that way.” “He hung up on me. End of a not perfect day.”
February 1: Patti, his daughter, “screaming again about invasion of her privacy” and “last night she abused the Secret Service agents terribly. Insanity is hereditary—you catch it from your kids.”
Offscreen Voice: Exactly.
MR. RUSSERT: A little humor there. And then November 19: “One” “sour note on Thanksgiving had to do with Mike Reagan. He blew up at something on” “TV news based on an interview Nancy had given. He called me” and “when I tried to straighten him out he screamed at me about having been adopted” and “hung up on me.” That’s very blunt and very tough.
MR. BRINKLEY: It is, and when I encountered it, first read that in the diary, it made me feel good about the entire diaries. The question you always had, “Is somebody trying to write this just for history?” But when you see Reagan exposing himself, his personal life, his family life, difficulties with children, that he’s a dad and it’s not easy. Remember, two of those kids, Ron Jr. and Patti, were both sort of counterculture left. They viewed the world from a very different lens than he did. So you see them bucking horns quite a bit in the book.
MR. RUSSERT: At the funeral, the entire family came together, as America all witnessed. There’s the scene there, with Mrs. Reagan at the coffin, surrounded by her children, mourning the loss of the 40th president and their father.
Let me go to March 30th, 1981, because it was a such a critical day in the Reagan presidency and in our nation’s history. Little more than two months into the presidency, Ronald Reagan is shot. He had been attending a speech at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue here in Washington. This is what he wrote: “Left the hotel at the usual side entrance,” “headed for the car—suddenly there was a burst of gunfire from the left.” Secret service “agent pushed me onto the floor of the car” and “jumped on top. Then I began coughing up blood, which made both of us think—yes, I had a broken rib” and “it had punctured a lung.” The agent “switched orders from” going to the White House, go to George Washington University Hospital.
“By the time we arrived, I was having great trouble getting enough air. I walked into the emergency room and was hoisted onto a cart. It was then we learned I’d been shot” and “had a bullet in my lung. “Getting shot hurts. Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less and less air. I focused on that tile ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children and therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he” could “find his way back to the fold. ... The days of therapy, transfusion, intravenous, etc.” had gone, “have gone by—now it is Saturday, April 11, and this morning I left the hospital.
“Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”
Mike Deaver, tell us about that day.
MR. DEAVER: Well, it was just a day like any day, as he said, until we walked out of the Hilton hotel. And Hinckley actually shot over my left shoulder, so I was at the, at the foot of the car. And none of us knew what had happened because I couldn’t get in the limousine, I was in the control car, that second car behind the president. And I thought we were going back to, to the White House. But then we went across Connecticut to George Washington Hospital, and it was some time—I think Ed and Jim got to the hospital—but it was some time before we knew that he’d actually been shot. We didn’t know what it was.
One of the interesting things about the diaries to me, though, is how much pain he was actually in. When he talks about this pain, it was really something for him, knowing him, for him to be talking about pain. And the other thing is, at any point in his life, the first place he would turn would be to his God. It was a, a, a—the strength that made him who he was.
MR. MEESE: There’s another interesting and, I think, characteristic part of that was, as he was being wheeled from the emergency room to the surgery, he happened to see Mike and Jim Baker and myself all standing together, and that was the first time he’d seen us. And he looks at us, and he says, “Who’s minding the store?”
MR. DEAVER: Right.
MR. MEESE: And he was—he had a bit of humor even in those terrific circumstances.
MR. RUSSERT: Yeah.
MR. DEAVER: But also totally relaxed when he saw Nancy.
MR. MEESE: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Two doctors there who had the firsthand account, this is so striking. He—the president kept saying I can’t catch my breath, his teeth stained with blood, gasping for air. He groaned, his knees buckled, he began to fall, he dropped to one knee. He then collapsed, carried to the trauma room. The president was much more badly hurt than, than we ever thought.
MR. BRINKLEY: Absolutely. I mean, he—it really was like being—he once said—being hit with a hammer. He was in great pain, and he was very near to dying. There are a couple little side bars in the diary that may be of interest. One is that he writes that—kind of mystically, in a, in a way—that he took his, his great wristwatch off and didn’t wear it that day. Put on an old beat up one, almost like a premonition. And second, he did forgive Hinckley. He found forgiveness in his heart for him. And Billy Graham had intervened—went and talked out in Colorado to Hinckley’s parents—that Reagan wrote in the diary, “I recognize this—this kid was insane, I have to forgive him. He’s—he has a deep mental illness problem.”
MR. RUSSERT: There’s references—continuous references to God in the diaries. This one was particularly intriguing to me. “It bothers me not to be in church on Sunday but don’t see how I can with the security problem. I’m a hazard to others. I hope” and realize “how much I feel that I am in a temple when I’m” not—out in this “beautiful forest and countryside, as we were this morning.” That’s almost his church in his mind.
MR. MEESE: It was. And also Camp David was very important to him, to get away from the day-to-day activities of the White House and to be outdoors at Camp David. If he couldn’t be at the ranch, at least he would be out with trees and where he could ride horseback and walk and hike with Nancy as he did.
MR. RUSSERT: But organized religion was not as important to him as his direct relationship with God.
MR. DEAVER: Well, I—that’s true. But I think he missed the service of going to church, the whole formality of it, too. It was comforting to him.
But when Ed was talking about being out, I remember one Saturday going up to the White House, and Reagan was standing in the dining room looking out the window down towards 16th Street, all by himself. And I went up behind him and said, “A penny for your thoughts.” And he said, “Oh,” he said, “I was just sitting here thinking I will never be able to walk out there and just go through a bookstore again by myself.”
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to politics. He—President Reagan decided to run for re-election. The first debate was in Louisville, October 7th. It was not a good performance. Here’s part of Reagan’s presentation.
(Videotape, October 7, 1984)
PRES. RONALD REAGAN: The system is still where it was with regard to the—with regard to the, the progressivity, as I’ve said.
MR. RUSSERT: And this is what the president wrote about his own performance. “Well the debate took place in Louisville and I have to say I lost. I guess I’d crammed so hard on facts and figures in view of the absolutely dishonest things Mondale’s been saying in the campaign, I guess I flattened out. Anyway I didn’t feel good about myself.”
MR. BRINKLEY: There is zero sense of flattery of himself in the diaries. Occasionally, he will lurch into his poll numbers and say, “Look, I’ve gone up from, you know, 49 percent to 59 percent on an issue.” But he’s very self-deprecating, and I think that’s one of the reasons Ronald Reagan had such an enduring appeal. And you see—he was able to watch himself like he would in Hollywood in the dailies, and he’d sit at night, watch himself on television on shows like MEET THE PRESS, and suddenly say, “Oh, I didn’t do very well. I got to do better.” And he constantly was working on the performance aspect of being president, and that, obviously, was a deep failure.
MR. RUSSERT: He would ask the White House switchboard operator, “What are the calls today? How are people lining up?”
MR. MEESE: Yeah.
MR. BRINKLEY: Yeah.
MR. RUSSERT: Endlessly curious. The second debate he bounced back by saying to Walter Mondale, “He will not make his age or inexperience an issue in this campaign” and went on to an easy re-election.
MR. MEESE: But I think you put your finger on something there. If he did overprepare, if he tried to cram a lot of facts and figures, he had an almost photographic memory. And a lot of times the fact that he would—had been fed so much at the presss conference briefing, or at a briefing before a speech or something like this, and that was really counterproductive. If he was just natural, as he was in that second debate, and used his sense of humor—you know, his sense of humor also shows itself in the diary. One of the best lines I thought was when he says, “the Girl Scouts were in to see me today. They made me an honorary Girl Scout, and I didn’t have to go to Sweden for the operation.”
MR. RUSSERT: One of the more controversial aspects of the presidency, as we all know, was his visit to Bitburg...
Mr. DEAVER: Oh yes.
MR. RUSSERT: ...the German cemetery. Here’s his entry. “The press had a field day assailing me because I’ve accepted German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s invitation to visit a German military cemetery during our visit to Bonn.” Then, “The press continues to chew away on the German trip. They are really sucking blood. The evening TV news was again filled with my sinning against humanity by going” through “with the visit to the German” military “cemetery.” And then again, “The uproar about my trip to Germany and Bitburg cemetery was cover stuff in Newsweek and Time. They just won’t stop. Well I’m not going to cancel anything no matter how much the bastards scream.”
And on May 5th, there’s the president with Helmut Kohl laying a wreath at the Bitburg cemetery. He determined to go forward with that trip. But Mike Deaver, we have an indication of the president’s attitude towards the media.
Mr. DEAVER: Right, right. You know, the Bitburg thing, of course, was my fault. I’m the one that picked that cemetery on the advance trip, and I always felt badly about it. And I was going to Germany one night about midnight when he called me back to the White House and took me into the den and said—never asked me to sit down, he was in his pajamas—and said, “I know where you’re going. You’re going over there to see Kohl and have Kohl call me and turn this thing off. Well, I don’t care what you do,” he said, “but I’m not turning this off, I’m going. So you just go on your trip and do what you want to do, but I’m coming.”
MR. RUSSERT: On the press—let me share another one with you. “Dropped in on the min—on the TV anchor and men and women who were being briefed on tonight’s State of the Union address. I cannot conjure up one iota of respect for just about all of them.” He didn’t like the press.
Mr. DEAVER: Well, actually he liked people. And he enjoyed, I think, the give and take. I think it would get—he would be angry when the facts were wrong, as far as he was concerned, but he—there wasn’t anybody that I know of that he hated, whether they were in the press or anyplace else. And...
MR. MEESE: No one.
Mr. DEAVER: ...you know, the give and take with them every morning coming across through the Rose Garden was friendly and the combat I think he enjoyed.
MR. RUSSERT: And he watched and read a lot.
Mr. DEAVER: Yes, he did.
MR. MEESE: He watched television every night.
Mr. DEAVER: Yeah, he’d come in every morning.
MR. BRINKLEY: And there’s some, some reporters that he likes that he gives a kind of call-out in the diaries. Oh, Frank Reynolds of ABC and Walter Cronkite, who he, he admired a great deal. And there are about probably 10. Bill Plante of CBS, and he’d give them—he’d toss them a bone in history by saying that they were honest or did a better job.
MR. RUSSERT: In fact, after the second debate he listened to the commentary about how he’d won. And he said, “Even the TV bone-pickers think I did all right.”
MR. MEESE: And, you know, I think he got a kick out of jousting with Sam Donaldson and those trips...
MR. RUSSERT: Oh, yes.
MR. MEESE: ...from the White House to the helicopter when he’d, you know, act like he didn’t hear.
MR. RUSSERT: Right. Deaver turned the helicopter on.
Mr. DEAVER: Do you remember that wonderful line Sam shouted at him one morning coming over to work about 9:00. “Don’t you fell badly about working fewer hours than your predecessors?” And he said, “Well, Sam, you know, I hear hard work never killed anybody, but why give it a chance?”
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iran Contra, because there’s a lot in the book about it, and everybody here has, I think, a pretty good understanding. Here’s February—January 17, 1986: “Only thing waiting was” the National Security Council “wanting decisions on our effort to get our five hostages out of Lebanon. Involves selling TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran. I gave a go ahead.”
Then later that year, November, “This whole irresponsible press bilge about hostages” and “Iran has gotten totally out of hand. The media looks like it’s trying to create another Watergate. I laid down the law in the morning meetings—I want to go public personally” and “tell the people the truth.”
Then the next day: First “order of business—I will go on TV at 8 PM” tonight, “reply to the ridiculous falsehoods the media has been spawning for the last 10 days.”
The president went on TV and said this:
(Videotape, November 13, 1986)
PRES. REAGAN: We did not, repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages. Nor will we.
MR. RUSSERT: Eleven days later, here’s his entry:
“Ed” Meese and “Don” Regan, who was then chief of staff, “told me of a smoking gun. On one of the arms shipments, the Iranians paid Israel a higher purchase price than we were getting. The Israelis put the difference in a secret bank account. Then our” Colonel Oliver “North” of the National Security Council “gave the money to the ‘Contras.’ This was a violation of the law against giving the Contras money without” “authorization by Congress. North didn’t tell me about this. Worst of all, John Poindexter,” who headed the National Security Council, “found out about it” and “didn’t tell me. This may call for resignations.”
December 17th entry: “Late afternoon, Stu Spencer,” a longtime political consultant from California, “dropped by with Mike Deaver. They are good friends” and “honestly want to help me, but I can’t agree with their recommendation—that the answer to my Iran problem is to fire my people—top staff” and “even Cabinet.”
MR. MEESE: It was a tough time, and Ronald Reagan—what had happened, really, was you had the two controversial issues, the relationships with Iran and the seeking of a communications with them and their help in getting the hostages back, and then you had the freedom fighters in Nicaragua. Both very contentious issues, and when the funds for one were taken without authorization by Ollie North and transferred to the other, it was like putting the two things together, making one major issue out of it. Probably the worst time in the administration in terms of relationships with Congress. And the thing that bothered the president most was he had the feeling, as portrayed in the press, that the people didn’t believe him in what he was saying about it. That bothered him more than anything else. Because his integrity was absolutely the most important thing, and for the people not to believe—and he was absolutely right, having looked into that myself. He had—he knew nothing about this whatsoever. He was absolutely shocked when I brought him the news that we had discovered just the day before.
MR. RUSSERT: Mike Deaver, there’s an entry, January 22, 1987.
“Upstairs for lunch.” “Got out my diary” of ‘85 “to check on chronological layout of the Iran situation prepared by NSC. It sure is helping my memory.”
MR. RUSSERT: Was there any indication at the time the president was beginning to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s or anything like that?
MR. DEAVER: No, not, not to me. I never saw that. The only way that he changed as a result of the shooting was that he got more stubborn. When he says in the entry there, you know, “The rest of my life belongs to God,” that means, “It doesn’t belong to Ed Meese and Mike Deaver and the rest of the staffers that’re always telling me stuff, I’m going to make up my own mind.” So that’s the only thing I ever saw.
MR. BRINKLEY: But, remember, he also had to deal with colon cancer, which he had dealt with.
MR. DEAVER: Right.
MR. BRINKLEY: And then he had always a lot of little medical problems. He was always taking what he called sneeze shots. I see them as being—the last two years in the diaries are as vigorous as ever in the writing, but he does get forgetful. He’ll sometimes say, “I’m flying in a helicopter. What’s the name of that canyon? Oh, it’s Topanga Canyon. Why aren’t I remembering it?” There are a couple of things. But I don’t think it’s Alzheimer’s. It’s just some memory due to maybe age, some of you might want to call it.
MR. MEESE: And the tremendous amount of information he was getting every day. You know, I used to say to businessmen, for example, “How many tough decisions do you make in a month?” And they would say, “Well, maybe five.” I said, “The president makes that many every day.”
MR. BRINKLEY: Yeah.
MR. DEAVER: Made after you’re 70 years old.
MR. MEESE: Right. Although that’s not so old.
MR. RUSSERT: Here’s a speech on May—March 4th, excuse me, 1987, when the president did acknowledge Iran-Contra mistakes. Let’s listen to his words.
(Videotape, March 4, 1987)
PRES. REAGAN: A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.
MR. RUSSERT: Classic Reagan. “My heart and my best intentions tell me that’s still true, but the evidence says otherwise.”
MR. MEESE: Yeah. And in many ways, it was true. Because we weren’t dealing with the hostage takers, we were dealing with the Iranians, who in turn had influence with the hostage takers. But he felt that the thing had gotten so confused, the only way to straighten it out was to make that speech, which he did.
MR. DEAVER: It’s a great lesson for presidents, that particular speech. Because the impression that that gave to the American public was that Reagan was admitting that he had been wrong. And it then was behind him. And he had been honest with us.
MR. RUSSERT: There was talk of impeachment in Congress. After that speech, it evaporated.
MR. DEAVER: That’s right.
MR. BRINKLEY: And he’s a loyalist. I mean, anybody who works for him—and you guys know it—he really pulled for you. And you see in the diaries all the time, if somebody’s being smeared in the press, it really bothers him. And he defends all those people in his Cabinet to the very last minute. If he can’t defend them, he can’t. He refused at the end to offer pardons, for example, to Ollie North and some others. He said no way, I’m not doing it. But he, he was true blue most of the time.
MR. RUSSERT: The president was a man of exquisite judgment, as I found out by reading this entry, Sunday, January 31st, 1988, when he said, “A late breakfast, then our date with MEET THE PRESS and ‘This Week.’ They’ve become standard TV viewing for” all of “us.” Thank you, Mr. President.
Your last—final memory of Ronald Reagan?
MR. DEAVER: My final memory of Ronald Reagan was actually the first day in the White House, when—the first day in the Oval Office, right off the reviewing stand, when he sat behind that desk and looked at me and said, “Have you got goosebumps?”
MR. MEESE: Mine was, things were pretty tough, there was a lot of press attacks against me. And as we were leaving the, the press room, press briefing room, he just put his arm around me and walked out that way to let the press know he was fully behind me. It was a great gesture.
MR. RUSSERT: You want to go back as attorney general and replace Mr.
MR. MEESE: I think I’ve done my bit, thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Douglas Brinkley, the editor, thanks very much.
MR. BRINKLEY: Thanks, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Ed Meese, Mike Deaver, thank you all.
And speaking of MEET THE PRESS, Ronald Reagan appeared on MEET THE PRESS seven
times during his political career. If you’d like to see the highlights from his very first appearance, days after he announced his candidacy for governor of California in 1966, check out this week’s Take Two Web extra. Our Web site, mtp.msnbc.com. And we’ll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Tomorrow on the “Today” program, former President Jimmy Carter.
That’s all for us. We’ll be back next week with another installment of our 2008 Meet the Candidates series, an in-depth interview with Democratic candidate, now governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. That’s next Sunday, right here. Because if it’s Sunday, it is MEET THE PRESS.
SOURCE: Press Release -- UCLA (5-18-07)
A member of UCLA's faculty since 1956 and a prolific author, Weber wrote about French culture and politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, anti-Semitism and the origins of the Holocaust, fascism, intellectual history, and many other subjects. He served as dean from 1977 to 1982 and held a UCLA endowed chair in modern European history, which is now named for him.
"Eugen Weber was a brilliant scholar with an elegant writing style, extremely wide-ranging interests and a wonderful sense of humor," said UCLA Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams. "He was a stimulating teacher of Western civilization and European history and an exceptional leader of our College of Letters and Science. Eugen was one of UCLA's giants."
"I consider Eugen Weber one of the world's great historians," said Patricia O'Brien, executive dean of the UCLA College of Letters and Science. "He did it all. He transformed the writing of modern French history through his various works and his pathbreaking book on the French peasantry. He had a distinguished career as an administrator who then returned to his research and teaching with renewed passion. He was tireless, not least of all in his generosity to his colleagues. Eugen was a model of a passionately committed scholar and teacher and a superb administrator."
Weber, whose books and articles have been translated into more than half a dozen languages, earned many accolades for his scholarship, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Fulbright Program.
He was regarded by colleagues and students as a superb teacher of Western civilization and European history. His 1,300-page "Modern History of Europe," a widely used Western civilization textbook that combines cultural, intellectual and political history, is "a phenomenal job of synthesis and interpretation that reflects Eugen's wide and deep learning," Weber's former history colleague, the late Hans Rogger, once said. "It is the most lively, interesting and challenging text that generations of students are likely to see."
Weber's scholarship included the lives of common people and the commonplace aspects of life, including the small towns of the 19th century.
"A lot of life," Weber said, "is about things so trivial we do not bother to record them — only sometimes to note their absence, as with manners."
Weber was born in Romania and emigrated to England as a teenager. He was educated at Cambridge University and served as an officer in the British Army during World War II.
His curiosity about rural France was aroused during a trip to Bordeaux, a city in southwest France, in the 1960s.
"I thought I knew France when I lived in Paris," Weber said, "but in Bordeaux, I looked around me and realized there was another France. I realized there were a lot of Frances."
Weber's study of 19th-century rural France led to his 1976 book, "Peasants Into Frenchmen: the Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914," for which he was awarded American and French prizes. In this book, Weber revised accepted notions about French nationalism by demonstrating that nationhood and a sense of French identity came to France much later than historians had believed, and much more slowly and painfully.
"Building a French nation was a long struggle pitting the dominant culture of Paris against a people of cultural, linguistic and regional diversity," Weber said. "Well into the third quarter of the 19th century, much of rural France communicated very nicely in dialects and languages that had little or nothing to do with the classical tongue of Voltaire and Charles de Gaulle."
Studying life in 19th-century rural France was difficult because the peasants of that age were illiterate and did not leave the kinds of documents that historians typically study. Weber relied on the only sources of information available — proverbs, songs and records of court proceedings — to learn about social and family relations, religious practices, and other activities and customs of the townspeople.
Weber found that anything having to do with "justices" was a cause of fear to French peasants, who were overwhelmed by official documents and for whom the legal costs of settling an inheritance, when there was one, might amount to three-fourths of the estate. The peasants' view of the law was contained in evening prayers, which included the line, "Deliver us from all evil and from justice," and the proverb, "Process servers are rascals, lawyers are lickspittles, attorneys are thieves."
In a chapter on family life, Weber wrote that marriage in rural France was above all a business arrangement based on the bride's dowry.
"The families had the last word, and the first too, most often," he said. "One married a family, not a woman or a man, and the families did the marrying … If marrying into a family one knew could be an ordeal, then marrying a stranger was decidedly worse. Where each community was a law to itself, in-laws unfamiliar with its customs, ways and turns of speech felt and were made to feel even more like strangers."
Weber's other books included "Varieties of Fascism," "France, Fin de Siècle," "The Hollow Years" and "Apocalypses."
Weber said he wrote for his wife, Jacqueline, to whom he was married for nearly 57 years and who survives him.
"She is cultivated and curious and has taste, but she is not a specialist," he said. "Sometimes we have terrific fights. I say, 'How can you not understand this? It's clear,' and she says, 'It is not clear, it is convoluted.' Then I rewrite, and it's an improvement."
Of the many subjects on which Weber wrote, the one he returned to most was France between 1870 and 1914.
"The more you know about a period, the more you want to know about it," he said. "I'm at home in this period. I keep going back home."
SOURCE: WSJ (5-19-07)
"Your family has a history of great tragedy, but also great joy," said Andy Anderson, the chief historian at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. Bringing out books and documents, Dr. Anderson told how the Herzogs, highly regarded winemakers in Slovakia, had lost their relatives and family fortune in the Holocaust before fleeing Czechoslovakia as Communists took control.
Mr. Herzog and his brothers, Orthodox Jews steeped in their family's history, knew much of this already. Then Dr. Anderson handed Mr. Herzog a copy of the passenger manifest from a Pan American Airways charter that left Prague on June 2, 1948. Among its 36 names were Mr. Herzog's father, mother and five siblings.
"What is this!" Mr. Herzog gasped. He sat silently, pressing his fingers to his closed eyelids, holding the evidence of a flight to a new life in New York when he was 12. "Where did you find this?"
The moment was another small triumph for Dr. Anderson, the corporate historian for Wells Fargo. In recent years, the former Stanford University history fellow has turned genealogical research into an unusual marketing vehicle: After Dr. Anderson taps into rich families' fascination with their forebears, the bank aims to turn them into customers for its private-banking arm. By Wells Fargo's estimate, Dr. Anderson has had a hand in developing relationships that have led to $1 billion in new assets for the bank.
Private banking, long the bailiwick of trust banks or blue-blood institutions like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., has recently become a fiercer battleground. Trillions of dollars in personal fortunes are expected to be transferred in the next 50 years as baby boomers pass their wealth to the next generation.
SOURCE: NYT (5-19-07)
She died after suffering a stroke the week before, her son Peter Hess said.
Ms. Hess, known as a kind but combative personality, did not shrink from taking on the icons of American cookery, who she felt presented a false picture not only of the quality of American food and cooking but also of its history.
Her first book, “The Taste of America,” written with her husband, John L. Hess, and published in 1977, established right away that the couple would not be joining the chorus of affirmation that had characterized the American food establishment.
“We write with trepidation,” the book opened. “How shall we tell our fellow Americans that our palates have been ravaged, that our food is awful, and that our most respected authorities on cookery are poseurs?”
The book went on to lament the loss of pleasure in dining, rue the ascension of the processed food industry and attack, among others, Craig Claiborne, James Beard and Julia Child as knowing little about cooking and even less about culinary history.
SOURCE: NewsHour (PBS) (5-17-07)
JUDY WOODRUFF: Standing up for principle. Throughout the history of the United States, there have been moments when American presidents have stood for principles that were not popular at the time. Michael Beschloss, historian and NewsHour regular, looks at nine presidents in his new book, "Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989."
I talked with Michael recently in front of the Lincoln Cottage, a one-time retreat for Abraham Lincoln, on the grounds of what is now the Armed Forces Retirement Home here in Washington.
Why did you want to write this book?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Because I wanted to go through American history, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, and look for places where we were crucially dependent on having a president who was willing to say, "I should do something important, and that something important may mean that I risk my political career, but I feel so strongly that it's in the national interest that I'll do it anyway."
JUDY WOODRUFF: And how did you choose who and the moments to write about?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, a lot of it was, you know, you look for moments where, for instance, we were dependent on Abraham Lincoln making sure that the slaves were freed or John Kennedy bringing civil rights, or the first one I wrote about, George Washington trying to stop the British from invading and ending this country before it even began. Those were turning points where, if you had not had a president stepping up to the plate, if there wasn't a story like that, we would not be here....
SOURCE: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk (5-16-07)
Cops spotted Tom Devine's car swerving from lane to lane on the M8. He was doing just 40mph in a 70mph section in his Jaguar XJ8.
A court yesterday heard that Devine, 61, left, was more than twice the booze limit.
Devine is the Sir William Fraser chair of Scottish history at Edinburgh University - the top job in the field.
His book The Scottish Nation: 1700 to 2000 was Waterstones' Scottish book of the year in 1999.
Devine admitted drink-driving at Linlithgow Sheriff Court yesterday. He was driving home to Lanarkshire when he was spotted last month.
SOURCE: CBS (5-16-07)
Brinkley, who currently teaches at Tulane and has worked as a CBS News consultant, said he was enticed not only by the opportunity to work on public policy issues but the proximity to his current home.
"My family and I wanted to stay in the Gulf South region," said Brinkley, who assumes his new position July 1. "I'll continue spending a lot of time in New Orleans, where we have family, but Texas will be my primary home.”
Brinkley's book on the physical devastation and bureaucratic bungling of Hurricane Katrina recently won the 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. While the author conducted the bulk of the book's research in New Orleans, he actually wrote much of "The Great Deluge" in Houston, where he was forced to flee during the storm.
SOURCE: AHA Blog (5-17-07)
Nasaw was also honored with the second annual New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize for his biography of Andrew Carnegie. Society President and CEO Louise Mirrer said, “David Nasaw’s thoroughly researched biography makes Carnegie relevant and compelling to a 21st century audience,” and Kenneth T. Jackson (a member of the prize committee) added, “Andrew Carnegie reminds us why David Nasaw has emerged in the last dozen years as one of the finest and most influential historians in the United States. It is meticulously researched, beautifully written, and persuasively argued.” The book prize honors works of scholarly and literary achievement that would be appealing to both academic and general audiences.
SOURCE: Mark Stood Lawrence in the NYT Book Review (5-13-07)
This isn’t the first time Dallek, a prolific biographer of American presidents, has challenged simplistic characterizations of public men by delving into their private behavior. In 2003, his best-selling study, “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963,” drew on long-secret medical records to describe Kennedy’s epic struggles against a variety of ailments. “Nixon and Kissinger” contains no such spectacular revelations. Indeed, Dallek’s extensive use of recently declassified material — millions of pages of national security documents, 2,800 hours of Nixon’s secret tape recordings and 20,000 pages of transcriptions of Kissinger’s phone calls — seems to have turned up nothing to revise the broad contours of either man’s life. Rather, Dallek exploits this new material mainly for the quotations and fresh details that enable him to paint rich portraits of his two subjects....
SOURCE: NYT (5-17-07)
... Mr. Snow, 59, went to work in the American Heritage mailroom in 1965, when Columbia University insisted he take a little time off, and joined the staff full time when he finally graduated, in 1970. He has been there ever since, and in 1990 he became the magazine’s sixth editor, succeeding Byron Dobell.
Either he was a perfect fit to begin with, or over the years he has taken on many of the characteristics of his workplace, for he now closely resembles his own magazine. He is quite youthful looking, on one hand (probably because he is one of those people who mature early and then never change), and a little old-fashioned on the other. He speaks in perfectly turned paragraphs and may be the last person left in New York to unself-consciously use “indeed” as an exclamation.
He favors gray suits and sweater vests, his telephone manners are impeccable, and he has a bubbling, high-pitched voice that turns a simple “hello” into something that resembles the opening bar of a Broadway show tune. Like his magazine he has an almost insatiable curiosity and is particularly expert on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, not to mention Coney Island amusement rides at the turn of the last century.
Mr. Snow has been at American Heritage long enough that he can remember when it was an empire in the mid-’60s, employing 400 people, with the magazine as a flagship for what was in effect a publishing company selling books, many of them by some of America’s best-known popular historians, by direct mail. He was managing editor in 1980, when the magazine ceased publishing in hardback (except for subscribers who wanted to shell out extra for what Mr. Snow now calls a “padded, leatheroid edition”), and in 1982 when, bowing to economic necessity, it began soliciting ads.
SOURCE: Economist (5-17-07)
TODAY'S business leaders are voracious consumers of management advice. They are forever calling in the consultants and surfing the business press for the next big thing. So here is a free tip. Get off the whirligig of management fads. Forget about “long tails” and “wikinomics” for a while and do something old-fashioned. Sit down with a handful of books—admittedly rather fat books—and contemplate the life's work of Alfred Chandler.
Mr Chandler was the dean of American business historians, the man who more or less invented the history of the big corporation. But he was more than an ivory-tower academic. For much of his life he taught at Harvard Business School, where he made business history mainstream. (In 1970, when he arrived, few took the course; in time, hundreds enrolled.) This gave his work a sharp practical edge.
He influenced a generation of consultants with his insistence that structure must follow strategy—that changes of strategy can be successful only if managers are willing to wrench their organisations into new forms. His fingerprints are all over one of the 20th century's classic business books, “My Years with General Motors” by Alfred Sloan. (Mr Chandler ascribed his habit of drinking sherry every lunchtime to Sloan's influence. Sloan used to hit the martinis at lunch when they were working on the book together. The younger historian thought it more prudent to stick to sherry.)...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (5-17-07)
... Though reviewers of book manuscripts customarily receive an honorarium, the routine work of journal reviewers regularly goes unrewarded, as well as unrecognized by the outside world. In both cases, the satisfaction of the peer reviewer comes mostly from recognition as an expert in the field and from intimate association with a creative work-in-progress. Like the earthworm that breaks up the hard crust of the farmer's fields, the peer reviewer is the underground hero or heroine of the printed page.
SOURCE: Campus Watch (5-17-07)
Stanford Middle East history professor and former president of the Middle East Studies Association Joel Beinin is known for letting his one-sided political perspectives invade the classroom. As former Stanford professor Steven Zipperstein told The Jewish Weekly of Northern California in 2002,"It's said that Joel Beinin doesn't believe in balance as an intrinsically crucial goal in academic life. …The charge is accurate, and he would acknowledge it, I think."
He denounces American"imperialism" on Al-Jazeera Television. A former Zionist, he refers to jihadist suicide bombers as"martyrs." He praised Mideast scholars for ignoring the issue of terrorism, and he regularly repeats the most twisted and paranoid claims of Islamist regimes as though they were historical fact. …If one individual can showcase all the flaws of Middle East Studies in academia, Joel Beinin is that man.
Although the exact details are somewhat murky due to Stanford's policy of not allowing colleagues to discuss personnel moves, according to Beinin, he's"officially on extended leave of absence [from Stanford] until the end of 2008." In the interim, Beinin has taken up residence at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where he is the director of Middle East studies.
Beinin recently re-surfaced via alef, the University of Haifa's"Academic Left" mailing list. He posted a message (reprinted below) regarding the case of Los Angeles journalist and activist Rachel Neuwirth and UCLA Hillel director, Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller. Readers may recall that Seidler-Feller verbally and physically assaulted Neuwirth outside a speech by Alan Dershowitz in October 2003, an act he publicly apologized for according to the settlement of a civil suit brought by Neuwirth.
Beinin managed to insert himself into the matter by giving Seidler-Feller a deposition, or so he claimed, accusing Neuwirth of sending him"death threats." I spoke to Neuwirth about the case and she is unaware of any deposition filed by Beinin. As to the alleged"death threat," she merely left a message on Beinin's answering machine (following a previous phone call in which they discussed his academic work) stating:"Just remember, Hitler killed those who betrayed their nation first because he said that if they betrayed their own, why wouldn't they betray me?"
Somehow Beinin managed to construe this as a death threat and he filed a complaint with the Stanford police to that effect. When they contacted Neuwirth about the complaint, she reiterated the content of her e-mail to Beinin, noting that"if you can't note a historical fact to a history professor, then what are we learning?" The officer she spoke to agreed that the death threat claim was ludicrous and apparently the court concurred, for Beinin's"evidence" was dismissed.
That appeared to be the end of the matter until Beinin posted the following comment at the ALEF list on May 14 in response to a posting on the subject:
Rabbi Chaim Feller's lawyer has my deposition on Rachel Neuwirth's death threat to me. He will probably share it with you. But why, I wonder, do you think that her lawyer's letter to you is"a naked attempt to cow the progressive Jewish blog world into submission"?
There isn't much of such a world that anyone with their head screwed on right should worry about. Aside from the likelihood that Ms. Neuwirth doesn't have her head screwed on right, I rather see her behavior as an attack on the civilized world and an expression of how an ultra-Zionist understanding of the world can easily lead one to embrace a fantastical and racist understanding of the world.
Director of Middle East Studies
American University in Cairo
Professor of History Professor
(on leave 2006-08)