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: Independent (UK) (6-6-07)
Pocock was undoubtedly one of the best writers - fluent, evocative and with great narrative pace - qualities fostered if not born in his original and long-parallel career as a journalist. He was also extraordinarily productive, writing, editing or contributing to 23 books over a period of 38 years up to 2006. Most distinctive, in terms of his reputation, were the high proportion (10) that focused on the life, times and contemporaries of Nelson, with whom Pocock's bond was as much their shared Norfolk background as personal admiration. As he said in the preface to his full biography, Horatio Nelson - a Whitbread Prize runner-up in 1987, and still in print - since a boy he had "walked the [Norfolk] paths that Nelson walked, seen the views he saw, visited most of the houses he had and enjoyed much talk about him in the . . . inn at Burnham Thorpe which he knew"....
Pocock's devotion to Nelson and his contemporaries are likely to be his main legacy. Apart from the 1987 Nelson biography, he published three other notable naval lives; of Captain Sir William Hoste ( Remember Nelson, 1977); of the arch-maverick Admiral Sir Sidney Smith ( A Thirst for Glory, 1996) and in 2000,afreshandoverduere-examination of Captain Marryat - founding father of the Nelsonic sea novel.
His books also showed his fascination and tenacity for "finding things out", often at personal cost and difficulty. Young Nelson in the Americas (1980), for instance, involved a journey to the Nicaraguan jungle fortress where his hero nearly died in 1780, and was also an early example of his capacity to identify an overlooked aspect of a familiar subject, or anticipate and exploit a rising public interest. Later cases included The Terror before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon and the secret war (2002) and his last book, Breaking the Chains (2006), which treated the Navy's war on white slavery in time for this year's Abolition bicentenary.
SOURCE: Robert Dallek in a book review in the NYT (6-5-07)
Mr. Gerth and Mr. Van Natta see themselves as relating the unvarnished truth about Senator Clinton. “Never before has such a high-profile candidate occupied the spotlight for so long without the public’s learning the facts about so much that is crucial to finally understanding her,” they write. Mrs. Clinton; her husband, Bill; and their supporters have told a flattering story about the couple. “Now it is time for another,” less laudatory version....
The book is almost uniformly negative and overly focused on what they consider the Clintons’ scandalous past and the darker aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s personality. Her ambition, for example, is seen as an unattractive compulsion that, at times, has led her into untoward behavior. They assert that the Clintons had a longstanding deal to win the presidency, first for Bill and then for Hillary, a secret pact of ambition.
The evidence of such a pact — interviews that have already been challenged in the press — is less than convincing. Moreover, that the Clintons are ambitious and hunger for the public spotlight is obvious. But does this make them different from anyone else in politics, including two of our most notable presidents, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt?
The book’s greatest flaw is its flogging of all the Clinton scandals, not simply because they are so familiar and ultimately came to so little, but also because they give us insufficient clues to what sort of president Mrs. Clinton might be. It would have been more instructive to learn something new about why her health reform initiative failed or to explain in some detail why she was overwhelmingly re-elected by New York voters and has been, as even some Republican senators acknowledge, an effective senator.
The third of the book devoted to Mrs. Clinton’s Senate career is no endorsement of her presidential aspirations. They describe her as someone who has operated outside Senate rules and as having been careless in voting for the Iraq war without reading “the complete intelligence reports.”
Should Hillary Clinton’s personal limitations — her inclination to shade the truth in the service of her ambition, what former Senator Bill Bradley called her “arrogance,” “disdain,” and “hypocrisy” — disqualify her for the presidency?
It is surely preferable to have our most upright citizens sitting in the White House, but history repeatedly shows that presidents with character flaws have not necessarily been less competent leaders, especially in times of crisis, than those with a stronger moral compass: John F. Kennedy’s womanizing hardly precluded his effective management of the Cuban missile crisis, and Richard M. Nixon’s affinity for cutting political and legal corners did not prevent him from some exceptional foreign policy achievements, most notably the transformation of relations with China....
SOURCE: Oxford University Press website (6-6-07)
OUP: Compared to the Civil War and America’s twentieth century wars, the War of Independence appears to have been pretty tame. Do you agree?
John Ferling: All wars are different. Each war has its own cast of characters, but most importantly the technology of war continues to change, leading to ever more destructive weaponry. Soldiers in the Revolutionary War were for the most part equipped with muskets that had an effective range of 50 yards. Civil War soldiers carried rifles with an effective range that was six times greater. Soldiers in World War II not only carried rifles that they could fire more rapidly, they took machine guns and terrifying other weapons into battle.
Yet despite the relatively primitive technology of the eighteenth century, there was an astonishing death toll in the Revolutionary War. One American male in sixteen of military age died during the Revolutionary War. One in ten of military age died in the Civil War and one in seventy-five in World War II. Of those who served in the Continental army, one in four died. In the Civil War, one regular in five perished. In World War II, one in forty U.S. servicemen died. The death rate was similar for those fighting for Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. One-fourth of the British soldiers, German mercenaries, and American Loyalists who fought with the redcoats in North America perished. More than 80,000 British and American soldiers and sailors died in the Revolutionary War. Given the populations of the two countries in 1776, those losses would be the equivalent today to the loss of roughly 2,000,000 Americans.
OUP: What was the turning point in the Revolutionary War?
Ferling: In his wonderful book on the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson wrote that long wars tend to have several turning points. That was true of the War of Independence as well, which in my judgment had 5 turning points. The Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775 not only convinced Americans that they could stand up to regulars, it had a deleterious psychological impact on General William Howe, soon to be the British army’s overall commander in North America. General Washington’s brilliant campaign in New Jersey in the last days of 1776, which included the two engagements at Trenton and the subsequent battle at Princeton, boosted sagging morale, enabled a new army to be recruited, and impressed the French leadership. General John Burgoyne’s disastrous invasion of New York in 1777, culminating in his surrender at Saratoga that October, brought France into the war as an American ally and led Britain to adopt a new strategy, the Southern Strategy. By mid-1780 the war had stalemated, with possibly ominous implications for the United States. As a result, I see the partisan war that erupted that summer in South Carolina’s backcountry, and the stunningly adroit campaign waged the following winter in the Carolinas by General Nathanael Greene, as an important turning point. It ultimately led Britain’s Southern commander, Earl Cornwallis, to take his army into Virginia. Four months later he suffered defeat at Yorktown, the long-awaited decisive victory that broke the stalemate....
SOURCE: http://www.jpost.com (6-5-07)
In an interview on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of war on June 5, 1967, Oren said his research of documents in Arab countries had revealed clearly that the Arabs had planned to destroy Israel.
Although this seems obvious to Israel sympathizers who hold to the traditional story of the Arabs' responsibility for the outbreak of war, the intervening decades have seen the promulgation of a myth that Israel was not really in danger.
Q & A with Michael Oren
"The biggest myth going is that somehow there was not a real and immediate Arab threat, that somehow Israel could have negotiated itself outside the crisis of 1967, and that it wasn't facing an existential threat, or facing any threat at all," said Oren, who is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at Jerusalem's Shalem Center and author of Six Days of War: June 1967. He noted that this was the premise of Tom Segev's book, 1967: Israel, the War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East. "What's remarkable is that all the people alleging this - not one of them is working from Arabic sources. It's quite extraordinary when you think about it. It's almost as if Israel were living in a universe by itself. It's a deeply solipsistic approach to Middle East history."...
SOURCE: NYT (6-1-07)
We were shocked and disappointed that the Horace Mann school would dismiss a faculty member for writing a novel, and we applaud the many Horace Mann students who courageously and thoughtfully protested this action and advocated for academic freedom. This shows Horace Mann students at their finest.
We believe that academic freedom should be the cornerstone of an educational institution. In our own work and in our classrooms, we strive to create an environment where students and faculty are free to think critically. We believe this is crucial not just for our schools but for our country. As the Horace Mann student petition stated, “democracy is a primary ethical value that [can] be promoted and protected best through an educational system that respects academic freedom.” We agree that a free and democratic society demands actively engaged citizens who are willing to question the world around them.
Given Horace Mann’s reputation, we believed that the school would consider academic freedom a principle to be celebrated, rather than an action to be punished. Restrictions on academic freedom invariably have chilling effects. We can only imagine the impact this will have on the entire community at Horace Mann and the various ways it will now hinder the school’s efforts to provide a free and challenging intellectual environment.
Edward Ayers, President of the University of Richmond (beginning July 2007); Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History,
University of Virginia; Recipient of the Bancroft Prize (2004), Albert J. Beveridge Award, and J. Willard Hurst Prize
Julian Bond, Professor, Department of History, University of Virginia; [Former] Chairman, N.A.A.C.P.
Brian Balogh, Mayo Distinguished Teaching Professor of History; Co-Director, American Political Development Program, University of Virginia
Eileen Boris, Professor and Hull Chair of Women’s History and Affiliate Professor of History and Law and Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Recipient of the Philip Taft Prize (1994)
William H. Chafe, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History; Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Duke University
Katherine Charron, Assistant Professor of History, North Carolina State University
Paul Clemens, Professor of History; Chair of History Department, Rutgers University
Andrew Cohen, Assistant Professor of History, Syracuse University
Stephen Cushman, Professor of English, University of Virginia
Victoria de Grazia (HM Parent 2002), Professor of History, Columbia University
John Dittmer, Professor Emeritus of History, Depauw University; Recipient of the Bancroft Prize (1994), Lilliam Smith Book Award (1993), McLemore Prize (1995), and the Herbert Gutman Prize (1994)
Greg Dorr, Postdoctoral Associate, Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jed Esty, Associate Professor of English, University of Illinois
Jon Earle, Associate Professor of History, University of Kansas; Ray Allen Billington Chair in U.S. History at Occidental College and the Huntington Library, 2006-2007
Ann Fabian (Former HM Parent), Professor of American Studies and History, Chair of American Studies, Dean of Humanities, School of Arts and Sciences Rutgers University.
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University; President of the Society of American Historians (2006-2007); President, American Historical Association, 2000; President, Organization of American Historians, (1993-94); recipient of Los Angeles Times Book Award for History; Bancroft Prize; Parkman Prize; Lionel Trilling Award; Owsley Prize. Finalist, National Book Award; Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award
Susan Fraiman, Professor of English, University of Virginia
Joanne Freeman, Professor of History, Yale University
Scot French, Associate Professor of History, University of Virginia; Director of Virginia, Center for Digital History
Paul Gaston, Professor Emeritus of Southern and Civil Rights History, University of Virginia
Gary Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War, University of Virginia
Grace Hale, Associate Professor of History and American Studies, University of Virginia
Nancy Hewitt, Director, Institute for Research on Women; Professor of History, Rutgers University
Hugh Hochman, Associate Professor of French and Humanities, Reed College
Michael Holt, Williams Professor of History, University of Virginia
Woody Holton, Associate Professor of History, University of Richmond
Watson Jennison, Assistant Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Stephen Kantrowitz, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin
Temma Kaplan, Professor of History, Rutgers University
Peter Kastor, Assistant Professor of History; Assistant Professor of American Culture Studies, Washington University
Jennifer Klein, Associate Professor of History, Yale University; Recipient of the Ellis Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians (2004); Recipient of the Hagley Prize (2004)
Juliette Landphair, Dean of Westhampton College, University of Richmond
Ann Lane, Professor of History and Women’s Studies
Steven F. Lawson, Professor of History, Rutgers University
Susana Michele Lee, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University
Adriane Lentz-Smith, Assistant Professor of History, Duke University
Marc Lerner (HM 1989), Assistant Professor of History, University of Mississippi
Nicholas Lemann, Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism, Columbia University
Andrew Lewis, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Hamilton College
Matt Lassiter, Associate Professor of History, University of Michigan
Nelson Lichtenstein, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara; Recipient of the Philip Taft Prize (2003)
Danielle McGuire, Faculty, Horace Mann School
Allan Megill, Professor of History, University of Virginia; President, Journal of the History of Ideas
Paul Milazzo, Assistant Professor of History, Ohio University
Jennifer Morgan, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
Andrew Morris, Assistant Professor of History, Union College
Amy Morsman, Assistant Professor of History, Middlebury College
Jenry Morsman, Adjunct Professor of History, Middlebury College
Stephen M. Norris, Assistant Professor of History and Director of Film Studies, Miami University
James Oakes, Professor of History and Humanities Chair, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor, University of Virginia
Rosalind Rosenberg, Professor of History, Barnard College, Columbia University; Executive Board of the Society of American Historians
Joshua Rothman, Associate Professor of History, University of Alabama
Anne Rubin, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Winner of the 2006 Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians
Reuel Schiller, Professor of Law, Hastings College of the Law, University of California
Peter Sheehy, Faculty, Horace Mann School
Herbert Sloan, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History, Barnard College, Columbia University
Michael Socolow, Assistant Professor of Communication and Journalism, University of Maine
Doug Smith, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, 2006-2007; Assistant Professor of History, Occidental College
Emily Straus (HM 1991), Assistant Professor of History, SUNY Fredonia
Alan Taylor, Professor of History, University of California at Davis; Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Bancroft Prize, and Albert J. Beveridge Award (1996)
Scott Taylor, Assistant Professor of History, Siena College
Timothy Tyson (Book Day speaker and civil rights lecturer at HM, 2005, 2006), Senior Scholar, the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University; Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture, Duke Divinity School; Adjunct Professor of American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Philip Troutman, Assistant Professor of Writing, The George Washington University
Craig Werner (Keynote speaker for Book Day at HM, 2006), Professor of Afro-American Studies, Chair of Integrated Liberal Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
SOURCE: AHA Blog (6-5-07)
"We, the members of the Council of the American Historical Association, write to express our support for the recent statements issued by the Middle East Studies Association protesting the arrests and detention of Dr. Haleh Esfandiari and Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh. As Council members of an organization dedicated to academic freedom and free scholarly exchange, we are deeply disturbed by the Iranian government’s actions in this matter and join our colleagues in MESA in calling for the immediate release of Dr. Esfandiari and Dr. Tajbakhsh."
SOURCE: John Crace in the Guardian (6-5-07)
This is the starting point for Fateful Choices, the new book by Ian Kershaw, the UK's, if not the world's, premier historian of the Nazi era. He looks at 10 critical decisions between May 1940 (when Britain decided to fight on, rather than surrender, at Dunkirk) and late 1941 (when Hitler declared war on the US and set in place the extermination of the Jews) that shaped the outcome not just of the second world war but of the rest of the 20th century.
"We get used to thinking of events in a certain way," he says, "and I wanted to re-examine key moments to show they weren't as straightforward as we imagine. The book is not an exercise in counter-factualism ... but you can't avoid a certain amount of short-term 'what-if-ism', simply because the decisions were so pivotal.
"Churchill had not yet become the bombastic war leader in May 1941. Becoming prime minister had been far from an inevitability. So the decision to fight on, when it was not even certain that Britain would still have an army, was on a knife edge for some days. And it's not hard to imagine it having gone the other way. Any academic who says he never has an alternative history in mind isn't being entirely honest."...
SOURCE: http://www.international.ucla.edu (6-4-07)
As a graduate student in history, Gordon Berger came across a publication in the Yale library that he says was "kept under lock and key." It was called the Harvard East Asian Research Center Papers on Japan. After receiving permission, he read in it "a remarkably erudite paper" written by Fred G. Notehelfer, a scholar of his own generation.
"The paper was already addressing one of the leitmotifs of his career-long interest in examining how the universal values of western civilization have been encountered and integrated, or not, into the Japanese experience," Berger said at a May 19, 2007, symposium honoring Notehelfer's 16-year tenure as director of the Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, which hosted the event at UCLA. "It is an issue that reverberates through virtually all of Fred's scholarship."
Berger and his USC colleague Jonathan Reynolds; UCLA's William Bodiford, Seiji Lippit, and Donald McCallum; and Eiichiro Azuma and Cameron Hurst, both of the University of Pennslyvania, discussed topics ranging from Japanese history, religion, art, and literature in honor of Notehelfer.
McCallum, acting director of the Terasaki Center for the past two quarters, said the symposium should be considered a celebration of Notehelfer's achievements, not a farewell.
"It is not a retirement. You don't retire from directorships," he said. "Fred in fact will continue to teach at UCLA next year, so in essence it is a celebration."
SOURCE: Huffington Post (Blog) Click on SOURCE for embedded links. (6-3-07)
I came to New Hampshire with the Creative Coalition for a panel tomorrow morning and was supposed to be in the auditorium for the debate but because I am a journalist, they were told I would have to wait in the spin room. When I got to the spin room, which was an empty gymnasium, I noticed that there were chairs located on a balcony above us. So I went up there -- no one asked me for my ID or anything -- and went over to the bar and asked if it was a cash bar, because I had no idea what kind of event it was. I was told it was an open bar so I asked for a glass of wine and a glass of water and went to sit down and wait for the event to begin.
A guy came over and asked me who I was and I told him I was a columnist for The Nation and he told me I had to leave. I thought he was kind of rude, so I asked him his name, thinking it might go into Altercation the next day. He refused to answer me I asked again. He refused again. But I was following him out when he went to get a cop. The cop told me to leave the room and I did. We left the room, past where the people were handing out badges to go into the reception and I figured the entire drama was over. But the cop kept yelling at me to leave. I didn't understand. I thought I had left. I asked him to stop yelling, I had left. He kept telling me to leave. In retrospect, I guess he was kicking me out of the building and I didn't understand, but it was really mystifying and annoying and I told him I wanted to speak to his commanding officer.
We went over to the commanding officer and I, calmly and politely, sought to explain that I didn't know why this cop was continuing to hassle me. The first cop kept interrupting me as I tried to explain myself and finally I turned around and said, "Can I please finish a sentence here?" That's when the first cop decided to arrest me. He handcuffed me behind my back and took me outside.
(A funny aside, Congressman Ed Markey happen to walk by then and came over to say hello to me and stuck out his hand for a shake. I had to say, "Sorry, Ed, I'm being handcuffed." He laughed, and told the officers that he would vouch for my character and walked away.)
Anyway, I never refused to leave and the only time I raised my voice was when the first cop would not let me explain what I had thought was a massive misunderstanding to his commanding officer. Once I was arrested and brought to the Goffstown station, I actually had a pretty nice time with the cops there, who were very friendly and understanding of my situation. When they learned I was a writer and planned to write about this incident, they wanted to make sure that I knew that the cop who had arrested me was not one of theirs, but was from another town and had been working on an "reciprocity" arrangement.
I paid a $30 fine to be released and the whole thing took about 45 minutes. I filed a written report with the police explaining that I thought the arresting officer had treated me unfairly, and I do think this was the case, but I now think it was based on a misunderstanding on just where he wanted me to stay and where he wanted me to leave.
In any case, I spoke to CNN and I believe they will correct some of the misimpressions created by their first story. Just to be clear, I did not refuse to leave seven times and I did not, as far as I know, raise my voice, except for that last time.
For the record, I also don't remember anyone reading me my Miranda rights, though I don't know if that is ultimately going to matter. I have a court date in July but I am hoping to be able to clear it up before I leave tomorrow because it strikes me as mostly, a misunderstanding.
PS: the Goffstown cops went a lot easier on me when I told them I was a Met/Sox fan, and a Yankee hater to the core...
[HNN Editor: On June 5, 2007 Mr. Alterman again addressed the question of his arrest. He wrote:]
My mishap in New Hampshire on Sunday night has left me with a couple of problems and a couple of lessons. The first problem, establishing my innocence in court or else paying a fine, is a considerable inconvenience but not in any significant sense a big deal. The second problem, the damage done to my reputation by false reports of what took place is, in fact, a big deal, at least to me, but almost impossible to redress. The way much of the media work now -- driven by tabloid gossip when not by ideology -- combine to blow up CNN's original badly sourced and hastily written report into literally hundreds of equally badly sourced gossip items, all written by people who had no contact whatever with any of the people involved. (There were no witnesses save myself and the police. And aside from CNN, whom I had to track down myself [and The Nation], I've yet to see a single published report yet where the reporter in question actually asked me what happened.)
When I became the fodder for the gossip sites a month or so ago, I went to some lengths to try to correct the record -- again, because I value my reputation. I did not understand at the time most of these places -- including some reporters working at allegedly reputable publications -- do not much care about accuracy and felt no responsibility to correct the false information they disseminate. So all I did was feed the fire and make things worse. Whatever disagreements I have with Mark Halperin and John Harris' renedering of the dynamics of the media/political miasma they describe in The Way to Win, they were right about one thing: It is a"Freak Show," and Matt Drudge is indeed king of this world.
So this time, I see there's no point in running around trying to correct the record beyond explaining as best as I can what took place and leaving it at that as I did here. Trying to keep up with false and malicious allegations in this world is a mug's game."Tit for tat" disminishes the"tatter" no matter how outrageous the original"tit," if I might coin a phrase. So, as much as it offends my nature personally, I have no choice but to let all of this crap wash over me until the mob loses interest and gloms onto something else. I do want to thank those bloggers who offered their sites up for an opportunity to clear up CNN's originally false rendition of events, and also -- this may surprise some people -- Chris Matthews, who gave me the opportunity last night to explain, briefly, how this mess originated. (The video of that is here.)
The two useful impressions it leaves for me are these:
1) I want to reiterate yesterday's point: that every privileged, upper-middle class American ought to get arrested once in his or her life. It's impossible to imagine the feeling of being driven in a squad car, cuffed behind your back, feeling yourself to be innocent but with no idea of what awaits you, until it happens. It's something that I imagine is taken as a given by powerless segments of our population and has to color everything about the way people view civic authority. I know it now does mine.
2) Al Gore's argument in The Assault on Reason regarding the trivialization of traditional definitions of news has a relevant correlary here: When there's no clear demarcation between"news" and"gossip," then not only are discussions of genuinely important issues crowded out by diversionary nonsense (at best), but the quality of all reporting suffers. Ever since the Clinton/Lewinsky scandals, reputable news organizations have felt empowered to go ahead with reports that they, themselves, could not verify. The New York Times' Judy Miller problem demonstrated the danger of this tendency in its most extreme form. But the practice is rampant and its injection into our media's bloodstream has spread the disease almost everywhere. The old system certainly had it flaws -- and the corrective abilities of the blogosphere to fix the mistakes and machinations of the MSM have no greater champion than yours truly -- but this problem of our collective inability to distinguish between good information and bad has the potential to crowd out much of what is most valuable in a free press and the lifeblood of our democracy.
OK, that's all, I'm hoping ...
SOURCE: Middle East Forum website (6-5-07)
Researchers and analysts have been repeatedly targeted in legal actions ...
Such lawsuits are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, but undertaken as a means to bankrupt, distract, intimidate, and demoralize defendants. Plaintiffs seek less to prevail in the courtroom than to wear down researchers and analysts. Even when the latter win cases, they pay heavily in time, money, and spirit. As counterterrorism specialist Steven Emerson comments, "Legal action has become a mainstay of radical Islamist organizations seeking to intimidate and silence their critics." Islamists clearly hope, Douglas Farah notes, that researchers will "get tired of the cost and the hassle [of lawsuits] and simply shut up."
SOURCE: Jonathan Zimmerman in the New York Daily News (6-5-07)
In 1936, historian Howard Beale published a book entitled, “Are American Teachers Free?” In 855 not-so-succinct pages, Beale gave a simple answer: no. Across the United States, schools placed strict limits upon teachers’ speech, manners, and conduct. Some schools barred teachers from dancing, smoking, or playing cards; others fired instructors who joined “radical” political groups, including the Ku Klux Klan.
OK, so the ban on card-playing seems a bit draconian in this day and age. But a teacher who goes home, dons a hood, and carries a flaming cross to a KKK rally? I’m perfectly fine with firing him. And that, I suppose, marks me as an enemy of “academic freedom.”
Witness the dust-up at the Horace Mann School in New York, one of the city’s most prestigious prep schools. The school recently dismissed Andrew Trees, who published a saucy satire last year of New York’s high-society, private-school set. Then it barred the student newspaper from publishing two letters and opinion piece in support of Dr. Trees.
“Doctor” Trees, you see, holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia. If he taught at a college or university, like I do, he would certainly be free to write or say anything he wished. Instead, he teaches at a high school. Should that make a difference?
Not according to one of the censored letters, signed by dozens of prominent American historians. “We believe that academic freedom should be the cornerstone of an academic institution,” declares the letter, which was obtained by the New York Times after the Horace Mann newspaper was prevented from publishing it. “In our own work and in our classrooms, we strive to create an environment where students and faculty are free to think critically.”
Well, sure. Every teacher should try to do that, no matter what their subject of instruction or the age of their students. But if the historians think that elementary and high school teachers should have the same type of academic freedom that university professors have . . .well, they’re simply wrong.
Let me get a few things on the table right away. First of all, full disclosure: I don’t know Andrew Trees. But I do know several of his professors at UVA, who signed the letter in his support.
Second, I share their outrage about Trees’ dismissal. If Horace Mann fired Trees for publishing a send-up of the school, it should be deeply ashamed of itself. And the school compounded its foolishness by censoring letters to the student newspaper, where the editor-in-chief is none other than Elyssa Spitzer, daughter of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
But I’m troubled by the implication that high school teachers should have exactly the same rights and freedoms as university professors. Suppose a teacher wrote a book denying the Holocaust, or maintaining that the world was created in six 24-hour days. If the teacher was fired, would the East Coast’s academic all-stars rally to his defense?
I think not. And that’s because all of us understand—whether we admit it or not—that elementary- and secondary-level teachers need to stay within some kind of community consensus. They teach kids, not adults. So it’s reasonable for the community to insist that teachers’ public behavior—and sometimes, even, their public expression—respects a few broadly shared norms.
That’s why federal courts upheld the 2000 dismissal of Bronx High School of Science teacher Peter Melzer, a leader of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. As a citizen, Melzer has every right to join an organization advocating the legalization of underage sex. But he has no right to teach in a school, where his presence would generate too much fear, confusion, and controversy for young people to handle.
Could the students at Horace Mann handle a satire of their upscale private school? Of course they could. No one who attends Horace Mann would be in the least bit shocked, surprised, or scared by the behaviors that Andrew Trees described in his book,"Academy X": drug abuse, grade inflation, or plagiarism.
So if school officials fired Trees because of his book, they certainly weren’t acting to protect the kids. Instead, they were acting to protect their market share: they wanted to appease angry parents and trustees, who thought the book would hurt the reputation of the school.
And that’s truly despicable. Like any school—indeed, like any adult—Horace Mann can and should shield children from attitudes, opinions, and behaviors which are simply too horrible for young minds to contemplate. But it shouldn’t censor faculty or students simply for making the school look bad. That makes Horace Mann look even worse.
In 2002, historian Michael Oren's majestic Six Days of War emphasized the miscalculations that triggered this unwanted war. Nevertheless, after examining Syrian, Jordanian, Egyptian, American and Soviet sources, along with Israeli archives, Oren concluded that Israel's leaders had no choice but to attack.
Those who condemn Israel's decision generally minimize Arab leaders' genocidal threats, the skirmishes with Syria and Egypt's decision to blockade Israel's southernmost port after dismissing the United Nations buffer force on its border with Israel.
And indeed, in his sweeping, gripping and contrarian book examining 1967, Israeli journalist and historian Tom Segev censures Israel by focusing too narrowly on Israel. Rooting the conflict in the country's economic, social and psychic crisis of confidence in 1966, Segev paints a devastating portrait of a small, insecure society, exorcising inner demons by overreacting to external demons. "Obviously," he concludes, "Israel was too weak to avoid war."
The author of provocative looks at British Mandatory Palestine, Israel in 1949 and the Holocaust's lasting impact on Israelis, Segev is an indefatigable researcher and a master storyteller. This book, published two years ago in Hebrew, and ably translated into English by Jessica Cohen, shifts effectively, lyrically, from Israelis' everyday experiences to their politicians' power struggles. With his eye for the evocative detail, Segev describes the quaint Israeli practice of positioning one's telephone in the entrance hall, so neighbours could share the precious phone without invading each other's privacy too much. With his knack for personalizing experiences millions shared, Segev vividly incorporates firsthand accounts, including the war diaries of Private Yehoshua Bar Dayan and the letters of a U.S.-born Jerusalemite, Edith Ezrachi. And with his critical flair, Segev punctures what remains of the myth of Israel's sabra superman; he joins several other modern chroniclers in depicting Moshe Dayan as a mercurial, showboating, Machiavellian cad....
SOURCE: Tim Harford in the Financial Times (London) (6-2-07)
Electric light bulbs were available by 1879, and there were generating stations in New York and London by 1881. Yet a thoughtful observer in 1900 would have found little evidence that the "electricity revolution" was making business more efficient.
Steam-powered manufacturing had linked an entire production line to a single huge steam engine. As a result, factories were stacked on many floors around the central engine, with drive belts all running at the same speed. The flow of work around the factory was governed by the need to put certain machines close to the steam engine, rather than the logic of moving the product from one machine to the next. When electric dynamos were first introduced, the steam engine would be ripped out and the dynamo would replace it. Productivity barely improved.
Eventually, businesses figured out that factories could be completely redesigned on a single floor; production lines were arranged to enable the smooth flow of materials around the factory. Most importantly, each worker could have his or her own little electric motor, starting it or stopping it at will. The improvements weren't just architectural but social: once the technology allowed workers to make more decisions, they needed more training and different contracts to encourage them to take responsibility.
David showed that the first world war, which led to immigration controls and choked off the supply of cheap but untrained immigrant workers, was one of the spurs to make these changes. US productivity growth eventually leapt in the 1920s, four decades after the commercialisation of electricity. Productivity growth rates in US manufacturing in the 1920s were more than five per cent per year, a rate that makes the "new economy" look laughable, at least for now.
But David's research also suggests patience. New technology takes time to have a big economic impact. More importantly, businesses and society itself have to adapt before that will happen. Such change is always difficult and, perhaps mercifully, slower than the march of technology....
SOURCE: Alan Wolfe in the WaPo (6-3-07)
It has become a cliché to point out that while academic historians write dense, imponderable tomes to get tenure, popular historians satisfy the public hunger with powerfully written and engaging narratives. This cliché could be disproved in two ways: Academics could write terrific histories, and popular historians could write dreadful ones.
Michael Beschloss picks the second option. Presidential Courage is boring, repetitive and badly written. It tells us nothing we did not know before. And it substitutes melodrama for the actualities of history.
The thesis of Beschloss's book is that presidents sometimes act courageously. Like one of his heroes, John F. Kennedy, Beschloss defines courage as the willingness to do the right thing rather than the popular thing. The rest of the book is devoted to offering examples of this not very stunning insight. Included are George Washington's support of the unpopular Jay Treaty, John Adams's willingness to break with extreme Federalists, Andrew Jackson's successful struggle with Nicholas Biddle and the Second National Bank, Lincoln's issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Teddy Roosevelt's trust busting, FDR's leadership during America's entry into World War II, Harry Truman's support for a Jewish state, John F. Kennedy's fight for civil rights, and Ronald Reagan's decision to ignore the hard-line anti-communists in his party to find common ground with Mikhail Gorbachev.
To tell his tale, Beschloss writes chapters that rarely exceed 10 pages. He is fond of paragraphs that contain only one sentence. With the possible exception of John Adams, none of the presidents he chooses is controversial or surprising. And what he says about each has been said many times before: Andrew Jackson was a man to whom honor was important, Teddy Roosevelt overcame his poor physical health, and Ronald Reagan liked to talk about his movie roles. It is as if Beschloss never wants to tax the minds of his readers. He taxes their attention span instead, for it is easier to read longer narratives filled with fascinating twists and turns than to work one's way through Beschloss's choppy, disconnected stories.
Once one of these stories has been told, moreover, one gets the point of them all. Where does courage come from? Let's try God. So despite the fact that America's presidents vary greatly in their faith commitments, Beschloss's presidents invariably turn to religion for reassurance. Jackson "drew strength from his religious belief and Bible reading." Lincoln was able to face possible political defeat because he "drew in part on his religious faith." Harry Truman "tried to be a serious Christian." Ronald Reagan "was in fact a determined Christian." Life rarely follows a script. Beschloss's lives of the presidents always do....
SOURCE: Eboo Patel in the WaPo (6-4-07)
The first assignment I give the graduate students in my class at Chicago Theological Seminary is Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations. I figure it is only fair for them to do a thorough reading of perhaps the most prevalent theory of our times.
And then I spend the rest of the semester trying to dig out of that hole.
It’s not that my students – most of them bright, progressive, hopeful people of faith – want to believe that there is a clash of civilizations. It is that Huntington has created a framework that facts seem to fit in. And as our media continues to provide a microphone and a stage for religious totalitarians, the Huntington thesis that civilizations are inherently at odds with each other acquires the force of inevitability, which makes it the single most dangerous idea of our time.
So I am continually looking for resources that are as wide-ranging as Huntington’s book - that pull together history, politics, religious scholarship and personal narrative into a coherent framework which can counter the force of inevitability with the power of possibility.
I have found one such resource in Akbar Ahmed’s important new book, Journey Into Islam.
Professor Ahmed’s personal range is remarkable. He is a devoted Muslim who was trained as an anthropologist at the University of London, served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, lived for extended periods of time on three continents, and seems comfortable in situations that range from tribal rituals to state dinners. He brings every inch of his access, erudition and aplomb to this book.
He also brings a deep and nuanced understanding of Islam, something shockingly absent from most of the current books on Muslims in the modern world. For Ahmed, Islam is not just a handful of sacred verses or a particular political movement, but a broad tradition inspired by a religious ethos that includes poetry, philosophy, prayer, politics and every other aspect of human life. This breadth of understanding is distilled into a fascinating three-part typology of Muslim leadership – the mystical, the modernist and the fundamentalist. Each of these archetypes is rooted within the tradition and has had various incarnations throughout Muslim history....
SOURCE: Robert Sibley, The Ottawa Citizen (6-3-07)
His point was obvious: an alliance between the British Empire and the United States, the world's largest English-speaking states, would create the most powerful political entity on the planet.
Bismarck's remarks proved prescient, for which we can be thankful. If not for the willingness of the English-speaking nations -- Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- to sacrifice their blood and treasure, much of the world would be ruled by dictators.
Such is the conclusion you reach after reading historian Andrew Roberts' latest book, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900. Moreover, it dawns on you that the source of much of the world's disorder in the last century has been, and still is, non-English-speaking countries.
"It is emphatically not that the English-speaking peoples are inherently better or superior that accounts for their success, therefore, but that they have perfected better systems of government," Roberts writes in suggesting that a key reason for the success of the English-speaking people is widely shared cultural mindset.
Thanks to traditions of law, a common language, a shared cultural background and an abiding sense of individual freedom, the English-speaking peoples have been less susceptible than others to the lures of fanaticism. And this, he says, allowed them "to achieve their full potential, while some other peoples on the planet have remained mired in authoritarianism, totalitarianism and institutionalised larceny."
Despite Roberts' caveats, some reviewers had damned him with cries of cultural chauvinism and charges of "racism." For example, Johann Hari, a columnist for the left-wing Independent newspaper, dismisses Roberts' book as "an ahistorical catalogue of apologies and justifications for mass murder ... " But rather than offer sufficient evidence to rebut Roberts' thesis, Hari, writing in a recent edition of The New Republic, sneers at Roberts for having a father who "owned a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises."
Such elitist rhetoric is standard fare for those who seek to silence anyone who dares challenge the propaganda of multicultural equanimity. But while you can quarrel with Roberts' interpretation of events, he marshals too much empirical evidence to be dismissed with a sneer.
As a more insightful reviewer observes, Roberts places the accomplishments of the English-speaking people over the last century in proper perspective. "Instead of emulating other historians who have portrayed the 20th century as a cesspit of almost uninterrupted warfare, slaughter, and misery, Roberts snubs reproach and defeatism," historian Keith Windshuttle said in the February edition of The New Criterion. "His tale is of the triumph of light over the forces of darkness."...
SOURCE: http://www.nysut.org (6-4-07)
Casey attended the Teaching Labor History Symposium at NYSUT headquarters in May. The day-long forum helped teachers better incorporate labor lessons into their curriculum.
"There's a lot of misunderstanding about what labor unions do," said Paul Cole, director of the American Labor Studies Center, which organized the event. Cole is a retired secretary-treasurer for the New York State AFL-CIO and a former NYSUT director.
He discussed the ALSC Web site. "Our resources include labor history-based lesson plans, labor leader biographies, an interactive labor history timeline and photos and labor songs," Cole said, explaining that the materials are designed to help educators meet state standards.
From Mullany to child labor
Participants used a play based on events in Mullany's life and two lesson plans to help K-12 students learn about the 19th century organizer of the Collar Laundry Union in Troy, the nation's first all-woman labor union.
"The play, in particular, is effective," said Schoharie Central School TA member Debbie Schaffer, a fifth-grade teacher....
SOURCE: Jon Wiener in the Nation (6-4-07)
The prevailing view of the war, in both the US and Israel, was expressed by historian Michael Oren, who wrote in the LA Times on Sunday that the war "saved Israel from destruction." Segev commented, "We don't really know that. We don't really know what the Arabs intended to do." But we do know what Israelis thought: "They thought Egypt was out to destroy them. It's really a psychological matter more than a clear-cut strategic one. Psychologically Israelis were very weak on the eve of the Six-Day War; they believed they were facing a second Holocaust."
How much of that psychology was an accurate response to the strategic situation, and how much was caused by other factors? "The crisis of May 1967 caught Israel at a weak point in its history," Segev said, "with economic recession and unemployment, more Israelis leaving Israel than Jews coming to live there, a generation gap with people fearing they were losing their children as Zionists, and a widespread feeling that the Zionist dream was over. And beyond that Israel was feeling the first acts of Palestinian terrorism, and the army had no answer to that, just as it doesn't have an answer to today's terrorism. All this led to a deep pessimism. Then the crisis broke out."
I asked Segev whether he thought Israel over-reacted to Egyptian and Syrian threats by going to war. "I think this crisis might have been solved without war," he replied. "There were suggestions coming from Washington and several ideas in Israel about how to do that. But that required a stronger society, stronger nerves, stronger leadership, more patience, and we didn't have all that. So we gave in to an understandable Holocaust panic. That made war with Egypt inevitable. But to say today that the Six-Day War saved Israel's existence--that is not accurate."
Today we think of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as the main legacy of the 1967 war. Orthodox Jews regard the West Bank as the biblical land of Israel: Judea and Samaria. They believe God wants Jews to live there. I asked Segev how popular that idea was in Israel before the war. "It was not very popular," he said. "Most Israelis did not expect the Green Line to change. Some had hopes--there was a strong political party headed by Menachem Begin that advocated taking the West Bank, but most Israelis regarded that as unrealistic.
The government came to the same conclusion: "Six months prior to the war," Segev reports, "the head of the Mossad, the head of the Army intelligence branch, and the Foreign Office sat down together and did something Israelis don't often do – they thought ahead. They concluded it would not be in the interests of Israel to take the West Bank. Because of the Palestinian population, of course. Six months before this war. Then on June 5, Jordan attacks Israeli forces in Jerusalem, and all reason is forgotten: Israel takes East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, in spite of all the reasons not to do so, in opposition to our national interest."
Segev's book has a stunning cover: a photo of Israeli soldiers posing triumphantly in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, one of the three holiest shrines in Islam. When Israeli forces conquered the old city, he reports, the chief rabbi of the Israeli army advised his commanding officer to blow up the Dome of the Rock. "Everybody lost their minds," Segev explained. "Everybody was euphoric. There were lots of crazy ideas floating around. It speaks to the credit of the military commander that he told the chief rabbi of the army, ‘if you repeat that suggestion, I will put you in jail.' But that was the atmosphere in those days--a feeling that the sky's the limit, we're an all powerful empire. The euphoria that followed the war was as wrong as the panic that preceded it."
As Israeli forces advanced through the West Bank, Segev shows, they pressured Palestinians to leave, to flee to Jordan. "200,000 Palestinians left the West Bank," he told me, "and at least half of them were actually forced to leave. Many are still in Jordan. When speak about the refugee problem we think about 1948, but there is a refugee problem from 1967 as well."
Back in 1948, the UN had called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza. I asked Segev what kind of national movement existed among Palestinians on the eve of the Six-Day War. "It was very weak," he said, "not much more than a feeling of shared identity and solidarity. Actually as a result of the Six-Day War the Palestinian national identity became much stronger, just as Israeli analysts had predicted prior to the war."
Future prime minster Yitzhak Rabin supported Palestinian independence after the war, according to Segev, who reports that the Israeli government held secret talks at the time with Palestinian leaders. "Isn't that amazing?" he said. "Rabin was chief of staff. He felt it was the right moment to punish Jordan, to take the West Bank away from Jordan, but not God forbid, to control it--instead to give the Palestinians independence. He thought that was the right way to do it. By the way, that's what the government of Israel thinks today, 40 years later – and it's what most Israelis think."
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: BBC (6-4-07)
The 400-year-old Edzell Castle near Brechin attracts thousands of visitors.
It was not known where the 14 carvings, depicting the Liberal arts on the south wall and Cardinal Virtues on the west wall, had come from.
But their origins have now been revealed as those of Flemish Renaissance master - Maarten de Vos.
English historian, Anthony Wells-Cole, discovered the link to de Vos while he was carrying out work in Amsterdam.
De Vos apparently provided the inspiration to Edzell sculptor Johannes Salder.
SOURCE: http://media.www.thedailyaztec.com (6-4-07)
"History is a profession that's being written by youngish folks with energy, new ideas, approaches and insights," Blum said. "They're dedicated to seeing the past connected to the present."
Blum, 29, began teaching at SDSU last semester. Although his primary concentration is on the American Civil War and Reconstruction, he's found ways to make history that is centuries old resonate with his students. He said he uses 19th-century music, pictures, historical simulations - in which students research historic figures and come together to debate - and even contemporary cartoons to give students a feel for those times. In one of his introductory classes, Blum showed part of the "South Park" episode in which the characters re-enact the Civil War.
Since 9/11, some of the familiar music from the Civil War era has taken on new meanings, Blum said.
"'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' is troubling," he said. "One of the lines is 'As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.' So I asked my students what that sounds like, and some of them said 'jihad.'"
The idea of what it means to say that "God is on your side" - as the North and the South did in the Civil War and the United States and terrorist groups have said in the current War on Terror - has become more complicated, Blum said.
SOURCE: Maureen Ogle at the website of Historically Speaking (March/April) (3-1-07)
(A) won the Bancroft prize
(B) been chosen as book-of-the-month by Hustler magazine
(C) been shortlisted for the Pulitzer.
Correct answer: B. In October 2006 I learned that Hustler magazine had selected my new book, Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, as its book-of-the-month for April 2007.
At this point, many of you are groaning, sneering, or rolling your eyes. (Or, like me when I heard the news, howling with laughter.) That’s okay. But stick with me. I have something useful (I hope) to say about doing history....
Chicago Trib news story
SOURCE: CNN (6-3-07)
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN ) – Columnist and author Eric Alterman has been released after being arrested Sunday night inside the debate spin room. He was charged with criminal trespass after police say he refused repeated orders to leave.
Goffstown, N.H. police said Alterman was in the spin room as a guest of the Creative Coalition and went to an area reserved for a private reception for WMUR-TV. Police said he was asked by an executive at the party if he was invited to the private area and was asked to leave. A police officer was called after a verbal altercation ensued. According to police, Alterman was asked seven times to leave and became increasingly loud as he refused. After ignoring a final request, police said he was handcuffed and taken from the building.
Alterman spoke with CNN after being released. He called the arrest a “misunderstanding” and claimed he did not refuse orders to leave.
He told CNN he was waiting in the spin room for the debate to end but there was no place to sit. He claimed he saw an area upstairs and was not stopped when he walked up there. He said he saw a bar area and asked if it was an open bar. Told that it was, he ordered a wine and a water. He then said he was approached by a man and asked if he was invited to the party. Alterman said he asked for the man’s name because he had been treated “brusquely”. He said the man declined to give his name and called for an officer.
Alterman said he “never raised his voice once” and identified himself as a journalist. When he asked for the police officer’s name, the office threatened to arrest him. Alterman said he asked for a supervising officer to come over and tried to explain the situation. He claims he was cut off and acknowledged he may have been argumentative when he said, “could I please finish a sentence here?”
He was booked and released after paying $30. Alterman said he will fight to get the charges dropped.
Alterman writes a column for “The Nation” and writes the “Altercation” blog for Media Matters. He also has authored several books, including WhyWhen Presidents Lie.
Mr. Wolin, whose essay is part of a special issue about "intellectuals and public responsibility," says that intellectuals used to work for the greater good without giving any consideration to constraints created by realpolitik. "In the face of the sordid, Machiavellian realities of power politics," he writes, they stood "as the guardians of a higher law." The 19th-century French intellectual Émile Zola, for instance, "realized that, when fundamental questions of justice were at issue, politically motivated compromises ... were unacceptable," Mr. Wolin writes.
That intellectual outlook came to an end in the 1980s, he says, with the deaths of such thinkers as Michel Foucault and Jean-Paul Sartre. Their successors, he writes, "are less interested in redeeming mankind than they are in righting particular wrongs and remedying specific injustices." For instance, "human rights violations, famine, ... racial discrimination, prisoners' rights, and so forth."
SOURCE: Steve Paulson at Salon (5-30-07)
At 17, Armstrong became a Catholic nun. She left the convent after seven years of torment."I had failed to make a gift of myself to God," she wrote in her recent memoir,"The Spiral Staircase." While she despaired over never managing to feel the presence of God, Armstrong also bristled at the restrictive life imposed by the convent, which she described in her first book,"Through the Narrow Gate." When she left in 1969, she had never heard of the Beatles or the Vietnam War, and she'd lost her faith in God.
Armstrong went on to work in British television, where she became a well-known secular commentator on religion. Then something strange happened. After a TV project fell apart, she rediscovered religion while working on two books,"A History of God" and a biography of Mohammed. Her study of sacred texts finally gave her the appreciation of religion she had longed for -- not religion as a system of belief, but as a gateway into a world of mystery and the ineffable."Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet" also made her one of Europe's most prominent defenders of Islam.
Armstrong now calls herself a"freelance monotheist." It's easy to understand her appeal in today's world of spiritual seekers. As an ex-nun, she resonates with people who've fallen out with organized religion. Armstrong has little patience for literal readings of the Bible, but argues that sacred texts yield profound insights if we read them as myth and poetry. She's especially drawn to the mystical tradition, which -- in her view -- has often been distorted by institutionalized religion. While her books have made her enormously popular, it isn't surprising that she's also managed to raise the ire of both Christian fundamentalists and atheists....
SOURCE: WSJ (6-2-07)
2. "Sufferings in Africa" by James Riley (1817)....
3. "The Valley of Vision" by George Bush (1847).
The Puritans viewed themselves as the New Israel and America as the New Promised Land. Accordingly they felt a sense of kinship with the Old Israel--the Jews--and the old Promised Land, then known as Palestine, a part of the Ottoman Empire. Many of the Puritans' descendants regarded it as their Christian and American duty to help restore the Jews to Palestine. "I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation," wrote President John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that "restoring the Jews to their national home in Palestine . . . is a noble dream and one shared by many Americans." But few restorationists were more outspoken than George Bush, a distinguished professor of Hebrew at New York University. His "The Valley of Vision," which became an antebellum best seller, called on the U.S. government to militarily wrench Palestine from the Turks and return it to the Jews. The Jewish state "will blaze in notoriety . . . and flash a splendid demonstration," declared Bush, a direct forebear of two presidents of the same name, revealing the centuries-old roots of American support for Israel.
4. "The Innocents Abroad" by Mark Twain (1869)....
5. "The Arabists" by Robert D. Kaplan (The Free Press, 1993).
From 1813, with the appointment of Mordechai Emanuel Noah as U.S. consul for Tunis in north Africa, until World War I, American Jews served as U.S. diplomats in the region. The State Department believed that these Jews, though most of them German-born, formed a natural bridge between Christian America and the Muslim world. But beginning in the 1920s--as Robert D. Kaplan charts in his riveting "The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite"--Jews were gradually pushed out of the State Department, replaced by a generation of diplomats who encouraged Arab nationalism and who were unabashed in their anti-Zionist, indeed anti-Semitic, worldview. Deeply identifying with Arab autocrats, the Arabists served as the architects of the U.S.-Saudi alliance, represented oil interests in Washington and convinced politicians that the Middle East had far more to fear from America than vice versa. Though their monopoly began to dissolve in the 1970s--when another German-born American Jew, Henry Kissinger, assumed control of policy making in the Middle East--the Arabists continued to exert a disproportionate and generally deleterious influence in Washington. Kaplan's book, published in the aftermath of the first Islamist attack on the World Trade Center, acquired a greater poignancy after the second. Above all, it exposed the danger of the Arabists' illusions of a romantic, congenial Middle East.
SOURCE: http://www.abc.net.au (6-3-07)
He went with the aim of making a difference. He was the first American to do so, but certainly not the last.
American born academic, Michael Oren, has written a book about the history of US entanglements in the Middle East.
Called Power, Faith and Fantasy it traces the various motives and the many misunderstandings which have underpinned US policy.
Michael Oren lives and works in Jerusalem, where he met with our Middle East Correspondent David Hardaker.
David asked Michael Oren for his assessment of the impact of the Bush administration.
MICHAEL OREN: Put it this way, I think that the Bush administration came into the Middle East with very good intentions and with sort of very typical, classical American intentions.
DAVID HARDAKER: By which you mean?
MICHAEL OREN: By which I mean that Americans have, for more than two centuries, regarded the Middle East as sort of a fractured reflection of themselves. And they look at the Middle East and say basically, "we can fix this, we can make this Middle East resemble us, we can make it into democratic United States of the Middle East".
DAVID HARDAKER: Do the people in the Middle East want democracy or not?
MICHAEL OREN: It depends again on how you define democracy. Um, democracy, it's widely misunderstood in the west. Translated, democracy means casting a ballot every four years.
But the people in the Middle East understand that democracy is not that. That democracy is a package, democracy is a civilisation, and that with democracy comes rights of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, but even more importantly women's rights, children's rights, which are in many ways an anathema to the traditional societies of this region and they're not going to, don't want that part of the package.