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: Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun (9-5-07)
The career of Norman Davies, the popular and sometimes controversial British historian, has been devoted to hammering home that same point, for the benefit of readers who think of "the West" as beginning in California and extending to about the Elbe. Mr. Davies made his reputation as the leading English-language historian of Poland. His survey of Polish history, "God's Playground" (1982), is the standard work on the subject, and is very popular in Poland itself, where it was first distributed clandestinely by Samizdat in the early 1980s. Over the last decade, Mr. Davies has branched out, producing wideranging, synethetic books on big subjects: "The Isles" (1999) dealt with the history of Great Britain and Ireland, "Europe: A History" (1996) took on the whole continent.
But the outsider's perspective that he developed as a scholar of Poland is always in evidence. The very fact that Mr. Davies' history of Britain is not a history of Britain, but a history of "The Isles," suggests how he uses the facts of geography to unsettle the myths of history. Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England are no more Britain, Mr. Davies argues, than Poland and the Czech Republic are "the East." To understand history correctly, we must first rid of ourselves of such illusions, even comforting and comfortable ones.
"No Simple Victory" (Viking, 490 pages, $30), Mr. Davies's new book, is the latest installment in his project of illusion-demolition. This is a revisionist history of World War II, designed to shake the complacency of British and American readers who are accustomed to thinking of it as "the good war." ...
SOURCE: Daniel Martin Varisco (9-13-07)
As an individual in Academe who has already achieved the career-defining rite of pedagogical passage known as “tenure,” the issue of a fellow scholar potentially being denied tenure in a highly politicized media campaign becomes an issue of concern. I am not so puffed up to think that tenure status is ipso facto a mark of praiseworthy expertise. There are far too many examples out there of professors who are not any better for having been collegially granted a life sentence or who drop out of publishing and professional sight once they are “in.” Some use the bestowed honor to promote their own partisan views at the expense of teaching others by example to enhance critical thinking. But one thing that I do find sacred about the status is that it is necessarily judged in the local academic context. If one’s peers and administrative lords agree that a certain professor deserves tenure, then so be it. It is not as though a pope is being elected to shepherd the whole flock. Outside interference is indeed interference, especially when the deliberated judgments of a range of responsible individuals at a major college are being challenged.
One current case at Barnard College has hit the media, a rarity except when an outside group has a strong partisan bias. This is the case of Nadia Abu El-Haj, who teaches anthropology. The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education have both reported the case. Professor Abu El-Haj’s application for tenure has been approved through the level of the college president. But as part of Columbia University, it still must be authorized up the chain of command. Having failed to derail El-Haj’s tenure within the system, there is now a petition to pressure Columbia to overrule the decision made within Barnard. As counterpoint there is an opposing petition online that defends the Barnard professor.
The attempts to force Professor Abu El-Haj out of Barnard did not begin overnight. She was targeted on blogs almost from the start of publication of her controversial book, including postings on Front Page and Campus Watch, which has mounted a campaign against Columbia scholars it brands as anti-Semitic in a most unbecoming way. It would seem that since Edward Said, the Palestinian intellectual who was a major target of the pro-Israel lobby, has passed away, the sights have been set on any academic Palestinian (Abu El-Haj or Joseph Massoud, for example) who speaks her or his mind about the conflict. Given that I have never heard of any organized media campaign to deny tenure to a professor who was fully supportive of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, this current attempt continues the “blaming the victim” approach that online lobby groups like Campus Watch and Jihad Watch paradigmatically pursue.
It is important to separate the issue of Professor Abu El-Haj’s tenure from the reception of her first book on Israeli archaeology as an ideological discourse. First of all, tenure is rarely based on one book, especially if it is a revised Ph.D. thesis. The criteria certainly include scholarship, but also the full range of scholarly activities (articles, professional papers, book reviews), service to the college and profession, teaching evaluations and awards that the candidate achieves during the tenure candidancy. In this case, it should be noted, Professor Abu El-Haj was hired by Barnard after her first book was already in print. It is also a book that has received a prestigious award from the Middle East Studies Association. Regardless of the controversial aspects of her thesis and the disagreement over her methodology (primarily from those outside her own discipline of anthropology), the decision to grant tenure to this candidate should be judged the way it would for any other scholar: internally and based on the total criteria her department and college require.
Having said that, there is the issue of Facts on the Ground, the book that has created so much antagonism. There are a number of reviews of her book available, but most are partisan and written by individuals who have a strong view either for or against. By this, I note that the positive reviews tend to come from individuals in anthropology or cultural studies or post-colonial studies who know very little about the history of archaeological research in Israel and negative reviews tend to come from Israeli archaeologists, who as a discursive group are criticized in her book. Favorable reviews are noted on Professor El-Haj’s website. Examples of those who are extremely critical are Aren Maeir in the journal ISIS, Jacob Lassner at Northwestern, Alexander H. Joffe of Purchase College for the Journal of Near Eastern Studies and Diana Muir & Avigail Appelbaum posted on History News Network. The problem is that most readers of Facts on the Ground know very little about the facts under the ground that “Biblical Archaeology” has brought to light in the past century and a half. Not surprisingly, there are distortions in the heated exchanges.
I have more than a passing interest in the thesis of Abu El-Haj, since I majored in “Biblical Archeology” as an undergraduate and wrote my M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania on the apologetic use of archaeology in fundamentalist and mainstream Christianity. Having just finished a critical study of Edward Said’s Orientalism (which Abu El-Haj follows in spirit), I am familiar with her theoretical approach as well as the history of archaeological research in the area. But any differences I (or anyone else) have over aspects of her interpretation have no bearing on her tenure case. She makes a cogent and documented argument, articulates her own theoretical and methodological principles and engages a topic that deserves an airing. Yes, she is Palestinian and yes she has a political perspective about the history of Israel and the ideology of Zionism. But criticism of her argument and her scholarship should not be based on her political or religious views (especially how these tend to be characterized by opponents). I suspect that there will be other scholars who address the issue. To the extent Abu El-Haj’s book has opened the debate, all the better.
I have read the book. Personally, I find the overall thesis weak and incomplete. Certainly archaeology became an ideological tool to promote Israeli nationalism and Zionism and some Israeli archaeologists made no secret of their interest in getting through the more recent (largely Islamic) layers to get down to the biblical and Roman materials. What I find lacking in the book is a comparative analysis of the vast amount of archaeological work done from a Christian theological perspective, especially fundamentalists and evangelicals who have worked on many sites both in Israel and Jordan. The earlier emphasis on excavating Bible history, which extended beyond the Palestine Exploration Fund, played against doctrinal debate over the rising acceptance of critical source analysis of the Bible. Colonel Conder’s remarks (p. 31) could have been contextualized in contrast to critics like William Robertson Smith, with whom he engaged in a spirited exchange of articles in a widely read English periodical. Or, take a British archaeologist like John Garstang. Abu el-Haj discusses him only in relation to his work on the site of Hazor. Yet, earlier Garstand dug at Jericho and made the infamous claim that the walls had fallen just as described in the book of Joshua. Apologetic Christian sites still hold on to that claim today, even though subsequent research by Kathleen Kenyon and more recent work by an Italian team demonstrates that Garstang was overstating his case. The notion that the only thing really worthwhile in the archaeological record was biblical (either OT or NT) preceded nationalist appropriation of the myth of ancient Israel in the glory days of David and Solomon. For biblical literalists (and Israeli archaeologists tend not to be) the historicity of ancient Israel cannot be a myth for it challenges their view of holy writ as inspired. There is an extensive literature on this and Abu El-Haj virtually ignores it. I suspect that the faulty and subjective methods attributed to certain Israeli archaeologists have been equally the case for those archaeologists coming from Christian seminaries. Ironically, Israeli archaeologists have been more critical of the historicity of biblical texts (which mythologize a kingdom of ancient Israel founded on an Abrahamic covenant) than their Christian counterparts.
A theoretical criticism I have with the overall approach to the subject is the overarching claim, now prominent in my own discipline, that anything labeled “science” and conducted during the colonial (and it would seem unreformed post-colonial) era is tainted knowledge. The archaeology described in Facts on the Ground is presented as a colonial discourse that was well adapted to a modern-day settler colony (as many see Israel). I do believe that this happened, but it also served a broader theological discourse in conservative Christianity that continues to the present day. Abu El-Haj recognizes the inherent danger in applying a label like “discourse.” I agree with her concluding call for a conceptual shift:
“In order to do so, it might be useful to shift the conceptual and methodologicval focus away from ‘discourse’, which has characterized much (post)colonial scholarship of late, and instead incorporate sustained analysis of other kinds of practices in which (social)scientists also engaged. First it might make more sense to approach ‘colonial discours(s)’ not in terms of the categories of knowledge that colonial officers and scholars made (what they ‘foundout’ [Hacking 1996:73]), but rather in terms of what they actually did. In other words, a detailed account of the actual practices of communities of (social) scientists, the institutions in which specific sciences were located and imbricated, and the ways in which that work articulated with other social fields and authors provides a different starting point for studies of the power of knowledge, one that allows us to consider more fully both the dynamics of scientific work and the actual networks through which that work helped to reshape social and political worlds.” (Abu El-Haj 2001:279-280).
The goal, which I think Abu El-Haj well articulates here, is to find out what actually goes on. All interpretations are not created equal. The issue is not whether science in the abstract or archaeology as a sum total of some field of knowledge is good or bad. There are scientists who practice sound methods and those who do not. We are all biased in one way or another, but the best scientists work through these biases and engage in civil debate. Facts on the Ground analyzes rhetoric and attempts to ground it through the author’s personal observations and interviews. There is nothing whatsoever shoddy about this. Whether or not you agree or disagree with her is what scholarly engagement and academic freedom are all about. I look forward to seeing my anthropological colleague Nadia Abu El-Haj at future anthropology meetings and as a tenured representative of Barnard, a nearby respected institution.
A final note. It seems that the final paragraph of her book has evoked the most visceral anger from critics. This is a reference to the attack on “Joseph’s Tomb” in Nablus in 2000 during the renewed intifada. Her point here is explaining “why it was that ‘thousands of Palestinians stormed the site’” (she quotes Ha’aretz for the story). In this passage she does not praise the act, nor say that it was justified. The point is that this tomb was more than just a tomb. Joseph is a revered figure for Christians and Muslims as well; indeed an entire chapter of the Quran tells the story of Joseph. So clearly it was not simply an attack on a Jewish icon. For Abu El-Haj this act was symbolic of the overall struggle that links the use of archaeological knowledge with current political acts (including the settlements). To insinuate that this is a stealth sidestep of anti-Semitism, as some of her critics have done, is unfair.
There are, of course, no facts on the ground. There are plenty under the ground waiting to be dug up, argued over in books, trussed up for tourists and put on display in museums. Once excavated, facts disappear and only interpretations can be seen. Some interpretations will have a greater fit with an assumed reality and it is this criterion alone that should be used to debate what any particular scholar argues. Bulldozing a tenure candidate because of her ethnicity or personal political views is as bad for the Academy as such a machine is for dirt archaeology.
SOURCE: Max Boot at his Commentary blog (9-7-07)
Fred Kagan, of the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most prolific and influential voices when it comes to Iraq policy. Just keeping up with his writings can be a full-time job—but a rewarding one. What he has to say is always worth paying attention to. He has a number of new articles that are “must reads” for those following the debate over the war and the surge.
• This cover article in the Weekly Standard explaining what al Qaeda in Iraq is all about, focusing on its relationship to “al Qaeda central” and why U.S. troops have been having so much success fighting it lately.
• This essay explaining the shortcomings of the GAO report on Iraq.
• This article explaining why the Jones commission report on the state of the Iraqi security forces has been widely misinterpreted by the news media.
• This long, compelling report outlining why the most detailed troop drawdown proposal put forward by critics of the administration—a study from the Center for a New American Security proposing a rapid reduction to 60,000 troops—won’t work.
SOURCE: Jeffrey T. Richelson in Washington Decoded (9-11-07)
Every author hopes for a news event that will draw attention to the subject matter of his or her book. But few actually enjoy the kind of exquisite timing that benefited Tim Weiner.
In late June, after 34 years of fending off requests, the Central Intelligence Agency released 702 pages of documents that constitute the agency’s fabled “Family Jewels,” in actuality, a hodge-podge of memos and reports. The “Family Jewels” were gathered in response to James Schlesinger’s 1973 directive that all agency components inform him, as director of central intelligence, of any activities which might have been undertaken in violation of the agency’s charter. Even though very few of the disclosures were new, release of the “Family Jewels” was major news for a full week.
The publisher of Weiner’s book sought, quite naturally, to capitalize on the publicity windfall and immediately rushed Legacy of Ashes, which had been originally scheduled for an August release, into bookstores. This seemed to be one occasion, moreover, where timing and substance were happily joined. Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, has spent a considerable part of his career on the intelligence beat, covering the CIA for the most prestigious newspaper in the country, The New York Times.
The nearly-unanimous praise that greeted Legacy of Ashes underscored the presumption that here was a book which would convey an extraordinary understanding of the agency. Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten described Legacy of Ashes as “about as magisterial an account of ‘the agency’s’ 60 years as anyone has yet produced,” drawn “from more than 50,000 documents.” In The New York Times Book Review, Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, the author of a well-received volume on some of the CIA’s early stalwarts, praised Legacy of Ashes as “engrossing” and “comprehensive.” Thomas noted that it painted “what may be the most disturbing picture yet of CIA ineptitude,” a claim made all the more credible since Weiner’s reportedly drew from “tens of thousands of documents.” Presidential historian Michael Beschloss, also writing in The New York Times, described the book as a “deeply researched new chronicle of the Central Intelligence Agency” which could not be simply dismissed as “an anti-CIA screed.” In The Wall Street Journal, Edward Jay Epstein, an author of numerous books and articles on intelligence, informed his readers the “prodigiously researched” book was a “fascinating and revealing history.”
There was very little critical commentary within the laudatory reviews. David Wise, the dean of journalists writing about intelligence, did observe in The Washington Post Book Week, “If there is a flaw in Legacy of Ashes, it is that Weiner’s scorn for the old boys who ran the place is so unrelenting and pervasive that it tends to detract from his overall argument. He is unwilling to concede that the agency’s leaders may have acted from patriotic motives or that the CIA ever did anything right.” Still, Wise concluded, “Legacy of Ashes succeeds as both journalism and history.”
The near-universal praise is perplexing, if only because Tim Weiner’s book cannot be even remotely characterized as a history of the CIA.
During its 60-year existence, the agency has been engaged in five significant types of activities: human intelligence (the proverbial spying); technical collection (and other scientific and technological activities); analysis (efforts to interpret the present and divine the future); counterintelligence (actions taken to defeat adversaries’ intelligence services); and covert action (a grab-bag of activities, all of which are intended to produce political outcomes deemed beneficial to U.S. interests). Weiner’s book gives very limited space to the first four of those activities, while devoting the lion’s share of attention to the CIA’s covert action operations. It is not surprising given that covert actions—such as the efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro—tend to be the most sensational and controversial. But the fixation is more than strange, given the subtitle to Weiner’s book, together with his assertion that Legacy of Ashes “describes how the most powerful country in the history of Western civilization has failed to create a first-rate spy service.”
How does one make such a sweeping conclusion without making a reasonable effort to examine the CIA’s performance in the areas of intelligence collection (human and technical) and analysis? Weiner’s calculated neglect of these activities is hardly the only problem with the book—but it is the primary one....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (9-11-07)
Michigan halted distribution last month after “serious questions” were raised about the book by “members of the university community,” according to Kelly Cunningham, a university spokeswoman. Cunningham said that the faculty committee that oversees the press has been reviewing the matter, as well as the relationship between the press and Pluto. An announcement will be forthcoming, perhaps this week, she said. Cunningham stressed that “the expression of diverse points of view on this and other issues is one of the most deeply held values is the university.”
There are signs that Michigan may be getting ready to resume distribution of the book. The author and a senior official at Pluto said that they had been informed that the review of the book had concluded and that distribution would resume. Phil Pochoda, director of the press, declined to comment. But when asked what would happen if someone called the press to try to order the book, he said that while it wouldn’t be shipped immediately, an order would be taken. Cunningham said that the university was not prepared to announce whether the book would again be distributed....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (9-12-07)
In a statement released by the university, the press Executive Board (a faculty body) said that while it “has deep reservations about Overcoming Zionism, it would be a blow against free speech to remove the book from distribution on that basis. We conclude that we should not fail to honor our distribution agreement based on our reservations about the content of a single book.”...
At the same time, the board tried to distance itself from the book and its publisher. “Had the manuscript gone through the standard review process used by the University of Michigan Press, the board would not have recommended publication. But the arrangement with Pluto Press is for distribution only; the UM Press never intended to review individually every title published by Pluto (or any other press for which it holds distribution rights). By resuming distribution, the board in no way endorses the content of the book.”
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (9-12-07)
Across the table, he says, Britain's consul-general in New York mentioned that "of course" Schama would know all about "the thousands of free blacks in New York at the end of the Revolutionary War and what became of them. In fact, I had no clue what he was talking about."
Schama began reading, and soon he began writing. Being Schama, he then began filming. But the book and the BBC documentary turn out not to have been the end of the line for Rough Crossings, his compelling account of the blacks who fought for George III in the American revolution on the promise of freedom.
The theatre director Rupert Goold read the Herculean tale of the freed slaves who were shipped to Nova Scotia in the 1780s and found the king's promise only half kept, only for committed British abolitionists to resettle some of them in Sierra Leone. He asked Schama if the book could be fashioned into a play. So, for the first time in his career, Schama finds himself in a rehearsal room with a company of actors. How is he finding the experience?
"On a scale on one to 10, as they say in Spinal Tap, 11. It's fantastic, it really is." His common touch has clearly not deserted him.
SOURCE: Chris Bray at HNN blog, Cliopatria (9-10-07)
David Howell Petraeus, The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam: A study of military influence and the use of force in the post-Vietnam era. PhD Dissertation, Princeton University, 1987. Page 305.
SOURCE: Barbara Weinstein in a commentary in Perspectives (9-1-07)
... Tanenhaus's critique of the historical profession, however, is substantially different. He readily acknowledges that "we live in what is often called a golden age of history and biography, when David McCullough, to cite the most obvious example, has attained fame and enormous sales." He also mentions the considerable success in the nonacademic market of books by Gordon Wood and James McPherson. None of these scholars, alas, meets the criteria that Tanenhaus has in mind for a historian of Schlesingerian proportions. According to Tanenhaus, Schlesinger "wrote with an authority not to be found among younger historians and political thinkers, who continue to borrow from their elders." He goes on to ask "why do current historians seem unable to engage the world as confidently as Mr. Schlesinger did?" And lest one conclude that contemporary politicians simply do not provide the stirring subjects of study offered by, say, FDR or the Kennedys, Tanenhaus assures us that "the point is not that our leaders have shrunk, but that, in some sense, our historians have."5
So is this the case of the incredible shrinking historians? Are we really "smaller" than we used to be? There are so many different angles from which to critique Tanenhaus's dyspeptic assessment of the state of the historical profession that I am hard pressed to know where to start. One easy and obvious criticism of Tanenhaus's lament is that it is redolent of nostalgia for an era when almost all major historians (not to mention politicians) were white males, and when it was possible to speak with the "natural authority" of a privileged sector about a "society" deemed to have certain essential and enduring characteristics. I do not think for a second that Tanenhaus believes only white male historians could be important public figures, but he does seem strangely unaware of the way in which the diversification of the historical profession, both in terms of who writes history and what we study, has made certain kinds of oracular statements seem inappropriate, even a bit absurd, and for excellent reasons. (Indeed, he quotes Schlesinger himself as saying, in 2000: "If I were writing ‘The Vital Center' today, I would tone down the rhetoric.")6 It is one thing to shrink from making grand generalizations out of excessive caution; it is quite another to refrain from doing so due to a heightened perception of the many debatable assumptions and ideologically loaded constructions that inform such declarations....
It may well be that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., was a towering figure, but as a good historian, he would surely have recognized that he was also a product of his time. Today perhaps no individual historian is likely to tower above the profession or stride into the political sphere in the same way. But I'd like to think it's because we're growing, not shrinking.
SOURCE: The Age (9-11-07)
The History Teachers Association of Australia has written to federal Education Minister Julie Bishop and Opposition education spokesman Stephen Smith, claiming it was "increasingly concerned" about what was happening with the proposed national curriculum.
The letter says the association, which represents 4000 teachers, feels it has been sidelined from the process.
"Our prime concern is about not being consulted about the draft curriculum," association president Nick Ewbank said. "There is no way we can develop a meaningful curriculum when it is drafted in backrooms."
The Government commissioned Monash University's Professor Tony Taylor to develop a model history curriculum for years 3 to 10 following the Australian history summit in Canberra last year.
However, The Age understands Prime Minister John Howard was unhappy with Professor Taylor's draft, which included questions and milestones, and history taught from indigenous perspectives.
"This is not what Howard wanted at all," a source told The Age. "Howard may like milestones but he certainly doesn't like questions. Too ambiguous. Too much debate. Too much thinking . . . he wanted just the facts, the dragnet version of history."
SOURCE: Newsday (9-9-07)
During a chance meeting at a church service, his former high school history teacher told him about a group of anti-war activists who, 25 years earlier, were caught red-handed breaking into a draft board office in Camden. Remarkably, they won a rare and momentous legal victory for the anti-war movement.
The teacher brought up the story because the pastor of the Sacred Heart parish in Camden, where Giacchino's parents worshipped, was the Rev. Michael Doyle, one the 28 activists who came to be known as the "Camden 28."
"How come I've never heard about this thing?" Giacchino recalled asking at the time. "It seemed a subject worthy of trying to help save."
Giacchino spent the next 10 years turning the history lesson into a film. The result, called "The Camden 28," is scheduled to air nationally Tuesday on PBS' "POV" series.
SOURCE: CanWest News Service (9-8-07)
Alastair Sweeny said the gesturing figure with black boots and a red hat may be the only authentic likeness of Jacques Cartier, the French explorer who first reached inland Canada and set the stage for European settlement.
Insisting the picture has been ignored for centuries in favour of "romantic fantasy images" showing a falsely heroic and handsome Cartier, Sweeny said the emergence of digital technology is finally allowing greater access to the 1547 map and enlarged, high-resolution reproductions of its "true Cartier."
"I have no doubt this is a portrait of Cartier the navigator," said Sweeny, an author, historical researcher and publisher of online history resources for teachers. "He is shown as a rough-bearded cloaked figure surrounded by a party of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, soldiers and a priest -- the colonists he was charged with taking to the new world. He is clearly the leader of the expedition, and appears to be giving them instructions."
SOURCE: AP (9-8-07)
Zemper's perspective on World War II aboard B-17 bombers as an Army photo officer will be a part of a seven-part series focusing on the war that will air on public television. The project is sponsored nationally by the Public Broadcasting Service.
"WWII: Through the Lens of Duane Zemper" will be previewed Sept. 13 at the Ann Arbor public library. But it is the second premiere on Sept. 20 in Howell that is creating quite a stir, The Ann Arbor News reported Saturday.
SOURCE: http://chronicle.augusta.com (9-8-07)
Erick Montgomery, executive director of Historic Augusta, confirmed the death. Funeral arrangments have not been announced.
Dr. Cashin, professor emeritus and chair emeritus of the department of history at Augusta State University, authored or co-authored more than two dozen books, including The Story of Augusta and The Brightest Arm of the Savannah: The Augusta Canal 1845-2000.
The Augusta native also founded ASU's Center for the Study of Georgia History and is a past president of Historic Augusta Inc. and a longtime benefactor and associate of the Augusta Museum of History.
SOURCE: Southeast European Times (9-7-07)
"For two centuries, our historiography has been obsessed with continuity, permanence and immobility, a narrow and static vision," says the author in his book, Thocomoerius, the Black Ruler: a Voivode of Cuman Origin at the beginning of Wallachia. "What created the new Europe, the one after the Roman Empire, was an ever moving history consisting of successive migratory waves."
The Romanian voivodeships (principalities) are the indirect result of one such wave, he suggests. The Cumans, a nomadic Turkic people, migrated westwards and established a strong presence in present-day Moldavia and Wallachia. Defeated by the Mongols at the Battle of Kalka (1223), they took refuge in Hungary, while some crossed the Danube into the Balkans.
Many place names in the region -- including Kumanovo in Macedonia and Comanesti in Romania -- reflect Cuman influence. Surnames derived from the word "Cuman" include that of famed gymnast Nadia Comaneci.
SOURCE: Frederick Kagan in the Weekly Standard (rpt. frontpagemag.com) (9-11-07)
The case for cutting and running from Iraq has become untenable in recent months not just substantively but politically as well. Polls show that Americans increasingly believe not only that the surge is working, but also that permanent success in Iraq is possible. So the more intelligent opponents of the war have shied away from the explicit defeatism of Senator Harry Reid's statement earlier this year that the war is lost. Instead, Democrats like Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed are seeking to triangulate between the strategy of General David Petraeus and a complete withdrawal. The armchair generals in the Capitol want to find a course that reduces U.S. forces in Iraq rapidly but that (so they claim) does not assure defeat. Triangulation may be harmless in symbolic matters of domestic politics, but it can be dangerous, even fatal, in war.
The triangulators' strategy? Pull American forces out of active combat operations as soon as possible, reduce the overall American presence dramatically, and leave behind a much smaller force to fight al Qaeda and to train and assist the Iraqi security forces. A force level in the range of 40,000-80,000 American troops is supposed to be sufficient for these tasks. Supporters cite several reports, ranging from that of the Iraq Study Group last December to one this summer from the Center for a New American Strategy (CNAS), as the basis for their new approach.
There are two fundamental flaws in the logic of these proposals: There is no evidence that imposing a timeline for withdrawal will "incentivize" the Iraqi government to make hard choices--and much evidence to the contrary. And there is no evidence that reducing the American "footprint" will reduce violence in Iraq--and much evidence to the contrary.
But the real-world problems of pursuing a politically tempting "middle way" run even deeper. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently conducted an exercise to evaluate the military feasibility of the most detailed and thoughtful middle way strategy--that of CNAS. The CNAS report advocates the removal of American forces from active combat and the rapid drawdown of overall forces in Iraq to 60,000 by January 2009, along with expansion of advisory support for the Iraqi Security Forces and maintenance of a small number of combat units in Iraq to serve as "quick reaction forces." The AEI exercise concluded that the plan simply could not be executed. The margin of failure wasn't close--adding 10,000 or even 20,000 soldiers to the CNAS target wouldn't make it work....
SOURCE: David Corn in the NYT Book Review (9-9-07)
The Historic Face-Off Between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America.]
“Bobby and J. Edgar” is little more than a recycling of previously published books. Hersh lists 54 people he interviewed, but about a quarter of them are authors and journalists who have tilled the overworked Kennedy field. The rest offer little that is new. Worse, Hersh appears to regard all sources as equal. If an assertion, particularly a sleazy one, has ever appeared in a book, that’s apparently good enough for him. Some eye-popping tales of Kennedy sex and corruption have indeed been confirmed by reputable authors. (Yes, Jack shared a mistress with Sinatra and the mob man Giancana. Yes, Bobby bent to Hoover’s request to wiretap King.)
But mounds of Kennedy garbage have also been peddled over the years, and Hersh does not distinguish between the proven and the alleged (or the discredited). Did Bobby really tag along on drug busts in the 1950s and engage in sex with apprehended hookers? Well, one book said he did. Covering the death of Marilyn Monroe, Hersh maintains that she and Bobby were lovers and that the Mafia had Monroe killed hours after Bobby was in her company in order to frame him. For this, Hersh relies on two unreliable books, one written by Giancana’s brother and nephew, the other by a deceased Los Angeles private investigator. Monroe’s death remains an official suicide, and as Evan Thomas notes in his biography of Bobby, “all that is certain” regarding his interactions with Monroe is that he “saw her on four occasions, probably never alone.”
SOURCE: David Oshinsky in the NYT Book Review (9-9-07)
In the summer of 1950, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. turned down the English-language rights to a Dutch manuscript after receiving a particularly harsh reader’s report. The work was “very dull,” the reader insisted, “a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.” Sales would be small because the main characters were neither familiar to Americans nor especially appealing. “Even if the work had come to light five years ago, when the subject was timely,” the reader wrote, “I don’t see that there would have been a chance for it.”
The Anne Frank reader’s report is part of the massive Knopf archive housed in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas. The document is one of thousands tucked away in the publisher’s rejection files, a place where whopping editorial blunders are mercifully entombed. Nothing embarrasses a publisher more than the public knowledge that a literary classic or a mega best seller has somehow slipped away. One of them turned down Pearl Buck’s novel “The Good Earth” on the grounds that Americans were “not interested in anything on China.” Another passed on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” explaining it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” (It’s not only publishers: Tony Hillerman was dumped by an agent who urged him to “get rid of all that Indian stuff.”)
What most disturbed the Knopfs and Strauss were auspicious projects by accomplished scholars that failed to measure up. Upon receiving a long-anticipated manuscript in 1952 from John Hope Franklin, whose earlier book, “From Slavery to Freedom,” had sold well for Knopf, Strauss responded: “I am terribly sorry to have to tell you that, while we recognize the scholarly merits of the manuscript, we are deeply disappointed in its trade possibilities. We feel that you have completely missed your chance to write a colorful and dramatic book.” In 1958, Alfred Knopf sent this pointed note to T. Harry Williams, a professor of Southern history, who also had published a successful book with the company a few years before: “Dear Harry — I am terribly sorry because I would love to have a really good manuscript from you, but ‘Americans at War’ isn’t it.”
(Williams wasn’t amused. “Enclosed is a check for $1,” he replied, “which is sufficient for return postage first class. I would appreciate getting the manuscript back immediately.”)
Such was Knopf’s reputation, however, that authors kept lining up for more. Indeed, in the years between 1940 and 1980, it would have been possible to staff a distinguished history department using scholars who published important books at Knopf after having at least one of their previous works rejected there — a roster that includes Williams, whose “Huey Long” won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1970; Tuchman, whose biggest sellers for Knopf included “A Distant Mirror” and “The March of Folly”; Kenneth Stampp, whose 1956 book “The Peculiar Institution” revolutionized the study of American slavery; and Michael Kammen, whose “People of Paradox” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1973....
SOURCE: HNN Staff summary. Click here to watch the video. (Scroll down.) (9-10-07)
U.S. scholar Haleh Esfandiari says she may never feel safe enough to go back to Iran. She was interviewed by NBC News back home at last after her long ordeal. She said while she was incarcerated she wondered if the world had forgotten about her. She tried hard not to think of her family. She said exercise helped. She'd do dozens of push-ups; keeping track of the count helped keep her mind off her ordeal.
SOURCE: NYT (9-10-07)
Her death was announced by the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan, to which, in 2004, Ms. Benberry donated her vast collection of research papers, historical books, museum catalogs, periodicals and original patterns that covered more than two centuries of quilting history.
Her collection included an array of patterns, from those typical of Colonial America, with their large single images like a Tree of Life or a medallion centered on a sheet of hand-woven whole cloth, to the variety of fabrics pieced together in blocks that became available as the nation’s textile industry blossomed in the 1800s.
SOURCE: NYT (9-11-07)
Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American academic held for four months in solitary confinement in the political wing of Iran’s infamous Evin prison, said in Washington on Monday that she was able to endure by sticking to a rigorous daily exercise regimen and blocking out anything that reminded her of home.
On the three occasions when the prison dinner was an Iranian dish called adas pollo — a mixture of rice, lentils and raisins that is the favorite of her two young granddaughters back in Washington — she said she refused to even look at it, for example.
“Once in prison I decided I was not going to fall apart,” said Ms. Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a research institute in the capital, noting that she now weighs about 80 pounds — down from about 100 pounds when she was first imprisoned. “To maintain my mental and physical well-being, I imposed a strict discipline on myself.”
Ms. Esfandiari, 67, looking vibrant in a dark suit, bright orange scarf and gold leaf brooch, spoke about her ordeal during an hourlong news conference at the Wilson Center and in a separate telephone interview with The New York Times....
“I don’t know what my dad gets,” the president told Mr. Draper. “But it’s more than 50, 75” thousand dollars a speech. He added, “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”
In recent years, virtually every president has left office and parlayed his experience into handsome fees. Criticism has followed.
Ronald Reagan was excoriated for taking $2 million for two speeches in Japan, at a time when the United States was locked in economic battle with his hosts; George H. W. Bush’s association with the Carlyle Group was held up to ridicule in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”; and Bill Clinton has been lambasted for extracting eye-popping fees, sometimes $350,000 a speech.
Adams did it to Jefferson. Teddy Roosevelt did it to Taft. Carter did it to Reagan. Bush I did it to Clinton. Clinton really did it to Bush II.
And now President Bush has his cabinet and staff busily writing far-reaching rules to keep his priorities on the environment, public lands, homeland security, health and safety in place long after the clock strikes midnight and his presidential limousine turns into a pumpkin.
With Congress in Democratic hands and his political capital all but spent by the Iraq war, Mr. Bush has scant hope of pushing significant domestic legislation through Congress. But he still controls the executive branch and can still accomplish much through regulation and executive edict.
The surface of the planet itself was a relatively constant template in the background. You could render it in more detail with, say, better satellite data, but the basics didn’t change much.
Now, though, the accelerating and intensifying impact of human activities is visibly altering the planet, requiring ever more frequent redrawing not only of political boundaries, but of the shape of Earth’s features themselves.
In the new edition of “The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World” (HarperCollins, 2007), for instance, there are before-and-after views of the Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth-largest lake. It shriveled as Soviet-era irrigation projects siphoned off the rivers that replenished it. A dam completed in 2005 now prevents water from flowing out of the lake’s northern lobe, which is expanding as a result.
SOURCE: NYT (9-10-07)
The professor, Nadia Abu El-Haj, who is of Palestinian descent, has been at Barnard since 2002 and has won many awards and grants, including a Fulbright scholarship and fellowships at Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Barnard has already approved her for tenure, officials said, and forwarded its recommendation to Columbia University, its affiliate, which has the final say.
It is Dr. Abu El-Haj’s book, “Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society,” that has made her a lightning rod, setting off warring petitions opposing and supporting her candidacy, and producing charges of shoddy scholarship and countercharges of an ideological witch hunt.
Judith R. Shapiro, Barnard’s president, who is also an anthropologist, said in a statement that the tenure process was “one of the linchpins of academic freedom and liberal arts education,” and that despite the passions, it must be conducted “thoughtfully, comprehensively, systematically and confidentially.” She added, “This case will be no different, both in its rigor and its freedom from outside lobbying.”...
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (9-10-07)
The next 40 years, says Mr. Palmer, saw the history department at Yale, as well as at most other institutions, evolve from a gentleman's club to a "body of serious professionals." Hierarchical traditions faded, as did cultural ones: "No longer could anyone enter its ranks on the basis of social position," writes Mr. Palmer. "And no longer could anyone receive a permanent place in it without surviving the most rigorous scrutiny."
Developments during the 1950s best explain the "academic modernization" that history departments experienced during the 20th century, says Mr. Palmer. The first was a new willingness to hire Jews. Though tough to imagine today, before the 1950s, he writes, "anti-Semitism was still a pervasive fact of American academic life." (It would take 20 more years, though, before women and blacks would begin to gain serious access to departments, he says.)...