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: Telegraph (UK) (12-13-07)
SOURCE: AP (12-9-07)
Hire a guide.
As the 150th anniversary of the war between the states approaches, starting with John Brown's 1859 prewar raid at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., customized tours for people fascinated by the conflict are multiplying.
As little as $50 buys a two-hour, private guided tour of Antietam, site of the bloodiest day of the war, or Gettysburg National Military Park, the high-water mark of the Confederacy, in neighboring Pennsylvania.
Those thirsting for more knowledge can join multistate bus tours of up to six days led by scholars including James McPherson, whose 1988 book "Battle Cry of Freedom" won a Pulitzer and helped rekindle interest in the conflict. The cost of the marathon trek, offered by Civil War Tours of Winchester, Conn.: $950, excluding hotel lodging.
"We interpret the events of the battle as they unfolded, which the average guy can't do standing there reading the park brochure by the wayside," tour operator David A. Ward said.
SOURCE: Boston Globe (12-12-07)
"I need not dwell on his years of service in this community, but prefer to speak of the good fortune of the University in having in its janitorial staff a person who has contributed so much to the Harvard education of so many young men," Mr. Stewart wrote in the Harvard Crimson of David Germaine, a custodian whose example "taught countless undergraduates the value of gentlemanly conduct and of directness and integrity for living a good life."
Hailing contributions by the least-noticed "was part of the fabric of his life - what he, in his little quiet way, paid attention to," said Mr. Stewart's daughter Sarah of Cambridge.
A longtime master of Lowell House, Mr. Stewart also had a deft touch with administration that helped right the finances of Harvard's Loeb Classical Library and the American Philological Association. He died of complications from pneumonia Dec. 1 in his Watertown home after a few years of illnesses and declining health. Mr. Stewart was 86.
"Zeph cared about every part of Harvard, and every part of classics in particular," said Richard Thomas, a professor of Greek and Latin at the university. "He was brilliant in a very quiet way. He knew a great deal, but he wasn't ostentatious about his knowledge, and he had an aesthetic sensibility that it was wonderful to be touched by."...
SOURCE: CNN (12-11-07)
"Have you cracked the code yet?" she asked.
Such is the legacy of that exuberant, violent, messy decade, a time in which American social and political leaders were shot to death, youth did battle with adults literally and figuratively, and a war 6,000 miles away divided the country in ways that continue to resonate more than 40 years later....
SOURCE: NY Observer (12-12-07)
Some reacted to the appointment of Mr. Tanenhaus at Week in Review—where he replaces Katherine Roberts, who’ll move to a senior editorial job at NYTimes.com—with concerns that the quality of the Book Review could decline as its top editor is pulled in two directions. The move comes at a time when many national papers have either been folding their book-review sections, or merging them into other sections. And a few weeks ago, Mr. Keller had announced that the paper would seek to fill new jobs from within.
“It certainly signals the demise of newspapers, that they would have two such important sections run by one person,” said one publishing executive at Random House. “It reflects how unimportant books seem to be at The Times.”
Mr. Keller had already prepared for that response from the book world in his memo announcing the news: “Nobody should mistake this for a diminution of enthusiasm for either the Book Review or for the Week in Review,” he wrote.
There’s no doubt the move is unusual. While there are some editors who head up multiple sections—Trip Gabriel oversees the Thursday and Sunday Styles sections, while Trish Hall runs Real Estate, Dining, and Home—it is rare for the paper to employ one person to head up two major Sunday sections of the paper. Not since the days when there was a Sunday editor—most recently, Max Frankel in the 1970’s, according to a spokeswoman—who oversaw everything from the magazine to the Week in Review, has it happened....
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at HNN blog, Cliopatria (12-10-07)
SOURCE: NYT (12-11-07)
In the months since his convictions in July on fraud and obstruction of justice charges, Conrad M. Black, the fallen press baron who once presided over the world’s third-largest newspaper empire, was not above poking fun at himself as he waited to see how long he would spend in prison.
He received his answer Monday as Judge Amy J. St. Eve of United States District Court sentenced Mr. Black to 6 1/2 years in prison on three fraud charges and one charge of obstruction of justice for removing 13 boxes of documents from the Toronto offices of his media company, Hollinger International, an infraction caught on videotape.
“Mr. Black, you have violated your duty to Hollinger International and its shareholders,” Judge St. Eve told Mr. Black. “I frankly cannot understand how someone of your stature could engage in the conduct you did.”
While the sentence means Mr. Black could be nearly 70 when he is released, the amount of time he received was much less than hoped for by prosecutors, who at one time sought a sentence of 24 to 30 years.
Mr. Black, who will most likely serve his sentence at a federal prison camp at Eglin Air Force Base about 500 miles from his home in Palm Beach, Fla., was allowed to remain free on bail until March 3.
SOURCE: George Galt, Literary Review Of Canada in the National Post (12-11-07)
Armed with his powerful intellect, his cattle-prod invective and the ornate prose that can make him sound like an incensed 18th-century pamphleteer, Conrad Black has from the beginning of his authorial career chosen subjects that have given him an advantageous platform for his conservative views.
He established his bona fides as a historian in 1977 with Duplessis, a revisionist life of the mid-20th century Quebec premier. With that biography, he also began his career as a combative iconoclast eager to blast away at the received wisdom of the Canadian intellectual establishment and the country's political left.
Later, using the same intellectual framework, he expanded his targets to include commentators and activists in the United States whom he pummeled for their misreading of two American presidents....
SOURCE: LiveScience (12-11-07)
The 16th-century English Reformation, the historic period during which the Scriptures first became widely available in a common tongue, is often hailed by scholars as a moment of liberation for the general public, as it no longer needed to rely solely on the clergy to interpret the verses.
But being able to read the sometimes frightening set of moral codes spelled out in the Bible scared many literate Englishmen into following it to the letter, said James Simpson, a professor of English at Harvard University.
"Reading became a tightrope of terror across an abyss of predestination," said Simpson, author of "Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Reformation Opponents" (Harvard University Press, 2007).
"It was destructive for [Protestants], because it did not invite freedom but rather fear of misinterpretation and damnation," Simpson said.
SOURCE: Buffalo News (12-11-07)
Only now — 46 years after his death — is Smitherman getting some vindication.
During a ceremonial court hearing scheduled for today in Tulsa, the indictment filed against Smitherman 86 years ago will be dismissed, thanks to an enterprising historian at the University at Buffalo.
Smitherman, known as A.J., earned a law degree and, after Tulsa, he lived for 36 years in Buffalo, where he started a newspaper and was a respected voice in the black community.
Barbara Seals Nevergold came across Smitherman’s name as she and her colleague, Peggy Brooks- Bertram, worked on their Uncrowned Queens and Kings project, chronicling the lives of black women and men whose stories had been largely forgotten.
As Nevergold researched the riot and Smitherman’s life, she was convinced that he had been wrongfully accused.
“It became clear to me that Mr. Smitherman was a man of integrity, honesty and high morals, which is why it is so important to me to clear his name at this late date,” Nevergold said.
The race riot that began in Tulsa on May 31, 1921, is described as the worst in U.S. history, but the story is widely unknown....
SOURCE: WaPo (12-7-07)
Mr. Bedini was recruited to the Smithsonian in 1961 and became assistant, then deputy, director of what was then the National Museum of History and Technology.
He wrote more than 20 books, starting with "Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers" (1964), followed by "The Life of Benjamin Banneker" (1971), "Thinkers and Tinkers: Early American Men of Science" (1975) and "With Compass and Chain: Early American Surveyors and Their Instruments" (2001).
He also wrote a number of books about Thomas Jefferson and a book on Hanno, a white elephant given to Pope Leo X in 1514 by the King of Portugal.
In 1978, Mr. Bedini became the keeper of rare books at the Smithsonian's Dibner Library. He retired in 1978 but continued to work as historian emeritus until his death....
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (12-10-07)
Richard Hogg, a world-renowned specialist in the linguistic history of English, died suddenly midway through the sabbatical year which should have allowed him to bring important projects on dialectology and on Old English to completion. His best-known achievement is the six-volume Cambridge History of the English Language (CHEL, 1992-2001), of which he was General Editor.
Hogg's roots were in Edinburgh, where he was born, in 1944, grew up and studied. After nearly 40 years away, he was still wholly a Scot in speech and sympathies. His postgraduate career in Edinburgh had begun with two contrasting academic preoccupations: the Chomskyan analysis of present-day English syntax on the one hand (his PhD topic), and Middle English dialects on the other (his research post). In their very different ways, both represented state-of-the-art linguistics of the time....
SOURCE: Newark Star-Ledger (12-9-07)
Price will chair a 17-member committee charged with drafting a short list of candidates for the job of taking charge of the state's largest school district, a post that will be vacated by Superintendent Marion Bolden in June.
SOURCE: AP (12-8-07)
Quite a few, according to the curator of manuscripts at the New York Public Library, which recently acquired from Schlesinger's estate a trove of materials belonging to the noted historian, who died this year at age 89.
"Though Schlesinger drew on his journals as a source for his books on JFK and RFK, they will continue to be a valuable resource," said curator William Stingone. "It is likely that a vast majority of the 6,000 pages of his journal remain untapped if not unread."
SOURCE: http://www.news-bulletin.com (12-8-07)
He's discovered a marker that goads from the grave: "I told you I was sick."
He's stood at the final resting places of author D.H. Lawrence, historian Fray Angelico Chavez and race car driver Jerry Unser Jr.
A little more than a week ago, Melzer's new book depicting famous gravesites in New Mexico hit the bookstores. It's the 10th book published by the Rio Communities resident.
Melzer — a history professor at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus, the vice president of the Valencia County Historical Society and current president of the Historical Society of New Mexico — laughs when he says nine of his books started out as articles.
"It's a family joke that I always start (a book) by writing an article," Melzer laughs. "But I've always wanted to be able to do it."
"Buried Treasures, Famous and Unusual Gravesites in New Mexico History" is 10 years in the making, and Melzer said his travels led him to more than 150 cemeteries in New Mexico....
SOURCE: Shelley Gare in the Australian (12-8-07)
Six years later, her second book, a truly harrowing account of a massacre that has been called the Chinese Holocaust, was published. The event had been virtually overlooked by the world at large for 60 years.
In The Rape of Nanking Chang investigates in gruesome detail the atrocities that began on December 13, 1937 when the Japanese army captured that city in the Sino-Japanese war preceding World War II. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Chinese - the number is fiercely disputed, with some Japanese nationalists claiming 20,000 or less - were horrifically murdered during a seven-week terror campaign. Thousands of others were tortured. At least 20,000, possibly 80,000, women were raped and many of them were murdered, too.
Chang's story is nightmarish in its descriptions, like a handbook from hell, but since 1997, it has sold half a million copies. Sales weren't harmed by the 29-year-old's beauty, boldness and eloquent outrage.
Her demands that Japan issue an official apology, pay reparations and properly educate future generations about Nanking, infuriated elements in the Japanese government and the extreme Right in Japan. The US State Department also fretted about her effect on diplomatic relations. In one memorable television encounter, she took on the Japanese ambassador.
Then, at 36 - bang! - Chang was gone....
SOURCE: Bruce Cole, head of the NEH, at the NEH website (12-10-07)
Cole: Let me just say that Land of Lincoln is a fabulous book. It's entertaining. It's instructive. I think it makes several important points, not only about Lincoln, but about our memory and about our heroes. And it's a very personal book.
Ferguson: Well, I grew up a Lincoln buff. Every time John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln came on TV, I cleared my schedule to watch it, which is not hard to do when you're ten. I had pictures of Lincoln on my wall. I had souvenirs from the many trips my parents had taken us on along the Lincoln Heritage Trail.
Cole: And you grew up in Chicago, right?
Ferguson: Yes, right outside Chicago. My father worked for Isham, Lincoln, & Beale, which is a law firm founded by Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln's only surviving son. Of course, he was long gone by the time my father worked there. Right down the street from us was a house that loomed large in my mind, because Lincoln had apparently spent the night there once on his way to Chicago from Springfield. As a boy, I couldn't go by this house without somehow conjuring up this figure walking up the steps to the front.
Cole: So this was something you caught?
Ferguson: Yes, like a virus. What differentiates that time, the early to mid-'60s from our own, is that there seemed to be more opportunities to catch the Lincoln bug. For one thing, the culture wasn't quite as cluttered as it is now.
Cole: What in particular started you on this book?
Ferguson: I picked up the newspaper one day, in 2003 or 2004, and there was a headline in the Post, or maybe it was the Washington Times, that said, “Lincoln Statue Stirs Outrage in Richmond.” And to find the words outrage and Lincoln in the same sentence—it's kind of oxymoronic. The city fathers in Richmond, Virginia—the capital of the Confederacy—decided to put in a statue of Lincoln, and it touched off a firestorm. There were protests in the streets and letter-writing campaigns and ads in the newspaper.
This was so beyond my understanding of Lincoln and so alien to my intuition about Americans and our past. I mean, we're supposedly so indifferent to history. It's not supposed to stir our blood at all. We're supposedly so very present-oriented and future-oriented and commercial-minded and so on. And here in Richmond was a standing rebuke to this idea.
So I went down there. Two things happened. The anti-Lincoln people held a big anti-Lincoln conference. They brought in these scholars to sort of have a big hate against Lincoln.
I was expecting a bunch of crackers and hillbillies. But they were actually, you know, just regular ole American guys. They could've been airlifted off any suburban golf course in America and transplanted to this hotel in downtown Richmond. They were wearing the Izod shirts, the khakis, the brown loafers, you know, the native dress of my people.
Ferguson: They weren't stupid. They weren't even really hateful. And they knew a hell of a lot more about Lincoln than I did. And this was extremely unnerving. But the second thing was even more unnerving. To rebut these anti-Lincoln people, the Virginia Historical Society and the city fathers in Richmond put on a pro-Lincoln conference. They brought down their own Lincoln scholars to explain why Lincoln was great, and why it was such a good idea to build a statue to him. And they were terrible.
I sat there in the audience, hoping to hear what it was that Lincoln had done that was so essential to the country's greatness. And instead they would say things like, “He was very tolerant of ambiguity.” “Lincoln was very non-judgmental.” My favorite was, “He eschewed nationalistic triumphalism.” And sure enough, the Lincoln statue that they were bringing in was, in fact, quite a small life-sized affair, very humble, placed at ground level. They loved the fact that it was so small and diminutive, because it showed us a sensitive Lincoln.
Now, I may not know, and certainly at the time did not know, that much about Lincoln, but I did know that he waged one of the most savage wars in our history. And non-judgmentalism is generally not high on the list of priorities for guys who wage wars like that.
I realized in Richmond that we'd lost the capacity, we'd lost the language even to describe his greatness. These pro-Lincoln scholars were his friends, and they couldn't tell you why he was great. I realized I was at the beginning of a story, not its end. There was a book to be written here about how we think of Lincoln, why we love him or hate him, what he means to the country at large....
SOURCE: Edward Rothstein in the NYT (12-10-07)
Not a single aspect of life in fifth century B.C., from the most intimate to the most ceremonial, seems to have escaped Herodotus’ gaze. And since he traveled through much of the known world, he had many things to say about manners and customs, gathering oral histories and anecdotes about long-lost tribes, assessing their accuracy and accounting for varied fates.
There is good reason for Herodotus being called the father of history. Before him we have no records of any seemingly dispassionate observer doing anything similar.
But that alone would not explain why Herodotus is still so imposing a figure, or why the publication of “The Landmark Herodotus” (Pantheon) — which includes a new translation by Andrea L. Purvis, and extensive annotation by scholars — is such a worthy occasion for celebrating Herodotus’ contemporary importance.
It may even be that this book makes Herodotus seem less monumental than he appears in other editions, as mystery is stripped away from the book’s exotic allusions and geography. Maps — 127 of them — outline Herodotus’ world; even the text is clearly mapped out, with wide margins offering summaries of each paragraph and identifying the time period....
SOURCE: Jewish Chronicle (12-7-07)
This week, the JC learned that the discredited historian, who last year served part of a three-year sentence in an Austrian jail for breaching the country’s Holocaust-denial laws, emailed Deborah Lipstadt informing her he intended to institute unspecified court proceedings against her.
He told the JC that this could only be done while she was within the jurisdiction of the High Court.
When Irving found out that Prof Lipstadt would be in the UK for a series of talks, he got in touch with her.
In an email dated November 30, which the JC has seen, Irving, 69, wrote: “Please inform me whether you will be available for service of court proceedings, and make a suitable appointment for this purpose; please also confirm that you will take no steps to prevent court officers from approaching you, and cause no steps to be taken to prevent court officers from approaching you on this occasion.”
In his 2000 libel case, Irving was branded an antisemite by a judge after bringing the suit against Prof Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier.
SOURCE: Benjamin M. Friedman in the NYT Book Review (12-9-07)
...After decades of banishment to the realm of sociology and other such disciplines, the idea that a society’s “culture” matters has recently reappeared in economics. David Landes, an economic historian and a living national treasure if there ever was one, began this movement nearly 10 years ago when he looked in part to culture to explain “why some are so rich and some so poor” (the subtitle of his classic overview of world history).
But why not go one step further: If culture is responsible, where does it come from? Why do some countries have an economically helpful culture while others don’t? And, since no society got very far in economic terms before the Industrial Revolution, what caused the culture of the recently successful ones to change?
In “A Farewell to Alms,” Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, suggests an intriguing, even startling answer: natural selection. Focusing on England, where the Industrial Revolution began, Clark argues that persistently different rates of childbearing and survival, across differently situated families, changed human nature in ways that finally allowed human beings to escape from the Malthusian trap in which they had been locked since the dawn of settled agriculture, 10,000 years before. Specifically, the families that propagated themselves were the rich, while those that died out were the poor. Over time, the “survival of the richest” propagated within the population the traits that had allowed these people to be more economically successful in the first place: rational thought, frugality, a capacity for hard work — in short the familiar list of Calvinist, bourgeois virtues. The greater prevalence of those traits in turn made possible the Industrial Revolution and all that it has brought. ...
SOURCE: Patrick Allitt in the NYT BOok Review (12-9-07)
Garry Wills, one of America’s best journalists and historians of the last half-century, has always enjoyed taking familiar subjects and staring at them long and hard until they look strange and new. In “Head and Heart” he invites readers to reconsider American religious history, challenging the conventional wisdom on many issues while synthesizing much of the finest recent scholarship. It is an odd and quirky book, however, going into extremely fine detail in some areas, hurrying past others with a few casual remarks, and deviating in its last hundred pages into political polemic....
Wills seems content, once he gets to about 1920, merely to summarize other religious historians’ general accounts. A great cliché-smasher elsewhere, he now relies on stock phrases in passages on “the Roaring Twenties” and “the Radical Thirties.” A weak chapter on the 1960s begins tendentiously: “It was a time for burning flags, and draft cards, and R.O.T.C. buildings and bras. Also for self-incinerations.” What follows is hardly more than a list of radical individuals and groups, and there is no explanation of the (extremely rare) cases of antiwar protesters who set fire to themselves. He mentions the women’s movement, the gay liberation movement and the American Indian Movement, but not their religious dimensions, even though each had a fascinating religious history of its own, with continuing resonances today. A section on religion and the Vietnam War is bizarrely attenuated, consisting of just two sentences.
Particularly disappointing is that the Catholic Church, about which Wills has written brilliantly at many points in his career, gets short shrift here. An early passage promises a discussion of Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez as exemplars of both head and heart. When it comes to the point, however, Chavez gets just a page and Day is forgotten completely. Catholicism seems altogether not to fit very well into Wills’s principal categories. These shortcomings make the end of the book less rewarding than the ingenious and thought-provoking 400 pages that precede it.
SOURCE: Variety (12-11-07)
Zinn will host the longform project, which begins shooting next month in Boston. Project, to be exec produced by Zinn, Anthony Arnove and First Tuesday Media’s Chris Moore, has not yet been sold to a network.
Damon and Moore have been looking to adapt “A People’s History of the United States” on television for nearly a decade.
Damon, who lived next door to Zinn as a child, and Ben Affleck included a reference to Zinn and “A People’s History” in their Academy Award-winning “Good Will Hunting.” Soon thereafter, the scribes and Moore (also a “Good Will Hunting” producer) sold a 10- to 12-hour miniseries to Fox based on the book.
“A People’s History” was slated to run on Fox in 1999, but that didn’t happen; later, HBO developed a three-part version but eventually passed as well.
The new adaptation will draw from both “A People’s History,” and sequel tome “Voices of A People’s History of the United States,” which Zinn wrote with Arnove. Miniseries will center on the actors and musicians as they read from the books or perform music related to their themes: the struggles of women, war, class and race....
SOURCE: Wayne Hoffman, email sent to HNN (12-11-07)
His death was due to sudden complications following the discovery of two stomach ulcers, according to his close friend Jonathan Ned Katz, a fellow gay historian.
Berube was, for decades, an independent historian and community activist. He first came to progressive political activism in opposition to the Vietnam war, working with the American Friends Service Committee in Boston in the late 1960s, after dropping out of the University of Chicago. After coming out in 1969, he joined a"gay liberation collective household," and later moved to San Francisco to join a gay commune for craftspeople. He remained in San Francisco for many years, and was one of the founders of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project in 1978. His slide shows about women who dressed and passed as men -- and married other women -- were welcomed by enthusiastic audiences around the country.
Berube is best remembered for his groundbreaking work of gay history, published in 1990: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II. The Lambda Literary Award-winning book, which was later adapted by Arthur Dong into a Peabody Award-winning documentary, was often cited in Senate hearings on the military's anti-gay policies in 1993.
Martin Duberman, distinguished professor of history emeritus at the City University of New York, called Berube's book"superb ... not only in terms of his prose style, which was absolutely lucid and even elegant, but also in terms of the very fine-spun analysis. Allan was not one to create shallow generalizations about either a given individual or a series of events. He was utterly meticulous and utterly careful. No one will ever, I think, have to redo the book on World War II, and you can almost never say that about a historian or a given piece of historical research."
In 1996, Berube received a"genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for his work. For the past decade, while living in New York City and the Catskills, Berube had been working on a history of queer working-class men in the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union in the 1930s and '40s, a project for which he received a Rockefeller Residency Fellowship in the Humanities from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY.
Berube traveled the country presenting slide shows about his current research, and lectured on gay and lesbian history at Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He wrote stories for numerous publications, including Mother Jones, Gay Community News, The Advocate, The Washington Blade, Out/Look, and the Body Politic. He also published articles in several anthologies, including White Trash (which included a rare personal essay in which he recounted his childhood in a trailer park in Bayonne, N.J.) and Policing Public Sex, in which he detailed the history of gay bathhouses."Allan took great pride in his role as a community historian," said John D'Emilio, professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of several books on gay history."He loved the excitement that his talks and slide shows generated in an audience, and he loved that he, a college dropout, had written a book that made a difference in the world. He was an inspiration to everyone who knew him, as sweet and kind and genuinely moral a human being as anyone could hope to meet."
For the past several years, Berube lived in Liberty, N.Y., in the Catskills. There, he owned a bed & breakfast, and operated Intelligent Design, a store selling mid-century modern collectibles. Berube's partner, John Nelson, said,"Allan just loved it when people walked into the Liberty store, looked around, and were happy."
Berube was twice elected a trustee of the village of Liberty.
"Allan was extremely proud of helping to preserve Liberty's historic character," said Katz."Allan initiated the successful nomination of Liberty's whole Main Street as a historic district, saved from demolition a major building with a classic 1950s façade, and bought and renovated the Shelburne Playhouse, one of the last remaining performance halls that were once part of the area's many hotels."
In addition to Nelson, Berube is also survived by his mother and three sisters.
SOURCE: John Earl Haynes in a review published in Washington DeCoded. (12-11-07)
Eight years after Arthur Herman, here comes Stan Evans with another effort to pull off what most historians would regard as a Herculean (if not Sisyphean) task: the rehabilitation of Joe McCarthy.
As did his predecessor, Evans does an excellent job of correcting excesses in the historical record — the unthinking, near-hysterical, and far too common demonization of McCarthy. Indeed, Evans’s book is more detailed, and he conducted more original and diligent research into primary documentation than did Herman in his account of “America’s most hated senator.”
So comprehensive is Evans’s research that it will be a foolish historian who does not consult Blacklisted by History when a question arises over some person or event that comes into the McCarthy story. Unlike Herman, however, whose bottom-line appraisal was positive but qualified, Stan Evans’s defense is more full-throated. While granting that McCarthy was “a flawed champion of the cause he served,” Evans judges that the cause needed a “warrior” like McCarthy, and finds that McCarthy had a highly positive impact on public opinion, on America’s Asian policy, and on government security policy....
McCarthyism is such a freighted term that watching the reaction to Evans’s long-awaited book promised to be as interesting, informative, and entertaining as the book itself.
So far, the chief arbiters of what might be called the left intelligentsia—The New York Times and Times Book Review, New York Review of Books, and The Nation—have chosen to slight Evans’s book by ignoring it. The most significant reviews have appeared in the National Review online (“The Enemy Within,” November 30, written by Ron Radosh) and The Weekly Standard. The latter was of particular interest to me, since I have subscribed to TWS since its early days and was, naturally, most curious about how one of my most intensely read journals would treat the book....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (12-10-07)
Katz, an Oxford-trained director of the Lessing Institute for European History and Civilization at Tel Aviv University (where he also teaches Christianity to some Jewish students), says he enjoys his unusual scholarly perch. But Turkey, where he also teaches every other semester, makes him something of an outsider, too, he admits, and it’s the way that outsiders view the country that provides both a focal point for his current scholarship and the theme for a book he is now completing.
The American-born professor, already the author of a half-dozen well-received volumes examining a variety of intersections between European history and the Christian and Jewish religions, is currently working on a new book looking at the history of Anglo-American perceptions of his intellectual home away from home. His research takes place at a fortuitous time when Turkey’s cultural credentials for joining the European Union remain a subject of considerable academic and political debate.
SOURCE: Martin Kramer at his website, Sandstorm (12-10-07)
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt appear at Princeton University tonight, to promote their book The Israel Lobby. I've held back while other critics have had their say, and many of them have done a splendid job. But I don't think anyone has understood the neat sleight of hand the authors performed in moving from article to book. The innovation in The Israel Lobby is their "cold feet" thesis about the Israeli genesis of the Iraq war.
But first, remember why pinning the Iraq war on the "Israel lobby" is so important to Mearsheimer and Walt. Their main argument isn't that the Palestinians are paying a terrible price for that support. In most quarters, that draws a simple shrug. Instead, the duo claim that Americans are paying the price for U.S. support for Israel. They paid it on 9/11, and they're paying it now in Iraq. The killers of 9/11 set out on their mission because of their rage against unconditional U.S. backing for Israel; and the pro-Israel lobby got America into the Iraq war because it served Israel's interests, not America's. America is bleeding so that Israel can avoid doing what it should have done years ago: give the Palestinians their state. And it's because Americans are dying that Israel shouldn't be indulged anymore.
Of the two arguments made by Walt and Mearsheimer, the 9/11 argument is the less effective. That's because very early on, Americans decided that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi, and the 15 of the 19 hijackers who were Saudis, weren't out to kill Americans over Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Al-Qaeda hates us for everything we do and represent--they're 200-proof hatred of America. Americans understood that instinctively, and it was confirmed by the 9/11 Commission Report. The report's narrative showed how the 9/11 plot developed precisely during the years when Bill Clinton fussed over Yasser Arafat. The report became a bestseller, and its impact has been profound.
So the Iraq argument is far more crucial to the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, and it's also dearer to them. It's generally believed that their anger over the Iraq war drove them to write the book in the first place. They both opposed the war before it started, and they signed a prominent letter against it. Much to their chagrin, no one took much notice of their ironclad, realist arguments against going into Iraq. To the two professors, the United States had become an anomaly, a place where the national interest (as they saw it) wasn't driving foreign policy. They explained that anomaly by the distorting influence of the "powerful Israel lobby."
In their original article, Walt and Mearsheimer had a straightforward chain of causation for the Iraq war: Israel pushed the "Israel Lobby" (with a capital L), which pushed the neocons, which pushed the Bush administration into war. I immediately came back with a large body of evidence, proving that Israel wasn't much worried about Saddam, and instead wanted the United States to take care of Iran. Israeli cabinet ministers and officials went to Washington to stress Iran over Iraq, and these efforts even surfaced in prominent stories in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times--articles that Mearsheimer and Walt had missed entirely.
In the book, Mearsheimer and Walt admit that Israel was pushing for Iran over Iraq. And yes, they say, Israel only joined the Iraq bandwagon when the Bush administration seemed set on Iraq. But they haven't dismantled their thesis--far from it. Instead they've come up with the new and improved Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, and it goes like this: the Iraq war must still be blamed on Israel, because in the lead-up to the war, Israel and its lobby worked overtime to ensure that Bush didn't get "cold feet."
Believe it or not, this the new Mearsheimer-Walt twist: the "cold feet" thesis of Israel's responsibility for the Iraq war. For example, page 234: "Israeli leaders worried constantly in the months before the war that President Bush might decide not to go to war after all, and they did what they could to ensure Bush did not get cold feet." And this, page 261: "Top Israeli officials were doing everything in their power to make sure that the United States went after Saddam and did not get cold feet at the last moment."
Mearsheimer and Walt bring not a single footnote, in their copiously footnoted book, to substantiate this new and bizarre claim. You have to be pretty credulous to imagine that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld would waver "at the last moment" when they had Saddam squarely in their sights. You can read Bob Woodward forward and backward and find no evidence of wobble. Nor is there any evidence of Israeli worries that the Bush administration would waver on Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt just made it up.
In doing so, they miss (or conceal) the real story. Israel did worry in the lead-up to the war--not about "cold feet," but about the "long pause." A year before the Iraq war, Natan Sharansky, then an Israeli cabinet minister, went on the record with this quote (missed by Mearsheimer and Walt): "We and the Americans have different priorities. For us, Iran comes first and then Iraq. The Americans see Iraq, then a long pause, and only then Iran." It never occurred to Israelis that Bush would get "cold feet" on Iraq, but they fretted endlessly over just how long the "long pause" would last, and they had good reason.
For example, four months before the war, Ariel Sharon told the London Times (November 5, 2002) that Iran should be put under pressure "the day after" action against Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt bring the quote. But they incredibly omit what followed on the very same day: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw shot back at Sharon on the BBC. "I profoundly disagree with him," Straw said, "and I think it would be the gravest possible error to think in that way." The London Timesreported the spat the next day ("Straw and Sharon 'Deeply Disagree'"), adding that both British and U.S. senior diplomats were "dismissive of Sharon's call." The paper went on to quote "a senior American" who spoke these words: "The President understands the nuances. You can't paint Iran as totally black in the same way as you do Iraq.… I would have a hard time buying the idea that after victory in Iraq, the U.S. is going to turn its sights on Iran."
So the Israelis had good cause to worry. Walt and Mearsheimer write (p. 261) that the Israelis "were convinced that Bush would deal with Iran after he finished with Iraq." No they weren't, because they knew Britain would oppose it, along with plenty of "senior Americans." Precisely because they weren't convinced, they kept coming back to it. And they were right to worry, because in the end, the United States accommodated the Brits. There would be no Iran follow-up. Why? Because Tony Blair did Bush an immense favor in Europe, and the British sent thousands of troops to Iraq. Bush's feet were snug and warm--nailing Saddam had 80 percent public support in America--but Blair felt the chill at home. To keep him on board, Bush gave him to understand that there wouldn't be an Iran sequel, at least not on Blair's watch.
Not only wasn't the Iraq war Israel's first choice; the war's aftermath was a defeat for Israel's own openly declared priorities. Israel is now living with the consequences of that defeat. Here we are in the last days of 2007, and the United States is still in the midst of the "long pause." Maybe it should be renamed: the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has turned it into lame-duck menopause. So much for the manipulative power of the "Israel lobby." The Iraq war and its aftermath prove exactly the opposite of what Mearsheimer and Walt claim they prove. They're evidence not of Israel's influence, but of the limits of Israel's leverage when it comes up against other major U.S. interests and alliances.
In sum, the Iraq war thesis of Mearsheimer and Walt is make-believe, and it doesn't get better from the article to the book--in fact, it's worse. Almost every reviewer has questioned it on some grounds, although not one has identified the "cold feet" thesis. But that's what I propose to call it, and it deserves to be known for what it is: a conspiracy theory, pure and simple.
Frankly I'm astonished when even skeptical reviewers of the book preface their criticisms by saying that the authors have done us some sort of service by opening the discussion. Can you imagine them saying the same thing about a book on intelligent design? That the details are preposterous, but the basic proposition deserves to be discussed seriously by serious people? Yet here we have a thesis, insisting that U.S. foreign policy is run by Zionist intelligent design, and Mearsheimer and Walt have made it a perfectly legitimate subject for academic discussion and tony dinner party conversation. If you say otherwise, you're accused of "stifling debate."
In the real world, Mearsheimer and Walt, far from being stifled, have become media staples, and tonight they'll have yet another podium, at Princeton. The respondent will be Princeton professor Robert O. Keohane, another much-ballyhooed theory-maker who's already hailed the bravery of the duo. "It is bad for political science if some important forces and pressures are systematically concealed," he's said. I think it's a lot worse for political science if some big-name theorists systematically ignore evidence and make it up. If I were a Princeton student thinking of entering a field led by this crowd, it might give me... well, cold feet.