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: UPI (11-28-08)
Oxford University historian Phillip Kay said the first-ever recorded credit crunch took place in 88 B.C., when a civil war decimated the Roman economy and credit system, The Guardian (Britain) said Friday.
Kay noted comparisons between the current credit crunch facing Britain and other parts of the world and such historical struggles.
"The essential similarity between what happened 21 centuries ago and what is happening in today's U.K. economy is that a massive increase in monetary liquidity culminated with problems in another country causing a credit crisis at home," he said.
While Kay has found a link between the historic crisis and today's current economic situation, he admits there is little to learn from the Roman debacle.
SOURCE: Salon (11-26-08)
Hitler's legacy is so repugnant that even his surviving relatives fiercely guard their privacy and have mostly changed their surname, despite any profit they might make from sales of their famous relative's prison memoir "Mein Kampf" or hawking artifacts connected to the Third Reich. For a rational member of society to speak well of the tyrant in public is to create an outrage. One person who famously did so toward the end of her life was Winifred Wagner, wife of Richard Wagner's son Siegfried, who had a very close friendship with Hitler, or, as her family referred to him, "Uncle Wolf." Winifred Wagner claimed to despise Hitler's politics and treatment of the Jews, and saved the lives of various prominent Jewish people through her sway over the chancellor, but she defended her personal relationship with Hitler until as late as 1975, in a controversial five-hour interview she gave to German film director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.
SOURCE: OAH Newsletter (11-1-08)
The Obama Phenomenon in Historical Perspective
Lawrence J. Friedman
Obama in Global Perspective
The Obama Phenomenon in Great Britain
Richard H. King
Can Obama Seize Time by the Forelock?
The Obama Phenomenon in Nigeria
Adebayo A. Lawal
What Kenyans Think about an Obama Win
Reception of the Obama Candidacy in Bangladesh
Khondaker M. Kabir
SOURCE: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk (11-25-08)
Culture Wars are struggles played out within and beyond the arenas of military conflict. Where the word 'culture' once denoted benign enrichment, it is now a term conjuring up images of violent polarisation and conflicting interpretations. Different groups are now prepared to defend their respective ideas of where their cultural heritage begins and ends, who are its guardians and the role this guardianship entails. Entrenched positions strain 'the nexus between cultural heritage and human rights' as is evident in the Balkans, or in the Taliban's deliberate destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.
Such critical moments demand an urgent debate about the changing meaning of cultural heritage and its attendant symbols. Whether the violation is carried out against ancient monuments or modern icons of corporate achievement such as New York's Twin Towers, the underlying motivation for such acts points to an unshakable belief in the validity of a specific cultural viewpoint. Preservation moves perilously close to iconoclasm. Professor Mary Jacobus, Director of CRASSH, points to 'the urgency surrounding the preservation of cultural sites and historical monuments in times of war' as the driving force behind this conference, a collaboration between CRASSH, the Getty Research Institute, and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (11-24-08)
More than 300 Iraqi university professors have been assassinated by sectarian militias since the U.S. invasion in 2003, said Abdul Sattar Jawad, a visiting fellow at the University of Mississippi.
“The campaign to eliminate intellectuals—the people most needed to rebuild the country—continues unabated,” said Mr. Jawad, who taught at Al-Mustansiriya University and edited a newspaper in Baghdad before fleeing in 2005. He added that Iraqi universities are foolishly enforcing a mandatory retirement age of 63, a policy that he said is tearing the country’s best-trained generation from academic life.
Conditions are not much better in Iran, said Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a research associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, in Massachusetts. Ms. Haghighatjoo served in Iran’s parliament during the reformist period that began in the late 1990s, but she left the country in 2004 as the regime intensified its harassment of scholars and journalists. She also previously taught psychology and counseling at the University of Tehran and Shahid Beheshti University....
SOURCE: Esther Ferington at the website of the NEH (11-17-08)
A tireless advocate for the study of Lincoln and the Civil War, Boritt brings a passion for the subject that began during his early years as a Hungarian immigrant to the United States. Born in Budapest in 1940, he endured harsh conditions during the war, only to encounter new hardships under the Soviet regime that followed. His mother died, his father and brother went to prison, and he was sent to an orphanage. After joining the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he fled the country in the wake of its failure.
As a teenage refugee with little or no English, “I came to New York. But it was a huge place, difficult for me,” he says. Someone advised him to “go west,” and he did—moving all the way to South Dakota. Somewhere along the way, he picked up a booklet of Abraham Lincoln’s writings to practice reading English. “I was just amazed by all these things he was saying,” Boritt recalls. “There was something about him that pulled you deeply, meaningfully.” A lifelong fascination had begun.
“I didn’t quite know what to do with myself,” he remembers, but he had always liked history, and he decided to pursue his education. In 1962, he graduated from Yankton College with a degree in history. A master’s degree, also earned in South Dakota, was followed by a doctorate at Boston University. Boritt soon went to Vietnam to teach history (including Civil War history) to U.S. troops.
Boritt’s first book pushed the field of Lincoln studies in a new direction. Instead of focusing on military or political affairs, he looked at economics. Tracing Lincoln’s economic beliefs from the Illinois state legislature, where he championed waterway and railroad improvements, to the White House, Boritt found that Lincoln emphasized the individual’s “right to rise,” to use Boritt’s own phrase. Lincoln, he said, saw the freedom of upward economic mobility (at first, primarily for whites) as an American ideal, as well as a force that could propel economic growth. Boritt has since written, cowritten, or edited sixteen books on the Civil War and Lincoln, including The Lincoln Enigma: The Changing Faces of an American Icon, The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, and Jefferson Davis’s Generals.
After teaching at several universities, Boritt joined the faculty at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. In 1983, he founded the college’s Civil War Institute. Among its other activities, the institute may be best known for its annual summer conference, which brings scholars and participants from the United States and around the world together for a one-week immersion in the Civil War. The 2009 topic is “The Assassination” and will include notable authors such as Catherine Clinton and Edward Steers Jr.
Boritt is also chairman of the board of the annual $50,000 Lincoln Prize, first awarded in 1991, for the best nonfiction historical book on Lincoln or the Civil War era; there is now a $10,000 Lincoln Prize for electronic works. He is a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and a member of the board of the Gettysburg Foundation. His life has also been the subject of a new documentary, Budapest to Gettysburg, by his son, filmmaker Jake Boritt. “At first I hated” the idea, admits the elder Boritt, who prefers not to dwell on his difficult years in Europe. But pride in his son’s accomplishment has outweighed his reluctance, and he is now quick to note the recognition the film has received.
Boritt’s most recent book, The Gettysburg Gospel, looks at the circumstances and history of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln began to write the speech just two days ahead of delivering it, Boritt says, incorporating ideas and phrases that he had used before, but “in a new way, one of a kind.” The speech and its stirring call for “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” received little attention at the time, he notes. Lincoln was not the main speaker at Gettysburg, and in that era, great speeches were expected to be much longer. “It took years, about a generation, before it became a central moment,” says Boritt. “It is an idea that keeps growing and growing.”
SOURCE: Robert Messenger at the website of the NEH (11-17-08)
Though widely known as a Lincoln expert, Holzer is not a professional historian. His career has been in public relations—working on political campaigns in New York and for many years in the administration of former Governor Mario Cuomo and as public affairs director for New York’s large PBS station, WNET. In 1992, he joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he remains today as the senior vice president for external affairs.
Despite the pressures of such work, Holzer has long kept after Lincoln on the side. He points to an early 1970s issue of Life magazine as the catalyst. It had a photograph of Richard Nixon sitting in his study with a print of the Lincoln family on the wall behind him. Holzer knew the print, but Lincoln’s face was markedly different. It sparked his curiosity about lithography and etching and nineteenth-century political image-making. “Lincoln had spent a lot of time cultivating his image as the great emancipator, posing for artists and photographers.” Out of this research came Holzer’s first book in 1984, The Lincoln Image: Abraham Lincoln and the Popular Print.
Holzer is quick to thank those he’s worked for: “I’ve been blessed to work for great administrators who love scholarship: the late John Jay Iselin at Channel 13, Governor Mario Cuomo, Philippe de Montebello and Emily Rafferty at the Met. Philippe and Emily love to tease me, rib me, about my extracurriculars but they are wonderfully supportive.” Holzer has made the most of their support by sticking to a rigorous schedule of writing and lecturing. “For years, I wrote on the train from Rye into the city. Now, weekends are devoted to writing, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Vacations are research trips. I’m not sure my wife and children always loved Lincoln, but they’ve been wonderful. My daughter Remy, who was born on February 11, spent many of her early birthdays in Springfield and Gettysburg. My daughter Meg, who was born on June 3—Jefferson Davis’s birthday—got roped into the Confederate trips.”
Holzer also credits the supportive community of Lincoln scholars. He traces his interest in Lincoln back to the fifth grade when he had to do a report on Lincoln and discovered Richard Current’s The Lincoln Nobody Knows in the library of P.S. 67 in Little Neck, Queens. Current, whose presentation of enduring controversies surrounding Lincoln fascinated the nine-year-old Holzer, later became a mentor to the young historian: “He’s a friend and still going at ninety-six.” So, too, did Stefan Lorant, whose 1941 Lincoln: His Life in Photographs Holzer cites as another major influence. The innovative Hungarian photojournalist had been imprisoned by Hitler in 1933 and fled Germany, beginning his life again first in England, and then in the United States. “He befriended me as a kid, and that book of his that so captured a bar mitzvah boy’s eye and heart remains wonderful. It was certainly the most influential Lincoln book for me. He was showing how you could not only orchestrate pictures and words, but speak volumes in a paragraph—he is still the most concise of all Lincoln writers, an example I wish I could emulate.”
Asked to name his favorite among his own books, he demurs: “The newest is always your favorite. I’m a PR professional, after all. Lincoln President-Elect is certainly the most newsworthy book I’ve done—timed for Election Day 2008—and also the most detailed.” It’s obvious, though, that the 2004 Lincoln at Cooper Union holds a special place in its author’s heart. “I’d always wanted to make the case that New York made Lincoln. As a New Yorker, I got a special thrill out of seeing that book in print. Now I’m serving as guest historian for a 2009 New-York Historical Society exhibit that will carry the story forward: ‘Lincoln and New York.’ ”
To Holzer, Lincoln remains the indispensable American. “One has only to look at the most recent presidential election to appreciate that a gifted person can still rise from humble origins and become president—an extraordinary fulfillment of what Lincoln believed, and lived. What made it even sweeter is that Mr. Obama quoted Lincoln in his own victory speech—closing the circle, and reminding the country that we’ve taken another step to completing what Lincoln called America’s ‘unfinished work.’”
SOURCE: http://www.thestar.com (11-23-08)
The high-profile, 44-year-old Glasgow-bred author and academic, who holds down prestigious posts at both Oxford and Harvard, has written vividly and provocatively about what has come before. His new book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, is a rigorous but accessible survey of the Western monetary system from the Crusades through the development of banking by the Medicis in Renaissance Italy to the stock market crash of 1929 and beyond.
But Ferguson is as likely to be found on CNN parsing the relative merits of the recent U.S. banking bailout with Lou Dobbs. And even when he does excavate the past, he sometimes practises the heresy of "counterfactual history," most notoriously making the argument in The Pity of War that the globe would have enjoyed a happier 20th century fate had Britain stayed out of World War I.
"Many professional historians would say that I have no business talking about the present or even the recent past, much less the future," he says over coffee during a promotional stop in Toronto.
"I don't really understand what the point of that self-denial ordinance is because if historians can't illuminate the future, I don't know who can. There's all sorts of bogus futurology out there, but in my experience most of what people say about the future is implicitly based on some understanding of the past.
"My caveat is simple: There is no such thing as the future, singular. There are futures, plural. And the historian is quite well-placed to offer plausible scenarios based on past analogies."
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (11-24-08)
Born in Cheltenham in 1934, North spent most of his early life in Yorkshire. From Batley Grammar School he went to Merton College, Oxford, to read mathematics, but changed to PPE in order to study philosophy. After teaching in Derbyshire, and passing an external London degree in maths, physics and astronomy with distinction, he taught physics at Magdalen College School, Oxford. He then won a Nuffield Foundation fellowship, held at Oxford University from 1963 to 1968, which allowed him to devote himself to research on the history of science.
SOURCE: http://www.thehindu.com (11-23-08)
He received his Doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985 and an M.S. in Information Studies from Drexel University in 1989.
He held numerous professional appointments including as a research analyst in the Library of Congress (1987-1988); a history professor in Cazenovia College, NY (1989-1997) and Georgia State University, Atlanta (1997- 2004); and as the Director of Summer Sessions, University of California, Davis (2004-2006).
He is remembered for his love of South Asia and his life-long commitment to furthering knowledge of the region’s history and society. His numerous publications and research interests (in Buddhism, Chola history, the medieval world, cities, Bangalore, science and technology) include books such as “Gifts of Power” (1997), “The World in the Year 1000” (2003), “Network City” (2004), and “The City in South Asia” (2008).
SOURCE: NYT (11-21-08)
Mr. McPherson, 72, retired from Princeton 4 years ago after 42 years of teaching there. He continues to lecture and to write, and over the years has also acquired a reputation as a highly accomplished tactician and commander in chief of Civil War battlefield tours. Last week he led an expedition here that was far better equipped than either the Union or Confederate Armies or, for that matter, than some woebegone Boy Scouts who were straggling through Shiloh’s woods and clearings in weather that was considerably worse than on April 6, 1862, when the fighting broke out. It rained off and on all day; the wind stripped the trees of leaves; and twice in the afternoon there was a barrage, a meteorological Gatling burst, of hail. The scouts shivered and donned makeshift ponchos hacked from plastic bags.
Mr. McPherson’s troops, all members or spouses of members of the Princeton Class of 1972, which has more or less adopted him as its official historian, traveled in a chartered bus that, in anticipation of supply-line difficulties, had been provisioned with some $2,000 worth of wine, beer and single-malt Scotch. The troops were issued official Class of ’72 hats, polo shirts and windshirts, but Mr. McPherson explained that both armies at that stage in the war were pretty casual about uniforms. So battlefield wear also included L. L. Bean duckboots, Patagonia slickers, J. Peterman dusters or waxed-cotton Barbour jackets. One guy had apparently raided his golf bag for a rainsuit and a pair of spiked FootJoys.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Princeton contingent tirelessly followed an unflagging Mr. McPherson from Fraley Field, where the battle began, to the Hornet’s Nest, where some 2,000 Union troops eventually surrendered, to Bloody Pond, to the bluffs above Pittsburg Landing, where at the end of the first day Grant drew up his troops and bivouacked. ...
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (11-20-08)
On November 17, President George W. Bush awarded the National Humanities Medals for 2008 during a ceremony held in the White House East Room. Nine distinguished Americans, one museum, and a philanthropic foundation were honored for their contributions to the humanities. Three historians, Gabor S. Borritt, Richard Brookhiser and Harold Holzer, were among those receiving the award.
Gabor S. Boritt, scholar and Civil War historian, was recognized “for a distinguished career of scholarship on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era. His life’s work and his life’s story stand as testaments to our Nation’s precious legacy of liberty.”
Richard Brookhiser, biographer and historian, was recognized “for helping reintroduce Americans to the personalities, eccentricities, and noble ideals of our Founding Fathers. His works of biography and history have rendered vivid and accessible portraits of the early days of the Republic.”
Harold Holzer, scholar and Civil War historian, was recognized “for engaging scholarship on that crucible of our history, the American Civil War. His work has brought new understanding of the many facets of Abraham Lincoln and his era through the study of image, word, and deed.”
The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989 as the Charles Frankel Prize, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.
The Humanities Medal is the most prestigious award in the humanities. Over the last decade, including this year’s recipients, the National Humanities Medal has been awarded to only 107 individuals and 9 organizations. Medal recipients do not compete for this award but are specially selected by the President for their life-long achievements in their areas of expertise.
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (11-21-08)
But new data and analysis from the American Historical Association show the emergence of a sector-based gap in history positions. During the last decade, enrollment in history programs — as measured by degrees awarded — increased in public institutions at twice the rate as at private institutions. But while the addition of new full-time faculty slots at private institutions outpaced enrollment growth in the sector, the opposite was true for public institutions.
During the last decade, the number of history degrees awarded by public institutions was up by 28.4 percent, while the number of full-time faculty teaching history increased by 24.0 percent. At private institutions, the increase in degrees awarded was 14.4 percent while the number of full-time positions increased by 21.4 percent.
SOURCE: CBC News (11-20-08)
The Department of Justice in Washington has confirmed that Montreal-born Black requested that his 6½-year sentence be commuted.
"The Office of the Pardon Attorney received an application for commutation of sentence from Conrad Black," a department official wrote in an e-mail to CBC News.
In March, Black began serving his sentence in the low-security section of the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in central Florida following his conviction on charges of obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of his former newspaper company, Hollinger International Inc.
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at HNN blog, Cliopatria (11-20-08)
SOURCE: Willamette Week (11-19-08)
“If one individual can showcase all the flaws of Middle East Studies in academia, Joel Beinin is that man,” proclaims Campus-watch.org, a right-wing website affiliated with the neoconservative activist David Horowitz.
A tenured Stanford University professor who is Jewish and a Middle Eastern history expert, Beinin has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward Palestine. As a result, he has been a frequent target of accusations his views are anti-Semitic, among other things. A second article on Campus-watch.org calls him an “apologist for terrorists.”
On Nov. 3, Beinin brought that controversy to Oregon when he visited Portland State University as a candidate for a tenure-track appointment in PSU’s history department.
Two weeks later, the repercussions are still reverberating on campus—testament to Beinin’s notoriety and the volatility of Mideast studies at universities nationwide.
“This is one of those flashpoints,” says professor Ken Ruoff, chairman of the search committee for the appointment in PSU’s history department. “This is the real test [of academic freedom].”
One of four candidates for the appointment, Beinin says two PSU professors asked him his political views on Israel. If that’s true, such questions would be inappropriate hiring considerations, says Gregory Scholtz, a director at the American Association of University Professors.
“Particular political views are irrelevant,” Scholtz says.
But in an email to members of PSU’s history department as well as one of the other job candidates, Beinin accuses PSU of holding his political views against him and disregarding the principles of academic freedom separating politics and scholarship. Yet he never let it get that far.
On Nov. 4, less than 48 hours after visiting the campus and giving a public lecture to students and faculty members on the “political economy of Islamic social movements” as part of the job application process, Beinin said he no longer wanted the appointment. (Beinin declined to discuss the matter, but others have said he was considering the post because he has family, including a son, in Portland. Also, PSU offers a focus on modern Middle Eastern history that Stanford lacks.)
“Regretfully, I feel I have no choice but to withdraw my name from consideration for the modern Middle East position,” Beinin wrote in the Nov. 4 email obtained by WW (see the entire email below). “At all levels at PSU there is a serious lack of appreciation for academic freedom. This is especially unfortunate for a public institution.”...
SOURCE: Juan Cole at his blog, Informed Comment (11-20-08)
It was carried by wire services such as Reuters and also the Associated Press.
Gary Kamiya at Salon pointed to it.
Michael Theodolu covered the statement in the Gulf.
Jim Lobe has written about it, under the rubric"Obama urged to forego Iran threats."
The statement follows:
Among the many challenges that will greet President-elect Obama when he takes office, there are few, if any, more urgent and complex than the question of Iran. There are also few issues more clouded by myths and misconceptions. In this Joint Experts' Statement on Iran, a group of top scholars, experts and diplomats - with years of experience studying and dealing with Iran - have come together to clear away some of the myths that have driven the failed policies of the past and to outline a factually-grounded, five-step strategy for dealing successfully with Iran in the future.
Joint Experts' Statement on Iran
Despite recent glimmers of diplomacy, the United States and Iran remain locked in a cycle of threats and defiance that destabilizes the Middle East and weakens U.S. national security.
Today, Iran and the United States are unable to coordinate campaigns against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, their common enemies. Iran is either withholding help or acting to thwart U.S. interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Gaza. Within Iran, a looming sense of external threat has empowered hard-liners and given them both motive and pretext to curb civil liberties and further restrict democracy. On the nuclear front, Iran continues to enrich uranium in spite of binding U.N. resolutions, backed by economic sanctions, calling for it to suspend enrichment.
U.S. efforts to manage Iran through isolation, threats and sanctions have been tried intermittently for more than two decades. In that time they have not solved any major problem in U.S.-Iran relations, and have made most of them worse. Faced with the manifest failure of past efforts to isolate or economically coerce Iran, some now advocate escalation of sanctions or even military attack. But dispassionate analysis shows that an attack would almost certainly backfire, wasting lives, fomenting extremism and damaging the long-term security interests of both the U.S and Israel. And long experience has shown that prospects for successfully coercing Iran through achievable economic sanctions are remote at best.
Fortunately, we are not forced to choose between a coercive strategy that has clearly failed and a military option that has very little chance of success. There is another way, one far more likely to succeed: Open the door to direct, unconditional and comprehensive negotiations at the senior diplomatic level where personal contacts can be developed, intentions tested, and possibilities explored on both sides. Adopt policies to facilitate unofficial contacts between scholars, professionals, religious leaders, lawmakers and ordinary citizens. Paradoxical as it may seem amid all the heated media rhetoric, sustained engagement is far more likely to strengthen United States national security at this stage than either escalation to war or continued efforts to threaten, intimidate or coerce Iran.
Here are five key steps the United States should take to implement an effective diplomatic strategy with Iran:
1. Replace calls for regime change with a long-term strategy
Threats are not cowing Iran and the current regime in Tehran is not in imminent peril. But few leaders will negotiate in good faith with a government they think is trying to subvert them, and that perception may well be the single greatest barrier under U.S. control to meaningful dialogue with Iran. The United States needs to stop the provocations and take a long-term view with this regime, as it did with the Soviet Union and China. We might begin by facilitating broad-ranging people-to-people contacts, opening a U.S. interest section in Tehran, and promoting cultural exchanges.
2. Support human rights through effective, international means
While the United States is rightly concerned with Iran's worsening record of human rights violations, the best way to address that concern is through supporting recognized international efforts. Iranian human rights and democracy advocates confirm that American political interference masquerading as"democracy promotion" is harming, not helping, the cause of democracy in Iran.
3. Allow Iran a place at the table - alongside other key states - in shaping the future of Iraq, Afghanistan and the region.
This was the recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group with regard to Iraq. It may be counter-intuitive in today's political climate - but it is sound policy. Iran has a long-term interest in the stability of its neighbors. Moreover, the United States and Iran support the same government in Iraq and face common enemies (the Taliban and al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan. Iran has shown it can be a valuable ally when included as a partner, and a troublesome thorn when not. Offering Iran a place at the table cannot assure cooperation, but it will greatly increase the likelihood of cooperation by giving Iran something it highly values that it can lose by non-cooperation. The United States might start by appointing a special envoy with broad authority to deal comprehensively and constructively with Iran (as opposed to trading accusations) and explore its willingness to work with the United States on issues of common concern.
4. Address the nuclear issue within the context of a broader U.S.-Iran opening
Nothing is gained by imposing peremptory preconditions on dialogue. The United States should take an active leadership role in ongoing multilateral talks to resolve the nuclear impasse in the context of wide-ranging dialogue with Iran. Negotiators should give the nuclear talks a reasonable deadline, and retain the threat of tougher sanctions if negotiations fail. They should also, however, offer the credible prospect of security assurances and specific, tangible benefits such as the easing of U.S. sanctions in response to positive policy shifts in Iran. Active U.S. involvement may not cure all, but it certainly will change the equation, particularly if it is part of a broader opening.
5. Re-energize the Arab-Israeli peace process and act as an honest broker in that process
Israel's security lies in making peace with its neighbors. Any U.S. moves towards mediating the Arab-Israeli crisis in a balanced way would ease tensions in the region, and would be positively received as a step forward for peace. As a practical matter, however, experience has shown that any long-term solution to Israel's problems with the Palestinians and Lebanon probably will require dealing, directly or indirectly, with Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran supports these organizations, and thus has influence with them. If properly managed, a U.S. rapprochement with Iran, even an opening of talks, could help in dealing with Arab-Israeli issues, benefiting Israel as well as its neighbors.
Long-standing diplomatic practice makes clear that talking directly to a foreign government in no way signals approval of the government, its policies or its actions. Indeed, there are numerous instances in our history when clear-eyed U.S. diplomacy with regimes we deemed objectionable - e.g., Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Libya and Iran itself (cooperating in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban after 9/11) - produced positive results in difficult situations.
After many years of mutual hostility, no one should expect that engaging Iran will be easy. It may prove impossible. But past policies have not worked, and what has been largely missing from U.S. policy for most of the past three decades is a sustained commitment to real diplomacy with Iran. The time has come to see what true diplomacy can accomplish.
Basic Misconceptions about Iran
U.S. policies towards Iran have failed to achieve their objectives. A key reason for their failure is that they are rooted in fundamental misconceptions about Iran. This annex addresses eight key misconceptions that have driven U.S. policy in the wrong direction.
Myth # 1. President Ahmadinejad calls the shots on nuclear and foreign policy.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has grabbed the world's attention with his inflammatory and sometimes offensive statements. But he does not call the shots on Iran's nuclear and foreign policy. The ultimate decision-maker is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the commander-in-chief of Iran's forces. Despite his frequently hostile rhetoric aimed at Israel and the West, Khamenei's track record reveals a cautious decision-maker who acts after consulting advisors holding a range of views, including views sharply critical of Ahmadinejad. That said, it is clear that U.S. policies and rhetoric have bolstered hard-liners in Iran, just as Ahmadinejad's confrontational rhetoric has bolstered hard-liners here.
Myth # 2. The political system of the Islamic Republic is frail and ripe for regime change.
In fact, there is currently no significant support within Iran for extra-constitutional regime change. Yes, there is popular dissatisfaction, but Iranians also recall the aftermath of their own revolution in 1979: lawlessness, mass executions, and the emigration of over half a million people, followed by a costly war. They have seen the outcome of U.S.-sponsored regime change in Afghanistan and in Iraq. They want no part of it. Regime change may come to Iran, but it would be folly to bet on it happening soon.
Myth # 3. The Iranian leadership's religious beliefs render them undeterrable.
The recent history of Iran makes crystal clear that national self-preservation and regional influence - not some quest for martyrdom in the service of Islam - is Iran's main foreign policy goal. For example:
• In the 1990s, Iran chose a closer relationship with Russia over support for rebellious Chechen Muslims.
• Iran actively supported and helped to finance the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
• Iran has ceased its efforts to export the Islamic revolution to other Persian Gulf states, in favor of developing good relations with the governments of those states.
• During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran took the pragmatic step of developing secret ties and trading arms with Israel, even as Iran and Israel denounced each other in public.
Myth # 4. Iran's current leadership is implacably opposed to the United States.
Iran will not accept preconditions for dialogue with the United States, any more than the United States would accept preconditions for talking to Iran. But Iran is clearly open to broad-ranging dialogue with the United States. In fact, it has made multiple peace overtures that the United States has rebuffed. Right after 9/11, Iran worked with the United States to get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, including paying for the Afghan troops serving under U.S. command. Iran helped establish the U.S.-backed government and then contributed more than $750 million to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Iran expressed interest in a broader dialogue in 2002 and 2003. Instead, it was labeled part of an"axis of evil."
In 2005, reform-minded President Khatami was replaced by the hardliner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the same Supreme Leader who authorized earlier overtures is still in office today and he acknowledged, as recently as January 2008, that"the day that relations with America prove beneficial for the Iranian nation, I will be the first one to approve of that." All this does not prove that Iran will bargain in good faith with us. But it does disprove the claim that we know for sure they will not.
Myth # 5. Iran has declared its intention to attack Israel in order to"wipe Israel off the map."
This claim is based largely on a speech by President Ahmadinejad on Oct. 26, 2005, quoting a remark by Ayatollah Khomeini made decades ago:"This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be wiped off/eliminated from the pages of history/our times." Both before and since, Ahmadinejad has made numerous other, offensive, insulting and threatening remarks about Israel and other nations - most notably his indefensible denial of the Holocaust.
However, he has been criticized within Iran for these remarks. Supreme Leader Khamenei himself has" clarified" that"the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country" and specifically that Iran will not attack Israel unless Iran is attacked first. Ahmadinejad also has made clear, or been forced to clarify, that he was referring to regime change through demographics (giving the Palestinians a vote in a unitary state), not war.
What we know is that Ahmadinejad's recent statements do not appear to have materially altered Iran's long-standing policy - which, for decades, has been to deny the legitimacy of Israel; to arm and aid groups opposing Israel in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank; but also, to promise to accept any deal with Israel that the Palestinians accept.
Myth # 6. U.S.-sponsored"democracy promotion" can help bring about true democracy in Iran.
Instead of fostering democratic elements inside Iran, U.S.-backed"democracy promotion" has provided an excuse to stifle them. That is why champions of human rights and democracy in Iran agree with the dissident who said,"The best thing the Americans can do for democracy in Iran is not to support it."
Myth # 7. Iran is clearly and firmly committed to developing nuclear weapons.
If Iraq teaches anything, it is the need to be both rigorous and honest when confronted with ambiguous evidence about WMDs. Yet once again we find proponents of conflict over-stating their case, this time by claiming that Iran has declared an intention to acquire nuclear weapons. In fact, Iranian leaders have consistently denied any such intention and even said that such weapons are"against Islam."
The issue is not what Iran is saying, but what it is doing, and here the facts are murky. We know that Iran is openly enriching uranium and learning to do it more efficiently, but claims this is only for peaceful use. There are detailed but disputed allegations that Iran secretly worked on nuclear weapons design before Ahmadinejad came to power, concerns that such work continues, and certainty that Iran is not cooperating fully with efforts to resolve the allegations. We also know that Iran has said it will negotiate on its enrichment program - without preconditions - and submit to intrusive inspections as part of a final deal. Past negotiations between Iran and a group of three European countries plus China and Russia have not gone anywhere, but the United States, Iran's chief nemesis, has not been active in those talks.
The facts viewed as a whole give cause for deep concern, but they are not unambiguous and in fact support a variety of interpretations: that Iran views enrichment chiefly as a source of national pride (akin to our moon landing); that Iran is advancing towards weapons capability but sees this as a bargaining chip to use in broader negotiations with the United States; that Iran is intent on achieving the capability to build a weapon on short notice as a deterrent to feared U.S. or Israeli attack; or that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons to support aggressive goals. The only effective way to illuminate - and constructively alter - Iran's intentions is through skillful and careful diplomacy. History shows that sanctions alone are unlikely to succeed, and a strategy limited to escalating threats or attacking Iran is likely to backfire - creating or hardening a resolve to acquire nuclear weapons while inciting a backlash against us throughout the region.
Myth # 8. Iran and the United States have no basis for dialogue.
Those who favored refusing Iran's offers of dialogue in 2002 and 2003 - when they thought the U.S. position so strong there was no need to talk - now assert that our position is so weak we cannot afford to talk. Wrong in both cases. Iran is eager for an end to sanctions and isolation, and needs access to world-class technology to bring new supplies of oil and gas online. Both countries share an interest in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, which border Iran. Both support the Maliki government in Iraq, and face common enemies (the Taliban and al-Qaeda) in Afghanistan. Both countries share the goal of combating narco-trafficking in the region. These opportunities exist, and the two governments have pursued them very occasionally in the past, but they have mostly been obscured in the belligerent rhetoric from both sides.
About the Experts
* Ambassador Thomas Pickering (Co-chair)
* Ambassador James F. Dobbins (Co-chair)
* Gary G. Sick (Co-chair)
* Ali Banuazizi
* Mehrzad Boroujerdi
* Juan R.I. Cole
* Rola el-Husseini
* Farideh Farhi
* Geoffrey E. Forden
* Hadi Ghaemi
* Philip Giraldi
* Farhad Kazemi
* Stephen Kinzer
* Ambassador William G. Miller
* Emile A. Nakhleh
* Augustus Richard Norton
* Trita Parsi
* Barnett R. Rubin
* John Tirman
* James Walsh
For more about the experts see the bottom of this page.
This statement is the product of a large group of experts with diverse knowledge, experience and affiliations. While all members strongly support the general policy thrust and judgments reflected in this statement, they may not necessarily all concur with every specific assertion or recommendation contained therein.
SOURCE: ABC4 (SLC, Utah) (11-18-08)
So said one of the nation's leading historians on the LDS Church.
Dr. Jan Shipps has been studying and writing about the LDS Church for decades and decades.
She was also the first non-Mormon to be elected president of the Mormon History Association.
She now suggests the Church is facing a Prop 8 backlash, one which may take years to heal.
"It’s a perfect storm. It’s a perfect PR storm"
That's how Shipps described what the LDS Church has dealt with this year.
Specifically, questions about Mitt Romney's religion, the FLDS polygamy crackdown and now Mormon backlash from Prop 8.
Shipps said, "I would wager that the LDS Church has not faced this kind of negative publicity all at once."
The 78 year old Shipps is respected and revered as a historian not just outside Utah, but in Mormon circles here as well.
She said 'surprised' is probably too mild a word to describe the LDS Church's reaction to what happened since Prop 8 passed two weeks ago.
"I think they are really astonished that there are demonstrations at temples all over the nation."
SOURCE: WaPo (11-20-08)
Accepting the award, Gordon-Reed spoke of "the journey that black people in this country have been on" since the Hemingses were owned by Thomas Jefferson. Referring to the election of Barack Obama, she added that all of America is "on a great journey now."
Peter Matthiessen won the fiction award for perhaps the most unusual of the evening's nominated books. "Shadow Country" is a heavily reworked, 900-page version of three linked novels Matthiessen published in the 1990s based on the life of the legendary Florida pioneer, murderer and murder victim Edgar J. Watson.
"This book was quite a trial for everybody, including me," Matthiessen said. "It took me 30 years to pull together." He hadn't prepared any remarks, he said, because he worried what he'd do with that "pathetic little speech" in his pocket if he didn't win.
SOURCE: Politico.com (11-19-08)
Politico’s Alexander Burns interviewed Goodwin about her book’s new political relevance, the possibility of bringing Clinton or John McCain into the Obama administration – and the limits on the “team of rivals” concept in the modern presidency. Here are some excerpts of their conversation:
Q: It’s not every day that you see a work of history take on such contemporary political relevance. Why do you think “Team of Rivals” has become so popular with politicians?
A: Number one, what you’ve got is a president-elect who reads history and values it, and that’s just a great thing…He called me after he read the book, way back at the beginning of the primary. My cell phone rang, I picked it up and he just said, ‘Hello, this is Barack Obama.’ He talked to me even then about the book, and then throughout the campaign he kept talking about it, how he would want to put people around him who would argue with him, have a range of opinions.
His first step seems to be totally in step with that concept, both in terms of possibly appointing Hillary to be secretary of state, talking with John McCain.
Q: What is it about this political moment that makes this idea compelling?
A: I think it’s the combination of, you know, what we’ve gone through in the last eight years, and the awareness that we’re at one of those moments in time when we have a series of crises that have to be dealt with.
Even Roosevelt, when WWII was on the horizon, FDR understood that, as he put it, Dr. New Deal had to become Dr. Win-the-War, and he brought in two top Republicans, [former Secretary of State Henry] Stimson and [former vice presidential candidate Frank] Knox, to be in his cabinet. He put out the olive branch to the business community…Not that he gave up his progressive goals, but he reached out more so he could bring them together at a moment of necessity.
SOURCE: Columbia University (11-20-08)
Location: Columbia University
Low Memorial Library, Rotunda
Contact: For further information regarding this event, please contact Angela Darling by sending email to email@example.com .
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The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the American Studies Program and History Department of Columbia University have joined together to observe the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 1809 and to mark the publication of Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World (W.W. Norton & Company), edited by Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University.
To view a live webcast of this event, please visit the American Studies website.
• David W. Blight, Yale University
• Christopher Leslie Brown, Columbia University
• Richard Carwardine, University of Oxford
• Catherine Clinton, Queen’s University Belfast
• Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University
• Eric Foner, Columbia University
• Harold Holzer, Co-chair, U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
• James McPherson, Princeton University
• Mark Neely, Pennsylvania State University
• James Oakes, City University of New York
• Manisha Sinha, University of Massachusetts
• Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Topics will range from “Lincoln, Emancipation, and the Rights of Black Americans” to “Lincoln’s Religion” and “Abraham Lincoln, Commander in Chief.”
This event will be broadcast live. Further details to come.
There is no charge for the symposium, but seats are limited. To reserve a place, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-366-9666
SOURCE: Ascribe (11-19-08)
"Historians have pretty much ignored the assassination as a historical event, and they need to weigh in against the excesses of conspiracy theory as false history," says Michael G. Smith, an associate professor of history who will teach a spring semester course on the Kennedy assassination. "We need to begin to respect the dead rather than distort their memory."
"It might take a new generation of scholars, those born after the 'Baby Boom,' who did not live through the event and who do not have a personal or political stake in President Kennedy's loss, to come to grips with his assassination. We need to mark it as a simple crime, a murder solved and closed, as well as understand it as a complex event that has been manipulated and misread."
Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended as the suspect, but he was murdered while in custody. A 10-month investigation, known as the Warren Commission, as well as other government investigations, affirmed that Oswald was the lone assassin, but there are still many conspiracy theories today.
"There are more than a thousand major books and articles devoted to the Kennedy assassination, but hardly any of them are by history professors," Smith says. "High school and college history textbooks, for many years, entertained some of the leading conspiracy theories, and still flirt with them today, oddly enough. My profession has forfeited its responsibility, but this is an opportunity to change that."
SOURCE: Politico.com (11-13-08)
“Doris Kearns Goodwin's book ‘Team of Rivals,’” Obama replied. “It was a biography of Lincoln. And she talks about Lincoln's capacity to bring opponents of his and people who have run against him in his cabinet. And he was confident enough to be willing to have these dissenting voices and confident enough to listen to the American people and push them outside of their comfort zone. And I think that part of what I want to do as president is push Americans a little bit outside of their comfort zone. It's a remarkable study in leadership.”
Obama is exceedingly confident now, in a way that only a president of the United States can be. And officials say that therefore the calculation is very different than it was when he was picking a vice president, and did not seriously consider her.
SOURCE: WSJ (11-15-08)
So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed....
He had no doubts at first, but slowly they emerged. He was struck, he says, by the fact that the first coins bearing Muhammad's name did not appear until the late 7th century -- six decades after the religion did.
He traded ideas with some scholars in Saarbrücken who in recent years have been pushing the idea of Muhammad's nonexistence. They claim that"Muhammad" wasn't the name of a person but a title, and that Islam began as a Christian heresy.
Prof. Kalisch didn't buy all of this. Contributing last year to a book on Islam, he weighed the odds and called Muhammad's existence"more probable than not." By early this year, though, his thinking had shifted."The more I read, the historical person at the root of the whole thing became more and more improbable," he says.
He has doubts, too, about the Quran."God doesn't write books," Prof. Kalisch says.
Some of his students voiced alarm at the direction of his teaching."I began to wonder if he would one day say he doesn't exist himself," says one. A few boycotted his lectures. Others sang his praises....
SOURCE: WaPo (11-18-08)
President Bush also presented the 2008 Presidential Citizens Medal to Bruce Cole, chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities; Dana Gioia, chairman, National Endowment for the Arts; Adair Margo, chairman, President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities; and the former and current directors of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Robert S. Martin and Anne-Imelda M. Radice.
SOURCE: NYT (11-17-08)
That tantalizing reference set off a scramble for the claim to First Reader rights all day Monday before a spokesman for Mr. Obama disclosed what the president-elect had actually read.
The publishers and authors of at least three such books that could fit Mr. Obama’s description each spent much of Monday wondering whether they had just gotten a plug from the soon-to-be leader of the free world.
Anthony J. Badger, a professor at Cambridge University in England, assumed it was his book “F D R: The First Hundred Days” when he started receiving e-mail messages from CNN producers on Monday morning, asking for interviews. Meanwhile, executives at Penguin Press, publisher of a forthcoming book, “Nothing to Fear: F D R’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America,” by Adam Cohen (a member of the editorial board of The New York Times), were convinced it was their title.
And then there was Jonathan Alter, a Newsweek reporter and author of “The Defining Moment: F D R’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope,” published in 2006. On Sunday night, he said, “I got a bunch of e-mails on my BlackBerry from excited friends saying Obama just mentioned your book, exclamation point.”
The mystery persisted for most of the day until a spokesman for Mr. Obama said late on Monday that the president-elect was actually referring to two books: Mr. Alter’s and “F D R” by Jean Edward Smith, a biography published last year by Random House that covers far more than the first 100 days.
There was already evidence that Mr. Obama had read Mr. Alter’s book. In a Nov. 6 interview with Larry King on CNN, Paul Begala, a CNN political analyst, said, “Jonathan Alter of Newsweek wrote a wonderful book called ‘The Defining Moment,’ ” adding that Senator Obama “has been quoting from that book.”
But “The Defining Moment” was published by Simon & Schuster in 2006, and the paperback edition came out last year. Given that Mr. Obama referred to a “new” book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the “60 Minutes” interview, Mr. Alter’s work didn’t appear to meet that criterion. Mr. Alter said that Mr. Obama was “literate enough that he’s probably reading more than one book about that period.”
After learning that his book was, in fact, one of the titles referred to by Mr. Obama, Mr. Alter said: “It’s just nice that we’re going to have a president that has a strong sense of history.”
Mr. Smith could not be reached, but Carol Schneider, a spokeswoman for Random House, was surprised to learn that “FDR” had been one of the books behind Mr. Obama’s comment on Sunday because Mr. Smith’s book was not new. “It’s probably safe to say there was no flurry here,” Ms. Schneider said.
Hill & Wang, an imprint of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which originally printed fewer than 5,000 copies of “F D R: The First Hundred Days” in June and received scant review coverage in the United States, decided to reprint 5,000 copies on Monday morning, partly in response to orders from booksellers. In an e-mail message, Bob Wietrak, a vice president of merchandising for Barnes & Noble Booksellers, said the company had noticed an uptick in orders on BN.com following the interview and was trying to get more copies in stock....