Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 27, 2007

Weekend Reading

New York City recently celebrated Restaurant Week, a biannual affair in which the city’s “best” restaurants offer discounted—and shrunken—prix fixe meals. The summer slump that high-end restaurants experience (due to summer vacations, shuttered concert halls, etc.) is an opportunity for them to attract new customers. It’s also the perfect occasion for neophytes to experience haute cuisine at reasonable prices. Blogs, sadly, experience a summer slump, too, and in that spirit we offer a free sampling of food-related articles from the COMMENTARY archive for this weekend’s reading.

The Zagat Effect
Steven Shaw — November 2000

Culinary Correctness
Steven Shaw — October 2000

Sushi and Other Jewish Foods
Alan Mintz — October 1998

The High Cost of Eating
Ben B. Seligman — July 1967

Forbidden Foods
Erich Isaac — January 1966

Bon Appétit!

New York City recently celebrated Restaurant Week, a biannual affair in which the city’s “best” restaurants offer discounted—and shrunken—prix fixe meals. The summer slump that high-end restaurants experience (due to summer vacations, shuttered concert halls, etc.) is an opportunity for them to attract new customers. It’s also the perfect occasion for neophytes to experience haute cuisine at reasonable prices. Blogs, sadly, experience a summer slump, too, and in that spirit we offer a free sampling of food-related articles from the COMMENTARY archive for this weekend’s reading.

The Zagat Effect
Steven Shaw — November 2000

Culinary Correctness
Steven Shaw — October 2000

Sushi and Other Jewish Foods
Alan Mintz — October 1998

The High Cost of Eating
Ben B. Seligman — July 1967

Forbidden Foods
Erich Isaac — January 1966

Bon Appétit!

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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Shri Pranab Mukherjee issued a joint statement that their two countries completed negotiations on the long-stalled nuclear pact, known as the “123 agreement.” Under this agreement, the United States will provide nuclear fuel and equipment to India for the first time in three decades. Before it can be implemented, however, the U.S. Congress, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must approve the arrangement, which was first announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two years ago this month.

The agreement has aroused the opposition of proliferation experts because it sets a number of troubling precedents. India, for instance, is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Indians will be reprocessing nuclear fuel from the United States, even though Washington is trying to prevent Iran, an NPT signatory, from enriching and reprocessing uranium. And New Delhi has made no promises about not testing nuclear weapons (India detonated a “peaceful nuclear explosive” in 1974 and five devices in 1998).

So the “123 agreement” marks a turning point: America has apparently given up trying to stop the spread of nukes, and is now trying to counter proliferators by enhancing New Delhi’s nuclear capabilities. Both Beijing and Moscow have stymied Washington’s nonproliferation efforts for decades, and the Bush administration has started playing their own game. The Chinese, of course, will be the big losers: the Indians have been their historic competitors in this arena.

Yet the nuclear deal with India represents much more than a momentous change in American proliferation policy. The pact symbolizes the growing relationship between the world’s largest democracy and its most powerful one. The United States and India could end up as the core of a loose alliance of democratic nations matched against the planet’s authoritarian ones. Which means that his administration’s handling of the “123 agreement” may become President Bush’s most enduring legacy.

Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart Shri Pranab Mukherjee issued a joint statement that their two countries completed negotiations on the long-stalled nuclear pact, known as the “123 agreement.” Under this agreement, the United States will provide nuclear fuel and equipment to India for the first time in three decades. Before it can be implemented, however, the U.S. Congress, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must approve the arrangement, which was first announced by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two years ago this month.

The agreement has aroused the opposition of proliferation experts because it sets a number of troubling precedents. India, for instance, is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Indians will be reprocessing nuclear fuel from the United States, even though Washington is trying to prevent Iran, an NPT signatory, from enriching and reprocessing uranium. And New Delhi has made no promises about not testing nuclear weapons (India detonated a “peaceful nuclear explosive” in 1974 and five devices in 1998).

So the “123 agreement” marks a turning point: America has apparently given up trying to stop the spread of nukes, and is now trying to counter proliferators by enhancing New Delhi’s nuclear capabilities. Both Beijing and Moscow have stymied Washington’s nonproliferation efforts for decades, and the Bush administration has started playing their own game. The Chinese, of course, will be the big losers: the Indians have been their historic competitors in this arena.

Yet the nuclear deal with India represents much more than a momentous change in American proliferation policy. The pact symbolizes the growing relationship between the world’s largest democracy and its most powerful one. The United States and India could end up as the core of a loose alliance of democratic nations matched against the planet’s authoritarian ones. Which means that his administration’s handling of the “123 agreement” may become President Bush’s most enduring legacy.

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More on Johnson’s Glass House

Benjamin Ivry’s fascinating post does a welcome job of setting the record straight on Philip Johnson and his appalling record of cheerleading for the Nazis. If anything, it is even more shocking than Ivry relates. He might have mentioned how Johnson accompanied Hitler’s panzer divisions on their Blitzkrieg through Poland in September 1939 and watched the bombardment of Warsaw. (His chipper report? “It was a stirring spectacle.”) An obituary of Johnson by Anne Applebaum, published in the Washington Post on February 2, 2005, provides much additional useful material.

In his response to Ivry’s post, Lawrence Gulotta asks if we can “enjoy the art and ignore the politics.” The answer is maybe—but not until we have fully and honestly explored the connections between the art and politics. In the case of Leni Riefenstahl, for example, the political content of their work is explicit, and we know precisely how much we may permit ourselves to admire the editing of Triumph of the Will. In the case of Johnson, is there a connection between the sinister politics and the frosty, impersonal austerity of his International Style architecture? So far, there has been no thoughtful exploration of the question. It is easy to see why: for over sixty years, Johnson was the most influential figure in the Museum of Modern Art, exerting ferocious power in the architectural profession, architectural publishing, and schools of architecture. No such investigation was possible. Now it is, and until it has been completed, perhaps Johnson’s architectural legacy must be accompanied by an asterisk, much like those that mark the records of steroid-using baseball stars.

Benjamin Ivry’s fascinating post does a welcome job of setting the record straight on Philip Johnson and his appalling record of cheerleading for the Nazis. If anything, it is even more shocking than Ivry relates. He might have mentioned how Johnson accompanied Hitler’s panzer divisions on their Blitzkrieg through Poland in September 1939 and watched the bombardment of Warsaw. (His chipper report? “It was a stirring spectacle.”) An obituary of Johnson by Anne Applebaum, published in the Washington Post on February 2, 2005, provides much additional useful material.

In his response to Ivry’s post, Lawrence Gulotta asks if we can “enjoy the art and ignore the politics.” The answer is maybe—but not until we have fully and honestly explored the connections between the art and politics. In the case of Leni Riefenstahl, for example, the political content of their work is explicit, and we know precisely how much we may permit ourselves to admire the editing of Triumph of the Will. In the case of Johnson, is there a connection between the sinister politics and the frosty, impersonal austerity of his International Style architecture? So far, there has been no thoughtful exploration of the question. It is easy to see why: for over sixty years, Johnson was the most influential figure in the Museum of Modern Art, exerting ferocious power in the architectural profession, architectural publishing, and schools of architecture. No such investigation was possible. Now it is, and until it has been completed, perhaps Johnson’s architectural legacy must be accompanied by an asterisk, much like those that mark the records of steroid-using baseball stars.

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Mahmoud, Hugo, Kim, Fidel, Barack, and Hillary

The Miami Herald calls it one of the “biggest dust-ups of the presidential race so far,” and the sprinkling continues.

At the YouTube Democratic presidential debate on Monday, Barack Obama was asked whether he would meet with the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran without preconditions. “I would,” he replied, saying it was a “disgrace” that we were not. Hillary Clinton, for her part, demurred, saying that “Certainly, we’re not going to just have our President meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and you know, the president of North Korea, Iran, and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.”

Obama has subsequently called Hillary’s stance “Bush-Cheney lite.” Clinton has called the Illinois Senator’s comments “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Thus far, conservatives and conservative outlets have tended at least implicitly to side with Clinton. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney of Massachusetts called Obama’s statement “outrageous,” saying it “suggests an agenda that is not in keeping with an agenda focused on building friendships with our allies.” Investor’s Business Daily said it bespeaks an inability to handle “curveballs,” reinforcing “the idea that [Obama is] an inexperienced lightweight.”

As for Clinton’s entourage, it has weighed in with arguments of its own. At the behest of Hillary’s campaign organization, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, held a conference call with reporters in which she characterized Hillary’s approach as meaning that we should not engage in talks without preparation. “Without having done the diplomatic spade work, it would not really prove anything,” Albright said.

What are the real issues here, and who is right?

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The Miami Herald calls it one of the “biggest dust-ups of the presidential race so far,” and the sprinkling continues.

At the YouTube Democratic presidential debate on Monday, Barack Obama was asked whether he would meet with the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran without preconditions. “I would,” he replied, saying it was a “disgrace” that we were not. Hillary Clinton, for her part, demurred, saying that “Certainly, we’re not going to just have our President meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and you know, the president of North Korea, Iran, and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.”

Obama has subsequently called Hillary’s stance “Bush-Cheney lite.” Clinton has called the Illinois Senator’s comments “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Thus far, conservatives and conservative outlets have tended at least implicitly to side with Clinton. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney of Massachusetts called Obama’s statement “outrageous,” saying it “suggests an agenda that is not in keeping with an agenda focused on building friendships with our allies.” Investor’s Business Daily said it bespeaks an inability to handle “curveballs,” reinforcing “the idea that [Obama is] an inexperienced lightweight.”

As for Clinton’s entourage, it has weighed in with arguments of its own. At the behest of Hillary’s campaign organization, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, held a conference call with reporters in which she characterized Hillary’s approach as meaning that we should not engage in talks without preparation. “Without having done the diplomatic spade work, it would not really prove anything,” Albright said.

What are the real issues here, and who is right?

Albright’s comments make plain that Hillary, like Obama, would engage these four odious regimes in talks, only she would do so with diplomatic preparation. In other words, before the U.S. President would sit down with a Kim Jong Il or a Hugo Chavez, an agenda would first be hammered out, and the two sides would have some agreements in place before the leaders gathered at the table. In this way, in Clinton’s words, she would not put “the power and prestige of the United States President” at risk “by rushing into meetings.” Obama, by contrast, would meet with an Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or a Fidel Castro without any sort of diplomatic spadework.

Paradoxically, that might seem a preferable approach. Under it, a President could tell things as they are, declare directly, say, to Ahmadinejad in front of the world that his denial of the Holocaust is disgusting, reprehensible, and unacceptable and his pursuit of nuclear weapons something the U.S. will never abide. Meeting with Chavez, Castro, Kim Jong Il and the rest, Obama could engage in Reaganesque theater on the world stage—the equivalent of traveling to Berlin and demanding Mikhail Gorbachev “tear down this wall.”

Now let’s see what Hillary and her people have in mind when they talk about diplomatic “spadework.” They don’t say. But diplomacy and negotiation imply give and take, concessions from both sides. Will the U.S. come out the winner, or will the mere fact of interchange confer legitimacy, and a propaganda victory, on pariah regimes?

Of course, in attacking Hillary’s unwillingness to talk to dictators as “Bushy-Cheney lite,” Obama is signaling that he himself has no diplomatic agenda beyond talk itself. That would indeed be the worst of all worlds, but is it worse than, or materially different from, what Hillary has in mind?

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Hizballah’s Racket

While Lebanon’s army is busy completing the “urban restructuring” of the refugee camp at Nahr el Bared (no doubt in full compliance with international and human rights law), UNIFIL forces in the South have sought to avoid future surprises by “turning to Hizballah for protection.”

According to reports quoting UNIFIL sources, intelligence agents from Italy, France, and Spain met with Hezbollah representatives in the southern city of Sidon in April. As a result, some Spanish peacekeepers subsequently were “escorted” on some of their patrols by Hizballah members in civilian vehicles. Too bad there were no such escorts on the day six members of the Spanish contingent were blown to bits by a roadside bomb. But not to worry—UNIFIL/Hizballah collaboration continues. After the attack, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos promptly spoke with his Iranian counterpart Manucher Mottaki, and (according to the same reports) Spanish UNIFIL officers and Hizballah officials have met once at least since the bombing took place.

Why should this surprise anyone? After all, this practice goes beyond the confines of Lebanon. Mme. Sarkozy’s trip to Lybia involved the same kind of logic, which is in line with a time-honored Mediterranean tradition. Protection has its price, after all, and extortion sooner or later yields dividends for all involved. The extortionists get what they want (money for a hospital, trade with Europe, docile peacekeepers). And those who pay them, in whatever currency, stay alive.

While Lebanon’s army is busy completing the “urban restructuring” of the refugee camp at Nahr el Bared (no doubt in full compliance with international and human rights law), UNIFIL forces in the South have sought to avoid future surprises by “turning to Hizballah for protection.”

According to reports quoting UNIFIL sources, intelligence agents from Italy, France, and Spain met with Hezbollah representatives in the southern city of Sidon in April. As a result, some Spanish peacekeepers subsequently were “escorted” on some of their patrols by Hizballah members in civilian vehicles. Too bad there were no such escorts on the day six members of the Spanish contingent were blown to bits by a roadside bomb. But not to worry—UNIFIL/Hizballah collaboration continues. After the attack, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos promptly spoke with his Iranian counterpart Manucher Mottaki, and (according to the same reports) Spanish UNIFIL officers and Hizballah officials have met once at least since the bombing took place.

Why should this surprise anyone? After all, this practice goes beyond the confines of Lebanon. Mme. Sarkozy’s trip to Lybia involved the same kind of logic, which is in line with a time-honored Mediterranean tradition. Protection has its price, after all, and extortion sooner or later yields dividends for all involved. The extortionists get what they want (money for a hospital, trade with Europe, docile peacekeepers). And those who pay them, in whatever currency, stay alive.

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