Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 14, 2007

Michael Scheuer Watch #13: Guilt by Association

Why has the National Alliance endorsed the work of former CIA officer Michael Scheuer? NatAllNews.com, the best “single source for worldwide pro-White news,” presents some choice quotations from our hero here.

Why has David Duke endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer? The former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard explains why in “More Americans Becoming Immune to Zionist Propaganda.”

Why has the National Alliance endorsed John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s paper on The Israel Lobby? The Alliance explains why in “Jews Run American Foreign Policy, says University Researchers.” 

Why has David Duke endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt’s work? Duke explains why in “Stop Cowering to the Jewish Supremacists!

There are many dots here.

1. The National Alliance has endorsed Scheuer.

2. Duke has endorsed Scheuer.

3. The National Alliance has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

4. Duke has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

To these four dots, we can connect two more:

1. Scheuer has endorsed the work of Mearsheimer and Walt.

2. Mearsheimer and Walt have endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer.

Connecting the Dots has two questions for readers:

What do these figures all have in common? How many separate lines are required to connect each of these dots with one another?

The author of the first correct answer will win a free copy of Michael Scheuer’s forthcoming book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. To enter the contest, simply send the correct answer along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to Connecting the Dots at this address.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

Why has the National Alliance endorsed the work of former CIA officer Michael Scheuer? NatAllNews.com, the best “single source for worldwide pro-White news,” presents some choice quotations from our hero here.

Why has David Duke endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer? The former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard explains why in “More Americans Becoming Immune to Zionist Propaganda.”

Why has the National Alliance endorsed John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s paper on The Israel Lobby? The Alliance explains why in “Jews Run American Foreign Policy, says University Researchers.” 

Why has David Duke endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt’s work? Duke explains why in “Stop Cowering to the Jewish Supremacists!

There are many dots here.

1. The National Alliance has endorsed Scheuer.

2. Duke has endorsed Scheuer.

3. The National Alliance has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

4. Duke has endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt.

To these four dots, we can connect two more:

1. Scheuer has endorsed the work of Mearsheimer and Walt.

2. Mearsheimer and Walt have endorsed the work of Michael Scheuer.

Connecting the Dots has two questions for readers:

What do these figures all have in common? How many separate lines are required to connect each of these dots with one another?

The author of the first correct answer will win a free copy of Michael Scheuer’s forthcoming book, Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq. To enter the contest, simply send the correct answer along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to Connecting the Dots at this address.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

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Sally Quinn: Gee, There’s This Thing Called Religion!

Newsweek and the Washington Post are celebrating the first anniversary of their joint website, “On Faith,” which is billed as “A Conversation on Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn.” And therein hangs a tale.

Meacham is the managing editor of Newsweek and perhaps the only serious student of religion among the top editors in the mainstream media. Quinn is another story. She became famous first for a disastrous stint as the co-host of a morning news show in the 1970s and then as the star snark writer of profiles during the heyday of the Washington Post’s Style section in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After that she wrote several trashy bestsellers about D.C. life.

I tell you all this because Sally Quinn has written a post on the website on the occasion of its first anniversary that is one of the most dumbfounding documents I have ever read. It is like Augustine’s Confessions, if Augustine’s Confessions had been written by a combination of Helen Gurley Brown and Britney Spears.

You really have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor, but I will here provide you with some choice excerpts:

When we started this I knew practically nothing about religion or the internet. I was not a believer (Jon Meacham is an Episcopalian, a practicing Christian) so I felt secure that I had his experience and knowledge to give us the grounding we needed. Even so it was such an unlikely subject for me to get involved with that even my husband was in shock. My friends still report people sidling up to them at cocktail parties and saying, “What’s with Sally and this religion thing?”

When you really think about it though, it’s not all that surprising. I’m a journalist. I always want to know everything about everything. Curiosity is a driving force with me. In fact I remember when I was eleven, meeting this really cute guy whose mother brought him over to our house one day. I began asking him questions about himself and he finally turned to me and said, “Gee, you’re nosy. ”I was devastated. I had been genuinely interested and wanted to know more about him….

Ultimately each of us is searching for some kind of meaning. Whether we are Christians or Jews or Hindus or Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans or Atheists or whatever, we are all looking for a way to understand why we are here and to find our own happiness and contentment.

When I announced to Jon several years ago that I was an atheist he challenged me. He said I should not define myself negatively, for one thing, and that if I was really serious about not believing in God that I should at least have some knowledge about what it was I didn’t believe in. At that point I was completely illiterate on the subject, having been disdainful and contemptuous of religion all of my life. But I took what he said to heart and began to read some of the books he suggested. Once again my curiosity got the best of me.

All I can say is that I was shocked and embarrassed at how little I knew, and ultimately ashamed of myself for proclaiming myself an atheist when I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

I also began to realize that so many people in this world who call themselves religious were just like me. They not only knew nothing or little about their own faith but were just as close minded and hostile to other religions as I was to all religion.

The more I read the more I wanted to read and the more obsessed I became with the subject.

Finally in March I took a trip around the world to study the Great Faiths. It was a private tour and we started in Rome. From there we went to Jerusalem in Israel and Bethlehem in Palestine, Kyoto, Japan; Chengdu, China; Lhasa, Tibet; Varanasi, New Delhi and Amritsar in India; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cairo, Egypt; Armenia; and Istanbul, Turkey. When I told my friend, “On Faith” panelist and religion scholar Elaine Pagels, about the trip she asked how long I had spent. “Three weeks ‘”I replied. “But,” she said in astonishment, “you can’t do that trip in less than three years!.” She was right, actually….

What for me, was the most enlightening thing about my trip was how similar the basic tenets of all religions are. There are some scholars who might argue that point but I felt that ultimately, if you take away all of the evil that has been done in the name of religion (and that’s what I had concentrated on most of my life) you will find that exhortation by Confucius, “What you do not wish for youself, do not do to others,” is really the basis of most world religions. It is the practices and interpretations of that where the faiths diverge.

The trip bolstered my belief in what Jon and I were doing. I felt even more strongly that it was vitally important for people of all faiths and no faiths to understand each other and that we must do everything we could do to foster that understanding….

This country was founded on the concept of separation of church and state. There is a huge difference between understanding and respecting the faiths of others and trying to impose your faith on others. The more we understand about other faiths, I believe, the less likely we will be to try to coerce others into believing as we do.

That is our goal.

Remember: This is the woman who is the co-editor of a religion website co-managed by one of the nation’s two most important newspapers and one of the nation’s two most important magazines. Neither organization, it’s safe to say, would allow a person as gleefully ignorant and simultaneously archly portentous as Quinn to co-host a site about, oh, sports with the level of knowledge and interest she possessed before taking on “On Faith.” And who, after a year’s thin study, feels herself competent to speak with surpassingly confident banality about the differences and commonalities of the world’s major religions.

Newsweek and the Washington Post are celebrating the first anniversary of their joint website, “On Faith,” which is billed as “A Conversation on Religion with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn.” And therein hangs a tale.

Meacham is the managing editor of Newsweek and perhaps the only serious student of religion among the top editors in the mainstream media. Quinn is another story. She became famous first for a disastrous stint as the co-host of a morning news show in the 1970s and then as the star snark writer of profiles during the heyday of the Washington Post’s Style section in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After that she wrote several trashy bestsellers about D.C. life.

I tell you all this because Sally Quinn has written a post on the website on the occasion of its first anniversary that is one of the most dumbfounding documents I have ever read. It is like Augustine’s Confessions, if Augustine’s Confessions had been written by a combination of Helen Gurley Brown and Britney Spears.

You really have to read the whole thing to get the full flavor, but I will here provide you with some choice excerpts:

When we started this I knew practically nothing about religion or the internet. I was not a believer (Jon Meacham is an Episcopalian, a practicing Christian) so I felt secure that I had his experience and knowledge to give us the grounding we needed. Even so it was such an unlikely subject for me to get involved with that even my husband was in shock. My friends still report people sidling up to them at cocktail parties and saying, “What’s with Sally and this religion thing?”

When you really think about it though, it’s not all that surprising. I’m a journalist. I always want to know everything about everything. Curiosity is a driving force with me. In fact I remember when I was eleven, meeting this really cute guy whose mother brought him over to our house one day. I began asking him questions about himself and he finally turned to me and said, “Gee, you’re nosy. ”I was devastated. I had been genuinely interested and wanted to know more about him….

Ultimately each of us is searching for some kind of meaning. Whether we are Christians or Jews or Hindus or Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans or Atheists or whatever, we are all looking for a way to understand why we are here and to find our own happiness and contentment.

When I announced to Jon several years ago that I was an atheist he challenged me. He said I should not define myself negatively, for one thing, and that if I was really serious about not believing in God that I should at least have some knowledge about what it was I didn’t believe in. At that point I was completely illiterate on the subject, having been disdainful and contemptuous of religion all of my life. But I took what he said to heart and began to read some of the books he suggested. Once again my curiosity got the best of me.

All I can say is that I was shocked and embarrassed at how little I knew, and ultimately ashamed of myself for proclaiming myself an atheist when I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

I also began to realize that so many people in this world who call themselves religious were just like me. They not only knew nothing or little about their own faith but were just as close minded and hostile to other religions as I was to all religion.

The more I read the more I wanted to read and the more obsessed I became with the subject.

Finally in March I took a trip around the world to study the Great Faiths. It was a private tour and we started in Rome. From there we went to Jerusalem in Israel and Bethlehem in Palestine, Kyoto, Japan; Chengdu, China; Lhasa, Tibet; Varanasi, New Delhi and Amritsar in India; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cairo, Egypt; Armenia; and Istanbul, Turkey. When I told my friend, “On Faith” panelist and religion scholar Elaine Pagels, about the trip she asked how long I had spent. “Three weeks ‘”I replied. “But,” she said in astonishment, “you can’t do that trip in less than three years!.” She was right, actually….

What for me, was the most enlightening thing about my trip was how similar the basic tenets of all religions are. There are some scholars who might argue that point but I felt that ultimately, if you take away all of the evil that has been done in the name of religion (and that’s what I had concentrated on most of my life) you will find that exhortation by Confucius, “What you do not wish for youself, do not do to others,” is really the basis of most world religions. It is the practices and interpretations of that where the faiths diverge.

The trip bolstered my belief in what Jon and I were doing. I felt even more strongly that it was vitally important for people of all faiths and no faiths to understand each other and that we must do everything we could do to foster that understanding….

This country was founded on the concept of separation of church and state. There is a huge difference between understanding and respecting the faiths of others and trying to impose your faith on others. The more we understand about other faiths, I believe, the less likely we will be to try to coerce others into believing as we do.

That is our goal.

Remember: This is the woman who is the co-editor of a religion website co-managed by one of the nation’s two most important newspapers and one of the nation’s two most important magazines. Neither organization, it’s safe to say, would allow a person as gleefully ignorant and simultaneously archly portentous as Quinn to co-host a site about, oh, sports with the level of knowledge and interest she possessed before taking on “On Faith.” And who, after a year’s thin study, feels herself competent to speak with surpassingly confident banality about the differences and commonalities of the world’s major religions.

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Columbia’s Tenured Thugs

We are called upon, ladies and gentlemen, to join the arts and sciences faculty of Columbia University in being aghast at the depredations of Lee Bollinger, who has not sufficiently expressed his intolerance for critics of the arts and sciences faculty, and who forced the entire university into lockstep with the Bush administration by saying mean things to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are truly dark days for the sensitive souls of the sociology department.

More than 100 faculty members issued a declaration yesterday stating that “President Bollinger has failed to make a vigorous defense of the core principles on which the university is founded, especially academic freedom.” They note in particular that 1) the Bollinger administration has not made “unequivocally clear” that attempts by “outside groups…to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught” will not be tolerated (whatever that entails). 2) That the faculty has not been sufficiently consulted before making “decisions on key issues.” Point three bears reprinting in full:

The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.”

And finally, Bollinger “has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East in particular, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area. His conflation of his own political position with that of the University is unacceptable.”

In case you didn’t get the message, Professor Eric Foner told the New York Times, regarding Bollinger’s treatment of Ahmadinejad: “This is the language of warfare at a time when the administration of our country is trying to whip up Iran.” Isn’t it clear to you now that Bollinger is just a Bush stooge? This letter, coming after the ouster of Larry Summers at Harvard largely by the humanities faculty, has caused a stir on campus, and the most eloquent response happily has come from a dissenting group of Columbia professors, from the quantitative fields. Responding to point 1, they write that

When nonacademics and outsiders encounter or hear about what they consider inappropriate forms of teaching, allegations of intimidation or harassment, or the distortion of basic historical or scientific facts, they are justified in expressing, and entitled by the First Amendment to express, their objections. No university administration has the power to prevent such expression.

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We are called upon, ladies and gentlemen, to join the arts and sciences faculty of Columbia University in being aghast at the depredations of Lee Bollinger, who has not sufficiently expressed his intolerance for critics of the arts and sciences faculty, and who forced the entire university into lockstep with the Bush administration by saying mean things to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are truly dark days for the sensitive souls of the sociology department.

More than 100 faculty members issued a declaration yesterday stating that “President Bollinger has failed to make a vigorous defense of the core principles on which the university is founded, especially academic freedom.” They note in particular that 1) the Bollinger administration has not made “unequivocally clear” that attempts by “outside groups…to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught” will not be tolerated (whatever that entails). 2) That the faculty has not been sufficiently consulted before making “decisions on key issues.” Point three bears reprinting in full:

The president’s address on the occasion of President Ahmadinejad’s visit has sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone, and has abetted a climate in which incendiary speech prevails over open debate. The president’s introductory remarks were not only uncivil and bad pedagogy, they allied the University with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, a position anathema to many in the University community.”

And finally, Bollinger “has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East in particular, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area. His conflation of his own political position with that of the University is unacceptable.”

In case you didn’t get the message, Professor Eric Foner told the New York Times, regarding Bollinger’s treatment of Ahmadinejad: “This is the language of warfare at a time when the administration of our country is trying to whip up Iran.” Isn’t it clear to you now that Bollinger is just a Bush stooge? This letter, coming after the ouster of Larry Summers at Harvard largely by the humanities faculty, has caused a stir on campus, and the most eloquent response happily has come from a dissenting group of Columbia professors, from the quantitative fields. Responding to point 1, they write that

When nonacademics and outsiders encounter or hear about what they consider inappropriate forms of teaching, allegations of intimidation or harassment, or the distortion of basic historical or scientific facts, they are justified in expressing, and entitled by the First Amendment to express, their objections. No university administration has the power to prevent such expression.

Isn’t it curious that it has fallen to a group of scientists to explain to the university’s humanities professors what the First Amendment means? The rest of the letter is similarly devastating, as it starkly exposes the mendacity and bad faith of the humanities professors:

That President Bollinger’s introductory remarks to Ahmadinejad “allied the university with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq”: As the publicly available transcript confirms, these remarks addressed sequentially: 1) Holocaust denial; 2) Ahmadinejad’s stated intent to destroy Israel; 3) Iran’s funding of terrorism; 4) Iran’s proxy war against US troops in Iraq; and 5) Iran’s nuclear program. Only the fourth item refers to the war in Iraq, and only in the context of Iran’s role in financing and arming terrorist attacks against our troops.

And:

That “the President has publicly taken partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East, without apparent expertise in this area or consultation with faculty who teach and undertake research in this area”: We follow President Bollinger’s public statements closely. The only one that may be characterized as concerning the politics of the Middle East is his denunciation of the British University and College Union’s proposed boycott of Israeli academics, which he described as “antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy.” This statement is actually not about the political problems of the Middle East; it is precisely what President Bollinger is accused of not providing: a vigorous defense of academic freedom, based on his recognition that denying such freedom to any individual or group endangers the entire academic enterprise.

This group of 62 professors should be congratulated for thoroughly humiliating a larger faction of professors who are signatories to a shameful—and actually Orwellian—invocation of free speech and academic freedom for the express purpose of undermining exactly those things. The thugs in Columbia’s humanities departments have made false accusations against the university president; they have demanded exemption from being criticized for their scholarship and campus behavior; they seek political litmus tests for speech; and they have proffered a standard of acceptability to the “university community”—meaning, acceptability to themselves—for speech on the part of the university president. And all of this is put forth explicitly as a requirement of fidelity to open debate, academic freedom, and a salubrious university environment. Cynical doesn’t even begin to describe it.

There is something more to be said about this controversy, because it represents more than just the latest bit of silliness from an American campus. Like Larry Summers’s expulsion from the Harvard presidency before it, the Columbia controversy is exemplary of a new era in campus radicalism in which the radicals who now so thoroughly dominate the academy are engaging in the next act in consolidating their power: the intimidation or expulsion of internal enemies. The lexicon of the previous era continues to be employed, but now its use becomes even more awkward and incongruous than it always was: In demanding control over the content of campus debate, Columbia’s thugs talk about the imperatives of open dialogue and the founding principles of the university.

In 1963, several years after the publication of God and Man at Yale brought him onto the national stage, William F. Buckley wrote another critique of the university entitled “The Aimlessness of American Education,” in which he said that:

Under academic freedom, the modern university is supposed to take a position of “neutrality” as among competing ideas. “A university does not take sides on the questions that are discussed in its halls,” a committee of scholars and alumni of Yale reported in 1952. “In the ideal university all sides of any issue are presented as impartially as possible.” To do otherwise, they are saying, is to violate the neutrality of a teaching institution, to give advantage to one idea over against another, thus prejudicing the race which, if all the contestants were let strictly alone, truth is bound to win…. Academic freedom is conceived as a permanent instrument of doctrinal egalitarianism; it is always there to remind us that we can never know anything for sure: which I view as another way of saying we cannot really know what are the aims of education.

How far down the road have universities such as Columbia traveled since Buckley wrote those words. It is not enough today to allow that Larry Summers deviated from campus orthodoxy, or that Lee Bollinger wasn’t nice enough to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Such acts of dissension strike at the very core of the campus power structure (to appropriate some familiar rhetoric), and to allow them to go unpunished is to deny the incumbency of the radicals and their need to impose intellectual homogeneity. This faction has succeeded in becoming a supermajority in the humanities departments, and now their campaign is hewing to a predictable course: the setting of ideological boundaries by purging and intimidating those who would ignore them. American education is no longer characterized, as in Buckley’s era, by the aimlessness of doctrinal egalitarianism. Today’s campus is characterized by the thuggery of doctrinal totalitarianism.

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Contra Klein

In his blog Swampland, Time magazine’s Joe Klein writes that “We’ve seeing [sic] a fair amount of triumphalism from the usual suspects on the right about the situation on the ground in Iraq,” and he considers it to be “premature.” Klein then goes on to add this:

And yet: The reduction of violence is real. The defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq—sneezed at by some antiwar commentators—is nothing to sneeze at. The bottom-up efforts to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites across the scarred Anbar/Karbala provincial border, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, quite possibly reflect an Iraqi exhaustion with violence that has to be taken seriously as well. There is no question that the performance of the U.S. military has improved markedly under the smarter, more flexible, and creative leadership provided this year by General Petraeus. And the withdrawal of U.S. troops is beginning. The refusal of the antiwar movement—or some sections of it—to recognize these developments isn’t helping its credibility.

Klein continues:

Let me reassert the obvious here: The war in Iraq has been a disaster, the stupidest foreign policy decision ever made by an American President. It has weakened America’s moral, military, and diplomatic status globally. It cannot be “won” militarily. The best case scenario is a testy stability, most likely under a Shiite strongman, who will be (relatively) independent of Iran and (relatively) independent of us. . .

There are fewer votes now in Congress—and less cause—to cut off funding for the war than there were last Spring. A renewed campaign on the part of the hapless Democratic leadership to cut off the supplemental funds will only increase the public sense of Democratic futility. It will also play into the very real, and growing, public perception that Democrats are too busy wasting time on symbolic measures (like trying to cut off funds for the war) and shoveling pork (the water projects bill) to pass anything substantive for the public good. Too much time, and political capital, has been wasted fighting Bush legislatively on the war. I’m sure the President and the Republican Party are salivating over the prospect that Democrats will waste more time and capital over it this month . . . especially at a moment, however fleeting, when the situation on the ground seems to have improved in Iraq. Democrats need to think this over very, very carefully before they proceed.

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In his blog Swampland, Time magazine’s Joe Klein writes that “We’ve seeing [sic] a fair amount of triumphalism from the usual suspects on the right about the situation on the ground in Iraq,” and he considers it to be “premature.” Klein then goes on to add this:

And yet: The reduction of violence is real. The defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq—sneezed at by some antiwar commentators—is nothing to sneeze at. The bottom-up efforts to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites across the scarred Anbar/Karbala provincial border, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, quite possibly reflect an Iraqi exhaustion with violence that has to be taken seriously as well. There is no question that the performance of the U.S. military has improved markedly under the smarter, more flexible, and creative leadership provided this year by General Petraeus. And the withdrawal of U.S. troops is beginning. The refusal of the antiwar movement—or some sections of it—to recognize these developments isn’t helping its credibility.

Klein continues:

Let me reassert the obvious here: The war in Iraq has been a disaster, the stupidest foreign policy decision ever made by an American President. It has weakened America’s moral, military, and diplomatic status globally. It cannot be “won” militarily. The best case scenario is a testy stability, most likely under a Shiite strongman, who will be (relatively) independent of Iran and (relatively) independent of us. . .

There are fewer votes now in Congress—and less cause—to cut off funding for the war than there were last Spring. A renewed campaign on the part of the hapless Democratic leadership to cut off the supplemental funds will only increase the public sense of Democratic futility. It will also play into the very real, and growing, public perception that Democrats are too busy wasting time on symbolic measures (like trying to cut off funds for the war) and shoveling pork (the water projects bill) to pass anything substantive for the public good. Too much time, and political capital, has been wasted fighting Bush legislatively on the war. I’m sure the President and the Republican Party are salivating over the prospect that Democrats will waste more time and capital over it this month . . . especially at a moment, however fleeting, when the situation on the ground seems to have improved in Iraq. Democrats need to think this over very, very carefully before they proceed.

I have several thoughts in response to Klein’s comments. The first is that if the war in Iraq has been “the stupidest foreign policy decision ever made by an American President,” then you wonder why Joe supported it before the war. Here’s what Klein told Tim Russert on his CNBC program on February 22, 2003:

This is a really tough decision. War may well be the right decision at this point. In fact, I think it—it’s—it—it probably is…. [Saddam] has been defying the world for twelve years. It is very clear—I mean, I—I—I haven’t found anybody who doesn’t believe that he’s hiding stuff there. And if there’s going to be a civilized world order, the—the world has to be able to act on its—you know, on—on—on its agreements. And—and there have been now seventeen UN resolutions calling on this guy to disarm, a—something that he agreed to do, and at certain—at a certain point, you have to enforce it.

Now you can quibble with the fact, you can argue with the fact that the Bush administration forced this judgment at this time in this way, but I think—and—but I—but I do believe that it was Bill Clinton’s moral responsibility and responsibility as leader of the country to do it in 1998, as we—as we were saying before. And—and I think that now that we’ve reached this point, where the inspectors are in and it has become absolutely manifestly clear that he’s not going to abide by this—you know, just look at his behavior in the days since the peace protests. All of a sudden, you know, he’s—he’s—you know, he’s defiant again. So I think that, you know, the—the message has to be sent because if it isn’t sent now, if we don’t do this now, it empowers every would-be Saddam out there and every would-be terrorist out there.

I wonder, then: Does Klein’s statement on Russert’s show therefore qualify as the stupidest endorsement of the stupidest foreign policy decision ever made by an American President? In any event, at least President Bush didn’t pretend (as Klein has) that he was against the war after he was for the war.

More important, though, is that Klein, a ferocious critic of the war and the President, is willing to concede that progress is real. He has documented that progress in his reporting, for which he deserves credit.

Obviously “triumphalism” is premature—Iraq remains a very complicated and difficult situation, progress that’s been made can be lost, and the outcome is still uncertain—but it shows that the good news is breaking through and is now undeniable. For example, we read in the Washington Times today that U.S. military fatalities are down from 101 in June to 39 in October; that Iraqi civilian deaths were also down from 1,791 in August to 750 in October; that mortar rocket attacks by insurgents in October were the lowest since February 2006; and that according to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni fighters in Baghdad has dropped 77 percent from last year’s high.

Klein, an excellent political reporter, is also correct in warning Democrats against trying to force the President to pull out prematurely. The Washington Post today reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “declared that Bush will not get more money to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year unless he accepts a plan to complete troop withdrawals by the end of next year.”

This approach by Senator Reid is reckless and will be injurious politically. While the trajectory of events in Iraq is (finally) getting better, and in some important respects events are getting significantly better, Democrats are redoubling their efforts to pursue a policy that can only undermine progress and our chances of success.

This tells us all we need to know about the leadership of the modern Democratic Party. That of FDR, Truman, or JFK it ain’t.

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American Yiddish Poetry

Readers who think that Yiddish literature in America began and ended with Nobel-prizewinner Isaac Bashevis Singer will find a new book from Stanford University Press to be a revelation. American Yiddish Poetry: a Bilingual Anthology by Benjamin Harshav and Barbara Harshav is a virtuoso production, 813 pages of essays, original texts, and deft translations of seven worthy, yet often overlooked, early 20th century poets like A. Leyeles and Jacob Glatshteyn.

Benjamin Harshav, a Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at Yale, has published prolifically on the painter Marc Chagall. This vast new tome, in collaboration with his wife Barbara Harshav, who teaches translation at Yale, underlines the influence of many writers on these erudite poets.

A. Leyeles (born Aaron Glantz, 1889-1966), a poet and journalist, was a multilingual master of prosody who translated Whitman, Verlaine, Goethe, Keats, and Pushkin into Yiddish. In a Whitman-like way, Leyeles buttonholes readers, addressing us in poems of formal beauty. An example is Leyeles’s Villanelle of the Mystical Cycle:

Mystical cycle of seven times five,
Five times seven, a ring in a ring.
Shell swept away, the core will survive.

Ground by the years, and in years revived.
Young when a man, and gray in young spring.
Mystical cycle of seven times five . . .

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Readers who think that Yiddish literature in America began and ended with Nobel-prizewinner Isaac Bashevis Singer will find a new book from Stanford University Press to be a revelation. American Yiddish Poetry: a Bilingual Anthology by Benjamin Harshav and Barbara Harshav is a virtuoso production, 813 pages of essays, original texts, and deft translations of seven worthy, yet often overlooked, early 20th century poets like A. Leyeles and Jacob Glatshteyn.

Benjamin Harshav, a Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at Yale, has published prolifically on the painter Marc Chagall. This vast new tome, in collaboration with his wife Barbara Harshav, who teaches translation at Yale, underlines the influence of many writers on these erudite poets.

A. Leyeles (born Aaron Glantz, 1889-1966), a poet and journalist, was a multilingual master of prosody who translated Whitman, Verlaine, Goethe, Keats, and Pushkin into Yiddish. In a Whitman-like way, Leyeles buttonholes readers, addressing us in poems of formal beauty. An example is Leyeles’s Villanelle of the Mystical Cycle:

Mystical cycle of seven times five,
Five times seven, a ring in a ring.
Shell swept away, the core will survive.

Ground by the years, and in years revived.
Young when a man, and gray in young spring.
Mystical cycle of seven times five . . .

In Night, Leyeles offers a hypnotic cityscape of 1920’s Manhattan:

Now all is calm. The window-lights spent.
Lanterns slip silently into the pavement.
Towers stand watching like monsters of stone.

Massive Flatiron: imposing, gray, cold.
Then Metropolitan: heavier, grayer.
Others hang gloomily, crowd like a forest. . .

In Storms and Towers, inspired by New York architecture, Leyeles invokes admired poets like the medieval Frenchman François Villon:

Villon my brother, Maître Villon,
You did not see
The Tower of Woolworth
In a storm of snow . . .

Leyeles’s friend and colleague Moyshe-Leyb Halpern (1886–1932) was more concerned with self-exploration and self-definition, as in his ardently questing My Restlessness is of a Wolf (which prefigures later introspective Jewish poets like Delmore Schwartz):

My restlessness is of a wolf, and of a bear my rest,
Riot shouts in me, and boredom listens.
I am not what I want, I am not what I think,
I am the magician and I’m the magic-trick.
I am an ancient riddle that ponders on its own,
Swifter than the wind, bound tightly to a stone . . .

Somewhere between these extremes of landscape and introspection are the poems of Jacob Glatshteyn (1896-1971), an avant-gardist who speaks of personal relationships, sometimes with violence, as in A Song:

In summer I shall slice little tomatoes and think of your lips,
And you will stroll over the roads and sing to every passer-by.
And I shall regret that I didn’t mark your face with a scar,
Or that I didn’t burden your walk with a child . . .

In 1978, when Isaac Bashevis Singer received the Nobel, he declared, “Yiddish has not yet said its last word.” He was right, as the remarkable labors of the Harshavs demonstrate.

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Ron Paul and Anti-Semitism

John Derbyshire, outraged at a long piece in the American Thinker about the online enthusiasm expressed for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign by neo-Nazi websites and their commenters, asks: “Don’t the American Thinker folk understand how paranoid bullying like that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews?…For heaven’s sake: Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite?”

Well, we have two different questions here, don’t we?

Let’s take the second first — “Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite”? The obvious answer is: Yes, there are people who think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite.

They think this because of a few data points.

One is that a newsletter published in his name featured a bald sentence stating that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Now, while it is true that you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic, it is not always true, and more frequently than not it is not true — especially when you endorse the view that Jews comprise a powerful cabal seeking control of non-Jewish institutions. But as Paul told the Texas Monthly in 2001, he did not write that sentence or any sentences in that newsletter. A staffer, ghostwriting under his name, did.

The second is that he cast the sole Republican “No” vote on a House resolution last year reaffirming the nation’s “steadfast support for the nation of Israel” and specifically condemning Hezbollah and Hamas. In his floor statement, Paul explained that “I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts.” And a spokesman of his has said that in defense of this absolutist principle, Paul has voted in his career against resolutions in praise of, for example, the Pope and Mother Teresa.

I’m inclined to think that Paul, who is not the most careful and prudent of speakers, is not an anti-Semite — because in a public career dating back 30 years he would likely have said something more explicit and unambiguous. Nor do I think he should be held personally responsible for the fact that he might be attracting extremist support from the neo-Nazi Right. He has not expressed their views and he is not his brother’s keeper.

But politics ain’t beanbag, and if he is getting donations from neo-Nazis that he won’t return in full, he and his supporters have to expect they are going to take lumps. And they have to take their lumps as well for echoing shameful voices of the past. The history of right-wing isolationism is that it has been a hotbed of classic and unambiguous anti-Semitism throughout the 20th century, as represented by leading-edge spokesmen from Henry Ford to Father Coughlin to Gerald K. Smith to the America First Committee.

Non-interventionism was the term they preferred, and the fact that Paul echoes them is understandably unsettling to a lot of people.

Which leads me back to Point One — Derbyshire’s statement that the American Thinker piece is “paranoid bullying…that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews.” I would say only to my former colleague on The Corner that he has written here a sentence expressing a sentiment he really might wish to reconsider. There is nothing remotely paranoid or bullying about an investigation into the sentiments or ideas of a presidential candidate on any issue. Derbyshire, who prides himself on standing athwart political correctness, should appreciate this. Or is there a special exemption when it comes to candidates he likes and about issues that do not really interest him?

John Derbyshire, outraged at a long piece in the American Thinker about the online enthusiasm expressed for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign by neo-Nazi websites and their commenters, asks: “Don’t the American Thinker folk understand how paranoid bullying like that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews?…For heaven’s sake: Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite?”

Well, we have two different questions here, don’t we?

Let’s take the second first — “Does anyone really think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite”? The obvious answer is: Yes, there are people who think Ron Paul is an anti-Semite.

They think this because of a few data points.

One is that a newsletter published in his name featured a bald sentence stating that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.” Now, while it is true that you can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic, it is not always true, and more frequently than not it is not true — especially when you endorse the view that Jews comprise a powerful cabal seeking control of non-Jewish institutions. But as Paul told the Texas Monthly in 2001, he did not write that sentence or any sentences in that newsletter. A staffer, ghostwriting under his name, did.

The second is that he cast the sole Republican “No” vote on a House resolution last year reaffirming the nation’s “steadfast support for the nation of Israel” and specifically condemning Hezbollah and Hamas. In his floor statement, Paul explained that “I follow a policy in foreign affairs called non-interventionism. I do not believe we are making the United States more secure when we involve ourselves in conflicts overseas. The Constitution really doesn’t authorize us to be the policemen of the world, much less to favor one side over another in foreign conflicts.” And a spokesman of his has said that in defense of this absolutist principle, Paul has voted in his career against resolutions in praise of, for example, the Pope and Mother Teresa.

I’m inclined to think that Paul, who is not the most careful and prudent of speakers, is not an anti-Semite — because in a public career dating back 30 years he would likely have said something more explicit and unambiguous. Nor do I think he should be held personally responsible for the fact that he might be attracting extremist support from the neo-Nazi Right. He has not expressed their views and he is not his brother’s keeper.

But politics ain’t beanbag, and if he is getting donations from neo-Nazis that he won’t return in full, he and his supporters have to expect they are going to take lumps. And they have to take their lumps as well for echoing shameful voices of the past. The history of right-wing isolationism is that it has been a hotbed of classic and unambiguous anti-Semitism throughout the 20th century, as represented by leading-edge spokesmen from Henry Ford to Father Coughlin to Gerald K. Smith to the America First Committee.

Non-interventionism was the term they preferred, and the fact that Paul echoes them is understandably unsettling to a lot of people.

Which leads me back to Point One — Derbyshire’s statement that the American Thinker piece is “paranoid bullying…that just reinforces the worst stereotypes about ethnocentric Jews.” I would say only to my former colleague on The Corner that he has written here a sentence expressing a sentiment he really might wish to reconsider. There is nothing remotely paranoid or bullying about an investigation into the sentiments or ideas of a presidential candidate on any issue. Derbyshire, who prides himself on standing athwart political correctness, should appreciate this. Or is there a special exemption when it comes to candidates he likes and about issues that do not really interest him?

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Jabbing Japan

Japan’s new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, arrives in Washington tomorrow for talks with President Bush on Friday. This is his first foreign trip since taking office in September, after the resignation of Shinzo Abe, a staunch supporter of the United States.

The visit takes place against the backdrop of tensions between Tokyo and Washington. The issue that gets the most attention is the withdrawal of Japan’s naval mission in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, there are other matters unsettling relations between the United States and its most important ally in East Asia. The one that can do the most immediate damage on Friday relates to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Pyongyang demands that the State Department remove it from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states. Japan, for its part, insists the United States take no such action until the North comes clean on the whereabouts of Japanese nationals it has abducted. The Japanese public has rightly become transfixed over the plight of the victims, especially Megumi Yokota, a schoolgirl who was nabbed in late 1977 on her way home from badminton practice in Niigata.

In a gesture to then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002, Kim Jong Il admitted that rogue North Korean agents—are there any other kind?—had abducted the young Yokota and twelve other Japanese from 1977 to 1983. Five of the abductees were still alive, Kim said. Megumi, however, was not among them. She had, according to the North Korean leader, taken her own life in 1993. The government said it could not locate her remains.

The North Koreans then tried to get the Japanese to accept the actuarially-improbable notion that almost two-thirds of the young abductees had croaked and the medically-incredible claim that both a 24-year-old male and a 27-year-old female had died of heart disease. Since then, Pyongyang has issued more prevarications, inventions, and fabrications about the abductees. Fortunately, the Japanese public has not bought any of the perverse untruths. Tokyo’s envoys have also been resolute.

American diplomats, however, have taken a less inspiring stand. For example, Christopher Hill, the State Department’s lead negotiator in the North Korean disarmament talks, appears to have cut another of his famous side deals recently. It looks like he promised to take North Korea off the terror list in return for Pyongyang’s cooperation on disabling nuclear facilities and disclosing its nuclear programs. Fukuda, who has a reputation as a dove, has reportedly been upset on being undercut by Washington on the abductee issue.

What do the Japanese abductees have to do with the American terrorism list? Pyongyang kidnapped the thirteen-year-old Yokota and other Japanese to obtain language and culture instruction for its undercover agents. Pyongyang won’t release Yokota and the seven others because, it appears, they know too much about Kim Jong Il’s responsibility for clandestine activities and terrorist acts, especially the downing of a South Korean jetliner in 1987.

Americans seem to be fascinated by abductions. But we’ve negelcted Megumi Yokota, wrongly: her fate is now bound up with ours. People might disagree with me if I said that we cannot truly solve any of the problems involving North Korea until we solve all of them, so let me make a more modest point: I do not see the logic in offending Japan, an old friend, to please a dangerous adversary, North Korea. North Korea should stay on the State Department’s list until it frees Yokota and the other abductees.

Japan’s new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, arrives in Washington tomorrow for talks with President Bush on Friday. This is his first foreign trip since taking office in September, after the resignation of Shinzo Abe, a staunch supporter of the United States.

The visit takes place against the backdrop of tensions between Tokyo and Washington. The issue that gets the most attention is the withdrawal of Japan’s naval mission in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, there are other matters unsettling relations between the United States and its most important ally in East Asia. The one that can do the most immediate damage on Friday relates to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Pyongyang demands that the State Department remove it from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states. Japan, for its part, insists the United States take no such action until the North comes clean on the whereabouts of Japanese nationals it has abducted. The Japanese public has rightly become transfixed over the plight of the victims, especially Megumi Yokota, a schoolgirl who was nabbed in late 1977 on her way home from badminton practice in Niigata.

In a gesture to then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002, Kim Jong Il admitted that rogue North Korean agents—are there any other kind?—had abducted the young Yokota and twelve other Japanese from 1977 to 1983. Five of the abductees were still alive, Kim said. Megumi, however, was not among them. She had, according to the North Korean leader, taken her own life in 1993. The government said it could not locate her remains.

The North Koreans then tried to get the Japanese to accept the actuarially-improbable notion that almost two-thirds of the young abductees had croaked and the medically-incredible claim that both a 24-year-old male and a 27-year-old female had died of heart disease. Since then, Pyongyang has issued more prevarications, inventions, and fabrications about the abductees. Fortunately, the Japanese public has not bought any of the perverse untruths. Tokyo’s envoys have also been resolute.

American diplomats, however, have taken a less inspiring stand. For example, Christopher Hill, the State Department’s lead negotiator in the North Korean disarmament talks, appears to have cut another of his famous side deals recently. It looks like he promised to take North Korea off the terror list in return for Pyongyang’s cooperation on disabling nuclear facilities and disclosing its nuclear programs. Fukuda, who has a reputation as a dove, has reportedly been upset on being undercut by Washington on the abductee issue.

What do the Japanese abductees have to do with the American terrorism list? Pyongyang kidnapped the thirteen-year-old Yokota and other Japanese to obtain language and culture instruction for its undercover agents. Pyongyang won’t release Yokota and the seven others because, it appears, they know too much about Kim Jong Il’s responsibility for clandestine activities and terrorist acts, especially the downing of a South Korean jetliner in 1987.

Americans seem to be fascinated by abductions. But we’ve negelcted Megumi Yokota, wrongly: her fate is now bound up with ours. People might disagree with me if I said that we cannot truly solve any of the problems involving North Korea until we solve all of them, so let me make a more modest point: I do not see the logic in offending Japan, an old friend, to please a dangerous adversary, North Korea. North Korea should stay on the State Department’s list until it frees Yokota and the other abductees.

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Max Boot in the Times

contentions contributor Max Boot has an excellent piece in today’s New York Times, applauding the State Department’s decision to send—will they or nill they—50 foreign service officers to Iraq. But Boot thinks more is required: a strategic reconfiguration of State to achieve greater regional and situational specialization and put more boots on the ground globally, the creation of a civilian reserve corps to help buttress humanitarian interventions, and the creation of what he calls a “federal constabulary force” to aid international policing efforts. (He also heartily seconds Lt. Col. John Nagl’s proposal to create an advisory corps within the military, an idea he’s written about enthusiastically on contentions.)

contentions contributor Max Boot has an excellent piece in today’s New York Times, applauding the State Department’s decision to send—will they or nill they—50 foreign service officers to Iraq. But Boot thinks more is required: a strategic reconfiguration of State to achieve greater regional and situational specialization and put more boots on the ground globally, the creation of a civilian reserve corps to help buttress humanitarian interventions, and the creation of what he calls a “federal constabulary force” to aid international policing efforts. (He also heartily seconds Lt. Col. John Nagl’s proposal to create an advisory corps within the military, an idea he’s written about enthusiastically on contentions.)

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The Wrong Rebuttal

A major sticking point has arisen in the run-up to the not-much-anticipated Annapolis conference: as a precondition, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat created a stir when he announced that the Palestinians would do no such thing, arguing that, “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.”

Naturally, Erekat is wrong. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak intimated, every country with a cross, crescent, or religious phrase on its national flag, to varying extremes, traces its national identity to religious/cultural roots. Moreover, Israel’s use of the term “Jewish state” hardly connotes theocracy, as Erekat deceptively implies, but rather the state’s ethno-cultural identity. In this vein, former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Meir Shamgar once compared Israel’s being Jewish to France’s being French.

Yet these rebuttals all seem a little too neat. After all, we don’t find France demanding recognition of its French identity—least of all from its adversaries—as Israel continues to do. Indeed, nobody contests that France is French by virtue of a population that is overwhelmingly French.

Olmert should operate with similar confidence regarding Israel’s ethno-cultural character, which is Jewish by virtue of a population that is mostly Jewish. Of course, in this context, Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is code for renouncing the “right of return,” by which four million Palestinians would be permitted to repatriate to Israel. But if Olmert wishes to prevent this outcome, he’d be better served dealing in terms that affirm Israel’s sovereignty, rather than subjecting its pre-existent character to Palestinian acquiescence. Sovereignty encompasses the right of a state to secure its borders—and determine who can and cannot enter. When Palestinians are asked to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” they are granted an undue voice in affirming Israel’s internal character—a strike against Israeli sovereignty that Israel bizarrely invites. Israel is a Jewish state, whether or not Erekat admits it.

So long as any Israeli-Palestinian peace process aims to create two sovereign states, Israel’s “Jewish character” must be seen as a matter for Israelis alone to define and determine. For this reason, Olmert would be best served arriving at the Annapolis conference ready to talk about security arrangements and final borders—ones that guarantee total sovereignty for Israelis and Palestinians over their own affairs.

A major sticking point has arisen in the run-up to the not-much-anticipated Annapolis conference: as a precondition, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat created a stir when he announced that the Palestinians would do no such thing, arguing that, “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.”

Naturally, Erekat is wrong. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak intimated, every country with a cross, crescent, or religious phrase on its national flag, to varying extremes, traces its national identity to religious/cultural roots. Moreover, Israel’s use of the term “Jewish state” hardly connotes theocracy, as Erekat deceptively implies, but rather the state’s ethno-cultural identity. In this vein, former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Meir Shamgar once compared Israel’s being Jewish to France’s being French.

Yet these rebuttals all seem a little too neat. After all, we don’t find France demanding recognition of its French identity—least of all from its adversaries—as Israel continues to do. Indeed, nobody contests that France is French by virtue of a population that is overwhelmingly French.

Olmert should operate with similar confidence regarding Israel’s ethno-cultural character, which is Jewish by virtue of a population that is mostly Jewish. Of course, in this context, Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is code for renouncing the “right of return,” by which four million Palestinians would be permitted to repatriate to Israel. But if Olmert wishes to prevent this outcome, he’d be better served dealing in terms that affirm Israel’s sovereignty, rather than subjecting its pre-existent character to Palestinian acquiescence. Sovereignty encompasses the right of a state to secure its borders—and determine who can and cannot enter. When Palestinians are asked to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” they are granted an undue voice in affirming Israel’s internal character—a strike against Israeli sovereignty that Israel bizarrely invites. Israel is a Jewish state, whether or not Erekat admits it.

So long as any Israeli-Palestinian peace process aims to create two sovereign states, Israel’s “Jewish character” must be seen as a matter for Israelis alone to define and determine. For this reason, Olmert would be best served arriving at the Annapolis conference ready to talk about security arrangements and final borders—ones that guarantee total sovereignty for Israelis and Palestinians over their own affairs.

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Loose French Nukes

Loose nuclear weapons in Pakistan are, or should be, keeping military planners up at night, especially those in China, Russia, India, and the U.S. Even a slight chance that some of the 50 to 100 weapons in Pakistan’s arsenal could fall into the hands of radicals Islamists is a chance that the world cannot afford to take.

Loose nuclear weapons are not exactly a new problem, and it is not one confined to basket-case states like Pakistan. Even highly developed countries sometimes have difficulty keeping their weapons secure. Just this year, the U.S. lost control of some of its nuclear arms for a period of hours.

A dramatic and little known case occurred in France in the spring of 1961. The story is told in “The Risks of Spreading Weapons: A Historical Case” by D. G. Brennan in the 1968, Volume 1 edition of a relatively obscure journal, Arms Control and Disarmament.

In mid-April 1961, the French were preparing for their fourth nuclear weapon test (three had taken place in 1960 at their Sahara test site near Reggan in central Algeria. On 22 April, General Maurice Challe, former Commander-in-Chief of French forces in Algeria, initiated the rebellion in Algeria that came to be known as “The Revolt of the Generals.” The French scientists at the test site were immediately nervous about the security of their incipient nuclear explosive, and began hurried preparations to detonate the device, so as to remove it from any possibility of seizure. . . . [T]he French general in charge of the test site, while not participating in the revolt, was a friend of General Challe, and he did not want the device detonated. However the scientists at the site got authorization from Paris to set if off anyway. They exploded the device early on the morning of April 25, 3 days after the start of the revolt.

It was set off with hastily-improvised and incomplete detonation arrangements, and because of this, it gave a very low yield of less than one kiloton. (The French Government communiqué announcing the shot described it as of “weak power.”) Observers in various countries other than France who became aware of the nature and yield of the explosion thought the test a failure, and I t was often described openly as a “fizzle.” However…the explosive was “optimized” to be only the fastest way of unambiguously getting rid of the fissile material on hand for the weapon, not to provide high yield. For this objective, the “test” was of course a complete success.

It could have been important that it was a success, in this sense. The rebels were already making claims to have taken over control of the whole of Algeria. Although this claim proved false as far as the test site was concerned, it is highly probable they would have made major attempts to seize it if they known an incipient nuclear explosive remained there.

While it is difficult to see how possession of that explosive by the rebels would have altered the outcome of the rebellions (which collapsed the next day), it is not difficult toe believe they might have attempted to use it to blackmail the government, and it is even possible to conceive that some fanatics might have used it destructively as a last act of bitter revenge.

All is not well that ends well. If this kind of frightening near-miss scenario played out in developed country like France, we do have ample reason to stay awake at night worrying about the fate of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

Loose nuclear weapons in Pakistan are, or should be, keeping military planners up at night, especially those in China, Russia, India, and the U.S. Even a slight chance that some of the 50 to 100 weapons in Pakistan’s arsenal could fall into the hands of radicals Islamists is a chance that the world cannot afford to take.

Loose nuclear weapons are not exactly a new problem, and it is not one confined to basket-case states like Pakistan. Even highly developed countries sometimes have difficulty keeping their weapons secure. Just this year, the U.S. lost control of some of its nuclear arms for a period of hours.

A dramatic and little known case occurred in France in the spring of 1961. The story is told in “The Risks of Spreading Weapons: A Historical Case” by D. G. Brennan in the 1968, Volume 1 edition of a relatively obscure journal, Arms Control and Disarmament.

In mid-April 1961, the French were preparing for their fourth nuclear weapon test (three had taken place in 1960 at their Sahara test site near Reggan in central Algeria. On 22 April, General Maurice Challe, former Commander-in-Chief of French forces in Algeria, initiated the rebellion in Algeria that came to be known as “The Revolt of the Generals.” The French scientists at the test site were immediately nervous about the security of their incipient nuclear explosive, and began hurried preparations to detonate the device, so as to remove it from any possibility of seizure. . . . [T]he French general in charge of the test site, while not participating in the revolt, was a friend of General Challe, and he did not want the device detonated. However the scientists at the site got authorization from Paris to set if off anyway. They exploded the device early on the morning of April 25, 3 days after the start of the revolt.

It was set off with hastily-improvised and incomplete detonation arrangements, and because of this, it gave a very low yield of less than one kiloton. (The French Government communiqué announcing the shot described it as of “weak power.”) Observers in various countries other than France who became aware of the nature and yield of the explosion thought the test a failure, and I t was often described openly as a “fizzle.” However…the explosive was “optimized” to be only the fastest way of unambiguously getting rid of the fissile material on hand for the weapon, not to provide high yield. For this objective, the “test” was of course a complete success.

It could have been important that it was a success, in this sense. The rebels were already making claims to have taken over control of the whole of Algeria. Although this claim proved false as far as the test site was concerned, it is highly probable they would have made major attempts to seize it if they known an incipient nuclear explosive remained there.

While it is difficult to see how possession of that explosive by the rebels would have altered the outcome of the rebellions (which collapsed the next day), it is not difficult toe believe they might have attempted to use it to blackmail the government, and it is even possible to conceive that some fanatics might have used it destructively as a last act of bitter revenge.

All is not well that ends well. If this kind of frightening near-miss scenario played out in developed country like France, we do have ample reason to stay awake at night worrying about the fate of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

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Opening This Week: ‘Margot at the Wedding’

French movies aren’t much in vogue with American audiences anymore–the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose, which has earned $10 million here, is the only French movie of the year to find much success, and it’s the first Gallic offering since 2001′s Amelie to do that well.

But this week brings Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, the third attempt this year by American filmmakers to pay homage to French filmmakers. Earlier this fall, Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited went to India in imitation of the languid air and saturated colors of Jean Renoir’s 1951 family drama The River. Chris Rock’s surprisingly measured I Think I Love My Wife, a remake of the 1972 Eric Rohmer drama Chloe in the Afternoon enlivened by Rock’s acid standup-style observations on the frustrations of marriage, presents a typically French story of a businessman with a successful marriage flirting with adultery without either bunny-boiling theatrics or door-slamming farce.

Equally indebted to Rohmer is Baumbach’s new film, his first since the triumphant release of his autobiographical The Squid and the Whale. Margot at the Wedding features Nicole Kidman in the title role of a woman who goes to the beach house of her semi-estranged sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a few days before the titular nuptials and finds herself unable to conceal her dislike of her crude prospective brother-in-law (Jack Black). From the film’s title, which winks at Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach (Baumbach also dubs the sister Pauline), to its washed-out look to its rumpled unstylish costumes to its depressed intellectuals politely jabbing away at each other’s most vulnerable spots, it has the trappings of Rohmer down cold.

But Margot at the Wedding offers more than that. There is a boisterous American quality to Baumbach’s work that lights a fire under the style of Rohmer, who is frequently content to let the story inch forward or even pause as everyone contemplates the scenery. In Baumbach’s script, strange deadpan wit and skewed observations enliven the conflicts, which aren’t limited to one or two quandaries but tumble in from every direction due to misunderstandings and feuds among siblings, cousins, neighbors, spouses, and lovers. There is a subtle wit to Rohmer, but Baumbach’s film actually makes you laugh. The Woody Allen of the 1970′s would have been proud to have made this film.

French movies aren’t much in vogue with American audiences anymore–the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose, which has earned $10 million here, is the only French movie of the year to find much success, and it’s the first Gallic offering since 2001′s Amelie to do that well.

But this week brings Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, the third attempt this year by American filmmakers to pay homage to French filmmakers. Earlier this fall, Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited went to India in imitation of the languid air and saturated colors of Jean Renoir’s 1951 family drama The River. Chris Rock’s surprisingly measured I Think I Love My Wife, a remake of the 1972 Eric Rohmer drama Chloe in the Afternoon enlivened by Rock’s acid standup-style observations on the frustrations of marriage, presents a typically French story of a businessman with a successful marriage flirting with adultery without either bunny-boiling theatrics or door-slamming farce.

Equally indebted to Rohmer is Baumbach’s new film, his first since the triumphant release of his autobiographical The Squid and the Whale. Margot at the Wedding features Nicole Kidman in the title role of a woman who goes to the beach house of her semi-estranged sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a few days before the titular nuptials and finds herself unable to conceal her dislike of her crude prospective brother-in-law (Jack Black). From the film’s title, which winks at Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach (Baumbach also dubs the sister Pauline), to its washed-out look to its rumpled unstylish costumes to its depressed intellectuals politely jabbing away at each other’s most vulnerable spots, it has the trappings of Rohmer down cold.

But Margot at the Wedding offers more than that. There is a boisterous American quality to Baumbach’s work that lights a fire under the style of Rohmer, who is frequently content to let the story inch forward or even pause as everyone contemplates the scenery. In Baumbach’s script, strange deadpan wit and skewed observations enliven the conflicts, which aren’t limited to one or two quandaries but tumble in from every direction due to misunderstandings and feuds among siblings, cousins, neighbors, spouses, and lovers. There is a subtle wit to Rohmer, but Baumbach’s film actually makes you laugh. The Woody Allen of the 1970′s would have been proud to have made this film.

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Livingstone, Confused

In 2004, London Mayor Ken Livingstone—who has long held a soft spot in his heart for terrorists of the Muslim and (perhaps of weightier concern to his constituents) Irish variety—welcomed the fanatical Egyptian cleric (and al-Jazeera commentator) Yusuf al-Qaradawi to his city for a conference (see this great anti-Livingstone advertisement). Peter Tatchell, the heroic gay rights campaigner and anti-Islamist advocate, as well as Livingstone’s most vocal and persistent critic on this issue, offered this brief and all-encompassing summary of the Islamist “scholar”:

Qaradawi supports female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals, destruction of the Jewish people, suicide bombing of innocent civilians, and the punishment of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty.

Yesterday, at the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” site, in an exercise that truly strains belief, Livingstone published a piece supporting the British Labour government’s attempts to pass a law banning incitement to homophobic hatred.

Livingstone writes:

Consistency in the protection the law provides is essential for two reasons: to provide justice to the individuals concerned, and as a line drawn by society against prejudice. This is the approach I have taken towards the government’s impending Single Equality Act and it is the approach that politicians and government must adopt in providing equal protection against incitement to hatred.

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In 2004, London Mayor Ken Livingstone—who has long held a soft spot in his heart for terrorists of the Muslim and (perhaps of weightier concern to his constituents) Irish variety—welcomed the fanatical Egyptian cleric (and al-Jazeera commentator) Yusuf al-Qaradawi to his city for a conference (see this great anti-Livingstone advertisement). Peter Tatchell, the heroic gay rights campaigner and anti-Islamist advocate, as well as Livingstone’s most vocal and persistent critic on this issue, offered this brief and all-encompassing summary of the Islamist “scholar”:

Qaradawi supports female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals, destruction of the Jewish people, suicide bombing of innocent civilians, and the punishment of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty.

Yesterday, at the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” site, in an exercise that truly strains belief, Livingstone published a piece supporting the British Labour government’s attempts to pass a law banning incitement to homophobic hatred.

Livingstone writes:

Consistency in the protection the law provides is essential for two reasons: to provide justice to the individuals concerned, and as a line drawn by society against prejudice. This is the approach I have taken towards the government’s impending Single Equality Act and it is the approach that politicians and government must adopt in providing equal protection against incitement to hatred.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “an intelligent person is one who can hold two contradictory ideas in mind simultaneously.” There’s a degree of truth in that assertion. But this is just ridiculous.

To be sure, hate-crimes laws are in and of themselves a specious proposition: aren’t all violent crimes, in the end, motivated by hatred? Proponents have not sufficiently explained why crimes committed due to the perpetrator’s racism or homophobia—as opposed to his hatred, say, for an ex-lover—should be treated more harshly, and such laws therefore run the risk of valuing certain victims more than others. The proposed law in Britain goes even further by rendering whole categories of speech illegal. Actual hate crimes already are prosecuted more vigorously than other violent crimes.

But the debate about the merits of the suggested law is an academic one and secondary to addressing the unmitigated gall behind Livingstone’s assuming the mantle of gay-rights champion. It’s frankly shocking that an ostensible progressive like Livingstone, who has hosted a prominent religious fascist advocating the execution of gays, would not see the inconsistency in his arguing on behalf of a law to ban incitement to violence against gays.

Normally, the reader comments section at the Guardian is rife with Stalinist apologetics and conspiratorial anti-Semitism. This time, however, the commentators outdo themselves in expressing amazement at how Livingstone could pen such an outrageously oblivious article without any mention of his own affiliations with inciters to homophobic crime. Were this bill law at the time Livingstone welcomed Qaradawi to London, the mayor quite possibly could have been prosecuted under its statues for aiding and abetting incitement to murder. Given his remarkable obtuseness, one cannot help but conclude that the irony of this situation is lost on Livingstone.

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