Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 13, 2011

Why Is PBS Linking to Fake Biographies of Conservatives?

Politicians and pundits are again debating the wisdom and necessity of American taxpayer support for public radio and television. Both Juan Williams’s firing and alleged comments by National Public Radio’s executive Ron Schiller have raised real questions about political bias.

It seems that the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a similar problem. Someone at its Frontline website has been substituting fake biographies of conservatives written by an organization called Right Web for legitimate institutional biographies. Right Web is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a think tank whose scholars’ positions range from left wing to Marxist. When challenged about inaccuracies on the dossiers he compiles of “right wing militarists,” the editor of Right Web e-mailed that even when no evidence supports his allegations, corrections of his slanders would require proving his allegations wrong, an impossible standard that is also embraced by conspiracy theorists like the LaRouchies, 9/11 revisionists, and Birthers. Right Web is also among the worst Google manipulators in the political realm.

It is Right Web’s right to publish such nonsense, and some naive or unprofessional journalists may accept it at face value. But congressmen might want to ask PBS’s Frontline about the editorial decision to substitute these fake, conspiracy-riddled biographies for the real thing: for example, here (see the links under almost every name) and here (see the link on Jeffrey Goldberg).

It is hard to believe that editors at Frontline would let this silliness slip by unintentionally. Does PBS have ethical guidelines? Why were they not applied? Why were they waived? Certainly, editors test links when they commission stories. That they do not appear to understand their actions to be politicized and unethical is troubling. That they have turned PBS into a tool for policy advocacy and dirty tricks is unfortunate. If that’s what Frontline wants to do, so be it. But they should not do it with taxpayer money.

Politicians and pundits are again debating the wisdom and necessity of American taxpayer support for public radio and television. Both Juan Williams’s firing and alleged comments by National Public Radio’s executive Ron Schiller have raised real questions about political bias.

It seems that the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a similar problem. Someone at its Frontline website has been substituting fake biographies of conservatives written by an organization called Right Web for legitimate institutional biographies. Right Web is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a think tank whose scholars’ positions range from left wing to Marxist. When challenged about inaccuracies on the dossiers he compiles of “right wing militarists,” the editor of Right Web e-mailed that even when no evidence supports his allegations, corrections of his slanders would require proving his allegations wrong, an impossible standard that is also embraced by conspiracy theorists like the LaRouchies, 9/11 revisionists, and Birthers. Right Web is also among the worst Google manipulators in the political realm.

It is Right Web’s right to publish such nonsense, and some naive or unprofessional journalists may accept it at face value. But congressmen might want to ask PBS’s Frontline about the editorial decision to substitute these fake, conspiracy-riddled biographies for the real thing: for example, here (see the links under almost every name) and here (see the link on Jeffrey Goldberg).

It is hard to believe that editors at Frontline would let this silliness slip by unintentionally. Does PBS have ethical guidelines? Why were they not applied? Why were they waived? Certainly, editors test links when they commission stories. That they do not appear to understand their actions to be politicized and unethical is troubling. That they have turned PBS into a tool for policy advocacy and dirty tricks is unfortunate. If that’s what Frontline wants to do, so be it. But they should not do it with taxpayer money.

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When Qaddafi Recaptures Benghazi…

With President Obama continuing to sit on his hands and take an indecisive, backseat approach to turmoil in the Middle East, it appears that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi may soon reconquer Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and original flashpoint for the rebellion. The Libyan people — and the outside world — should expect the worst. Fifteen years ago, Qaddafi got away with massacring 1,200 political prisoners at Libya’s Abu Slim prison. When Qaddafi’s forces sweep through Benghazi, they will probably rape, pillage, and murder on a scale unprecedented in Libya. It is possible that Qaddafi will imprison and/or murder thousands of Libyans in the coming days. As Obama fiddles while Ras Lanuf and soon Benghazi burns, he risks being to Libya what Kofi Annan was to Rwanda.

In the coming hours, there are several questions the White House should consider:

  • Is the White House prepared for the fruit of its inactions?
  • Is Obama prepared to take any action more forceful than “deploring” it from his bully pulpit?
  • Does the international community have the attention span to enforce pariah status on Qaddafi and Libya as a whole?
  • Will Qaddafi shrink from U.S. or UN chastisement? If the power of Obama’s rhetoric and persuasion are not enough to moderate Qaddafi, is the United States prepared to face a renewed national-security challenge from the Libyan leader?

Alas, during the elections, then-Senator Clinton worried that Obama would not be ready for the 3 a.m. phone call. Who could have expected that he’d ignore the call and then forget to check his messages for weeks at a time?

With President Obama continuing to sit on his hands and take an indecisive, backseat approach to turmoil in the Middle East, it appears that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi may soon reconquer Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and original flashpoint for the rebellion. The Libyan people — and the outside world — should expect the worst. Fifteen years ago, Qaddafi got away with massacring 1,200 political prisoners at Libya’s Abu Slim prison. When Qaddafi’s forces sweep through Benghazi, they will probably rape, pillage, and murder on a scale unprecedented in Libya. It is possible that Qaddafi will imprison and/or murder thousands of Libyans in the coming days. As Obama fiddles while Ras Lanuf and soon Benghazi burns, he risks being to Libya what Kofi Annan was to Rwanda.

In the coming hours, there are several questions the White House should consider:

  • Is the White House prepared for the fruit of its inactions?
  • Is Obama prepared to take any action more forceful than “deploring” it from his bully pulpit?
  • Does the international community have the attention span to enforce pariah status on Qaddafi and Libya as a whole?
  • Will Qaddafi shrink from U.S. or UN chastisement? If the power of Obama’s rhetoric and persuasion are not enough to moderate Qaddafi, is the United States prepared to face a renewed national-security challenge from the Libyan leader?

Alas, during the elections, then-Senator Clinton worried that Obama would not be ready for the 3 a.m. phone call. Who could have expected that he’d ignore the call and then forget to check his messages for weeks at a time?

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The Itamar Terror Attack and the Double Standard of the ‘Pro-Peace’ Left (Updated)

At +927 magazine (of all places), Dimi Reider notes that many left-wing, pro-Palestinian activists and organizations have either ignored or been noticeably subdued in their response to the vicious terrorist attack against an Israeli family in Itamar:

The activist Left’s confused and muted response reveals a shameful double standard — one that is not necessarily thought-out and intentioned, but one that needs to be urgently confronted and weeded out. It demonstrates that despite political awareness and commitment to human rights and international law, our community has yielded to one of the most common afflictions of a conflict area, and dehumanized an entire community, consciously or subconsciously rendering it second-class, semi-legitimate target for brutal violence.

While some major left-wing groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now have condemned the attack, organizations like the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Shalom Center, Tikkun, and Meretz USA have yet to speak out against it.

Other alleged “pro-peace” activist organizations have regrettably used their statements on the brutal murder as an excuse to criticize the settlements and the Israeli government.

The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall, for example, expressed its “deep sadness and sorrow” over the killing, but then added that it viewed the attack “as a part of the escalation generated and mobilized by the policies and actions of the Israeli occupation. These policies created the circumstances for committing these heinous actions. Therefore, we believe that the Israeli government bears full responsibility for the occupation and its consequences.”

The Jerusalem Fund’s Palestine Center has used the murder as an opportunity to post “Random #Israel Settler Violence facts” on Twitter, and promote its “ongoing research project” on “settler violence.”

These organizations are usually vociferous in their condemnation of the Israeli military defense and settlement construction, and their lack of a strong response to a Palestinian terrorist attack is appallingly hypocritical. Reider writes that the activist left “must find a way of loudly and unreservedly condemning atrocities” committed against Israelis living in the settlements. And the fact that he even needs to point that out is a sad testament to a movement that claims to care about peace.

UPDATE: Meretz USA e-mailed me to say that it has released a formal statement on the Itamar murders.

UPDATE (03/14): Tikkun also writes that it too has released a statement.

At +927 magazine (of all places), Dimi Reider notes that many left-wing, pro-Palestinian activists and organizations have either ignored or been noticeably subdued in their response to the vicious terrorist attack against an Israeli family in Itamar:

The activist Left’s confused and muted response reveals a shameful double standard — one that is not necessarily thought-out and intentioned, but one that needs to be urgently confronted and weeded out. It demonstrates that despite political awareness and commitment to human rights and international law, our community has yielded to one of the most common afflictions of a conflict area, and dehumanized an entire community, consciously or subconsciously rendering it second-class, semi-legitimate target for brutal violence.

While some major left-wing groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now have condemned the attack, organizations like the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the Shalom Center, Tikkun, and Meretz USA have yet to speak out against it.

Other alleged “pro-peace” activist organizations have regrettably used their statements on the brutal murder as an excuse to criticize the settlements and the Israeli government.

The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall, for example, expressed its “deep sadness and sorrow” over the killing, but then added that it viewed the attack “as a part of the escalation generated and mobilized by the policies and actions of the Israeli occupation. These policies created the circumstances for committing these heinous actions. Therefore, we believe that the Israeli government bears full responsibility for the occupation and its consequences.”

The Jerusalem Fund’s Palestine Center has used the murder as an opportunity to post “Random #Israel Settler Violence facts” on Twitter, and promote its “ongoing research project” on “settler violence.”

These organizations are usually vociferous in their condemnation of the Israeli military defense and settlement construction, and their lack of a strong response to a Palestinian terrorist attack is appallingly hypocritical. Reider writes that the activist left “must find a way of loudly and unreservedly condemning atrocities” committed against Israelis living in the settlements. And the fact that he even needs to point that out is a sad testament to a movement that claims to care about peace.

UPDATE: Meretz USA e-mailed me to say that it has released a formal statement on the Itamar murders.

UPDATE (03/14): Tikkun also writes that it too has released a statement.

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Crowley Ousted from State Department After Manning Statement

Apparently, the White House was not amused by State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley’s bizarre criticism of the Pentagon’s treatment of Bradley Manning last week. CNN is reporting that Crowley’s comments have cost him his job:

Crowley will step down as early as Sunday afternoon, the officials said, because White House officials are furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website Wikileaks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accepted Crowley’s resignation and released this statement:

It is with regret that I have accepted the resignation of Philip J. Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. PJ has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian. His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Michael Hammer will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.

This decision will undoubtedly spark an angry backlash from the antiwar left. Manning is quickly becoming an antiwar folk hero, and the White House’s swift termination of Crowley after he “defended” Manning will not go over well with Obama’s left-wing base.

And now that Crowley’s out, is intelligence chief James Clapper the next to go?

Apparently, the White House was not amused by State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley’s bizarre criticism of the Pentagon’s treatment of Bradley Manning last week. CNN is reporting that Crowley’s comments have cost him his job:

Crowley will step down as early as Sunday afternoon, the officials said, because White House officials are furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website Wikileaks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accepted Crowley’s resignation and released this statement:

It is with regret that I have accepted the resignation of Philip J. Crowley as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. PJ has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian. His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Michael Hammer will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.

This decision will undoubtedly spark an angry backlash from the antiwar left. Manning is quickly becoming an antiwar folk hero, and the White House’s swift termination of Crowley after he “defended” Manning will not go over well with Obama’s left-wing base.

And now that Crowley’s out, is intelligence chief James Clapper the next to go?

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So, Who Controls the Palestinian Street?

In the wake of the horrific murders of five family members in Itamar, commented on this morning by Rick Richman, it is especially unnerving to discover this piece in YNet about a Facebook page calling for Palestinians to launch a third intifada — a page that has gathered more than 140,000 “likes” in a week.

But YNet tells us more than that. There’s an interview there with a senior Palestinian Authority official who reveals a great deal more than he probably intended. When asked about the prospects of such an uprising, he replied that the “situation in the West Bank is different than that in Egypt; if there isn’t a political order to begin an intifada, there won’t be an intifada.” He adds that “[t]here is no organization from high ranks, which is why we are not worried about” another intifada. “We have control over these demonstrations,” he concludes.

Oh, really? I have no doubt that he’s right, that the Palestinian street is and has always been controlled by the upper echelons of Fatah and the Authority. Yet this happens to totally contradict what Palestinian leaders have always claimed. The second intifada, which launched a terror war against Israeli civilians back in 2000, of which the recent Itamar attack is a shocking, sobering reminder, was spun by the PA as a genuine grassroots affair over which they had no control. Israel never believed it, and after the IDF’s military incursions of 2002 placed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian documents into Israeli hands, the actual command structure of the intifada was revealed: terrorism was PA policy, and that intifada was directed from above.

Nice to hear the Palestinians finally admit it as well.

In the wake of the horrific murders of five family members in Itamar, commented on this morning by Rick Richman, it is especially unnerving to discover this piece in YNet about a Facebook page calling for Palestinians to launch a third intifada — a page that has gathered more than 140,000 “likes” in a week.

But YNet tells us more than that. There’s an interview there with a senior Palestinian Authority official who reveals a great deal more than he probably intended. When asked about the prospects of such an uprising, he replied that the “situation in the West Bank is different than that in Egypt; if there isn’t a political order to begin an intifada, there won’t be an intifada.” He adds that “[t]here is no organization from high ranks, which is why we are not worried about” another intifada. “We have control over these demonstrations,” he concludes.

Oh, really? I have no doubt that he’s right, that the Palestinian street is and has always been controlled by the upper echelons of Fatah and the Authority. Yet this happens to totally contradict what Palestinian leaders have always claimed. The second intifada, which launched a terror war against Israeli civilians back in 2000, of which the recent Itamar attack is a shocking, sobering reminder, was spun by the PA as a genuine grassroots affair over which they had no control. Israel never believed it, and after the IDF’s military incursions of 2002 placed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian documents into Israeli hands, the actual command structure of the intifada was revealed: terrorism was PA policy, and that intifada was directed from above.

Nice to hear the Palestinians finally admit it as well.

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UN General Assembly Hosting Anti-Israel Film Premiere

On Tuesday, the president of the UN General Assembly is planning to screen the anti-Israel film Miral in the General Assembly Hall, according to the American Jewish Committee.

“To say the least, we were surprised to learn about this highly unusual premiere under the auspices of your office,” the AJC wrote, in a letter to the UN General Assembly president, Joseph Deiss. “The film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light.”

The film depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of a young Palestinian girl. Robert Fulford at the National Post has described the movie as “a piece of blatant propaganda.”

“It’s a chronicle of history without a trace of fairness,” Fulford wrote. “All Israelis are brutes; almost all Palestinians are angels and victims.”

Last December, Philip Weiss reported that the director of Miral claimed that the film would premiere at the United Nations.

“We’re actually going to show the film on March 15 before the General Assembly of the United Nations for 2000 people. That’s where the movie will open,” filmmaker Julian Schnabel said at a book reading.

There doesn’t appear to be any information about the film screening on the UN General Assembly website, so it’s not entirely clear if the UN is still planning to go ahead with the showing or not.

But it’s puzzling why the UN General Assembly would agree to host the premiere of any movie — not to mention one as controversial and politically sensitive as Miral. The UN’s anti-Israel bias has been well-documented, and as AJC president David Harris wrote in his letter, showing the film “will only serve to reinforce the already widespread view that Israel simply cannot expect fair treatment in the UN.”

On Tuesday, the president of the UN General Assembly is planning to screen the anti-Israel film Miral in the General Assembly Hall, according to the American Jewish Committee.

“To say the least, we were surprised to learn about this highly unusual premiere under the auspices of your office,” the AJC wrote, in a letter to the UN General Assembly president, Joseph Deiss. “The film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light.”

The film depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of a young Palestinian girl. Robert Fulford at the National Post has described the movie as “a piece of blatant propaganda.”

“It’s a chronicle of history without a trace of fairness,” Fulford wrote. “All Israelis are brutes; almost all Palestinians are angels and victims.”

Last December, Philip Weiss reported that the director of Miral claimed that the film would premiere at the United Nations.

“We’re actually going to show the film on March 15 before the General Assembly of the United Nations for 2000 people. That’s where the movie will open,” filmmaker Julian Schnabel said at a book reading.

There doesn’t appear to be any information about the film screening on the UN General Assembly website, so it’s not entirely clear if the UN is still planning to go ahead with the showing or not.

But it’s puzzling why the UN General Assembly would agree to host the premiere of any movie — not to mention one as controversial and politically sensitive as Miral. The UN’s anti-Israel bias has been well-documented, and as AJC president David Harris wrote in his letter, showing the film “will only serve to reinforce the already widespread view that Israel simply cannot expect fair treatment in the UN.”

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Sleeping in Samaria on Shabbat

Daled Amos has a must-read post about the Palestinian Authority foreign minister’s initial response to the Shabbat stabbings of Udi Fogel (36), Ruth Fogel (35), and three of their five children (Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, 2 months) while they were sleeping in their home in Itamar in Samaria.

The foreign minister described the murders as “unprecedented.” The post includes pictures of the 123 Israeli children murdered by Palestinians since the offer of a state in 2000 (a total of about 1,200 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists since then). The Boker tov, Boulder! “trip down memory lane” is also worth reading.

The New York Times report seems to imply that the “proximity” of a settlement “overlooking” a Palestinian village caused a “visceral” response:

The killers appeared to have randomly picked the house, one of a neat row of identical one-story homes at the edge of the settlement, on a rocky incline overlooking the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta — the proximity underlining the visceral nature of the contest in this area between Jewish settlers and Palestinians over the land.

The report is datelined Itamar but included no picture of the community; a picture might have been useful to readers seeking to evaluate the implicit suggestion that 150 Jewish families living in an area with biblical significance was a provocation.

The headline of the Times report is “Suspecting Palestinians, Israeli Military Hunts for Killers of 5 West Bank Settlers.” Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren released a statement expressing his “profound disappointment with … the NY Times, which describes the victims, including a two month old baby, as ‘settlers,’ thereby dehumanizing them.” In my view, the report did something even worse.

Daled Amos has a must-read post about the Palestinian Authority foreign minister’s initial response to the Shabbat stabbings of Udi Fogel (36), Ruth Fogel (35), and three of their five children (Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, 2 months) while they were sleeping in their home in Itamar in Samaria.

The foreign minister described the murders as “unprecedented.” The post includes pictures of the 123 Israeli children murdered by Palestinians since the offer of a state in 2000 (a total of about 1,200 Israelis have been murdered by terrorists since then). The Boker tov, Boulder! “trip down memory lane” is also worth reading.

The New York Times report seems to imply that the “proximity” of a settlement “overlooking” a Palestinian village caused a “visceral” response:

The killers appeared to have randomly picked the house, one of a neat row of identical one-story homes at the edge of the settlement, on a rocky incline overlooking the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta — the proximity underlining the visceral nature of the contest in this area between Jewish settlers and Palestinians over the land.

The report is datelined Itamar but included no picture of the community; a picture might have been useful to readers seeking to evaluate the implicit suggestion that 150 Jewish families living in an area with biblical significance was a provocation.

The headline of the Times report is “Suspecting Palestinians, Israeli Military Hunts for Killers of 5 West Bank Settlers.” Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren released a statement expressing his “profound disappointment with … the NY Times, which describes the victims, including a two month old baby, as ‘settlers,’ thereby dehumanizing them.” In my view, the report did something even worse.

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What if Qaddafi Wins?

If something doesn’t change soon, Muammar Qaddafi will kill his way back into power over all Libya’s territory. His forces are retaking rebel positions. The opposition is crumbling. And it looks like the United States and Europe will stand back and just let it happen.

This isn’t the first time an Arab tyrant has made a startling comeback after an uprising nearly swept him away. Saddam Hussein lost control of most of Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, but tens of thousands of dead bodies later, he was firmly and ruthlessly back in the saddle.

There are good arguments against getting involved. Not even the most hawkish interventionist would have chosen a war against Qaddafi a month ago. There aren’t many worse human-rights abusers out there, though there are some. And there are certainly countries where the West has more national interests at stake, the most obvious being Iran. But let’s not pretend there won’t be consequences beyond the shores of Tripoli if Qaddafi butchers his way back to Benghazi.

He’ll emerge meaner and more isolated than ever and hell-bent on revenge. We can forget about going back to the status quo ante when his relations with others were more or less “normal.” Whatever reluctance he felt against acting out will be eroded, if not lost entirely, now that he knows the West has little appetite to move against him, even when he is cornered and at his most vulnerable.

If the only Arab rulers to be deposed by revolution are the nominally pro-American “moderates,” while the mass-murdering state sponsors of terrorism hang on, change indeed will be coming to the Middle East and North Africa, but it won’t be the change we were hoping for. One thing, however, will not have changed an iota: the Middle East will be governed by violence just as it always has.

If the Caligula of North Africa survives by fighting to the death and prevailing, he will surely inspire the other hard rulers to take the same strategy, especially after the humiliating and mostly nonviolent defeats of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali. The killers of the resistance bloc — Iran’s Islamic Republic, Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza — won’t likely be overthrown by peaceful demonstrations but by massive internally  or externally driven wars.

If something doesn’t change soon, Muammar Qaddafi will kill his way back into power over all Libya’s territory. His forces are retaking rebel positions. The opposition is crumbling. And it looks like the United States and Europe will stand back and just let it happen.

This isn’t the first time an Arab tyrant has made a startling comeback after an uprising nearly swept him away. Saddam Hussein lost control of most of Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, but tens of thousands of dead bodies later, he was firmly and ruthlessly back in the saddle.

There are good arguments against getting involved. Not even the most hawkish interventionist would have chosen a war against Qaddafi a month ago. There aren’t many worse human-rights abusers out there, though there are some. And there are certainly countries where the West has more national interests at stake, the most obvious being Iran. But let’s not pretend there won’t be consequences beyond the shores of Tripoli if Qaddafi butchers his way back to Benghazi.

He’ll emerge meaner and more isolated than ever and hell-bent on revenge. We can forget about going back to the status quo ante when his relations with others were more or less “normal.” Whatever reluctance he felt against acting out will be eroded, if not lost entirely, now that he knows the West has little appetite to move against him, even when he is cornered and at his most vulnerable.

If the only Arab rulers to be deposed by revolution are the nominally pro-American “moderates,” while the mass-murdering state sponsors of terrorism hang on, change indeed will be coming to the Middle East and North Africa, but it won’t be the change we were hoping for. One thing, however, will not have changed an iota: the Middle East will be governed by violence just as it always has.

If the Caligula of North Africa survives by fighting to the death and prevailing, he will surely inspire the other hard rulers to take the same strategy, especially after the humiliating and mostly nonviolent defeats of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali. The killers of the resistance bloc — Iran’s Islamic Republic, Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza — won’t likely be overthrown by peaceful demonstrations but by massive internally  or externally driven wars.

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