Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 19, 2011

Beware the September Surprise

Jonathan, while I agree that Democrats should be worried about Obama’s Israel policies, I wish I were as confident that President Obama’s analysis of U.S. interests would be enough to ensure against a vote for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Like Jimmy Carter, Obama stands on principles, however misguided they may be, and is often willing to put his beliefs above politics. That his principles are wrong in the eyes of most of the electorate is beside the point.

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Jonathan, while I agree that Democrats should be worried about Obama’s Israel policies, I wish I were as confident that President Obama’s analysis of U.S. interests would be enough to ensure against a vote for unilateral Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

Like Jimmy Carter, Obama stands on principles, however misguided they may be, and is often willing to put his beliefs above politics. That his principles are wrong in the eyes of most of the electorate is beside the point.

It’s against this backdrop that I believe that nagging concerns are justified about what Obama might do with regard to next month’s United Nations vote to impose an independent Palestinian state absent any negotiated peace. Rashid Khalidi, a current adviser to the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, remains a close Obama confidante. While The Los Angeles Times continues to withhold the tape of Obama’s toast to Khalidi prior to the professor’s departure for a post at Columbia University, Obama’s speech perhaps gave an inkling of his sympathy toward the Palestine Liberation Organization and his antipathy toward Israel.

Obama entered office with strong opinions. His understanding of the real reasons for the lack of peace in the Middle East was shoddy, shaped as it was by a former PLO activist and an Ivy League bubble. He reportedly still remains enthralled by anti-Israel intellectual Samantha Power.  Intellectual arrogance, however, appears to prevent Obama from reconsidering his assumptions. Rather, he digs in his heels.

That the State Department has come out against unilateral recognition is irrelevant. After all, Secretary of State Clinton also came out against any demands that Syrian President Bashar Assad step aside just days before Obama demanded that Assad step aside. In his speech about the Middle East last May, Obama appears to have left himself too much wiggle room for comfort. Certainly, a US vote in favor of unilateral Palestinian statehood would unleash chaos. The question is whether when the smoke cleared, President Obama thought he might be remembered positively for the fait accompli.

Harry Truman defied the establishment to recognize Israel. We should not discount the possibility that Obama might defy the establishment to advance Israel’s demise. Beware the September surprise.

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A Bonus for the Terrorists: Heightened Tensions Between Israel and Egypt

In our coverage of yesterday’s bloody attacks in which eight Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists near Eilat, Contentions authors have attempted to go below the surface and understand what those who planned or colluded in the atrocity hoped to accomplish.

I pointed out it was possibly a provocation aimed at reminding the region Hamas has the power to unleash violence anytime it wants from its secure terror state on Israel’s doorstep, especially with the confrontation over statehood about to take place in the United Nations. David Hazony saw it as an effort on the part of Hamas to help distract the world from the atrocities its ally Syria is conducting against their own people as well as Palestinians. And Evelyn Gordon believes Egypt is turning a blind eye to its territory being used as a base for terror attacks in order to convince Israel to allow it to re-militarize the Sinai.

All of this may be true, but today, another angle to this story must be considered.

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In our coverage of yesterday’s bloody attacks in which eight Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists near Eilat, Contentions authors have attempted to go below the surface and understand what those who planned or colluded in the atrocity hoped to accomplish.

I pointed out it was possibly a provocation aimed at reminding the region Hamas has the power to unleash violence anytime it wants from its secure terror state on Israel’s doorstep, especially with the confrontation over statehood about to take place in the United Nations. David Hazony saw it as an effort on the part of Hamas to help distract the world from the atrocities its ally Syria is conducting against their own people as well as Palestinians. And Evelyn Gordon believes Egypt is turning a blind eye to its territory being used as a base for terror attacks in order to convince Israel to allow it to re-militarize the Sinai.

All of this may be true, but today, another angle to this story must be considered.

A shooting incident between Israeli forces pursuing the fleeing terrorists and Egyptian security personnel at the border makes one wonder if Hamas and its Islamist allies in Cairo are also seeking to heighten the already tense relations between Israel and Egypt. According to reports, three Egyptians were killed by Israeli fire when terrorists escaping across the border fled into what is described as a group of Egyptian security officers. Whatever it is that actually happened — and Israel has only said the army is investigating the incident — Egyptians are enraged with various political parties demanding the Israeli ambassador be expelled and the government issuing an official protest.

The angry Egyptians are notably silent about the fact they have allowed their territory to be used as a launching pad for terror against a neighboring state, but given the unpopularity of Israel and Jews in Egyptian society, this is hardly a surprise. Given the commitment of the post-Mubarak government to warming relations with both Iran and Hamas, Israel can expect no satisfaction from any complaints about the fact the Sinai has become a crossroads for terror.

Whether or not those behind the terror attack deliberately sought to get Egyptians killed by Israelis, more tension between Jerusalem and Cairo must be considered a bonus for them. It is also suspicious the terrorists fled into a group of security officers who just happened to be in that one spot in the vast expanse of the desert border between the two countries, if indeed that is what happened.

The Egyptian military knows that it has too much to lose in terms of the $2 billion in U.S aid it still gets annually to allow itself to be drawn into a conflict with Israel. But Hamas and its Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood allies have every motive to drive a wedge between the post-Mubarak government and Israel as well as the West.

But no matter what the terrorists were thinking, we do know this much. A day after the slaughter of eight Israelis, the Hamas rulers of Gaza are once again flexing their muscles firing missiles into Israel. They have demonstrated they can hurt the Jewish state whenever they want to. They also have seen relations between Israel and Egypt deteriorate even further. That adds up to a very good week for Hamas and heightened concerns about both security and the regional balance of power for Israel and the United States.

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Saudi Arabia’s Bra Conundrum

It is tough to be a woman in Saudi Arabia: Women cannot go outside their home without a husband or a male family member to escort them and famously cannot drive. They have no vote although, again, pretty much no one in Saudi Arabia does. The State Department advises women traveling unescorted that restaurants may refuse them service. Because of the myriad restrictions, most Saudi women cannot work in public places. A 2005 law which would have allowed women to work in public shops remains unimplemented.

But if women cannot work, then pity the poor bra salesmen who must sell lingerie to women in the Islamist kingdom. According to an expose in Hurriyet:

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It is tough to be a woman in Saudi Arabia: Women cannot go outside their home without a husband or a male family member to escort them and famously cannot drive. They have no vote although, again, pretty much no one in Saudi Arabia does. The State Department advises women traveling unescorted that restaurants may refuse them service. Because of the myriad restrictions, most Saudi women cannot work in public places. A 2005 law which would have allowed women to work in public shops remains unimplemented.

But if women cannot work, then pity the poor bra salesmen who must sell lingerie to women in the Islamist kingdom. According to an expose in Hurriyet:

Women in Saudi Arabia have to buy their intimate clothing from male clerks. Such irony … This causes much embarrassment for women customers seeking advice on cup sizes in lingerie stores. The shops are also not allowed to have fitting rooms. And the biggest complaint is that male clerks in general try to guess customers’ bra sizes by staring at their abayas.

This reminds me of a conversation I had in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, back in March 2000. I was chatting with the Talib and recalled those times when I was five or six-years-old, following my mom in a department store only to look up in a panic to realize I was following the wrong person. Fortunately, I could spin around and find my mother quite easily. How, I asked the young religious enforcer, could children identify their mothers in public when they got lost? He assured me that Afghan children had become quite adept at recognizing their mother’s ankles.

At any rate, according to Hurriyet’s story, there could be some change coming to rectify the Saudi bra conundrum:

Shops may hire females. But then again, they must train them and bear the cost of that. They are expected to cover their display windows in order to block the view into the stores. And should pay $930 a month to hire a male security guard. This is all to keep men from entering the shop… Women’s intimate apparel represents 17 percent of the $2.3 billion Saudi women’s clothing market. The owners of lingerie stores resist replacing male sales clerks with women because they argue that this change will result with them losing customers.

Enter Facebook:

Last year, in February, activists boycotted lingerie shops that employ men. Twenty-six women attended a 10-day course on selling women’s underwear held by activist Reem Assad, a lecturer in banking and finance at Jeddah’s liberal Dar Al Hekma Women’s College. The campaign, which began on Facebook and was dubbed “Enough Embarrassment,” received wide support from women and Islamic scholars. It aimed to get rid of men who work as sales clerks in these shops.

Every day, we should be thankful that we were not born in Saudi Arabia. That the Saudi kingdom continues to exist unreformed and unrepentant in this day and age is truly an embarrassment, and that our president bows down to the Saudi king even more so.

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Blame Obamacare for Verizon Union Strike

A lot of the media coverage of the Verizon union worker strike has overlooked the root cause of the dispute between management and labor: the increased cost of health care under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Union workers called a strike after Verizon asked them to cover the price of their health care premiums. According to Verizon’s statement to employees, Obamacare tax hikes forced the company to pass on the extra cost to workers:

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A lot of the media coverage of the Verizon union worker strike has overlooked the root cause of the dispute between management and labor: the increased cost of health care under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Union workers called a strike after Verizon asked them to cover the price of their health care premiums. According to Verizon’s statement to employees, Obamacare tax hikes forced the company to pass on the extra cost to workers:

Under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an excise tax will be levied on healthcare plans with very generous plan design components (so-called “Cadillac plans”). . . .  This excise tax is projected to cost the company as much as $200 million in 2018 when the tax is imposed; however, Verizon is required to account for this cost now.  Accordingly, we will need to modify plan designs to avoid the impact of this tax.

Now union workers, who campaigned in favor of Obamacare just a few years ago, are ironically finding themselves victims of its policies, Rob Bluey writes:

But both the IBEW and the CWA, like the vast majority of Big Labor, supported President Obama’s push for health care “reform.” The two unions did their part to bring about a law that increased the health care costs of one of their members’ largest employers, and are now furious that they’re being asked to shoulder some of that burden.

True, both the IBEW and the CWA opposed the Cadillac tax specifically. But its eventual inclusion in the final bill did not stop them from supporting the legislation. “While the unions would like to see the measure stripped in that process,” the Associated Press reported, CWA President Larry Cohen “said he was not prepared to threaten to withdraw the CWA’s support for the overall health care measure if the tax stays in place.”

But is this just the beginning of a self-created nightmare for union workers? As Big Labor’s power in the private sector continues to weaken, and companies start to feel the financial burden of Obamacare, more and more union workers might be asked to help shoulder some of the expense of their “Cadillac plans.” In other words, get ready for a lot more strikes.

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Walls Can’t Stop Freedom If People Want It

In addition to this being the 20th anniversary of the attempted coup to reinstate Communist rule in Russia today, this month also marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall whose fall heralded the collapse of the Soviet empire. While there have been many retrospectives published on these events, one of the most insightful comes from the daughter of the man who built the wall: Nina Khruscheva who now teaches international affairs at the New School in New York City who wrote about the double anniversary in The Scotsman. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, who refused to defend Communism or the Wall with force, her father Nikita Khrushchev was prepared to do whatever it took to hold Eastern Europe in thrall, even if she does portray him as the victim of pressure from Kremlin hardliners.

But the main point to be gleaned from this history is not trying to determine whether he was the villain of the story or that Mikhail Gorbachev was a hero.

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In addition to this being the 20th anniversary of the attempted coup to reinstate Communist rule in Russia today, this month also marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall whose fall heralded the collapse of the Soviet empire. While there have been many retrospectives published on these events, one of the most insightful comes from the daughter of the man who built the wall: Nina Khruscheva who now teaches international affairs at the New School in New York City who wrote about the double anniversary in The Scotsman. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, who refused to defend Communism or the Wall with force, her father Nikita Khrushchev was prepared to do whatever it took to hold Eastern Europe in thrall, even if she does portray him as the victim of pressure from Kremlin hardliners.

But the main point to be gleaned from this history is not trying to determine whether he was the villain of the story or that Mikhail Gorbachev was a hero.

Berliners had no option to resist the building of the wall but what happened in 1991 was that ordinary Russians refused to allow the clock to be turned back and tyranny restored. Khruscheva writes that we can’t know whether the Communist regime would still be in place had Gorbachev been willing to fight for it any more than we can know whether it would fallen sooner had the wall not been built. But she concludes by pointing out that freedom must be desired as well as fought for:

What does seem clear is that, in the end, no wall can hold back democracy — and, conversely, if a country’s people don’t want democracy enough, no wall is needed to keep it out. The world has Vladimir Putin to thank for that lesson.

While we can celebrate the collapse of Soviet tyranny in Eastern Europe, commemorations of the defeat of the coup seem out of place considering the authoritarian nature of the successor regime in Moscow. So long as Putin rules in the Kremlin with the apparent consent of the Russian people, commemorations of the coup are a mockery of the hopes that day engendered.

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Feingold Dashes Labor’s Hopes of Revenge

So does this definitively dash Big Labor’s last great hope to take out Gov. Scott Walker next year? Now that former Sen. Russ Feingold’s announced he won’t run for governor, the chances of Democrats finding an electable candidate to compete with Walker in a 2012 recall election are sure to be much slimmer.

Not only is public sentiment in the state moving against a recall, but Feingold was the only potential Democratic candidate who had a good shot at beating Walker, according to Public Policy Polling:

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So does this definitively dash Big Labor’s last great hope to take out Gov. Scott Walker next year? Now that former Sen. Russ Feingold’s announced he won’t run for governor, the chances of Democrats finding an electable candidate to compete with Walker in a 2012 recall election are sure to be much slimmer.

Not only is public sentiment in the state moving against a recall, but Feingold was the only potential Democratic candidate who had a good shot at beating Walker, according to Public Policy Polling:

Democrats may be dependent on a Feingold candidacy to win though. In May Tom Barrett led Walker 50-43 in a hypothetical rematch of their contest last fall, but now Barrett’s advantage is only 48-47. Given the way sentiment has moved against recall in the closing days of these elections I don’t think Barrett would beat Walker if he started with only a one point lead. And Walker already has the advantage over two other Democrats that have been mentioned as potential candidates- 47-44 over former Congressman David Obey and 46-43 over sitting Congressman Ron Kind.

John McCormack writes that Democrats are now pretty much doomed in a recall election now, as long as Walker’s approval ratings remain steady. But labor activists are still out for blood, and may force the Dems to go through with it anyway:

Unless Scott Walker’s polling numbers take a nosedive, any attempt by Democrats to take him out in a recall election in 2012 will likely fail. But Democrats have promised a recall campaign, and there will be considerable pressure among the grassroots labor and liberal activists to follow through.

So there might still be another recall fight on the horizon, but Feingold’s decision will likely make Republicans a lot more optimistic about it.

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Obama’s Israel Policy Worries Democrats

As I wrote last week, the fact that about a fifth of Congress will have visited Israel during the August recess is a massive statement about the strength of the bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state. The buzz coming from these trips is that both Republicans and Democrats are making it clear to the Palestinian Authority that if they go ahead with their plan to ask the United Nations to recognize their independence without making peace with Israel, a U.S. aid cutoff will be inevitable. They are also telling the White House that the United States must veto this resolution in the Security Council.

Though some worry about the president’s resolve when it comes to vetoing the Palestinian ploy, a failure to do so isn’t likely. It is just as much the concern of the United States to prevent the chaos that allowing the UN to destroy the peace process in this matter as it is in Israel’s interests. But the real question on the minds of many of the Democrats is whether or not Obama will pick another fight with Israel before the next election.

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As I wrote last week, the fact that about a fifth of Congress will have visited Israel during the August recess is a massive statement about the strength of the bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state. The buzz coming from these trips is that both Republicans and Democrats are making it clear to the Palestinian Authority that if they go ahead with their plan to ask the United Nations to recognize their independence without making peace with Israel, a U.S. aid cutoff will be inevitable. They are also telling the White House that the United States must veto this resolution in the Security Council.

Though some worry about the president’s resolve when it comes to vetoing the Palestinian ploy, a failure to do so isn’t likely. It is just as much the concern of the United States to prevent the chaos that allowing the UN to destroy the peace process in this matter as it is in Israel’s interests. But the real question on the minds of many of the Democrats is whether or not Obama will pick another fight with Israel before the next election.

Politico reports that the two leaders of the Congressional delegations to Israel, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democrat Minority Whip Steny Hoyer are sounding similar themes about the importance of the alliance with the Jewish state. But as the piece states, you don’t have to go very far beneath the surface to realize that many Democrats who are staunch backers of Israel like Hoyer are nervous about the administration’s predilection for spats with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Right now, Democrats are worried that Republicans will be able to turn the special election to replace Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th district into a referendum on Obama’s bad attitude toward Israel. While fears about holding that seat for the Democrats might be exaggerated, if the GOP candidate is able to pull off an upset win in that heavily Jewish district then that will be interpreted as a sign that Democrats are losing their stranglehold on the Jewish vote.

But just as worrisome for the Democrats is the fact that their candidate in that race is working hard to distance himself from the president, even going so far as to say that he is undecided about endorsing Obama for re-election in large measure because of the administration’s attitude toward Israel. As one source told Politico, a Democrat conceding that Obama is bad on Israel will lead to all Democrats being seen in the same light. This prompted a vow to make sure that such wavering Democrats were “snapped back into line” behind the president this fall.

But the problem with that is that Democrats know very well that if Obama picks another fight over Jewish homes in Jerusalem as he did in 2009 and 2010 or tries to ambush or pressure Netanyahu on the question of the 1967 lines as he did this past May, even the leaders of the Democratic caucuses will abandon the president as they did then.

Though Democrats have far bigger problems in 2012 than the possibility of losing some Jewish votes, they know that the potential for a major dustup with Israel will always be a possibility so long as Barack Obama is in the White House.

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The August Coup, Twenty Years Later

On August 19, 1991—twenty years ago today—the political scientist Dmitri Furman ran to tell his friend, Russian analyst Alexei Pankin, that an anti-Gorbachev coup had begun. Pankin remembers Furman’s next words as having “proven prophetic.”

“It doesn’t matter who comes out on top — the people who organized the putsch against Gorbachev or Boris Yeltsin,” Pankin vividly recalls Furman, who died less than a month ago, saying. “The winner will destroy the opposition and cling to power as long as possible on the pretext of overcoming the chaos or of defending democracy. Neither side will have any use for Gorbachev because of his penchant for reaching compromises and consensus among conflicting interests. This means that true democracy has already lost the battle.”

But not everyone sees it this way.

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On August 19, 1991—twenty years ago today—the political scientist Dmitri Furman ran to tell his friend, Russian analyst Alexei Pankin, that an anti-Gorbachev coup had begun. Pankin remembers Furman’s next words as having “proven prophetic.”

“It doesn’t matter who comes out on top — the people who organized the putsch against Gorbachev or Boris Yeltsin,” Pankin vividly recalls Furman, who died less than a month ago, saying. “The winner will destroy the opposition and cling to power as long as possible on the pretext of overcoming the chaos or of defending democracy. Neither side will have any use for Gorbachev because of his penchant for reaching compromises and consensus among conflicting interests. This means that true democracy has already lost the battle.”

But not everyone sees it this way.

Masha Lipman, of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote a moving column yesterday arguing that the coup plotters represented the tyrannical yolk of Russia’s communist past, and the country’s reaction to the coup revealed a deep yearning for freedom and democracy.

“At that moment a communist comeback was a loathsome prospect to many in Russia; popular resistance to the coup took shape a couple of hours after the plotters’ address,” Lipman wrote. “This was amazing evidence of political faith and idealism: People believed in democracy against oppression, they believed in Boris Yeltsin and — most amazing of all — they believed in themselves. Never in Russian history was ‘we the people’ so meaningful and so peaceful.”

It is difficult to reconcile these two analyses, yet they both prove to be in many ways intellectually irresistible. And this can be somewhat troubling, because how we view the events of the August Coup informs our understanding of the country that was built in its wake. More troubling–at least for Russians–though, is the fact that the country itself seems torn between those who remember it but are trying to forget it and those who simply cannot remember at all. A Russian polling firm released data yesterday that shows a plurality of Russians don’t subscribe to either Lipman’s or Furman’s analysis. According to Interfax:

According to their data, even those Russians who still remember the names of the people involved in those events, struggle to recall which side they were on. The most conflicting assessment is thus given to the actions of Yeltsin, Gorbachev, Rutskoy and (former acting chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and opponent of the GKChP, Ruslan) Khasbulatov, who were listed as both, coup initiators and coup opponents, the VTsIOM poll has shown. Compared to 1994, twice as many people are unable to evaluate the actions of the GKChP (13 per cent versus 26 per cent).

Meanwhile, a relative majority believes that this was merely an episode of a power struggle in the country’s topmost leadership (41 per cent). Every fourth person polled agrees with the statement that this was a tragic event that had disastrous consequences for the countries (as received) (25 per cent). Every tenth person polled (9 per cent) calls the 20-year-old events a triumph of the democratic revolution that put an end to the reign of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

That last statistic–the belief that it was just a power struggle at the top–is indicative of the cynicism that has crept into the Russian national consciousness. Lipman warns against this cynicism. “The freedom of individual pursuit — as long as one stays away from politics — is one undoubted achievement of Russia’s post-communist development,” she writes, adding that the rise of a consumer society and its attendant absence of breadlines and availability of basic necessities is nothing to scoff at either.

One hopes these liberties are soon joined by political freedom as well. Furman, I imagine, died still hoping he would one day be proved wrong.

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Obama Drops the Ball on Egyptian Elections

To most Americans, democracy and elections mean the type of system Americans enjoy in which voters choose from a number of candidates to represent certain constituencies. Elections, however, come in all sorts of flavors, and minor variations can radically influence results.

Behind election design are a number of choices:

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To most Americans, democracy and elections mean the type of system Americans enjoy in which voters choose from a number of candidates to represent certain constituencies. Elections, however, come in all sorts of flavors, and minor variations can radically influence results.

Behind election design are a number of choices:

  • Will the elections be first-past-the-post or proportional representation? In first past-the-post elections, like we have in the United States, the winner takes all and the loser goes home. However, in proportional representation elections, each party gets power commensurate with its vote total.
  • Will election districts be large or small?
  • Will voters choose individual candidates or party slates and, if the latter, will the placement of candidates on the party list be known in advance?
  • Do parties need to attain a minimum vote to take seats in the legislature?

Choices matter:

Because Israel has a proportional representation system with just a two percent threshold for parties to enter the Knesset and large parties have only rarely attained an outright majority, small parties have had the ability to amplify their influence beyond their natural constituency.

In 2002, five major parties split the Turkey’s secularist vote and each fell below Turkey’s 10 percent threshold. This enabled Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist party to transform a 32 percent showing into a supermajority which he used to eviscerate the secularism enshrined in Turkey’s constitution.

While I continue to believe ousting Saddam Hussein by military force was the right call, it’s certainly true that the United States made a number of mistakes in the aftermath of liberation. While many pundits continue to criticize de-Baathification and the disbandment of the Iraqi army, their criticisms are misguided: Appeasing and preserving the Baath would have assuaged 10 percent of the population at the expense of the other 90 percent, and the largely conscript army had already disbanded itself—the true mistake there was failure to pay pensions in an orderly manner. The two greatest mistakes in post-liberation Iraq were acquiescing to the label of occupying power—a move that justified insurgent rhetoric—and choice of election system. By initially acquiescing to a list system amidst a single constituency, the Bush administration privileged Islamists and ethnic nationalists over more pragmatic politicians more eager to engage in local issues.

The Washington Institute’s David Schenker, perhaps the best analyst of the Levant we have today, highlighted how Jordan’s King Hussein manipulated election design to marginalize the Muslim Brotherhood to Jordan’s benefit:

In 1989, Jordan held its first free nationwide parliamentary election in thirty-three years, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party — the Islamic Action Front (IAF) — fared extremely well, winning 34 of 80 seats. To forestall another such stellar performance, in 1993, King Hussein amended the election law from a “multiple seat, multiple vote” format to a “multiple seat, single vote” format. Left with only one ballot, Jordanian voters prioritized their tribal allegiances over their political and ideological preferences, and the Islamists lost out. In the subsequent elections, the IAF took only 17 seats.

In Egypt, however, the Obama administration is dropping the ball. While it has called for elections, it has made no effort to advocate for an election system that would be more conducive to real democracy and undercut those forces which leverage elections insincerely in pursuit of one-man, one-vote, one-time Islamist rule. I tried to tackle this issue in an op-ed for Fox yesterday:

Egypt experts agree the Brotherhood has a natural constituency of only 25 percent of the population but, at the same time, acknowledge it is the best organized party in the new Egypt. If Egypt holds elections according to a winner-takes-all system (as in the United States), the Brotherhood might leverage its minority support to achieve a dominating grip on government. However, if Egypt adopts proportional representation, then even the most fractious and disorganized secular leaders can form a coalition after elections to quarantine or balance populists whose commitment to democracy is tactical and fleeting.

It’s easy to lament the problems of mob rule in the Middle East, but the status quo wasn’t tenable and basing American security on ailing octogenarian dictators isn’t a wise long-term strategy. Rather than lament the fall of what was, it’s important to shape the outcome in countries like Egypt to most conform to long-term American interests. Here, alas, the Obama administration is dropping the ball by failing to push for real election reform, a failure for which we will suffer for generations.

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The Reality of Campus Anti-Semitism Revisited

Back in April, I wrote to take issue with a statement written by Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee and Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors. The duo contended that a number of recent troubling incidents involving Jewish students on American college campuses did not rise to the level of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism. Even worse, they sought to dismiss efforts to fight back against the vicious anti-Semitism that masquerades as criticism of Zionism as an unscrupulous attempt at censoring anti-Israel speech.  Their stand undermined the campaign to get the government and universities to take the issue of anti-Semitism seriously. My post prompted a subsequent exchange with Stern and Nelson who defended their stance on the issue.

But four months later the head of the AJC has weighed in on the issue to express his disagreement with Stern. According to the Forward, David Harris, the president of the American Jewish Committee has written to express his regret about Stern’s letter and concedes that it should never have been released.

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Back in April, I wrote to take issue with a statement written by Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee and Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors. The duo contended that a number of recent troubling incidents involving Jewish students on American college campuses did not rise to the level of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism. Even worse, they sought to dismiss efforts to fight back against the vicious anti-Semitism that masquerades as criticism of Zionism as an unscrupulous attempt at censoring anti-Israel speech.  Their stand undermined the campaign to get the government and universities to take the issue of anti-Semitism seriously. My post prompted a subsequent exchange with Stern and Nelson who defended their stance on the issue.

But four months later the head of the AJC has weighed in on the issue to express his disagreement with Stern. According to the Forward, David Harris, the president of the American Jewish Committee has written to express his regret about Stern’s letter and concedes that it should never have been released.

Harris’s rebuke of Stern came in a letter to a lecturer in Hebrew at the University of California at Santa Cruz who had written to the organization to express her dismay. The school was the site of one of the incidents that Stern had contended was not anti-Semitic.

Given Stern’s status as one of the leading scholars on this issue, Harris’ decision could not have been easy. But it was the right thing to do, especially considering the organization’s long and honorable tradition of bearing witness against anti-Semitism.

Let’s hope that this incident marks a turning point in terms of the resolve of the organized Jewish world to fight back against the incitement and hate against Israel and Judaism on American college campuses. For too long, too many people of good will have stood back and refused to speak up about the way this abusive behavior has been tolerated in academia. The singling out of Israel and the Jewish people for treatment that is not accorded any other group is textbook anti-Semitism. Combating this abuse is not to be confused with censorship of opinions. As I wrote in April, there would be little debate about whether a university that extended an invitation to speak to a member of the Ku Klux Klan was creating a hostile environment for African-Americans. The willingness of institutions to treat the spewing of hatred against Jews and Israel as a matter of opinion should not be viewed any differently.

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NASA Study: Global Warming May Prompt Alien Attack

Now that Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming theory, climate scientists have been forced to get even more creative with their climate change alarmism.

Here’s the latest fanatical claim, via a NASA/Penn State scientific study: A band of moralistic, environmental-loving aliens may attack and destroy humanity (for the greater good of the universe, of course!), unless we can get our carbon emissions under control.

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Now that Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming theory, climate scientists have been forced to get even more creative with their climate change alarmism.

Here’s the latest fanatical claim, via a NASA/Penn State scientific study: A band of moralistic, environmental-loving aliens may attack and destroy humanity (for the greater good of the universe, of course!), unless we can get our carbon emissions under control.

Yes, this was written in a taxpayer-funded study. The Guardian reports:

It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim…

The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.

“Green” aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” the authors write.

As long as we’re using the threat of alien invasions to advance our own personal whims and agendas, this study seems like a perfect argument for giant killer space lasers.

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Polling Worse Than Carter and First Bush

According to the latest Gallup survey, Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States has fallen to 11 percent, the lowest level of the Obama presidency and just four percentage points above the all-time low recorded in October 2008. This figure is lower than it was during the low point of the Carter presidency (12 percent) and the George H.W. Bush presidency (14 percent).

For the record, both men ran for re-election. And both men were handily defeated.

According to the latest Gallup survey, Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States has fallen to 11 percent, the lowest level of the Obama presidency and just four percentage points above the all-time low recorded in October 2008. This figure is lower than it was during the low point of the Carter presidency (12 percent) and the George H.W. Bush presidency (14 percent).

For the record, both men ran for re-election. And both men were handily defeated.

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Terror a Near-Daily Occurrence in Israel

The well-coordinated terrorist attacks against Israel yesterday made international headlines and also solicited a State Department condemnation. But the terror which Israelis endure is a near-daily occurrence.

While attacks against buses still make headlines, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip continues regularly. The same day as the bus attacks, for example, Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza and aimed at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. If only Obama was less interested in being Zoning Commissioner-in-Chief in Jerusalem and more interested in zero tolerance toward terror, his policies might not have turned out to be such miserable failures.

The well-coordinated terrorist attacks against Israel yesterday made international headlines and also solicited a State Department condemnation. But the terror which Israelis endure is a near-daily occurrence.

While attacks against buses still make headlines, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip continues regularly. The same day as the bus attacks, for example, Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted two rockets fired from Gaza and aimed at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. If only Obama was less interested in being Zoning Commissioner-in-Chief in Jerusalem and more interested in zero tolerance toward terror, his policies might not have turned out to be such miserable failures.

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Tea Party’s Next Step: Medicare Reform

Yuval Levin and I have written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that while the Tea Party movement has been a tremendously positive force in American political life, the next test, and the real test, is whether it can channel its energy into entitlement reform—and specifically the reform of Medicare.

The crushing and unprecedented coming debt crisis—which will see the national debt grow to more than twice the size of the economy, strangling our economic future—cannot be averted unless health-care costs are brought under control, and that cannot be done unless the basic structure of the Medicare program is reformed. If we ignore Medicare, we ignore the debt problem.

Our bottom line is this: If the Tea Party movement holds politicians’ feet to the fire on Medicare reform, it will take its place among the great, constructive political movements in U.S. history. If it doesn’t, it will be judged to have been fundamentally unserious when it came to rolling back the modern welfare state.

You can read the whole thing here.

Yuval Levin and I have written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that while the Tea Party movement has been a tremendously positive force in American political life, the next test, and the real test, is whether it can channel its energy into entitlement reform—and specifically the reform of Medicare.

The crushing and unprecedented coming debt crisis—which will see the national debt grow to more than twice the size of the economy, strangling our economic future—cannot be averted unless health-care costs are brought under control, and that cannot be done unless the basic structure of the Medicare program is reformed. If we ignore Medicare, we ignore the debt problem.

Our bottom line is this: If the Tea Party movement holds politicians’ feet to the fire on Medicare reform, it will take its place among the great, constructive political movements in U.S. history. If it doesn’t, it will be judged to have been fundamentally unserious when it came to rolling back the modern welfare state.

You can read the whole thing here.

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The Obama-Is-Doomed Argument

The economic news of the past 48 hours, combined with polling data this week, has suddenly snapped into focus the actual question of the 2012 election: Can anything save Barack Obama? In the National Journal, Charlie Cook—both a serious political analyst and a conventional-wisdom weathervane—spends 1,000 words harrumphing about how the GOP is going too far t0 the right but also says, “To put it more simply, this election is the Republican Party’s to lose.”

I’m not so sure about that. Elections are referenda on the incumbent. Seven presidents since World War II found themselves in the same straits; five were no longer president after the next election day. This incumbent is in more trouble than any other in the past 30 years

I explain the reasons why in today’s New York Post.

The economic news of the past 48 hours, combined with polling data this week, has suddenly snapped into focus the actual question of the 2012 election: Can anything save Barack Obama? In the National Journal, Charlie Cook—both a serious political analyst and a conventional-wisdom weathervane—spends 1,000 words harrumphing about how the GOP is going too far t0 the right but also says, “To put it more simply, this election is the Republican Party’s to lose.”

I’m not so sure about that. Elections are referenda on the incumbent. Seven presidents since World War II found themselves in the same straits; five were no longer president after the next election day. This incumbent is in more trouble than any other in the past 30 years

I explain the reasons why in today’s New York Post.

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What Lies Beneath the Surface in Syria?

Several years ago, Farid Ghadry—a Syrian exile activist—published a piece in the Middle East Quarterly looking at what political trends lay beneath the surface of Syria’s Baathist dictatorship.

While Ghadry himself does not have any following in Syria or among Syrians, his analysis is nonetheless apt: He identified the discussions groups that arose during the short-lived “Damascus Spring” and hypothesized that they represented the proto-political parties which might develop.

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Several years ago, Farid Ghadry—a Syrian exile activist—published a piece in the Middle East Quarterly looking at what political trends lay beneath the surface of Syria’s Baathist dictatorship.

While Ghadry himself does not have any following in Syria or among Syrians, his analysis is nonetheless apt: He identified the discussions groups that arose during the short-lived “Damascus Spring” and hypothesized that they represented the proto-political parties which might develop.

  • Among the best-known discussion circles is the Al-Kawakibi Forum, named after Abdul Rahman al-Kawakibi (1849-1902), an intellectual who advocated an Arab renaissance modeled after the eighteenth century European enlightenment. Led by Majid Manjouneh, an intellectual from Aleppo, the Kawakibi Forum gained an immediate following…
  • Another forum that simultaneously rose to prominence was … named after Jamal Atassi, a Nasserite intellectual who died in 2000. The Atassi Forum supported 1950s-style Arab nationalism and was both vocal in its support of Palestinian statehood and its rejection of Israel…
  • The Syrian parliamentarian Riad Sa’if, since jailed for his anti-corruption activities, formed the National Dialogue Forum (Muntada al-Hiwar al-Watani), which, as a result of its discussions, issued the Manifesto of Social Peace (Wathiqat as-Sulm al-Ijtima’i), which called for transparency and accountability in the government.
  • Separately, Ma’amoun al-Homsi, another member of parliament, issued his famous August 7, 2001 declaration in which he asked Assad to respect human rights and begin lifting the emergency laws.

Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood may dominate a post-Assad Syria for the same reason which it might rise to dominate Egypt. Even if most non-Alawi Syrians do not support it, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is perhaps the best organized opposition movement in Syria.  Their rise would be inimical to American interests.  Here is what one Syrian Muslim Brotherhood activist wrote in 2001:

The verse [Qur. 9:5] does not leave any room in the mind to conjecture about what is called defensive war.  This verse asserts that holy war, which is demanded in Islamic law, is not a defensive war because it could legitimately be an offensive war.  That is the apex and most honorable of all holy wars.  Its goal is the exaltation of the word of God, the construction of Islamic society, and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth regardless of the means.  It is legal to carry on an offensive holy war.

Make no mistake: The Western educated eye-doctor should go and quickly. The endless parade of Congressmen and Senators who paid homage to Assad in Damascus was truly shameful. Let’s hope, though, that the White House and the State Department have given some thought about what comes next, and how they might maximize leverage to influence the outcome on the day after.

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Why Egypt Plays the Terror Card

David offered a persuasive analysis for why Hamas permitted yesterday’s multipronged terror attack across the Israeli-Egyptian border. But since Hamas rarely needs an excuse to attack Israel, the more interesting question is why Egypt permitted the attack. And “permit” seems to be the operative word: The attack took place in broad daylight right in front of an Egyptian army outpost (thus surprising Israel despite intelligence warnings, as it expected the attack to hit an unguarded part of the border), and even when the ensuing firefight moved into Egyptian territory, Israeli news reports offer no indication that Israeli forces ever saw any Egyptian troops in action; they merely note that Egypt later claimed its soldiers had killed two terrorists.

One possible answer, of course, is simple incompetence, which is worrying enough: If Egypt can’t maintain security in Sinai, Israel will have to vastly increase its own troop presence along the border. A more worrying possibility is that the new government, beset by growing domestic unrest, has decided to distract its citizens’ attention by permitting anti-Israel terror from Sinai – which would presumably be popular, given Egyptians’ widespread loathing for Israel (around 90% consistently view Israel as an “enemy” or a “threat”). But there’s a third, equally worrying possibility: This is a deliberate Egyptian tactic aimed at pressuring Israel to annul the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty’s central provision — the demilitarization of Sinai.

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David offered a persuasive analysis for why Hamas permitted yesterday’s multipronged terror attack across the Israeli-Egyptian border. But since Hamas rarely needs an excuse to attack Israel, the more interesting question is why Egypt permitted the attack. And “permit” seems to be the operative word: The attack took place in broad daylight right in front of an Egyptian army outpost (thus surprising Israel despite intelligence warnings, as it expected the attack to hit an unguarded part of the border), and even when the ensuing firefight moved into Egyptian territory, Israeli news reports offer no indication that Israeli forces ever saw any Egyptian troops in action; they merely note that Egypt later claimed its soldiers had killed two terrorists.

One possible answer, of course, is simple incompetence, which is worrying enough: If Egypt can’t maintain security in Sinai, Israel will have to vastly increase its own troop presence along the border. A more worrying possibility is that the new government, beset by growing domestic unrest, has decided to distract its citizens’ attention by permitting anti-Israel terror from Sinai – which would presumably be popular, given Egyptians’ widespread loathing for Israel (around 90% consistently view Israel as an “enemy” or a “threat”). But there’s a third, equally worrying possibility: This is a deliberate Egyptian tactic aimed at pressuring Israel to annul the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty’s central provision — the demilitarization of Sinai.

Back in March, I noted that Egypt’s opposition was virtually unanimous in wanting to renegotiate the treaty (unsurprisingly, given that 54% of Egyptians want it scrapped entirely), and especially the demilitarization provision. Since then, Cairo has successfully gotten Israel to do exactly that, negotiating two agreements to let in more troops.

The first increase occurred after three attacks (one unsuccessful) closed the Egyptian-Israeli natural gas pipeline for weeks on end between February and May, leaving Israel without gas. At that point, Cairo claimed it couldn’t protect the pipeline with existing troop levels. And even though Hosni Mubarak’s regime had managed to do so — not a single attack disrupted the supply from 2008-2011 — Israel acquiesced, allowing Egypt to station additional forces in Sinai.

But despite the additional forces, two more successful attacks occurred in July. So Cairo again demanded more troops, saying they were necessary to protect the pipeline. And Israel again acquiesced: Just last week, it let Egypt send 2,000 additional soldiers into Sinai, accompanied by tanks.

Now, yesterday’s attack gives Cairo the perfect excuse to demand even more troops: Without additional forces, it will claim, it can’t protect the border (never mind that Mubarak did it successfully for decades). And Israel may well acquiesce once again; deeming more Egyptian troops preferable to having to increase its own troop levels along the border.

This process could repeat itself ad nauseam. And unless Israel halts it, the result will be the erosion of the peace treaty’s greatest achievement, the demilitarization of Sinai. That would leave Israel right back where it was in 1967: facing military annihilation at any moment from an army much bigger than its own.

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Obama’s Dissociative Disorder Ploy

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal contains these two priceless paragraphs:

President Barack Obama pitched himself onto the political scene as a man who could rise above partisan politics, and despite presiding over a bitterly divided government, he is starting the 2012 campaign still casting himself as that guy.

On a three-day midwestern bus trip, Mr. Obama tried to portray himself as an outsider. “The only thing that’s holding us back right now is our politics,” he said three times at a town-hall-style meeting here on Wednesday. “That’s the message we need to send to Washington,” he said, as if he wasn’t part of Washington.

The mind reels at the brazenness of this strategy.

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal contains these two priceless paragraphs:

President Barack Obama pitched himself onto the political scene as a man who could rise above partisan politics, and despite presiding over a bitterly divided government, he is starting the 2012 campaign still casting himself as that guy.

On a three-day midwestern bus trip, Mr. Obama tried to portray himself as an outsider. “The only thing that’s holding us back right now is our politics,” he said three times at a town-hall-style meeting here on Wednesday. “That’s the message we need to send to Washington,” he said, as if he wasn’t part of Washington.

The mind reels at the brazenness of this strategy.

Mr. Obama appears to be running as if this is 2008, not 2012 — and as if the enormous damage of his presidency will be stuffed down a memory hole. Now as much as some of us would like to forget the last two-and-a-half years, the memories are indelible. And what’s actually holding us back right now isn’t our politics; it is, in large measure, the president’s failed policies.

As for sending a message to Washington, earth to Obama: You are Washington. Indeed, you can’t get any more Washington than working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in the West Wing, in the Oval Office.

The president is the personification of the city he seeks to run against.

There is a term in psychiatry for what Mr. Obama is attempting to pull off: dissociative disorder. It’s considered to be a coping mechanism, when the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience too traumatic to integrate with his conscious self.

Now while the Obama presidency is certainly being traumatized these days — a 26 percent approval rating on the economy will do that to a fellow — I don’t for a moment think that the president actually suffers from this disorder. But what is revealing is that he’s acting as if he does — and he’s pursuing a strategy that assumes the public will let him get away with it.

They won’t.

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Looking Forward to the Fall

The Book Case has winnowed out the 25 most anticipated books from publishers’ fall lists. Why these 25 is never explained, but one week in October is especially worth waiting for—new novels by Jeffrey Eugenides (author of the brilliant Middlesex), Colson Whitehead, and Ha Jin (author of War Trash) will all be published within seven days of one another. Here are 38 other entrants in the skirmish of literature that may or may not be worth watching for. You decide:

Harlem Renaissance Novels: Five Novels of the 1920s (Library of America, September 1). Includes Jean Toomer’s Cane, Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun, and Wallace Thurman’s Blacker the Berry.

Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 1930s (Library of America, September 1). Includes Langston Hughes’s Not Without Laughter, George S. Schuyler’s Black No More, Rudolph Fisher’s Conjure-Man Dies, and Arna Bontemps’s Black Thunder.

• W. P. Kinsella, Butterfly Winter. Enfield & Wizenty (September 1). First novel in 13 years by Canadian who wrote Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy opens with twins playing catch in the womb.

• Nikolai Grozni, Wunderkind. Free Press (September 6). A 15-year-old pianist in Communist-era Bulgaria.

• Lily Tuck, I Married You for Happiness. Atlantic Monthly Press (September 6). A novel that combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife by the 2004 winner of the National Book Award.

• Sebastian Barry, On Canaan’s Side. Viking (September 8). Forced to flee her native land at the end of the First World War, an Irishwoman spends the next seven decades in America, and recalls her life over seventeen days.

• Bruce Jay Friedman, Lucky Bruce: A Memoir. Biblioasis (September 13). The American Jewish novelist (Stern, A Mother’s Kisses) writes a comic version of his life.

• Mary McGarry Morris, Light from a Distant Star. Crown (September 13). Seventh novel by author of Vanished (a National Book Award finalist) and Songs in Ordinary Time (an Ophrah’s Book Club selection): a coming-of-age story.

• Ali Smith, There But for The. Pantheon (September 13). A man suddenly leaves the table midway through a dinner party, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave.

• Ernest Hebert, Never Back Down. David R. Godine (September 15). A promising high school baseball player from the mill town of Keene, New Hampshire, devises a code of stubborn passivity to live by.

• David Lodge, A Man of Parts. Random House (September 15). A novel about H. G. Wells.

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 1, 1907–1922. Cambridge University Press (September 20). Love him or hate him, he was one of the great novelists. A detailed introduction, notes, chronology, illustrations, and index are included.

• Aravid Ardiga, Last Man in Tower. Knopf (September 20). Winner of Man Booker Prize in 2008 returns with a new novel about the new India—a showdown between a real estate developer and a retired schoolteacher.

• Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin. Ecco (September 27). On probation for child molestation, a young man takes up residence under a south Florida causeway along with other convicted sex offenders.

• Charles Frazier, Nightwoods. Random House (September 27). In the latest novel by the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cold Mountain, a young woman must end her Appalachian solitude when her children are born.

• Héctor Tobar, The Barbarian Nurseries. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (September 27). A live-in Mexican maid in L.A. must track down two children’s grandfather.

• William Kennedy, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes. Viking (September 29). First novel in nine years by Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the “Albany cycle” takes place there during political unrest in 1968.

• Philip Roth, The American Trilogy (Library of America, September 29). American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain—at least two of the best novels written by an American in the past 20 years—collected in one attractive volume.

• Anne Enright, The Forgotten Waltz. W. W. Norton (October 3). Enright’s first novel since winning the Man Booker Prize in 2007 is about the memories of a love affair on a snowy day in Dublin.

• Jim Harrison, The Great Leader. Grove (October 4). A detective investigates a hedonistic cult near his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

• Chuck Klosterman, The Visible Man. Scribner (October 4). A therapist in Austin becomes obsessed with a patient and his disturbing tales, threatening her career and marriage.

• Meir Shalev, My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir. Shocken (October 4). The Israeli novelist tells the story of his grandmother Tonia, who came to Palestine by boat from Russia in 1923.

• Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods. New Directions (October 5). A satire of the corporate life by the author of The Last Samurai.

• Aharon Appelfeld, Until the Dawn’s Light. Schocken (October 11). In the early years of the 20th century, a young Austrian Jew falls in love with a Christian and converts for his sake. Almost immediately, things go wrong.

• John Barth, Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons. Counterpoint (October 11). A man experiences five serial visions, each appearing to him on the first day of the ensuing seasons, and each corresponding to a pivotal event in that season of his life.

• Martin Fletcher, The List. Thomas Dunne (October 11). After the Second World War, anti-Semitism sweeps through London even as the world learns of the atrocities of the Holocaust.

• Victor Davis Hanson, The End of Sparta. Bloomsbury (October 11). At the Battle of Leuktra, the Thebans crush the army of Sparta, which had enslaved its neighbors for two centuries.

• Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger’s Child. Knopf (October 11). Long-listed for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Years after the First World War, a poet’s biographer threatens to expose a family’s secrets.

• David Rowell, The Train of Small Mercies. Putnam (October 13). Robert Kennedy’s funeral train makes its way from New York to Washington.

• David Guterson, Ed King. Knopf (October 18). A retelling of Oedipus Rex.

• Amos Oz, Scenes from Village Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 18). Novel in stories about fictional Israeli town of Tel Ilan.

• Chuck Palahniuk, Damned. Doubleday (October 18). The afterlife, according to the “transgressional” author of Fight Club and Snuff.

• Adam Kirsch, Why Trilling Matters. Yale University Press (October 25). The case for the liberal anti-Communist critic.

• Hugh Nissenson, The Pilgrim. Sourcebooks Landmark (November 1). After the death of his wife, a Puritan loses his faith and must journey to recover it.

• Michael Murray, Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind. Frederic C. Beil (November 10). The career and ideas of one of the 20th century’s leading intellectuals.

• Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories. Scribner (November 15). Stories set in Greece, the Caribbean, Manhattan, a white collar prison, and outer space, about nuns, astronauts, athletes, terrorists, and travelers.

• Ian Davidson, Ben Jonson: A Life. Oxford University Press (December 1). A biography of Shakespeare’s greatest rival, drawing upon newly discovered writings.

• Anita Desai, The Artist of Disappearance. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (December 6). Three novellas that evoke a vanishing India.

The Book Case has winnowed out the 25 most anticipated books from publishers’ fall lists. Why these 25 is never explained, but one week in October is especially worth waiting for—new novels by Jeffrey Eugenides (author of the brilliant Middlesex), Colson Whitehead, and Ha Jin (author of War Trash) will all be published within seven days of one another. Here are 38 other entrants in the skirmish of literature that may or may not be worth watching for. You decide:

Harlem Renaissance Novels: Five Novels of the 1920s (Library of America, September 1). Includes Jean Toomer’s Cane, Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun, and Wallace Thurman’s Blacker the Berry.

Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 1930s (Library of America, September 1). Includes Langston Hughes’s Not Without Laughter, George S. Schuyler’s Black No More, Rudolph Fisher’s Conjure-Man Dies, and Arna Bontemps’s Black Thunder.

• W. P. Kinsella, Butterfly Winter. Enfield & Wizenty (September 1). First novel in 13 years by Canadian who wrote Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy opens with twins playing catch in the womb.

• Nikolai Grozni, Wunderkind. Free Press (September 6). A 15-year-old pianist in Communist-era Bulgaria.

• Lily Tuck, I Married You for Happiness. Atlantic Monthly Press (September 6). A novel that combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife by the 2004 winner of the National Book Award.

• Sebastian Barry, On Canaan’s Side. Viking (September 8). Forced to flee her native land at the end of the First World War, an Irishwoman spends the next seven decades in America, and recalls her life over seventeen days.

• Bruce Jay Friedman, Lucky Bruce: A Memoir. Biblioasis (September 13). The American Jewish novelist (Stern, A Mother’s Kisses) writes a comic version of his life.

• Mary McGarry Morris, Light from a Distant Star. Crown (September 13). Seventh novel by author of Vanished (a National Book Award finalist) and Songs in Ordinary Time (an Ophrah’s Book Club selection): a coming-of-age story.

• Ali Smith, There But for The. Pantheon (September 13). A man suddenly leaves the table midway through a dinner party, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave.

• Ernest Hebert, Never Back Down. David R. Godine (September 15). A promising high school baseball player from the mill town of Keene, New Hampshire, devises a code of stubborn passivity to live by.

• David Lodge, A Man of Parts. Random House (September 15). A novel about H. G. Wells.

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 1, 1907–1922. Cambridge University Press (September 20). Love him or hate him, he was one of the great novelists. A detailed introduction, notes, chronology, illustrations, and index are included.

• Aravid Ardiga, Last Man in Tower. Knopf (September 20). Winner of Man Booker Prize in 2008 returns with a new novel about the new India—a showdown between a real estate developer and a retired schoolteacher.

• Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin. Ecco (September 27). On probation for child molestation, a young man takes up residence under a south Florida causeway along with other convicted sex offenders.

• Charles Frazier, Nightwoods. Random House (September 27). In the latest novel by the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cold Mountain, a young woman must end her Appalachian solitude when her children are born.

• Héctor Tobar, The Barbarian Nurseries. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (September 27). A live-in Mexican maid in L.A. must track down two children’s grandfather.

• William Kennedy, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes. Viking (September 29). First novel in nine years by Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the “Albany cycle” takes place there during political unrest in 1968.

• Philip Roth, The American Trilogy (Library of America, September 29). American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain—at least two of the best novels written by an American in the past 20 years—collected in one attractive volume.

• Anne Enright, The Forgotten Waltz. W. W. Norton (October 3). Enright’s first novel since winning the Man Booker Prize in 2007 is about the memories of a love affair on a snowy day in Dublin.

• Jim Harrison, The Great Leader. Grove (October 4). A detective investigates a hedonistic cult near his home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

• Chuck Klosterman, The Visible Man. Scribner (October 4). A therapist in Austin becomes obsessed with a patient and his disturbing tales, threatening her career and marriage.

• Meir Shalev, My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner: A Family Memoir. Shocken (October 4). The Israeli novelist tells the story of his grandmother Tonia, who came to Palestine by boat from Russia in 1923.

• Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods. New Directions (October 5). A satire of the corporate life by the author of The Last Samurai.

• Aharon Appelfeld, Until the Dawn’s Light. Schocken (October 11). In the early years of the 20th century, a young Austrian Jew falls in love with a Christian and converts for his sake. Almost immediately, things go wrong.

• John Barth, Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons. Counterpoint (October 11). A man experiences five serial visions, each appearing to him on the first day of the ensuing seasons, and each corresponding to a pivotal event in that season of his life.

• Martin Fletcher, The List. Thomas Dunne (October 11). After the Second World War, anti-Semitism sweeps through London even as the world learns of the atrocities of the Holocaust.

• Victor Davis Hanson, The End of Sparta. Bloomsbury (October 11). At the Battle of Leuktra, the Thebans crush the army of Sparta, which had enslaved its neighbors for two centuries.

• Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger’s Child. Knopf (October 11). Long-listed for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. Years after the First World War, a poet’s biographer threatens to expose a family’s secrets.

• David Rowell, The Train of Small Mercies. Putnam (October 13). Robert Kennedy’s funeral train makes its way from New York to Washington.

• David Guterson, Ed King. Knopf (October 18). A retelling of Oedipus Rex.

• Amos Oz, Scenes from Village Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 18). Novel in stories about fictional Israeli town of Tel Ilan.

• Chuck Palahniuk, Damned. Doubleday (October 18). The afterlife, according to the “transgressional” author of Fight Club and Snuff.

• Adam Kirsch, Why Trilling Matters. Yale University Press (October 25). The case for the liberal anti-Communist critic.

• Hugh Nissenson, The Pilgrim. Sourcebooks Landmark (November 1). After the death of his wife, a Puritan loses his faith and must journey to recover it.

• Michael Murray, Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind. Frederic C. Beil (November 10). The career and ideas of one of the 20th century’s leading intellectuals.

• Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories. Scribner (November 15). Stories set in Greece, the Caribbean, Manhattan, a white collar prison, and outer space, about nuns, astronauts, athletes, terrorists, and travelers.

• Ian Davidson, Ben Jonson: A Life. Oxford University Press (December 1). A biography of Shakespeare’s greatest rival, drawing upon newly discovered writings.

• Anita Desai, The Artist of Disappearance. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (December 6). Three novellas that evoke a vanishing India.

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