Commentary Magazine


American power; the Palestinian army; modernism; jazz.

America Abroad TO THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz makes no mention of the return to isolationism in U.S. foreign policy following the end of the illegal war waged by NATO in Serbia and Koso- vo ["Strange Bedfellows: A Guide to the New Foreign- Policy Debates," December 1999]. That war was waged because NATO found unac- ceptable a petty tyrant’s vio- lation of human rights as he tried to prevent part of his country from breaking away.

This interventionist pol- icy apparently has no place in dealing with Russia’s ac- tions in Chechnya. There a powerful tyrant is trying to prevent part of his country from breaking away. Even though Russia, by combining a NATO-style aerial bom- bardment with a ground in- vasion, is inflicting far more damage than Serbia ever did in Kosovo, NATO and the U.S. have done nothing to stop this humanitarian dis- aster. Instead the U.S. has agreed that the Chechens are rebels and the war is Russia’s internal affair.

It would seem that the U.S., like Great Britain, op- erates a two-tiered foreign policy: when dealing with a petty tyrant, any force is jus- tified; when dealing with a powerful one, isolationism and noninterference apply.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pod- horetz and the neoconserv- atives seem to accept this.

A. BLESOVSKY Brodick, Isle ofArran, Scotland To THE EDITOR: Unlike Norman Podhor- etz, I do not wonder at the cross-currents that have lately ruffled the neat divi- sions of the last century’s political scene. With vari- ous dogmas and ideologies having failed in the real world, men of independent thought now fall back on a more individual frame of reference, unhindered by the rigid boundaries of po- litical or social allegiance.

Terms such as conserva- tive, neoconservative, liber- al, and left-wing have be- come increasingly irrelevant.

Thus, on the tragic matter of Kosovo, I find myself in the company of Henry Kissinger, the old-line La- borite Tony Benn, and Sir Alfred Sherman, a former adviser to Prime Minister Thatcher-and regretting the absence from this group of Norman Podhoretz. On the matter of, say, abortion, I find myself with a quite different set of bedfellows.

This shift is a welcome and hopeful sign for a world facing a bewildering and, in many ways, frightening fu- ture.

M.J. COHEN London, England To THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz has offered a useful guide for understanding foreign pol- icy in the new era, but the distinction he draws be- tween isolationism and in- ternationalism is quite fruit- less. Thus, there are those who supported the war with Iraq but opposed the war with Yugoslavia, and those who protested against Op- eration Desert Storm but then demanded an attack on Serbia. Which of the two groups is isolationist and which is internationalist? But another two-dimen- sional scheme offered by Mr. Podhoretz provides an excellent instrument for analysis. At one end of the spectrum is the position of Ronald Reagan, who meld- ed defense of U.S. national interests with a universalist democratic ideology. At the other end one finds a "hu- manitarian liberal" like An- thony Lewis who deprecates the idea of national inter- ests entirely. Paradoxically, Reagan’s policy won the cold war and was thereby vindicated, but the position of Anthony Lewis, as im- plemented by the Clinton administration, has pre- vailed.

The first Clinton war was fought-in Somalia-not on the grounds of national in- terests. It turned out to be a [5]Announcing Boston Review ‘s eighth annual SHE RT RY CONTEST Deadline: September 1, 2000 First Prize: $1,000 Complete guidelines: The winning author will receive $1,000 and have his or her work published in the December/January 2000- 2001 issue of Boston Review. Stories should not exceed four thou- sand words and must be previously unpublished. The author’s name, address, and phone number should be on the first page of each entry; do not send a cover letter. A $15 processing fee, payable to Boston Review in the form of a check or money order, must accompany all entries. Entrants will receive a one-year subscription to the Review beginning with the December/January 2000-2001 issue. Submissions must be postmarked by September 1, 2000. Manuscripts will not be returned. Winner will be announced on the Review’s Web site, http://bostonreview.mit.edu. Send entries to: Short Story Contest, Boston Review, E53-407 MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139; (617) 494-0708.

TiI LETTERS FROM READERS farce, ending in a handful of American casualties followed by a shameful withdrawal.

Clinton’s second military ac- tion-reinstalling Jean-Ber- trand Aristide, the Marxist president of Haiti, has done little or nothing, or worse than nothing, to cure that country of its chronic chaos, while also hardly advancing U.S. national interests.

The U.S.-led war against Serbia was in the same left- wing "humanitarian" tradi- tion. Its primary result was to ruin relations with two countries, Russia and Chi- na, that are critical players, not to mention creating im- mense difficulties with coun- tries like Greece that are not quite so important. Before the war, as opinion polls show, more than 70 percent of Russians regarded the U.S.

positively. Afterward, 80 per- cent came to view it nega- tively. The Russian public simply cannot understand why the United States drop- ped some 32,000 bombs on the heroes of southeastern Europe, the only nation to withstand both Hitler and Stalin. Neither can they un- derstand why we have cre- ated a new Muslim country in the Balkans that is effec- tively run by a terrorist or- ganization, the Kosovo Lib- eration Army. In the final analysis, the United States fought the war for reasons that have more to do with the agenda of contemporary liberalism than with any- thing else.

BORIS GULKO Fairlawn, New Jersey To THE EDITOR: In the spirit of Norman Podhoretz’s insightful essay, I would like to add one bit of evidence. Mr. Podhoretz points out that "when John Quincy Adams cautioned against going ‘abroad in search of monsters to de- stroy,’ he was not thinking of driving foreign merchants out of business." Actually, Adams tended even less to isolationism than Mr. Pod- horetz implies.

Many people quote the strictures Adams expressed in 1821 against entangling the U.S. in European politics. A few years later, however, he also cautioned against isola- tionism. Remarking upon George Washington’s famous admonition that Americans should have "as little politi- cal connection as possible" with Europe, Adams argued in 1826 that this should be understood as prudent advice for Washington’s day, not an eternal rule for American for- eign policy: [T]he counsel of Wash- ington in that instance, like all the counsels of wis- dom, was founded upon the circumstances in which our country and the world around us were situated at the time…. [But] com- pare our situation and the circumstances of that time with those of the present day, and what, from the very words of Washington then, would be his coun- sels to his countrymen now? Adams went on to say that America’s situation was still such that relative non- engagement in European political affairs remained a prudent policy, but, he ar- gued, the U.S. did have a duty to the new republics in South America. With them, he observed, "we have an immensely growing com- mercial, and must have and have already important po- litical, connections," re- specting which the U.S.

could be "neither distant nor detached." Moreover, their "political principles and sys- tems of government … must and will have an action and counteraction upon us and ours to which we can not be indifferent if we would." One can hardly doubt what Adams would advise in today’s world, and what he would think of the recent resurgence of isolationism.

RICHARD A. SAMUELSON Charlottesville, irginia To THE EDITOR: The symposium on U.S.

foreign policy that followed in the wake of Norman Podhoretz’s article failed to confront the moral objec- tions to our "humanitarian" intervention in civil con- flicts ["American Power- For What?," January]. Most : Speak Hebrew I like a diplomat’.

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| Audio-Forum, Room X402, _ *JUlmltla.~ JrU 96 Broad Street, Guilford, . ,.i ll I — ~ ………. CT 06437 (203) 453-9794 2I % THE LANGUAGE SOURCE e-mail: RX402@audioforum.com —— ————— [7]COMMENTARY APRIL 2000 contributors treat the ques- tion as if it were only pru- dential: a matter of whether such intervention serves our interests, overtaxes our re- sources, or antagonizes oth- er nations. The prevailing assumption seems to be that if we have the power to mount an effective armed at- tack against a grave evil in another country, we certain- ly have the right to do so.

But military intervention in another nation’s domestic affairs imposes the interve- nor’s will by force and vio- lence. It has neither the jus- tification of self-defense nor the consent of the country where it occurs. The U.S.

may have a noble purpose when it intervenes-pro- moting democracy, prevent- ing genocide, or stopping a war-but the moral question is whether the ends justify the means.

It is easy for television viewers, watching carnage and destruction in another country, to think that their anger and compassion en- dow them and their gov- ernment with the moral right to wage war. But anger and compassion are no guarantee of the wisdom and virtue required to solve another country’s internal problems. We should not claim a right to do to oth- ers what we would never let others do to us.

CURTIS CRAWFORD Charlottesville, Virginia To THE EDITOR: The participants in COM- MENTARY’S symposium on foreign policy do not ade- quately address the major challenge facing the world in the new century-the breaking-apart of nations as a result of ethnic conflict.

These "civil wars," as they are euphemistically called, are being waged in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and yet nei- ther the UN nor the U.S.

has done anything tangible to bring them to an end.

These conflicts may not have a direct bearing on American national security in the narrow sense, but the United States cannot escape the consequences. If Russia disintegrates, for instance, the resulting chaos will trig- ger the exodus of refugees to Europe and eventually to the U.S.

The 21st century will surely see more of these conflicts. They remain in- tractable because modern methods of warfare cannot be applied to them. When neighbors are killing each other, high-tech weapons cannot distinguish victims from perpetrators. Only mo- bile ground forces can stop the mayhem by disarming the miscreants. But this will entail considerable combat casualties-an unacceptable price for Western militaries that have grown used to having none.

MAHMOOD ELAHI Ottawa, Canada To THE EDITOR: In COMMENTARY’s recent symposium on foreign pol- icy, almost all of the com- mentators who support the "activist" position find them- selves pleasantly surprised by the seeming reversal of their erstwhile opponents in the Democratic party and the left-liberal intelligentsia.

They attribute this to Bill Clinton’s success in some- how bringing the Democ- rats back to the center.

But the most obvious ex- planation for this shift is partisan politics. Had a Re- publican President under- taken any of the military ad- ventures of Bill Clinton, he would never have received the support of Democrats or liberal journalists.

The overwhelming goal of the Democrats after their near-death experience in 1994 has been the preserva- tion of the Clinton adminis- tration. For them, foreign policy is secondary to the do- mestic struggle. On the real foreign-policy issues-build- ing a missile defense, restor- ing funding to our hollowed- out military, supporting his- toric allies like Taiwan-the Democrats and their follow- ers have been consistently in the opposition.

DENNIS TRAVIS Glenn Head, New York NORMAN PODHORETZ writes: I made no mention of Chechnya because the war [8]COMMENTARY APRIL 2000 there had only recently been resumed when I wrote my piece and the course it would take was far from clear. Still, A. Blesovsky is right about the "two-tiered policy" be- ing followed by the United States. In my article, I cited Charles Krauthammer’s strong approval, as a realist, of precisely such a policy with respect to East Timor.

But, not being a member of the realist school of thought, I did not endorse Kraut- hammer’s position myself.

Lately, I have signed a state- ment calling for stronger measures than have so far been taken against the Rus- sians for the horrors they have perpetrated in Chech- nya. These measures, ad- mittedly, do not include mil- itary action on the part of the West, but (at least so far as I am concerned-I cannot speak for the other signato- ries of the statement) the reason for that is prudential rather than moral.

I agree with M.J. Cohen about the decreasing rele- vance of the old political categories in the discussion of foreign policy (though not on domestic issues). But I cannot agree that an ad- hoc, case-by-case approach is the best way to go. In- deed, so strong is the hu- man mind’s need for the an- chor of principle, and for consistency in the conduct of affairs, that as time moves on and the nature of the new post-cold-war world gradually reveals its special peculiarities and contours, a new set of coherent posi- tions is bound to emerge that will guide advocacy and throw their respective ad- herents into a new round of heated debates. Moreover, these new positions, while no doubt differing in cer- tain aspects from the old lib- eral-conservative or Right- Left divide, will almost cer- tainly carry its genetic in- heritance, and each of the new mutations therefore will bear a clearly recogniz- able family resemblance to its ideological ancestors.

Much the same holds for the isolationism-interven- tionism conflict. Boris Gul- ko makes a strong argument for the obsolescence of this taxonomy, just as Mr. Co- hen does in the case of the liberal-conservative antithe- sis. As I tried to make clear in "Strange Bedfellows," I am still a Reaganite as Mr.

Gulko defines the term, and I have no use for the kind of humanitarian intervention which justifies itself to the degree that it does not serve U.S. national interests. In general, I also agree with Mr. Gulko about the futili- ty of such interventions. In fact, I would go further and suggest that they are prob- ably only the form left-wing isolationism is temporarily taking at this confused mo- ment.

I do not, however, agree either with him or with "the Russian public" that the ad- mirable record of the Serbs in World War II, or the re- sistance of Tito to Stalin, should have given them a li- cense to commit atrocities against the Bosnian Mus- lims or to "cleanse" Koso- vo of its Muslims, which Milosevic was beginning to do when we intervened.

I thank Richard A. Sam- uelson for his interesting and illuminating addendum to my remark about John Quincy Adams.

Since the letters from Curtis Crawford, Mahmood Elahi, and Dennis Travis are not addressed to my article, but rather to the symposium that was triggered by it, I think it inappropriate for me to respond to them. I will say this much, though: a few of the remarks I make above may have some bear- ing on some of the points these letters raise, and in "Strange Bedfellows" itself, answers (either implicit or explicit) to others can be found by any reader who might wish to take the trou- ble to look for them.

Is Israel Secure? To THE EDITOR: Yuval Steinitz presents a valid scenario, but his analy- sis is absurd ["When the Palestinian Army Invades the Heart of Israel," December 1999]. He is, after all, talk- ing about the recruitment by the Palestinians of 4,000 men for what is essentially a sui- cide mission. Whatever dam- age these guerillas might cause, almost none of them would get out of Israel alive.

That is a significant recruit- ment problem.

Though an attack by such units would certainly add to the problems of mo- bilizing Israel’s reserve forces, it would hardly be "decisive." Assuming 200 teams of Palestinian com- mandos, if half of them reached their targets and half of those actually suc- ceeded in doing damage, just 50 locations within Israel would be harmed. More- over, with its economic prosperity and a Jewish pop- ulation now reaching more than five million, Israel could easily increase the size of its standing army so as to be less reliant on reserves.

This is particularly true if a small part of this larger army were used for the rel- ativelyv inexpensive task of enhancing the defense of key bases.

But the weakest point of Mr. Steinitz’s analysis is his complete omission of a de- terrence factor. By partici- pating in massive sabotage in concert with a general Arab attack, the Palestini- ans would face the strong likelihood of a second ex- pulsion, since recent analy- ses have found Israel’s mil- itary advantage over the Arab states to be greater than ever. After its likely vic- tory, Israel, having made con- cessions for peace, would have the moral right to trans- fer Palestinians en masse from the West Bank. Sure- ly the Palestinians under- stand this.

JACK HALPERN New York City To THE EDITOR: Two things may protect Israel from the military dan- ger that Yuval Steinitz de- scribes. First, the Palestini- ans have not yet shown themselves capable of car- rying out such a demanding attack. They are getting bet- ter, however, and it is not advisable to rely on the weaknesses of your enemy.

Second, if the Palestini- ans tried such a attack and it failed, it is possible that in the heat of battle, Israel might push most of the Arab population ofJudea and Samaria to the other side of the Jordan. Israel would thereby annex the re- mainder of mandatory Pal- estine. But the overwhelm- ing majority of Israelis have already demonstrated that they would rather give up a major share of the land to which they have historic and legal claims than move more than a million Arabs out of the way. And so, even in the aftermath of a bitter bat- tle-in which Palestinians [10] & ..- …. I… –LETTERS FROM READERS had invaded Israel, killed thousands of Israeli civilians, and severely threatened Is- rael’s survival-it is unlike- ly that Israel would respond by moving Palestinians out of the area conquered in the 1967 war.

Of course, the Palestini- ans may not have such a high estimate of Israeli pa- tience. They may well think that if they tried the kind of attack Mr. Steinitz describes and failed, Israel would act toward them as they them- selves would act toward Is- rael. In other words, they might be deterred by the possibility of losing their po- sition in Judea and Samaria.

Still, such deterrence is a thin reed on which to rest Israel’s security.

MAX SINGER Jerusalem, Israel To THE EDITOR: Israel’s military vulnera- bility is even more serious than what is outlined by Yu- val Steinitz. As he notes, Is- rael’s alarming position is a result of the Munich-like Oslo accords that the coun- try’s leaders have been car- rying out unilaterally. Prime Minister Ehud Barak ridi- cules the idea of reciproci- ty as "Bibi-speak," and wants Israel to be separated from its Palestinian neighbors only by an elaborate system of easily penetrated fences.

If his vision of "peace" is re- alized, Israel will become a defenseless and waterless coastal enclave-little more than a well-armed ghetto.

The next war will begin the minute the Arabs think they can win. Hostilities will likely be initiated by Ya- sir Arafat and immediate- ly joined by Israel’s Arab neighbors, including Egypt, which the Clinton adminis- tration has armed to the teeth with the latest Amer- ican weapons. The Jerusa- lem Post and Jane’s World Armies report that Egypt will soon receive over 10,000 rounds of 120-millimeter de- pleted-uranium ammunition for its 555 American M1 Abrams tanks. These shells can punch through the armor of any Israeli tank. The ad- ministration has also agreed to sell Egypt 200 more M1 Abrams tanks and the most advanced fighter planes and naval vessels in the U.S. ar- senal. Egypt will be armed with defensive and offensive weapons systems that even Israel does not have-all paid for by the U.S.

Egypt has also recently conducted practice cross- ings of the Suez Canal, con- structed bridgeheads on the canal’s east bank, and trans- ferred units of four army di- visions to the Sinai. When Israeli intelligence officers complain about these seri- ous violations of the Camp David accords, the Clinton administration, and their own government, tell them to stop making the Egyp- tians angry and increasing tensions in the region.

Thanks largely to Bill Clinton, the technological edge Israeli forces once en- joyed is now gone. Even more ominously, Israel’s mil- itary and political leaders have ruled out a preemptive strike in the next war because they fear that America and "the world" would blame Is- rael for starting the conflict.

GEORGE E. RUBIN New York City To THE EDITOR: Yuval Steinitz ably paints a stark picture of the dan- gers Israel has courted by surrendering its crucial de- fenses since the Oslo ac- cords. Mr. Steinitz quotes Shimon Peres who (appar- ently in a previous incarna- tion) warned that Israel’s narrow "waist" would be [11]COMMENTARY APRIL 2000 vulnerable "to a collapse by a well-organized surprise attack." It should be remem- bered just how incredibly narrow that "waist" is.

Not very far east of the coastal town of Herzliya is the large Samaritan Arab town of Qalkilya, one of the centers in which, Mr. Stein- itz notes, Arafat has large concentrations of heavily armed "police." On May 31, 1967, the Cairo daily Al Akhbar observed that "Jor- danian artillery, coordinat- ed with the forces of Egypt and Syria, is in a position to cut Israel in two at Qalkilya, where Israeli territory be- tween the Green Line and the Mediterranean Sea is only twelve kilometers wide." That amounts to sev- en-and-a-half miles, and a slow car takes ten minutes to drive it. With good rea- son did AlAkhbar gloat that "Israel could yet find her- self in the vise of a nut- cracker." Jordan was eliminated as a military threat during the first few days of the 1967 war. At present, relations with its Hashemite ruling family are coolly correct.

The "vise of a nutcracker" is now wielded by Arafat and his PLO police army in Samaria to the east and Gaza to the west, with eager allies in other Arab countries waiting in the wings.

No other country in world history has voluntar- ily given away vital areas of its own territory to neigh- boring enemies sworn to destroy it, and thus aban- doned its strategic defens- es. But that, with the en- couragement of American presidents from Carter to Clinton, is the tragic path Israel has chosen in the twenty years since 1979.

DAVID L. HURWITZ New York City To THE EDITOR: Yuval Steinitz’s analysis of the dangerous situation in which Israel now finds it- self is clear, timely, and, in my view, incontrovertible.

In considering the question of the Golan Heights, how- ever, which he puts in its true strategic context, we should take into account po- litical as well as military re- alities.

The negotiations that are being forced upon Israel by the White House and the State Department are not negotiations between Israel and Syria. They are negoti- ations between Israel, as represented by its elected government, and Hafez al- Assad, as represented by himself. Assad is answerable to no one-certainly not to the Syrian people, whom he has never consulted in any matter whatsoever-and has never wavered in his desire for a "Greater Syria" under his own control. It may suit him, from time to time, to decorate one of his vassals with the quaint title of "for- eign minister" and mount a pretense of diplomacy. But such diplomacy is war by other means. In such a con- text there is only one ques- tion concerning the Golan Heights that makes the slightest sense-namely, is Israel defensible without them? It seems to me that the answer is no.

ROGER SCRUTON Brinkworth, Wiltshire, England YUVAL STEINITZ writes: Jack Halpern is right to say that my COMMENTARY article omitted a discussion of the "deterrence factor," and that it treated only the Palestinians’ abilities and not their intentions. The fuller Hebrew version of the article, which appeared in the November 1998 issue of Nativ, included an entire section on deterrence-with a detailed warning against relying on supposed Pales- tinian fears of a possible Is- raeli retaliation. Here let me mention three brief points.

First, Palestinian thinking will assuredly be influenced not only by considerations of what Israel may or may not do but also by pressures, and implicit threats of retaliation, from Arab states (Egypt, for instance) should the Pales- tinians fail to do their part at a time of full military con- frontation. It is hard to say which side’s "deterrence" would be the more effective.

[12]COMMENTARY APRIL 2000 Second, I do not share Mr. Halpern’s confidence in the "strong likelihood of a second [!] expulsion" in the event of an Israeli victory.

Whether Israel itself would feel it has the "moral right" to take such a drastic action is highly doubtful, even leaving aside the inevitable international reaction.

Third, Israel has, in fact, relied on deterrence-or what might be called the- Arabs-wouldn’t-dare sce- nario-quite often in the past, only to find itself se- verely burned. Thus, prior to the 1973 war Israel be- lieved that its vaunted abil- ity to destroy the entire Egyptian infrastructure from the air would deter Egypt from the folly of a full-scale armed confrontation. Again, after the 1993 Oslo accords, Israelis comforted them- selves with the thought that the Palestinians, aware as they had to be of the likely Israeli response, would nev- er permit terrorist acts against the Jewish state or its civil- ians. In both these cases- more could be cited-such expectations proved com- pletely groundless.

Since I agree with much of what Max Singer has to say (and he echoes my thoughts on deterrence), let me con- fine my remarks to his first point, concerning current Palestinian abilities. In the opinion of Israeli experts who read the Hebrew ver- sion of my article, including high-ranking officials in the Defense Ministry, Palestin- ian forces as presently con- stituted have clearly pos- sessed the capacity to carry out such an attack for three years now, and they are only getting better. Of course, my article deals with a worst- case scenario, but worst-case does not mean inconceiv- able. In order to minimize the chances of such a sce- nario’s unfolding, it would be incumbent on Israel to change extensively both the way it thinks about its secu- rity in general and the way it evaluates particular risks.

This brings me to George E. Rubin. As it happens, al- though I am in the opposi- tion in Israel I dissent from his sharp criticism of Ehud Barak on the question of separation. In the impossi- ble situation created by Oslo, an agreement that would bring about a sepa- ration between Israel and the Palestinians strikes me, for military and geopoliti- cal reasons that I need not go into here, as the lesser of two evils-so long as the borders, especially in West Samaria, are "closed," and the hill country contiguous with the coastal plain, the Tel Aviv area, and the Jeru- salem corridor remains in Israel’s hands.

As for Egypt, its military condition is indeed a matter of deep concern, and it does also look as if the U.S is help- ing that country prepare to confront Israel. And now the prospect looms of the same thing happening if a peace agreement is reached with Syria. In that event, not only will Israel lose its northern shield-the Golan Heights- but Syria, rearmed with modern weapons thanks to American economic and mil- itary aid, will in short order pose a much more effective threat than it does today (also against Turkey, a member of NATO). The thought that in a few years’ time Israel may be facing M1 Abrams tanks and F-16 fighters in the north in addition to, or in combination with, a formi- dable Egyptian military and Palestinian guerrillas leaves me sleepless.

David L. Hurwitz and Roger Scruton offer still more arguments, both strategic and political, that strength- en my comments about the consequences of the Oslo ac- cords. I thank both of them, as well as my other corre- spondents, and I hope that the discussion begun in the pages of COMMENTARY will help bring about a greater public awareness of Israel’s essential security needs and sensitivities.

Bad Art To THE EDITOR: Steven C. Munson does a commendable job of char- acterizing the recent exhi- bition at the Brooklyn Mu- seum and of enumerating the shortcomings of some of its individual pieces ["Art, Excrement, and Sensation," January]. Still, even while accurately describing the nature of the problem that infects the contemporary art establishment, he fails to understand and explore the roots of that problem. This failure emerges at the arti- cle’s conclusion, with Mr.

Munson’s respectful refer- ences to the "values of 20th- century modernism," the importance of modernist "sightlines," and "the great Russian abstract painter," Kandinsky.

Mr. Munson would like to interpret the current mor- ass as the result of a revolu- tion against the modernism that he appears to esteem.

To the contrary, it is more likely that the breakdown of traditional artistic and cultural values that began in the early 1900’s-with, among many others, Kan- dinsky-has simply hit bot- tom. Today’s crop of pre- tenders did not materialize suddenly from nowhere.

They were schooled on the progression, or regression, of modernism; and their de- scent was facilitated by the momentum of what pre- ceded them.

That the bottom may fi- nally have been reached has to be taken as a positive sign. From here, unless the choice is to stagnate in dark- ness, there is no place for art to go but up; and there is nothing better than a dy- namic, embracing, updated version of traditional artis- tic and cultural values to light the way.

HARVEY GORDON Kalamazoo, Michigan To THE EDITOR: Though Steven C. Mun- son writes about the motives behind the Sensation exhib- it at the Brooklyn Museum, and emphasizes that aes- thetic values were not used in selecting its pieces, he does not take the next step and try to define art. This absence of a clear definition of art is the current stan- dard, but it leaves us unable to render judgment in these matters.

What, then, do unchal- lenged examples of great art share? They are, in the first place, man-made and done in deliberate fashion. In ad- dition, they have to impress the viewer technically-that is, they must reflect skill be- yond the ordinary–and they must produce a visceral im- pact on the viewer. These three attributes alone are sufficient to define art, but for art to be great, a fourth is needed: originality. There is a tendency in modern criticism to accept original- ity as a sufficient criterion for art. But if originality is the sole requirement, then any impulse becomes an [14] sYou deserve a factual look at…

"Sacrifices for Peace" What else does the world expect Israel to do? There is persistent pressure on Israel, mostly from the Arab states, of course, but also from such good friends as the Unit- ed States, to bring "sacrifices for peace." It is understood that these "sacrifices"refer to greater "flexibility" in dealing with the Arabs, but mean primarily that Israel should allow its dismemberment, in order to bring peace to the region.

What are the facts? A Bizarre Concept. The concept to bring "sacrifices for Israel made sacrifices for peace by signing a peace treaty peace" is a new one that has never before found application with Jordan. In that peace, Israel granted Jordan a large in world history. It was created by Arab propaganda to yearly allowance of fresh water from its own dwin- induce Israel to agree to its dismemberment, to give strate- dling and meager resources and accepted a petty gic assets to those who are determined to destroy it, and to demand for "border rectification"-yielding of land.

allow such self-destructive events as the creation of a hos- That peace is almost as cold as that with Egypt.

tile state in its heartland and the division of its capital. As for Syria, no offered sacrifice for peace seems to be suf- Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been subjected to almost ficient to satisfy its dictator, President Hafez Assad. Nothing constantArab terror, to unceasingArab aggression, and to three will satisfy him and he is unwilling to consider even an ice- major wars. Israel emerged victorious from each of these wars. cold peace, except on terms of Israel’s total surrender of the In the Six-Day War, it recovered its heartland of Judea/Samaria Golan Heights. Unfortunately for Israel and for the world, (the’WestBank’ and the eastem part ofJerusalem,itscapitalcity, the current Israeli government seems to be seriously thathadbeenoccupiedbythe considering such a Jordanians; it captured the Here are three good sacrifices that the Arabs "sacrifice for peace".

Golan Heights from Syria, could bring for peace: (1) Abandon the insistence The greatest sacrifice for which had been used for peace that Israel has brought decadestoshellandspreadter- on recovering the Golan; (2) Stop was the resuscitation of the ror over much of northern the clamor about the division of Jerusalem; bankrupt and moribund Israel;anditconquered Gaza (3) Disarm the Palestinian "police". PLO terror organization and and the Sinai Desert that had the acceptance of its "chair- been used by Egypt as staging ground and invasion route to Israel Many Sacrifices for Peace. In order to achieve peace with its neighbors, Israel brought sacrifices for peace that have no precedent in the history of the world.

For peace with Egypt, Israel returned the entire Sinai.

There is little thanks on the part of Egypt for this generosi- ty and this sacrifice for peace. In the over 20 years since the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed, Egypt has still not established normal channels of cultural and commercial relations with Israel. The controlled Egyptian press spews daily anti-Israel venom. President Mubarak has never visited Jerusalem. It is the coolest pos- sible peace. A sacrifice for peace brought in vain-proba- bly a major act of folly on the part of Israel.

man" Yasser Arafat as a negotiating partner In this ill-advised process, foisted on Israel by world pressure and by a previous government, Israel has made far-reaching and existential sacri- fices and concessions. It has yielded control of the Gaza Strip and of all major ‘West Bank’ cities to the Palestinian Authority and has agreed to detailed plans to grant further autonomy to the Palestinians. In what is probably the ultimate folly in this process, Israel has tolerated the formation of a Palestinian "police force" (actually an army) of 40,000 men-the largest police-to- population ratio in the world (!)-and has equipped this "police force" with a complete arsenal of automatic weapons. As the world now knows, these weapons were turned on Israeli soldiers and civilians at the very first opportunity that the Palestinian leaders provoked.

The Arab countries, not Israel, are the oppressors in the Middle East; it is they who are killing peace. The PLO, apart from the bloody crimes that it has committed against Israel, has ordered massacres of over 100,000 Lebanese civilians between 1982 and 1990. It has now established a virtual dictatorship in the territory allotted to it-torture and terror are the order of the day. In Egypt, thousands of Copts have been killed and their churches burned. President Assad of Syria has occupied Lebanon and has killed and tortured thousands. Iraq, under its dictator Saddam Hussein, is a rogue state attacking its neighbors and killing its own citizens, including with poison gas. Saudi Arabia is a monarchical tyranny. It prohibits the exercise of any religion except the most orthodox form of Islam. Jews are not allowed in the country. Christians are jailed or worse. Sudan is engaged in the systematic slaughter and enslavement of its black African people. How strange that nobody asks the Palestinians or any of the Arab states to bring any sacrifices at all for peace. Only Israel, an island of peacefulness and civility in that ocean of violence and turmoil, is inces- santly being asked to bring such sacrifices. Here are three good sacrifices that the Arabs could bring for peace: (1) Abandon the insistence on recovering the Golan; (2) Stop the clamor about the division of Jerusalem; (3) Disarm the Palestinian "police." Billy clubs are good enough for London Bobbies. Why should any more be needed to patrol Nablus, Hebron and Bethlehem? This ad has been published and paid for by FLAME Facts and Logic about the Middle East PO. Box 590359 · San Francisco, CA 94159 FLAME is a tax-exempt, non-profit educational 501 (c) (3) organization. Its purpose is the research and publication of the facts regarding developments in the Middle East and exposing false propaganda that might harm the interests of the United States and its allies in that area of the world.Your tax-deductible contributions are welcome. They enable us to pursue these goals and to publish these messages in national newspapers and magazines. We have virtually no overhead. Almost all of our revenue pays for our educational work, for these clarifying messages, and for related direct mail.

Yes, I want to help the publication of these ads and in clarifying I the situation in the Middle East. I include my tax-deductible con- I tribution in the amount of $ /56C My contribution is in the amount of $100 or more. Please send me your videotape on three important aspects of Israel’s strategic situation, fiery speeches by Yasser Arafat, and some memorable moments with Louis Farrakhan.

My name is I Live at In State Zip I Mail to: FLAME, P.O. Box 590359, San Francisco, CA 94159COMMENTARY APRIL 2000 artistic one. This is the source of our current confusion, and of the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.

ARNOLD FLICK La Jolla, California TO THE EDITOR: Writing of the contro- versy concerning the use of elephant dung in Cris Ofili’s painting The Holy Virgin Mary, Steven C. Munson informs us that "the use of such excretions in the cre- ation of art objects is old hat." For a century or so, modernists have tried to shock the public. But shock wears off, and nothing re- mains but boredom.

One person responded to the showing of Sensation the way he was supposed to: Mayor Rudy Giuliani. As a result, the exhibition was a great success. Had the may- or known that art designed to shock is old hat, few peo- ple would have heard or cared about Sensation.

GEORGE JOCHNOWITZ College of Staten Island, CUNY Staten Island, New York TO THE EDITOR: Bravo, Steven Munson! With the exception of his and a few articles by others, there has been a rather as- tonishing silence about the agendas of today’s museums and the feeble offerings that pass as cutting-edge con- temporary art. As Mr. Mun- son so accurately explains, Sensation was not the least bit out of the ordinary for museum fare, though the Brooklyn Museum’s side- show-style promotional hype was somewhat beyond the norm. What was truly out of the ordinary was the fact that New York’s mayor was willing to challenge the mu- seum’s integrity and its right to public funding for an of- fensive display purporting to be important art.

I wonder how we ever arrived at the point where intelligent individuals are willing to accept sliced cows, a crucifix in urine, or a pile of old syringes as being pro- found expressions of the hu- man spirit. Quentin Bell was definitely on the right track when he suggested in his book, Bad Art, that the cur- rent antiaesthetic is about contrived elitism rather than art. By promoting bizarre and unappealing constructs as significant creations, one can then pretend to a supe- rior understanding of hid- den meanings not available to the uninitiated masses.

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New York, NY 10010 a 212-475-4320 a c a Fax (212) 505-0535 Out of state call toll-free: – a u 1-800-221-4083 II Until people are willing to object to this practice, we will be served up slightly modified versions of Sensa- tion over and over again.

CAROLE C. QVAM Chugiak, Alaska STEVEN C. MUNSON writes: I would like to thank Harvey Gordon, Arnold Flick, George Jochnowitz, and Carole C. Quarn for their thoughtful and supportive comments. Such responses are indeed gratifying.

Harvey Gordon shares a view of modernism that, with some variation, can also be found in the writings of such commentators as the journalist Tom Wolfe and the historian Paul John- son-to wit, that modern art represents a fundamen- tal break with the artistic tradition that preceded it, a tradition rooted in the Re- naissance and the classical era. This view is unsupport- ed by the historical and bi- ographical record, which makes it abundantly clear that Matisse, Picasso, and the other giants of mod- ernism were fully engaged with that tradition, and con- sidered it to be both vitally alive and crucial to their own artistic development.

In responding to the tradi- tion they inherited, they sought, in fact, to rescue it from the academic ossifica- tion into which it had fall- en in the hands of its self- styled defenders. It was this process of recovery that led modern artists to create forms of painting and sculp- ture that, while radically new, were inspired in part by a serious appreciation and study of the past. One could even say that mod- ernism itself was the "dy- namic, embracing, updated version of traditional artis- tic and cultural values" that [16] _ , ~~8~~~t~~nr-~~~~~a~~wwal~~~ iCOMMENTARY APRIL 2000 Mr. Gordon calls for today.

By contrast, much of what goes under the name of "postmodern" is both anti- modernist and antitradi- tionalist. For that reason, there seems to me to be greater continuity between the modern period and all that went before it than- superficial appearances and resemblances of means not- withstanding–there is be- tween modern and much of postmodern art. Where that leaves us, beyond recogniz- ing the need to uphold the light of modernism-both because of the great value of its own achievements and because it grants us access to artistic periods remote from our own experience- I do not know.

I also lack the courage shown by Arnold Flick in offering a definition of art, and of great art in particu- lar. One key for me, I sup- pose, is how long I feel compelled to stand in front of a painting or sculpture, or how many times I want to return to look at it again.

As for originality, when it is genuine, it often seems to be the result of, again, a se- rious effort to engage, ra- ther than overthrow, one’s artistic predecessors, an ef- fort that frequently begins with attempts to copy or imitate their work.

I disagree with George Jochnowitz’s view that, "For a century now, modernists have tried to shock the pub- lic." Shock may have been the first response to their work, but it was not their artistic goal nor was it central to their intentions. Matisse ag- onized over what he was do- ing when he began to cre- ate his Fauve pictures, and Picasso carefully calculated the possible public reaction to his Cubist works. What Mr. Jochnowitz says does, however, apply to many post- modern artists, for whom shock seems to be an end in itself. He may be right as well about Mayor Giuliani’s inadvertently helping to boost the Sensation exhibit into the limelight and there- by save it from relative ob- scurity.

Carole C. Quam is also right about Giuliani’s being an exception in standing up to condemn bad art. On the issue of funding, however, my own feeling is that once you decide to give public money to a cultural institu- tion to promote art appre- ciation you really have to let the people in charge do their job as they see fit; oth- erwise, politically motivat- ed interventions would be called for every time some- body with clout or an axe to grind happened not to like an exhibit. It might have made more sense for the mayor to use his bully pul- pit to criticize Sensation and demand that the trustees of the Brooklyn Museum pub- licly explain their decision to show it, rather than go- ing to the mattresses on funding and winding up in court. That seems to me to be the last place where we would want such matters to be addressed, since the is- sue then becomes one of First Amendment rights ra- ther than what is most rel- evant, namely, the museum’s quality-control standards.

As for the elitism of the art world, I frankly wish it were generally more elitist in its aesthetic attitudes these days, as unapologetically elit- ist, say, as is Phillippe de Montebello, the head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One reason exhibits like Sensation are put on is that, appealing as they do to the lowest common denomina- tors in public taste, they are viewed as potential money- makers. The overcommer- cialization of the museums is, in fact, the chief problem with such institutions today, and has in many ways been very detrimental to the experience of going to look at art.

Jazz TO THE EDITOR: According to Terry Tea- chout, after the rise in pop- ularity of fusion jazz in the early 1970’s, "no subsequent stylistic development has commanded comparable loyalty" ["Masterpieces of Jazz," November, Decem- ber 1999; January]. He does not bother looking past this period in compiling his list of jazz masterpieces because "the musicians who have come to prominence since then have mainly been neo- classicists of one sort or an- other." Apparently Mr. Tea- chout limits his list to pieces demonstrating "stylistic de- velopments" with "wide- spread popularity"-even though he also says "musi- cal excellence" is his only criterion. The implication of all this seems to be that- as far as the public is con- cerned, anyway-jazz is go- ing nowhere.

Why would that be? Be- cause both critics and the public alike are in thrall to jazz mythology, with its clear- ly delineated ages, Olym- pian personalities, etc. The scribblings of mythographers have made jazz a nostalgic relic, a "classical" heritage- cum-folk-tradition. Jazz has made its way from shady drinking establishments to Lincoln Center, where it now wears the suit it will be buried in.

The fact is that there is plenty of creative music out there and plenty of stylistic development. Mr. Teachout seems to need a historical category and a retrospec- [18] Position Available COMMENTARY is looking for a highly qual- ified and creative individual to direct its business operations, including circulation promotion, advertising, website develop- ment, and fundraising. Applicants should be fully conversant with general business procedures and in sympathy with COM- MENTARY’S concerns and outlook.

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COMMENTARY’s readers should not ignore the past.

By all means, they should take Mr. Teachout’s sugges- tions. But they should also seek some living, breathing musicians as well. If enough of us follow our ears, maybe the jazz pundits of the fu- ture will have something new to write about.

SCOTT JOHNSON Duluth, Minnesota To THE EDITOR: Terry Teachout’s series on "Masterpieces ofJazz" is awesome. Reading it re- minded me of my days as an undergraduate at Penn State in the late 1950’s. During the first week of classes I joined the jazz club, which booked groups for campus performances. Early in my freshman year, the Louis Armstrong All Stars-with Trummy Young, Barrett Deems, "Monk" Hall, and, of course, "Pops" himself- held an evening concert.

The protocol was to honor the musicians beforehand at a tea in one of the nicer dorm common rooms.

Members of the jazz club were invited along with the music faculty.

Being immature and fear- less around strangers and wishing to meet the great man, I walked over to Arm- strong, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself. I can remember the royal aura surrounding him. Since no one else approached, I took it upon myself to strike up a conversation. So "Mr. Arm- strong," I said, "in Downbeat Magazine a few weeks ago Stan Kenton said that the reason he did not have Ne- gro musicians in his band was that they could not play his style of music." Arm- strong stood motionless for a minute and asked me to repeat the name. He then asked what instrument Ken- ton played, and where he was based. I answered that he was an arranger and pi- anist and that he worked on the West Coast. After a minute of thought, Arm- strong responded, "I have never heard of him." After graduation and my army days, I settled in Or- ange County, California, where Stan Kenton’s band started in 1941 in the Ren- dezvous Ballroom on Bal- boa. I never missed his con- certs. Over the years I have related my story about Arm- strong to many ex-Kenton musicians, who tell me ei- ther that Kenton said what he believed or that he did, in fact, have black musicians in his band after its forma- tive years.

My only argument with Mr. Teachout is that he does not find any of Kenton’s work through 1953 worthy of inclusion in his canon.

The 1951 Kenton band- with Maynard Ferguson, Art Pepper, Shelly Manne, and Bud Shank-was outstand- ing on "Peanut Vendor," "Artistry in Rhythm," "Ea- ger Beaver," and "Inter- mission Riff." Surely some of these belong on Mr. Tea- chout’s list of jazz master- pieces.

ROBERT COWAN Costa Mesa, California To THE EDITOR: Congratulations to Ter- ry Teachout for his anno- tated list of some of the best jazz sides ever made-and for his temerity! With its in- evitable omissions and ad- mirable disregard of politi- cally correct choices, Mr.

Teachout’s jazz canon may well stir up a critical hor- net’s nest. Nevertheless, the series features a set of solid blue-ribbon winners.

I would add brief com- ments about two of Mr.

Teachout’s selections in the first installment. Although fascinated by the music of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravin- sky, Bix Beiderbecke was primarily influenced by the neglected American com- poser Eastwood Lane, whom he knew and whose Adiron- dack Sketches for piano he of- ten played. As forJoe Venu- ti and Eddie Lang (n6 Sal- vatore Massaro), they were born not abroad, as Mr.

Teachout reports, but in Philadelphia-Venuti on September 16, 1903, and Lang on October 25, 1902.

Their birth certificates are on file in the city’s archives.

NORMAN P. GENTIEU Philadelphia, Pennsylvania TERRY TEACHOUT writes: Immediately following the excerpt from my first piece that Scott Johnson quotes in his letter, I added: "Meanwhile, virtually all the major exponents of pre- 1960 jazz have died or re- tired, while the leading play- ers of the 60’s and early 70’s are increasingly regarded as elder statesmen, making it possible to discuss their work in something like a defini- tive manner." This is why I brought my list to a close in 1977 (not 1972, as I initial- ly announced last Novem- ber-I changed my mind in midstream).

In fact, I am passionately interested in the current jazz scene, and write about it for other publications, as well as in liner notes for the albums of younger artists whom I admire. But the essence of a canon is that it embodies set- tled judgments, not provi- sional ones; it is too soon to say how jazz historians of the future will regard the musi- cians of the 80’s and 90’s, though I have my guesses.

Thanks to Robert Cowan and Norman P. Gentieu for their letters, as well as to the many readers who commu- nicated with me privately, sometimes to point out oth- er small errors of fact-I made a few, alas-or to ask why I chose not to include this record or that. Often it was simply a matter of taste, but the temporary unavail- ability on CD of certain key recordings forced me to make several last-minute changes. I had seriously con- sidered including, for in- stance, Stan Kenton’s won- derful 1954 recording of "Young Blood." As Clement Greenberg once remarked before announcing the win- ners in an art exhibition for which he had served as a ju- ror, man is fallible. So are record companies.

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