Commentary Magazine


Topic: chancellor

Morning Commentary

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

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The Berlin-Rome-Tehran Axis

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

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Margaret Thatcher and Defensible Borders

Among the documents released last week by the British National Archives is a February 14, 1980, memorandum to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, entitled “Arab/Israel” — and another document showing her handwritten reaction to it. The documents should be read in connection with Harry Kanigel’s excellent article on defensible borders for Israel in yesterday’s American Thinker.

Lord Hailsham’s memorandum responded to a plan that the British foreign secretary, Lord Peter Carrington, wanted Thatcher to approve. Carrington argued that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan provided a “unique opportunity” for the West to form an alliance with Islamic countries but that the “main obstacle” was those countries’ dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the Arab/Israel conflict. He wanted to “build a bridge between the US and the Arabs” with a UN resolution endorsing a Palestinian “right of self-determination” and “the right of Palestinian refugees … to return to their homes,” while assuring Israel of its security “within its 1967 frontiers.”

The Lord Chancellor wrote to Thatcher that he did not share Carrington’s optimism on the prospects of his proposed initiative — “unless, of course, we are prepared to sacrifice things which are too important morally, and too valuable to our interest to sacrifice.”

Were [Israel] to be destroyed by an aggressive war the devastating effects on the rule of law throughout the world could hardly be exaggerated. … Prior to 1967 the physical boundaries of Israel were virtually untenable militarily. South of the Jezreel valley, the geography of Israel is starkly simple, consisting virtually of three parallel straight lines running North and South, the sea, the Judean hills and the Jordan valley. Whoever commands the hills commands the rest. Prior to 1967 the waist-line of Israel was only 10 miles broad, and its main centers of population [were] exposed to artillery fire as well as the prospect of devastating air raids. After 1967 Israel has enjoyed reasonably viable military frontiers consisting of the Judean hills (and the no less important frontier heights on the Syrian border). Jerusalem is built on the Judean hills. [emphasis added]

He also noted that Jewish opinion was “fanatically involved in the fate of Israel” and that Manchester, Leeds, and the whole of North London would be “profoundly affected” by Jewish hostility on this issue. Then he concluded as follows:

If there be a reasonable chance of success without losing our honor yet again over the Balfour declaration; go ahead. But have we not enough on our plate just now not to consider leaving this hot potato alone?

On reading the Hailsham memorandum, perhaps Thatcher recalled the confrontation with Menachem Begin eight months before, when Begin told her that without settlements, Israel could be “at the mercy of a Palestinian state astride the commanding heights of Judea and Samaria.” Perhaps she was impressed by Lord Hailsham’s immense stature as Lord Chancellor and his reference to British honor. Perhaps she took his point about Jewish opinion.

In any event, the files contain a note apparently written to her by her cabinet secretary that appeared to side with Carrington, asserting that “losing our honor” was not involved and suggesting that Jewish hostility was “a different kind of problem.” On the note, Thatcher wrote a single-sentence rebuttal: “I agree with the Lord Chancellor.”

Among the documents released last week by the British National Archives is a February 14, 1980, memorandum to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, entitled “Arab/Israel” — and another document showing her handwritten reaction to it. The documents should be read in connection with Harry Kanigel’s excellent article on defensible borders for Israel in yesterday’s American Thinker.

Lord Hailsham’s memorandum responded to a plan that the British foreign secretary, Lord Peter Carrington, wanted Thatcher to approve. Carrington argued that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan provided a “unique opportunity” for the West to form an alliance with Islamic countries but that the “main obstacle” was those countries’ dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the Arab/Israel conflict. He wanted to “build a bridge between the US and the Arabs” with a UN resolution endorsing a Palestinian “right of self-determination” and “the right of Palestinian refugees … to return to their homes,” while assuring Israel of its security “within its 1967 frontiers.”

The Lord Chancellor wrote to Thatcher that he did not share Carrington’s optimism on the prospects of his proposed initiative — “unless, of course, we are prepared to sacrifice things which are too important morally, and too valuable to our interest to sacrifice.”

Were [Israel] to be destroyed by an aggressive war the devastating effects on the rule of law throughout the world could hardly be exaggerated. … Prior to 1967 the physical boundaries of Israel were virtually untenable militarily. South of the Jezreel valley, the geography of Israel is starkly simple, consisting virtually of three parallel straight lines running North and South, the sea, the Judean hills and the Jordan valley. Whoever commands the hills commands the rest. Prior to 1967 the waist-line of Israel was only 10 miles broad, and its main centers of population [were] exposed to artillery fire as well as the prospect of devastating air raids. After 1967 Israel has enjoyed reasonably viable military frontiers consisting of the Judean hills (and the no less important frontier heights on the Syrian border). Jerusalem is built on the Judean hills. [emphasis added]

He also noted that Jewish opinion was “fanatically involved in the fate of Israel” and that Manchester, Leeds, and the whole of North London would be “profoundly affected” by Jewish hostility on this issue. Then he concluded as follows:

If there be a reasonable chance of success without losing our honor yet again over the Balfour declaration; go ahead. But have we not enough on our plate just now not to consider leaving this hot potato alone?

On reading the Hailsham memorandum, perhaps Thatcher recalled the confrontation with Menachem Begin eight months before, when Begin told her that without settlements, Israel could be “at the mercy of a Palestinian state astride the commanding heights of Judea and Samaria.” Perhaps she was impressed by Lord Hailsham’s immense stature as Lord Chancellor and his reference to British honor. Perhaps she took his point about Jewish opinion.

In any event, the files contain a note apparently written to her by her cabinet secretary that appeared to side with Carrington, asserting that “losing our honor” was not involved and suggesting that Jewish hostility was “a different kind of problem.” On the note, Thatcher wrote a single-sentence rebuttal: “I agree with the Lord Chancellor.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

D.C. runs over black schoolkids. “Michelle Rhee—the tough broad who spent nearly four years as D.C. schools chancellor in a pitched battle against the corruption-plagued, incompetence-ridden Washington teachers union to reform a rotten public school system—was forced out today by mayor-elect Vincent Gray in what surely must be seen as a kind of triumph for the union and a potential tragedy for the city’s underprivileged, mostly-black schoolchildren.” Meanwhile, the Obamas are “tucking their own cute kids safely away in private schools.” Read the whole thing.

Officials from cities like New York should run, not walk, to grab her. “DC’s loss could be New York’s gain, and it behooves city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to scoop her up before she departs for another system.”

Pat Toomey is running away with it in Pennsylvania. “Republican Pat Toomey now holds a 10-point lead over Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak, the widest gap between the candidates since early April in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. … The race now moves from Leans GOP to Solid GOP in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings.”

According to the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to be running the House come January. “At the moment, 22 Democratic seats, including 10 open seats and 12 incumbents, sit in the Lean or Likely Republican columns, while two Republican seats sit in the Lean or Likely Democratic columns, for a net of 20 Republican seats. That means Republicans only need to win 21 of the 40 seats in the Toss Up column to win a majority, not even counting many of the 30 Democratic seats in the Lean Democratic column that are rapidly becoming more competitive. At this point, all but four of the Democrats in our Toss Up column have trailed in at least one public or private poll, and Democrats’ fortunes in most of these seats are on the decline. … Overall, given the status of these Toss Up races and the length of the Lean Democratic column, Democrats’ chances of losing at least 50 seats are now greater than their chances of holding losses under 45 seats.”

By the time they start running for president in 2012, ObamaCare may be in the rear-view mirror. “A federal judge says some parts of a lawsuit by 20 states challenging the Obama administration’s health care overhaul as unconstitutional can go to trial. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., that some parts of the lawsuit need to be heard. The administration had asked him to dismiss the entire lawsuit, which was spearheaded by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.”

He says he isn’t running in 2012, but there is — as I predicted — a “Draft Chris Christie” website. One benefit: in a Christie administration, I sincerely doubt the first lady would be nagging us to stop eating fast food.

Is Obama pitching to young voters merely to stage a practice run for the 2012 get-out-the-vote operation? The New York Times thinks so. After all, it’s always about him.

Democrats around the country are running against supposedly “extremist” Tea Partiers. But the voters have minds of their own, wouldn’t you know it? “Likely voters in battleground districts see extremists as having a more dominant influence over the Democratic Party than they do over the GOP. This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.” By the end of this campaign, the public will be convinced that the Democrats are being funded by mystery foreign donors.

D.C. runs over black schoolkids. “Michelle Rhee—the tough broad who spent nearly four years as D.C. schools chancellor in a pitched battle against the corruption-plagued, incompetence-ridden Washington teachers union to reform a rotten public school system—was forced out today by mayor-elect Vincent Gray in what surely must be seen as a kind of triumph for the union and a potential tragedy for the city’s underprivileged, mostly-black schoolchildren.” Meanwhile, the Obamas are “tucking their own cute kids safely away in private schools.” Read the whole thing.

Officials from cities like New York should run, not walk, to grab her. “DC’s loss could be New York’s gain, and it behooves city Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to scoop her up before she departs for another system.”

Pat Toomey is running away with it in Pennsylvania. “Republican Pat Toomey now holds a 10-point lead over Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak, the widest gap between the candidates since early April in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. … The race now moves from Leans GOP to Solid GOP in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings.”

According to the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Nancy Pelosi isn’t going to be running the House come January. “At the moment, 22 Democratic seats, including 10 open seats and 12 incumbents, sit in the Lean or Likely Republican columns, while two Republican seats sit in the Lean or Likely Democratic columns, for a net of 20 Republican seats. That means Republicans only need to win 21 of the 40 seats in the Toss Up column to win a majority, not even counting many of the 30 Democratic seats in the Lean Democratic column that are rapidly becoming more competitive. At this point, all but four of the Democrats in our Toss Up column have trailed in at least one public or private poll, and Democrats’ fortunes in most of these seats are on the decline. … Overall, given the status of these Toss Up races and the length of the Lean Democratic column, Democrats’ chances of losing at least 50 seats are now greater than their chances of holding losses under 45 seats.”

By the time they start running for president in 2012, ObamaCare may be in the rear-view mirror. “A federal judge says some parts of a lawsuit by 20 states challenging the Obama administration’s health care overhaul as unconstitutional can go to trial. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled Thursday in Pensacola, Fla., that some parts of the lawsuit need to be heard. The administration had asked him to dismiss the entire lawsuit, which was spearheaded by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.”

He says he isn’t running in 2012, but there is — as I predicted — a “Draft Chris Christie” website. One benefit: in a Christie administration, I sincerely doubt the first lady would be nagging us to stop eating fast food.

Is Obama pitching to young voters merely to stage a practice run for the 2012 get-out-the-vote operation? The New York Times thinks so. After all, it’s always about him.

Democrats around the country are running against supposedly “extremist” Tea Partiers. But the voters have minds of their own, wouldn’t you know it? “Likely voters in battleground districts see extremists as having a more dominant influence over the Democratic Party than they do over the GOP. This result comes from The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, which found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.” By the end of this campaign, the public will be convinced that the Democrats are being funded by mystery foreign donors.

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Who Will Get Michelle Rhee?

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

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Putin’s Poodle

Just when you thought that the behavior of Jacques Chirac–the former French president widely suspected of corruption who has never met a Third World despot he didn’t like–couldn’t get any more loathsome, now comes this bit of news. Chirac has been singing the praises of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose prime achievement as president was to destroy the vestiges of democracy bequeathed to him by Boris Yeltsin. From the New York Times:

On Friday, Mr. Putin smiled benignly as Mr. Chirac expressed his “very deep friendship” for him and said, “My esteem comes from the remarkable manner in which you governed Russia.”

He grouped the time Mr. Putin was prime minister under Boris Yeltsin with his two presidential terms, saying, “These 10 years have been, unquestionably, great years for Russia.”

One wonders if this is a job application. The Putin machine has already hired one out-of-office European leader-former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Perhaps Chirac would like to get on the gravy train too, assuming he isn’t already (which, for all I know, he may be).

Just when you thought that the behavior of Jacques Chirac–the former French president widely suspected of corruption who has never met a Third World despot he didn’t like–couldn’t get any more loathsome, now comes this bit of news. Chirac has been singing the praises of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose prime achievement as president was to destroy the vestiges of democracy bequeathed to him by Boris Yeltsin. From the New York Times:

On Friday, Mr. Putin smiled benignly as Mr. Chirac expressed his “very deep friendship” for him and said, “My esteem comes from the remarkable manner in which you governed Russia.”

He grouped the time Mr. Putin was prime minister under Boris Yeltsin with his two presidential terms, saying, “These 10 years have been, unquestionably, great years for Russia.”

One wonders if this is a job application. The Putin machine has already hired one out-of-office European leader-former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Perhaps Chirac would like to get on the gravy train too, assuming he isn’t already (which, for all I know, he may be).

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China Turns Our Lights Out

Chinese hackers caused two power blackouts in the United States in the last half decade, according to the cover story in tomorrow’s National Journal. American intelligence sources confirm that the People’s Liberation Army was responsible for intrusions in 2003 that likely caused North America’s largest blackout, which affected three states, parts of Canada, and 50 million people. More than a hundred generating stations were shut down. To this day the Chinese activity that precipitated the cascading failure is not fully understood.

Then, this February, three million customers were hit by a blackout that appears to have been inadvertently caused by the People’s Liberation Army as it mapped the network of Florida Power & Light. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese,” said an unnamed information-security expert quoted in the story.

As they say, the Chinese are at war with us every day over the phone lines. Washington is squeamish about publicly naming China as the source of hostile attacks, so we almost never push back.

Whatever happened to the don’t-tread-on-me spirit in this country? We ignored al Qaeda’s attacks until September 11. Now we’re adopting the same passive approach to Chinese assaults on our critical infrastructure. Last August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while in Beijing, publicly told off Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese hacking. Why can’t Robert Gates muster the courage to say anything in front of the microphones when he travels to the Chinese capital? Beijing has rewarded our secretary of defense for his discretion by hacking into the computer network serving his office last June.

We need a better China policy. So here’s a proposal. The next time the Chinese cause a blackout in this country, let’s take down all their grids. The communists in Beijing will be angry, but I suspect they’ll get the message.

Chinese hackers caused two power blackouts in the United States in the last half decade, according to the cover story in tomorrow’s National Journal. American intelligence sources confirm that the People’s Liberation Army was responsible for intrusions in 2003 that likely caused North America’s largest blackout, which affected three states, parts of Canada, and 50 million people. More than a hundred generating stations were shut down. To this day the Chinese activity that precipitated the cascading failure is not fully understood.

Then, this February, three million customers were hit by a blackout that appears to have been inadvertently caused by the People’s Liberation Army as it mapped the network of Florida Power & Light. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese,” said an unnamed information-security expert quoted in the story.

As they say, the Chinese are at war with us every day over the phone lines. Washington is squeamish about publicly naming China as the source of hostile attacks, so we almost never push back.

Whatever happened to the don’t-tread-on-me spirit in this country? We ignored al Qaeda’s attacks until September 11. Now we’re adopting the same passive approach to Chinese assaults on our critical infrastructure. Last August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while in Beijing, publicly told off Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese hacking. Why can’t Robert Gates muster the courage to say anything in front of the microphones when he travels to the Chinese capital? Beijing has rewarded our secretary of defense for his discretion by hacking into the computer network serving his office last June.

We need a better China policy. So here’s a proposal. The next time the Chinese cause a blackout in this country, let’s take down all their grids. The communists in Beijing will be angry, but I suspect they’ll get the message.

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Merkel Comes to the Knesset

This week, Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. This is as it should be. Germany has become one of Israel‘s staunchest supporters in the world, and is a major player in the effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Never in human history, perhaps, has a nation repented so much for its wrongdoings as has Germany since Hitler.

And yet, one cannot really blame those few members of Knesset who have threatened to walk out in protest. There are certain things that neither time nor reason overcome. Nothing can ever make up for the Holocaust. The Jews are a people of exceptionally long memory, and we should be more surprised by the Knesset’s willingness to host Merkel than by the few who oppose the visit.

On this issue, ambivalence is the only reasonable posture. The Jewish state is not terribly good at building and keeping international alliances, probably because for millennia it has had good reason to be suspicious of other peoples. Inviting Merkel is the right move at the right time: under the leadership of Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Continent has shifted to its most pro-Israel stance since at least the 1950’s. Yet the Holocaust will forever be there, with all its lessons for the world, and it is right for the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, to make sure it is never forgotten.

In 2000, Germany‘s president (largely a figurehead position) visited Israel and addressed the Knesset, asking the Jewish people for forgiveness. It is not clear what that forgiveness really means. But what is clear is that Israel should embrace the friendship Germany has offered, while at the same time continuing to study the Holocaust, hunt down the remaining Nazi criminals, and bring foreign dignitaries to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, to reinforce the lessons of what humanity is capable of, of modernity’s darker side, and of Jewish powerlessness.

Forgive, but never, ever, forget.

This week, Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. This is as it should be. Germany has become one of Israel‘s staunchest supporters in the world, and is a major player in the effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Never in human history, perhaps, has a nation repented so much for its wrongdoings as has Germany since Hitler.

And yet, one cannot really blame those few members of Knesset who have threatened to walk out in protest. There are certain things that neither time nor reason overcome. Nothing can ever make up for the Holocaust. The Jews are a people of exceptionally long memory, and we should be more surprised by the Knesset’s willingness to host Merkel than by the few who oppose the visit.

On this issue, ambivalence is the only reasonable posture. The Jewish state is not terribly good at building and keeping international alliances, probably because for millennia it has had good reason to be suspicious of other peoples. Inviting Merkel is the right move at the right time: under the leadership of Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Continent has shifted to its most pro-Israel stance since at least the 1950’s. Yet the Holocaust will forever be there, with all its lessons for the world, and it is right for the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, to make sure it is never forgotten.

In 2000, Germany‘s president (largely a figurehead position) visited Israel and addressed the Knesset, asking the Jewish people for forgiveness. It is not clear what that forgiveness really means. But what is clear is that Israel should embrace the friendship Germany has offered, while at the same time continuing to study the Holocaust, hunt down the remaining Nazi criminals, and bring foreign dignitaries to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, to reinforce the lessons of what humanity is capable of, of modernity’s darker side, and of Jewish powerlessness.

Forgive, but never, ever, forget.

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The Bloomberg Presidential Fantasy

With the coming of the New Year came major pieces in as all three New York papers on the growing possibility of an independent presidential big by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He will attend a confab next week in Oklahoma, hosted by former Democratic Senator and current University of Oklahoma chancellor David Boren that will include many prominent current and former politicians who claim deep frustration with the partisan polarization of the present moment — including lude one-time Sens. Gary Hart, Sam Nunn, William Cohen, and Chuck Robb, and one sitting Senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

At lunch a few weeks ago, two prominent Democrats with long experience in electoral politics, both very sensible men not given to hysterical excitement, told me they they think he has a plausible chance of winning the presidency. This struck me as dumb-founding. After all, no independent has ever won the presidency. No independent candidate has even come remotely close to winning. So why would Bloomberg’s bid be different? The consultants said Americans have a profound sense that the political system is broken and that a candidate whose career transcends party and ideology — but who can make a strong case that he is a brilliant leader who gets things done — could bring something new to American politics.

It’s true Bloomberg, the 25th richest man in the United States, could bring something entirely new to politics, i.e., spending half a billion or more on his own candidacy. It’s hard to overestimate how attractive this makes him tos ome people who are intrigued by the possibility of a Bloomberg run, in part because they might actually personally profit by it. Who would pocket that half a billion anyway? A lot of it would go to consultants. Don’t think that’s not an element in the whispering campaign on Bloomberg’s behalf, because it very much is.

Otherwise, how to explain the theory whereby a Jewish billionaire liberal from New York who can claim to have managed New York City in an efficient but hardly inspired or inspiring fashion is the person to cause a revolution in American politics down to the cellular level? 

Here’s another possible reason: Bloomberg is thrilling to people because he’s nominally a Republican but actually a Democrat. Thus, he can gull foolish Republicans into believing he’s one of them while actually being one of us. Every one of the people who is gathering in Oklahoma next week has one thing in common: They were either Democrats who served in Republican states and therefore had to take on a more ambiguous coloration, or they were Republicans serving in Democratic states and had to do the same. They are all social liberals, but some of them have a dash of rightward-leaning thinking — a dislike of deficit spending, say, or a more hawkish bent — they sprinkle on their liberalism like tabasco on eggs. It’s no wonder Bloomberg has become their deus ex machina. He shares with them a passionate love for and worship of of his own political positioning, the conviction that there is something inherently superior about a person who stands at a remove from ideological conflict.

What’s hard to understand about the Bloomberg fantasy is the assertion that the nation needs someone like him. The past four national elections have seen a startling increase in the level of engagement on the part of voters, with turnout rising to historic levels in 2000, only to rise 22 percent higher in 2004. This indicates not a withdrawal from politics because of a disgust with the possible choices, but the opposite. And the results reflect that. The midterm elections in 2002 and 2006 saw voters making clear ideological and practical distinctions between candidates and parties, to the benefit of Republicans in 2002 and to the benefit of Democrats in 2006. Washington’s fractious divide between Right and Left is a mark not of a failure in the system, but is a fair reflection of the nation’s divided political reality.

Obviously, voters get angry. They were angry about the Iraq war from two directions — people on the Left because we were fighting it in the first place and people on the Right because we weren’t winning it. They don’t like the behavior of Washington politicians. But they do see to it that things change when they get upset. Selling the White House to a billionaire whose sole promise is that he won’t make anybody too angry is not an answer to what ails us. My guess is that Bloomberg is smart enough to understand this.

With the coming of the New Year came major pieces in as all three New York papers on the growing possibility of an independent presidential big by the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He will attend a confab next week in Oklahoma, hosted by former Democratic Senator and current University of Oklahoma chancellor David Boren that will include many prominent current and former politicians who claim deep frustration with the partisan polarization of the present moment — including lude one-time Sens. Gary Hart, Sam Nunn, William Cohen, and Chuck Robb, and one sitting Senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

At lunch a few weeks ago, two prominent Democrats with long experience in electoral politics, both very sensible men not given to hysterical excitement, told me they they think he has a plausible chance of winning the presidency. This struck me as dumb-founding. After all, no independent has ever won the presidency. No independent candidate has even come remotely close to winning. So why would Bloomberg’s bid be different? The consultants said Americans have a profound sense that the political system is broken and that a candidate whose career transcends party and ideology — but who can make a strong case that he is a brilliant leader who gets things done — could bring something new to American politics.

It’s true Bloomberg, the 25th richest man in the United States, could bring something entirely new to politics, i.e., spending half a billion or more on his own candidacy. It’s hard to overestimate how attractive this makes him tos ome people who are intrigued by the possibility of a Bloomberg run, in part because they might actually personally profit by it. Who would pocket that half a billion anyway? A lot of it would go to consultants. Don’t think that’s not an element in the whispering campaign on Bloomberg’s behalf, because it very much is.

Otherwise, how to explain the theory whereby a Jewish billionaire liberal from New York who can claim to have managed New York City in an efficient but hardly inspired or inspiring fashion is the person to cause a revolution in American politics down to the cellular level? 

Here’s another possible reason: Bloomberg is thrilling to people because he’s nominally a Republican but actually a Democrat. Thus, he can gull foolish Republicans into believing he’s one of them while actually being one of us. Every one of the people who is gathering in Oklahoma next week has one thing in common: They were either Democrats who served in Republican states and therefore had to take on a more ambiguous coloration, or they were Republicans serving in Democratic states and had to do the same. They are all social liberals, but some of them have a dash of rightward-leaning thinking — a dislike of deficit spending, say, or a more hawkish bent — they sprinkle on their liberalism like tabasco on eggs. It’s no wonder Bloomberg has become their deus ex machina. He shares with them a passionate love for and worship of of his own political positioning, the conviction that there is something inherently superior about a person who stands at a remove from ideological conflict.

What’s hard to understand about the Bloomberg fantasy is the assertion that the nation needs someone like him. The past four national elections have seen a startling increase in the level of engagement on the part of voters, with turnout rising to historic levels in 2000, only to rise 22 percent higher in 2004. This indicates not a withdrawal from politics because of a disgust with the possible choices, but the opposite. And the results reflect that. The midterm elections in 2002 and 2006 saw voters making clear ideological and practical distinctions between candidates and parties, to the benefit of Republicans in 2002 and to the benefit of Democrats in 2006. Washington’s fractious divide between Right and Left is a mark not of a failure in the system, but is a fair reflection of the nation’s divided political reality.

Obviously, voters get angry. They were angry about the Iraq war from two directions — people on the Left because we were fighting it in the first place and people on the Right because we weren’t winning it. They don’t like the behavior of Washington politicians. But they do see to it that things change when they get upset. Selling the White House to a billionaire whose sole promise is that he won’t make anybody too angry is not an answer to what ails us. My guess is that Bloomberg is smart enough to understand this.

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A Warning for Paulson

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, traveling yesterday in Africa, acknowledged the support of the G-20 nations for a “best practices” code for sovereign wealth funds. There could now be as much as $3 trillion in such vehicles, which are capital pools accumulated by foreign governments for investment abroad. The amount might be five times larger in half a decade.

“How do we actually deal with funds in state hands?” asks German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her government is already drawing up plans to restrict investments from other countries. Paulson, on the other hand, has adopted a different approach. “I’d like nothing more than to get more of that money,” he said recently.

Do we really want to encourage what amounts to the “cross-border nationalization” of America’s private enterprises? Norway has a sovereign wealth fund thanks to its oil and gas revenues, but nobody is concerned about Oslo’s $350 billion because of its model management practices. Yet even the Norwegians have allowed political views to affect their investment decisions. They did not like Wal-Mart’s union and other labor practices, so the government divested its stock in the gigantic retailer. They did not try to influence Washington by buying up more of the shares so that they could use the Arkansas-based company to promote its views on, say, the war in Iraq.

Hugo Chavez hasn’t gone quite that far. But he has employed Citgo Petroleum to further his ideological goals. Beginning in 2005, the company, acquired by Venezuela two decades ago, has provided tens of millions of gallons of home heating oil at subsidized prices for poor families in several Northeast states as a stunt to embarrass the United States, and especially the Bush administration. Moreover, he has been gutting Citgo’s operations in the United States to support his “oil socialism” policies at home. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, political decisions made in Caracas are ruining the company’s business here. That’s a potential problem because Citgo, which is now run like a police state, owns 5 percent of our nation’s refining capacity. Chavez, should he want to, could throw the American oil market into turmoil merely by turning off the switch.

Our open investment policies are based on the notion that America will prosper as foreign parties participate in the economy. Yet Chavez is beginning to undermine this fundamental assumption, and he is giving no indication that Paulson’s best practices code will deter him. When despots control trillions of dollars in funds, prohibiting investments from autocrats is not protectionist—it’s plain common sense.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, traveling yesterday in Africa, acknowledged the support of the G-20 nations for a “best practices” code for sovereign wealth funds. There could now be as much as $3 trillion in such vehicles, which are capital pools accumulated by foreign governments for investment abroad. The amount might be five times larger in half a decade.

“How do we actually deal with funds in state hands?” asks German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her government is already drawing up plans to restrict investments from other countries. Paulson, on the other hand, has adopted a different approach. “I’d like nothing more than to get more of that money,” he said recently.

Do we really want to encourage what amounts to the “cross-border nationalization” of America’s private enterprises? Norway has a sovereign wealth fund thanks to its oil and gas revenues, but nobody is concerned about Oslo’s $350 billion because of its model management practices. Yet even the Norwegians have allowed political views to affect their investment decisions. They did not like Wal-Mart’s union and other labor practices, so the government divested its stock in the gigantic retailer. They did not try to influence Washington by buying up more of the shares so that they could use the Arkansas-based company to promote its views on, say, the war in Iraq.

Hugo Chavez hasn’t gone quite that far. But he has employed Citgo Petroleum to further his ideological goals. Beginning in 2005, the company, acquired by Venezuela two decades ago, has provided tens of millions of gallons of home heating oil at subsidized prices for poor families in several Northeast states as a stunt to embarrass the United States, and especially the Bush administration. Moreover, he has been gutting Citgo’s operations in the United States to support his “oil socialism” policies at home. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, political decisions made in Caracas are ruining the company’s business here. That’s a potential problem because Citgo, which is now run like a police state, owns 5 percent of our nation’s refining capacity. Chavez, should he want to, could throw the American oil market into turmoil merely by turning off the switch.

Our open investment policies are based on the notion that America will prosper as foreign parties participate in the economy. Yet Chavez is beginning to undermine this fundamental assumption, and he is giving no indication that Paulson’s best practices code will deter him. When despots control trillions of dollars in funds, prohibiting investments from autocrats is not protectionist—it’s plain common sense.

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Bookshelf

• I like short, opinionated books—when they’re smart. John Silber’s Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art is all these things, and it’s also stimulatingly grumpy. The subtitle gives the game away, for Architecture of the Absurd is a slashing attack on those “starchitects” whom Silber believes to be indifferent to the needs of their clients, preferring instead to build interesting-looking structures that are impossible to live or work in: “Architects are now to consider themselves descendants of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, ‘geniuses’ who by right break all laws and conventions . . . . they behave as if they owe nothing to their clients or the public beyond the gift of their genius.”

Before reading Silber’s book, I wondered whether his dislike of the buildings of Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind would slop over into a broad-gauge attack on all modern art. The answer is that it does—and it doesn’t. On the one hand, Silber is identically dismissive of John Cage’s 4’33” and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, writing off both works as nonsensical exercises in aesthetic absurdity. (He’s half right.) Yet he is highly responsive to a fair amount of modern architecture, praising Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building as “stunning masterpieces.” It is postmodernism, not modernism, that draws most of his fire:

The basic problem is that Libeskind asserted the fallacy of the “iconic architects:” that a building is fundamentally like a book or sculpture or piece of music. By means of this conflation the architect is permitted to create like an author, painter, or sculptor without regard for the fact that, unlike books, sculpture, and music, which may be ignored or visited at one’s pleasure, a building is lived and worked in and must meet the needs of its users.

What gives Architecture of the Absurd its sharp edge is that Silber, who worked in his father’s architectural practice as a young man, later spent much of his adult life supervising the building program at Boston University, of which he was president from 1971 to 1996 and chancellor from 1996 to 2003. Thus he knows more than most laymen about the practical consequences of theory-driven architecture, and his indictment of its practitioners’ failings is both specific and damning. Even those who disagree with his jaundiced view of modern art will find it hard to ignore passages such as these:

Most absurdist architecture . . . has been built at the bidding of 501(c)3 corporations. CEOs and trustees of museums, symphony orchestras, and especially universities yearn to house their institutions in iconic buildings that Genius has wrought. In such institutions, decisions are made by persons who are not spending their own money, who take no personal financial risk, and who often lack the knowledge and experience in building necessary to ensure that the needs of the institution are met. They are thus often intimidated by smooth-talking, imperious architects and vulnerable to the pretentious jargon that is now the vernacular among both architects and critics.

Amen, brother.

• I like short, opinionated books—when they’re smart. John Silber’s Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art is all these things, and it’s also stimulatingly grumpy. The subtitle gives the game away, for Architecture of the Absurd is a slashing attack on those “starchitects” whom Silber believes to be indifferent to the needs of their clients, preferring instead to build interesting-looking structures that are impossible to live or work in: “Architects are now to consider themselves descendants of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, ‘geniuses’ who by right break all laws and conventions . . . . they behave as if they owe nothing to their clients or the public beyond the gift of their genius.”

Before reading Silber’s book, I wondered whether his dislike of the buildings of Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind would slop over into a broad-gauge attack on all modern art. The answer is that it does—and it doesn’t. On the one hand, Silber is identically dismissive of John Cage’s 4’33” and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, writing off both works as nonsensical exercises in aesthetic absurdity. (He’s half right.) Yet he is highly responsive to a fair amount of modern architecture, praising Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building as “stunning masterpieces.” It is postmodernism, not modernism, that draws most of his fire:

The basic problem is that Libeskind asserted the fallacy of the “iconic architects:” that a building is fundamentally like a book or sculpture or piece of music. By means of this conflation the architect is permitted to create like an author, painter, or sculptor without regard for the fact that, unlike books, sculpture, and music, which may be ignored or visited at one’s pleasure, a building is lived and worked in and must meet the needs of its users.

What gives Architecture of the Absurd its sharp edge is that Silber, who worked in his father’s architectural practice as a young man, later spent much of his adult life supervising the building program at Boston University, of which he was president from 1971 to 1996 and chancellor from 1996 to 2003. Thus he knows more than most laymen about the practical consequences of theory-driven architecture, and his indictment of its practitioners’ failings is both specific and damning. Even those who disagree with his jaundiced view of modern art will find it hard to ignore passages such as these:

Most absurdist architecture . . . has been built at the bidding of 501(c)3 corporations. CEOs and trustees of museums, symphony orchestras, and especially universities yearn to house their institutions in iconic buildings that Genius has wrought. In such institutions, decisions are made by persons who are not spending their own money, who take no personal financial risk, and who often lack the knowledge and experience in building necessary to ensure that the needs of the institution are met. They are thus often intimidated by smooth-talking, imperious architects and vulnerable to the pretentious jargon that is now the vernacular among both architects and critics.

Amen, brother.

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Tempest over Tibet

Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

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Today, Beijing issued a warning to Washington over the planned award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. “The move will seriously damage China-U.S. relations,” said Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He also noted that his country hoped that the United States would “correct its mistakes” and cancel the “relevant arrangements.” Those arrangements include President Bush’s receiving His Holiness at the White House today and House Speaker Pelosi’s presenting the award tomorrow at the Capitol. The increasingly visible Laura Bush will attend tomorrow’s ceremony. And so will her husband, who will be speaking at the event. He will be the first sitting President to appear publicly with the 1989 Nobel laureate.

The Chinese government has already shown its displeasure at American defiance of its wishes. Beijing diplomats have raised the issue a number of times at the ambassadorial level. Furthermore, earlier this month Beijing put off a visit by Wu Bangguo, the second-ranked Communist Party leader, to the United States. Beijing has also pulled out of a meeting, scheduled for tomorrow in Berlin, to talk about Iran.

On Sunday, the German government announced that China had canceled upcoming human rights talks (supposed to take place in December) with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German foreign ministry refused to give any reason for the change in plans, yet an explanation was unnecessary. Beijing’s diplomats have been complaining publicly for weeks that Merkel had met with the world’s most famous refugee last month. In fact, they had been protesting the visit before she received His Holiness, and the cancellation announced Sunday is only the latest in a series of meetings the Chinese have aborted with their German counterparts since last month.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, they’re rapidly losing their ability to intimidate Western leaders over Tibet. All of them recognize Beijing’s sovereignty over Tibetan homelands, but increasingly few of them are willing to shun the Dalai Lama. In addition to Merkel, Australia’s John Howard and Austria’s Alfred Gusenbauer met with him over the course of the last few months. Canada’s Stephen Harper will receive the famous Tibetan this month.

Chinese diplomats are ramping up their threats, but few are listening. Nobody believes that human rights dialogues with Beijing are effective, and Wu’s trip to the United States was more for China’s benefit than ours. It’s a shame that China won’t attend the Berlin meeting on Iran, but that will be rescheduled—and in any event Chinese attendance would only complicate matters.

Who cares if the Chinese authoritarians huff and puff? They need the West more than the West needs them. So let them threaten all they want. Why should we prevent the Chinese from creating a diplomatic disaster for themselves?

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Hello, Dalai!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.

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Austria’s Iran Deal

Austria’s Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, issued a stern warning to Iran while on a visit to Israel. According to the Associated Press, he said: “Iran must not only slow down its uranium enrichment activities, but stop it completely.” Gusenbauer continued, rather cryptically: “we have to track closely the sanctions on Iran, and even move beyond them.”

It’s not clear what “moving beyond sanctions” means, in practice. Austria’s energy giant, OMV, has just recently signed a deal with the Iranian government worth $18 billion. The deal is part of the Nabucco pipeline project, an ambitious attempt to diversify EU energy supplies—where Iran will supply the lion’s share. If all goes well, Iran’s gas fields will be linked all the way to Austria sometime early in the next decade. At which point, the meaning of “going beyond sanctions” will probably become clearer: letting business partnerships with Iran dictate European attitudes on the country’s nuclearization program.

Austria’s Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, issued a stern warning to Iran while on a visit to Israel. According to the Associated Press, he said: “Iran must not only slow down its uranium enrichment activities, but stop it completely.” Gusenbauer continued, rather cryptically: “we have to track closely the sanctions on Iran, and even move beyond them.”

It’s not clear what “moving beyond sanctions” means, in practice. Austria’s energy giant, OMV, has just recently signed a deal with the Iranian government worth $18 billion. The deal is part of the Nabucco pipeline project, an ambitious attempt to diversify EU energy supplies—where Iran will supply the lion’s share. If all goes well, Iran’s gas fields will be linked all the way to Austria sometime early in the next decade. At which point, the meaning of “going beyond sanctions” will probably become clearer: letting business partnerships with Iran dictate European attitudes on the country’s nuclearization program.

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Wen to Merkel: Mind Your Own Business

Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to do more to stop climate change. “The Chinese wish, like all people, for blue skies, green hills and clear water,” Wen said at a joint news conference in Beijing. Then, the “People’s Premier” told the Germans—and by implication, everyone else—to mind their own business. He essentially said that China must finish its industrialization before it can consider minimizing its impact on world climate. “China has taken part of the responsibility for climate change for only 30 years while industrial countries have grown fast for the last 200 years,” he said.

China does not have a severely degraded environment—the world’s worst—because it is industrializing. And it’s not because of a shortage of money—China possesses the world’s largest pile of foreign currency reserves, now in excess of $1.3 trillion. Nor is it due to a lack of technology: China already possesses much of the know-how, and foreign governments and companies are tripping over themselves to supply what it does not now have.

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Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel encouraged China’s Premier Wen Jiabao to do more to stop climate change. “The Chinese wish, like all people, for blue skies, green hills and clear water,” Wen said at a joint news conference in Beijing. Then, the “People’s Premier” told the Germans—and by implication, everyone else—to mind their own business. He essentially said that China must finish its industrialization before it can consider minimizing its impact on world climate. “China has taken part of the responsibility for climate change for only 30 years while industrial countries have grown fast for the last 200 years,” he said.

China does not have a severely degraded environment—the world’s worst—because it is industrializing. And it’s not because of a shortage of money—China possesses the world’s largest pile of foreign currency reserves, now in excess of $1.3 trillion. Nor is it due to a lack of technology: China already possesses much of the know-how, and foreign governments and companies are tripping over themselves to supply what it does not now have.

The country has polluted its land, water, and air because its political system has prevented its disgusted and frustrated citizenry from stopping the damage. The Communist Party’s bottom-up patronage system rewards economic growth at any price, providing an incentive to dump raw sewage, scatter industrial waste, and release toxic smoke. Beijing’s leaders are afraid that an economic slowdown will lead to the collapse of the one-party state.

Wen Jiabao can, of course, put off the German chancellor for the moment. but the People’s Premier one day will have to listen to his own people. According to Zhou Shengxian, Beijing’s top environmental official, Chinese people took to the streets an astonishing 51,000 times in 2005 to protest environmental degradation. In other words, during that year the Communist Party failed almost a thousand times a week to mediate conflict between ordinary citizens on the one hand and polluting factories and colluding local governments on the other.

There is, however, hope in China. Either Mr. Wen will figure out a way to clean up the nation’s environment—or the Chinese people will. I’m betting it won’t be Wen.

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Heil, Hamas

Before the movement came to power there was a period of extraordinary dissolution, political chaos, economic dislocation, corruption, and brutal criminality. Unemployment was staggeringly high. Shortages of basic staples were a commonplace. Rival factions vied for power not stopping short of bloodshed. Who was to blame? Was it neighboring foreign powers and their “peace” settlement? Was it the Jews?

Then, suddenly, it came to an end. One faction was victorious. Distinctive uniforms were visible on the streets and distinctive flags became ubiquitous. Order was imposed. It was not a lawful order, but for many it was preferable to the previous derangement. What is more, the party bringing order had a clear plan for reconstruction, and even redemption. Of course, many people were uneasy, but even the uneasy welcomed it; the disorder and violence were in the past and there was hope of remarkable progress toward a better future.

No, this is not Gaza but the end of the Weimar Republic with Hitler’s ascension to chancellor in 1933. And the streets were not adorned with the green flags of Hamas but the red and black of the Nazis.

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Before the movement came to power there was a period of extraordinary dissolution, political chaos, economic dislocation, corruption, and brutal criminality. Unemployment was staggeringly high. Shortages of basic staples were a commonplace. Rival factions vied for power not stopping short of bloodshed. Who was to blame? Was it neighboring foreign powers and their “peace” settlement? Was it the Jews?

Then, suddenly, it came to an end. One faction was victorious. Distinctive uniforms were visible on the streets and distinctive flags became ubiquitous. Order was imposed. It was not a lawful order, but for many it was preferable to the previous derangement. What is more, the party bringing order had a clear plan for reconstruction, and even redemption. Of course, many people were uneasy, but even the uneasy welcomed it; the disorder and violence were in the past and there was hope of remarkable progress toward a better future.

No, this is not Gaza but the end of the Weimar Republic with Hitler’s ascension to chancellor in 1933. And the streets were not adorned with the green flags of Hamas but the red and black of the Nazis.

Many Western observers were reluctant to criticize then, as they are now. Some were fawning then, as some are now.

A remarkable specimen of the latter is Steven Erlanger’s portrait of the Hamas terrorist Khaled Abu Hilal in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, singled out by Scott Johnson of powerline as “passing strange.”

Erlanger holds out hope that “the military victory of Hamas may also bring a welcome measure of quiet and security to the 1.5 million people of Gaza, nearly 70 percent of them refugees, who have been living a nightmare of criminal gangs, street-corner vendettas, clan warfare, absent police, corrupt officials, religious incitement and unremitting poverty.”

What can be said about liberals who embrace order, no matter what the price, and no matter the genocidal ambitions of those imposing it?

Passing strange is right. But perhaps they are not liberals at all, or perhaps liberalism, once the creed of tolerance, has itself become something else, something self-destructive: tolerant of everything, including the most lethal forms of intolerance.

But even that seems an inadequate explanation for Erlanger’s impulse—and he is not alone in harboring it—to hail the triumph of a violent and fanatical Islamic terrorist movement that has murdered hundreds of Israelis—men, women, and children alike—and readily tosses fellow Palestinians from buildings after shooting them in the knees.

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The Politics of Investment

On Monday, German chancellor Angela Merkel said that her government is thinking of enacting measures that would prevent funds controlled by foreign governments from buying German businesses. The concept is simple: if countries are not open to German capital, Germany won’t be open to them either.

The measure seems prompted by Russia’s interest in increasing its 5-percent stake in the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, the principal shareholder of Airbus. As Merkel noted on Monday, state-controlled buyers don’t always have commercial considerations in mind when they make corporate acquisitions.

Of course, Moscow is not the only predator on the global scene. There is also the world’s largest holder of foreign currency reserves: China. Today, China is sitting on $1.2 trillion in “forex” (called “the greatest fortune ever assembled”) and is creating a vehicle, the State Investment Company, to invest these holdings. Analyst Andy Xie has forecast that China could end up with over $10 trillion in net foreign assets—about five times what Japan possesses.

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On Monday, German chancellor Angela Merkel said that her government is thinking of enacting measures that would prevent funds controlled by foreign governments from buying German businesses. The concept is simple: if countries are not open to German capital, Germany won’t be open to them either.

The measure seems prompted by Russia’s interest in increasing its 5-percent stake in the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, the principal shareholder of Airbus. As Merkel noted on Monday, state-controlled buyers don’t always have commercial considerations in mind when they make corporate acquisitions.

Of course, Moscow is not the only predator on the global scene. There is also the world’s largest holder of foreign currency reserves: China. Today, China is sitting on $1.2 trillion in “forex” (called “the greatest fortune ever assembled”) and is creating a vehicle, the State Investment Company, to invest these holdings. Analyst Andy Xie has forecast that China could end up with over $10 trillion in net foreign assets—about five times what Japan possesses.


At the same time, Beijing is restricting foreign purchases of Chinese businesses. On Tuesday, Chongqing Commercial Bank announced that the China Banking Regulatory Commission will not allow the Carlyle Group to take an 8-percent stake in the regional lender. This comes on top of Beijing’s requiring the Washington-based investment firm to pare down its proposed shareholding in Xugong Group Construction Machinery.

How to stem the tide of government-backed investors implementing decisions made by distant politburos? We should begin by following Merkel’s lead and requiring investment reciprocity with China. And that may be just the first step in rethinking the free flow of capital. When autocrats begin using economic leverage against Western democracies, investment across national boundaries becomes more than a purely economic matter.

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Tutoiement Partout

Tu or vous? Du or Sie? In English, the second person singular has long since ceased to be a source of political controversy—though in the days when Quakers insisted on calling their social superiors “Thee” and “Thou,” it mattered very much. In French and German, it still matters.

Newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised eyebrows in Berlin last week on his first official visit by presuming to tutoie Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor: “Chère Angela . . . J’ai confiance en toi.” (Dear Angela . . . I have confidence in you.) Frau Merkel, who addressed him as “Lieber Nicolas” (Dear Nicolas), responded with the formal Sie, at least in public. The French press noted the disparity and gently mocked Mr. Sarkozy—though not nearly as harshly as they did Tony Blair. Blair once dared to tutoie Jacques Chirac, who liked to stand on his dignity as a head of state, deserving deference from mere heads of government. The British prime minister was firmly put in his place. What sounded to British ears like Mr. Chirac’s pomposity was, however, approved of by the French. His Socialist predecessor François Mitterrand was once asked if he would mind if he were addressed as tu: “Si vous voulez” was his reply.

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Tu or vous? Du or Sie? In English, the second person singular has long since ceased to be a source of political controversy—though in the days when Quakers insisted on calling their social superiors “Thee” and “Thou,” it mattered very much. In French and German, it still matters.

Newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised eyebrows in Berlin last week on his first official visit by presuming to tutoie Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor: “Chère Angela . . . J’ai confiance en toi.” (Dear Angela . . . I have confidence in you.) Frau Merkel, who addressed him as “Lieber Nicolas” (Dear Nicolas), responded with the formal Sie, at least in public. The French press noted the disparity and gently mocked Mr. Sarkozy—though not nearly as harshly as they did Tony Blair. Blair once dared to tutoie Jacques Chirac, who liked to stand on his dignity as a head of state, deserving deference from mere heads of government. The British prime minister was firmly put in his place. What sounded to British ears like Mr. Chirac’s pomposity was, however, approved of by the French. His Socialist predecessor François Mitterrand was once asked if he would mind if he were addressed as tu: “Si vous voulez” was his reply.

But the proper use of tu and vous is complex. After the French Revolution, the distinction was abolished in the interests of egalité et fraternité. In 1793, the Directory even banned vous altogether. It did not take long, however, for the formal mode of address to make a comeback. In the sixth edition of the great dictionary of the Académie Française, published in 1835, the article on tu is quite explicit: “One does not normally use these pronouns . . . except when speaking to very inferior persons, or to those with whom one is on terms of very great familiarity.” The lexicographer notes various exceptions, including the poetic use of tu when addressing kings, princes, and even God. Foreigners, “particularly Orientals,” were sometimes made to use tu in literary texts “in order to preserve their alien character.” In all other contexts, vous is mandatory.

Now Mr. Sarkozy has decreed that French schools must insist on students saying vous to their teachers. Les profs are strongly advised to pay their older pupils the same compliment. This order represents a minor cultural counter-revolution, in line with the new president’s promise to “liquidate the legacy of May 1968, with its abandonment of moral codes.” But according to an excellent report by Charles Bremner in the London Times, the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro sees the “rampant tutoiement” as “spreading from the business world imitating the Anglo-Saxons and now invading private life.”

This is a bit rich: how often do you hear Americans or Britons say “thee” or “thou” to one another—unless they are performing Shakespeare? The truth is that the informal second person singular in English went out with the Victorians, except in poetry (and was considered old-fashioned even then). Blame for the triumph of tutoiement simply cannot be assigned to the Anglosphere. But you can’t keep the French from blaming everything they don’t like about themselves on “les Anglo-Saxons.”

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The German View

There has been much talk about the improvement in American-German relations since Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany, took over as chancellor and Gerhard Schroeder, her oleaginous predecessor, who used anti-Americanism as one of his central campaign issues, left office to take a job as a shill for a Kremlin-owned oil company. There is no doubt a great deal of truth to this talk. But, as I discovered during a week as a guest of the American Academy in Berlin, the two countries’ perceptions remain as far apart as ever on a variety of foreign-policy issues.

In the U.S., the biggest issue at the moment is the Iraq war. In Germany it is missile defense—specifically an American plan to deploy a limited missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to provide protection against Iranian missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he knows the planned shield is far too small to interfere with Russia’s massive ICBM force, has vehemently decried this as an act of aggression against his country. (How can a defensive system be aggressive? To answer that question would require a long foray back into the arms-control theology of the 1970’s and 80’s.)

The Germans are in a tizzy because they don’t want to offend Russia. Many still see the country’s role as being a “bridge” between East and West, much as in the cold-war days of Willy Brandt’s ostpolitik. A cynic might note other German interests, such as keeping natural gas from Russia flowing. But whatever the cause, various German officials I spoke with anxiously inquired if there was some way to compromise on the missile-defense plan so as dampen growing tensions with Russia.

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There has been much talk about the improvement in American-German relations since Angela Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany, took over as chancellor and Gerhard Schroeder, her oleaginous predecessor, who used anti-Americanism as one of his central campaign issues, left office to take a job as a shill for a Kremlin-owned oil company. There is no doubt a great deal of truth to this talk. But, as I discovered during a week as a guest of the American Academy in Berlin, the two countries’ perceptions remain as far apart as ever on a variety of foreign-policy issues.

In the U.S., the biggest issue at the moment is the Iraq war. In Germany it is missile defense—specifically an American plan to deploy a limited missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to provide protection against Iranian missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he knows the planned shield is far too small to interfere with Russia’s massive ICBM force, has vehemently decried this as an act of aggression against his country. (How can a defensive system be aggressive? To answer that question would require a long foray back into the arms-control theology of the 1970’s and 80’s.)

The Germans are in a tizzy because they don’t want to offend Russia. Many still see the country’s role as being a “bridge” between East and West, much as in the cold-war days of Willy Brandt’s ostpolitik. A cynic might note other German interests, such as keeping natural gas from Russia flowing. But whatever the cause, various German officials I spoke with anxiously inquired if there was some way to compromise on the missile-defense plan so as dampen growing tensions with Russia.

Germans are also anxious to compromise with Iran. A number of them wanted to know if the U.S. was serious about attacking the mullahs’ nuclear program. They have been reinforced in their preference for talk over military action by the quagmire they see in Iraq. They wonder why Americans can’t see the light too.

Germans are now willing to send their military abroad—but only if it won’t be used for combat. The Bundestag has just approved the deployment of six Tornado aircraft to southern Afghanistan following a wrenching debate, even though the Tornados will be used for reconnaissance only. As for German troops, some 3,000 of them are in Afghanistan, but they are not allowed to venture anywhere where they might get shot at; they are not even allowed to come to the aid of NATO allies who are under fire. The German officers I spoke with seemed eager to take a more direct role in the fighting, but the consensus of politicians and journalists was that this will never happen.

Why not? An American observer offered an interesting explanation. It is not so much that the Germans are afraid of getting their own troops killed, he said; they are more afraid of what their troops might do. They realize that counterinsurgency is a nasty type of warfare and that troops of any nationality are liable to commit some excesses. Germans, this American suggested, are deathly afraid that combat atrocities might revive old stereotypes about German militarism. Thus the Germans will continue to stress “soft” power while we (and, to a lesser extent, the Brits) perform the “hard” tasks.

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German Anti-Americanism, Then and Now

Germans are often said to be obsessed by their Nazi past. This week Germany has been reminded of another nightmare it would prefer to forget: the Marxist terrorism of the 1970’s and 80’s. The release on parole of an apparently unrepentant Brigitte Mohnhaupt, one of the most notorious members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang (also known as the Red Army Faction) has polarized German public opinion once again, just as it did during the fall of 1977, when she played a key role in the kidnapping and murder of the banker Juergen Ponto and the industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer.

In one respect, Mohnhaupt was a prophetic figure: she foreshadowed the extreme anti-Americanism that would grip Germany in the new century. In 1981, in the most spectacular of many attacks on American troops by Baader-Meinhof terrorists, the car carrying General Frederick Kroesen, the U.S. commander in Europe, and his wife was attacked by Mohnhaupt with a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire near Heidelberg. The Kroesens survived with minor injuries, thanks to their armor-plated Mercedes.

Today’s German anti-Americanism takes a less violent form, but it has succeeded where the terrorists failed: the American military presence in Germany, once the largest outside the United States, has mostly been relocated elsewhere. Gerhard Schröder’s Red-Green coalition, which ruled Germany from 1998 until 2005, included several ministers who had once been sympathetic to the terrorists.

For me, however, Mohnhaupt’s release raised another ghost from the dead: Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, who was one of the last of the Red Army Faction’s victims. I met Herrhausen in Moscow during a state visit with Chancellor Kohl in December 1988, less than a year before Herrhausen’s car was blown up by Mohnhaupt’s comrades. He was in Moscow to negotiate a gigantic loan to Russia with Gorbachev—a deal so important to the Russians that in their eyes Herrhausen even overshadowed Chancellor Kohl.

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Germans are often said to be obsessed by their Nazi past. This week Germany has been reminded of another nightmare it would prefer to forget: the Marxist terrorism of the 1970’s and 80’s. The release on parole of an apparently unrepentant Brigitte Mohnhaupt, one of the most notorious members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang (also known as the Red Army Faction) has polarized German public opinion once again, just as it did during the fall of 1977, when she played a key role in the kidnapping and murder of the banker Juergen Ponto and the industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer.

In one respect, Mohnhaupt was a prophetic figure: she foreshadowed the extreme anti-Americanism that would grip Germany in the new century. In 1981, in the most spectacular of many attacks on American troops by Baader-Meinhof terrorists, the car carrying General Frederick Kroesen, the U.S. commander in Europe, and his wife was attacked by Mohnhaupt with a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire near Heidelberg. The Kroesens survived with minor injuries, thanks to their armor-plated Mercedes.

Today’s German anti-Americanism takes a less violent form, but it has succeeded where the terrorists failed: the American military presence in Germany, once the largest outside the United States, has mostly been relocated elsewhere. Gerhard Schröder’s Red-Green coalition, which ruled Germany from 1998 until 2005, included several ministers who had once been sympathetic to the terrorists.

For me, however, Mohnhaupt’s release raised another ghost from the dead: Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, who was one of the last of the Red Army Faction’s victims. I met Herrhausen in Moscow during a state visit with Chancellor Kohl in December 1988, less than a year before Herrhausen’s car was blown up by Mohnhaupt’s comrades. He was in Moscow to negotiate a gigantic loan to Russia with Gorbachev—a deal so important to the Russians that in their eyes Herrhausen even overshadowed Chancellor Kohl.

Herrhausen looked every inch the king of German capitalism, with seats on the supervisory boards of many of the Federal Republic’s major corporations. He had been raised in one of the Nazi Lebensborn colonies, where future members of the SS were groomed to become the master race. This biographical accident helped to account for the pathological loathing of Herrhausen by the Left, which formed the necessary background to his murder.

I could not help thinking of Walther Rathenau, the German Foreign Minister in the Weimar Republic, who shocked the West by signing the Rapallo Treaty with Bolshevik Russia in 1922. Rathenau, too, had been a great capitalist—he was the head of A.E.G., then the largest electrical company in Europe—and he, too, was first demonized and then assassinated.

The difference, of course, was that Rathenau was a Jew, and his murderers were anti-Semites of the extreme Right. Herrhausen’s assassins, the Red Army Faction, pioneered the left-wing form of anti-Semitism—they collaborated with Palestinian terrorists in “anti-Zionist” operations, including the kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Showing, once and for all, that despite the Red Army Faction’s pretense that the Federal Republic was merely the Third Reich in another guise, the terrorists had far more in common with the Nazis than with their victims.

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