Commentary Magazine


Topic: Columbia University

No More Secret Promises

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said he wants North Korea fully to disclose its nuclear weapons program by the end of this month. “Everything we’ve asked them to do, they can certainly do,” he told reporters after a speech at Columbia University. “Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve already agreed to do.”

There is no question that the North Koreans failed to provide their promised declaration of nuclear activities by the end of last year. The issue is whether they have a legitimate excuse. Hill’s North Korean counterpart Kim Gye Gwan says the United States has failed to live up to its side of the bargain by not taking his country off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and keeping American trading sanctions in place. Both of these actions were covered in an agreement reached last February as a part of the so-called six-party talks.

So who is at fault? The North Koreans have been making the point that Hill has been making side deals on the pace of normalization and that Washington has not honored the commitments it has made. Although Pyongyang’s diplomats are especially proficient at lying, Kim’s charges are not entirely unbelievable this time. After all, the current flap over the terrorism-sponsorship list and trade sanctions is reminiscent of the dispute over North Korean funds held in a Macau bank last year. During that imbroglio, Hill appeared to have made a secret commitment to Pyongyang to return those monies (which the United States eventually did in an especially humiliating climbdown).

Of course, we will never know what is going on until both the United States and North Korea open their archives. Yet there is one conclusion we can reach now: we always get into trouble when we engage in secret diplomacy with Kim Jong Il’s regime. There is no legitimate reason for the North Koreans to refuse to honor their promises. Yet we hand them excuse after excuse if we make secret concessions. If Hill can’t keep the diplomatic process on track without promising too much to Pyongyang, then the six-party talks are not sustainable and are not worth maintaining.

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said he wants North Korea fully to disclose its nuclear weapons program by the end of this month. “Everything we’ve asked them to do, they can certainly do,” he told reporters after a speech at Columbia University. “Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve already agreed to do.”

There is no question that the North Koreans failed to provide their promised declaration of nuclear activities by the end of last year. The issue is whether they have a legitimate excuse. Hill’s North Korean counterpart Kim Gye Gwan says the United States has failed to live up to its side of the bargain by not taking his country off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and keeping American trading sanctions in place. Both of these actions were covered in an agreement reached last February as a part of the so-called six-party talks.

So who is at fault? The North Koreans have been making the point that Hill has been making side deals on the pace of normalization and that Washington has not honored the commitments it has made. Although Pyongyang’s diplomats are especially proficient at lying, Kim’s charges are not entirely unbelievable this time. After all, the current flap over the terrorism-sponsorship list and trade sanctions is reminiscent of the dispute over North Korean funds held in a Macau bank last year. During that imbroglio, Hill appeared to have made a secret commitment to Pyongyang to return those monies (which the United States eventually did in an especially humiliating climbdown).

Of course, we will never know what is going on until both the United States and North Korea open their archives. Yet there is one conclusion we can reach now: we always get into trouble when we engage in secret diplomacy with Kim Jong Il’s regime. There is no legitimate reason for the North Koreans to refuse to honor their promises. Yet we hand them excuse after excuse if we make secret concessions. If Hill can’t keep the diplomatic process on track without promising too much to Pyongyang, then the six-party talks are not sustainable and are not worth maintaining.

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The Noose Tightens

One of the weirdest stories of last year was the mysterious tale of the noose found on the door of a Teachers College professor at Columbia University, an African-American woman who claims to be a scholar of “racial micro-aggression” — which is to say, events like someone hanging a noose on the door of an African-American.

Her name is not Tawana Brawley. It’s Madonna Constantine. But you might be forgiven for confusing the two.

After Constantine revealed the supposedly monstrous crime, Columbia erupted in protests. The administration vowed to find the evildoer. The NYPD got involved. Columbia began acting oddly, refusing to cooperate with the NYPD. The NYPD produced a subpoena for the films from surveillance cameras in the hallway. They came up with nothing.

Then, suddenly, the NYPD announced it was closing the investigation. Columbia University, the parent of Teachers College, went silent. We learned the professor in question, Madonna Constantine, had a history of provocative acts, including a confrontation with a colleague whom she had sued for defamation.

Now, Teachers College has sanctioned Dr. Constantine for plagiarism — the conclusion of an investigation that dates back, it turns out, to 2006:

Teachers College of Columbia University confirmed today that it has sanctioned Professor Madonna Constantine after an internal investigation found numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years. The investigation, which began in 2006, was prompted by complaints from students and one former faculty member who said language from materials they wrote was included without attribution in the articles.

Constantine, predictably, responded to this by wondering whether a “white person” would be treated this way. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that Constantine discovered the writing was on the wall last October, that she was going to be caught out as a plagiarist, and that she dangled the noose from her own office doorknob as a way to make it impossible for Columbia to punish her.

Thus, the parallel with the Tawana Brawley case. Terrified she was going to be punished by her stepfather for a night out with a boy, Brawley staged her own false rape and claimed it had been at the hands of white attackers. It was a monstrous lie. But at least Brawley was seventeen at the time. Madonna Constantine is 44. And will soon be out of a job.

One of the weirdest stories of last year was the mysterious tale of the noose found on the door of a Teachers College professor at Columbia University, an African-American woman who claims to be a scholar of “racial micro-aggression” — which is to say, events like someone hanging a noose on the door of an African-American.

Her name is not Tawana Brawley. It’s Madonna Constantine. But you might be forgiven for confusing the two.

After Constantine revealed the supposedly monstrous crime, Columbia erupted in protests. The administration vowed to find the evildoer. The NYPD got involved. Columbia began acting oddly, refusing to cooperate with the NYPD. The NYPD produced a subpoena for the films from surveillance cameras in the hallway. They came up with nothing.

Then, suddenly, the NYPD announced it was closing the investigation. Columbia University, the parent of Teachers College, went silent. We learned the professor in question, Madonna Constantine, had a history of provocative acts, including a confrontation with a colleague whom she had sued for defamation.

Now, Teachers College has sanctioned Dr. Constantine for plagiarism — the conclusion of an investigation that dates back, it turns out, to 2006:

Teachers College of Columbia University confirmed today that it has sanctioned Professor Madonna Constantine after an internal investigation found numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years. The investigation, which began in 2006, was prompted by complaints from students and one former faculty member who said language from materials they wrote was included without attribution in the articles.

Constantine, predictably, responded to this by wondering whether a “white person” would be treated this way. It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that Constantine discovered the writing was on the wall last October, that she was going to be caught out as a plagiarist, and that she dangled the noose from her own office doorknob as a way to make it impossible for Columbia to punish her.

Thus, the parallel with the Tawana Brawley case. Terrified she was going to be punished by her stepfather for a night out with a boy, Brawley staged her own false rape and claimed it had been at the hands of white attackers. It was a monstrous lie. But at least Brawley was seventeen at the time. Madonna Constantine is 44. And will soon be out of a job.

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A Canadian Course in Torture

Canada has put Israel and the U.S. on an official list of countries where prisoners are at risk of being tortured. Here’s Reuters with the best part: “CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.” A course on torture awareness sounds like something from the 07′/08′ Columbia University course catalogue. According to this course, interrogation techniques such as “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation” are considered torture. Then again this is the country that considers critical media commentary a violation of human rights.

Guantanamo Bay (where prisoners tend to gain weight) is specifically mentioned. It should be noted that suspects held at Gitmo live in conditions far superior to the those of the men and women on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Conservative Canadian politicians are understandably humiliated: “A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. ‘The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,’ he said.”

Nor does it reflect the views or policies of this one.

Canada has put Israel and the U.S. on an official list of countries where prisoners are at risk of being tortured. Here’s Reuters with the best part: “CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.” A course on torture awareness sounds like something from the 07′/08′ Columbia University course catalogue. According to this course, interrogation techniques such as “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation” are considered torture. Then again this is the country that considers critical media commentary a violation of human rights.

Guantanamo Bay (where prisoners tend to gain weight) is specifically mentioned. It should be noted that suspects held at Gitmo live in conditions far superior to the those of the men and women on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Conservative Canadian politicians are understandably humiliated: “A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. ‘The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,’ he said.”

Nor does it reflect the views or policies of this one.

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More on the Hong Kong Elections

As Arthur Waldron has written, the election of Anson Chan to LegCo, Hong Kong’s legislature, was an important victory for democracy in the city, a special administrative region of China. Chan took her seat yesterday after beating Regina Ip, the candidate favored by the Chinese government, in Sunday’s landslide win. The race was especially symbolic because both Chan and Ip sought to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ma Lik. Ma was the head of the misnamed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the territory’s main pro-Beijing party.

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s friends attacked Chan moments after she was sworn in. Tsang Tak-sing, Hong Kong’s secretary for home affairs, launched a personal attack on the new lawmaker, calling her a “sudden democrat” who cares little for the livelihood of the people of the city. Tsang, by the way, is the brother of a past chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

It’s clear that Mainland leaders not only want the LegCo seat back, they need to eliminate Chan from politics. Her electoral win is not only a victory for democracy in Hong Kong, it is threatening to the rulers of the modern Chinese state. And unfortunately for Beijing, her presence in the legislature undermines a core assumption of the Communist Party of China. Ever since the early 1990′s, Chinese officials have been betting that continual economic growth will keep them in power. Yet Hong Kong’s strong economy this decade did not translate into sufficient support at the polls for the pro-Beijing Ip.

Moreover, Chan’s victory also undercuts an emerging trend in Western thinking. Due to the apparent success of present-day Communism in China, political scientists are beginning to believe that authoritarian is a sustainable form of governance. Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, for instance, is no friend of Communism, but he now talks of “resilient authoritarianism.” Dozens of analysts have picked up on this theme and doubt the link between economic progress and democratization. Francis Fukuyama’s seminal End of History is now ridiculed.

Yet Anson Chan’s victory reminds political scientists that real people do not think prosperity is a substitute for representative governance. The academics and analysts should remember their Tocqueville. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution he wrote that sustained prosperity does not tranquilize a citizenry. On the contrary, it promotes “a spirit of unrest.”

So we are all in debt to Chan, dubbed “Hong Kong’s conscience,” for reminding us that repressive governments are never as strong as they appear. Yesterday was a good moment for the people of Hong Kong—and for the rest of us as well.

As Arthur Waldron has written, the election of Anson Chan to LegCo, Hong Kong’s legislature, was an important victory for democracy in the city, a special administrative region of China. Chan took her seat yesterday after beating Regina Ip, the candidate favored by the Chinese government, in Sunday’s landslide win. The race was especially symbolic because both Chan and Ip sought to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ma Lik. Ma was the head of the misnamed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the territory’s main pro-Beijing party.

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s friends attacked Chan moments after she was sworn in. Tsang Tak-sing, Hong Kong’s secretary for home affairs, launched a personal attack on the new lawmaker, calling her a “sudden democrat” who cares little for the livelihood of the people of the city. Tsang, by the way, is the brother of a past chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

It’s clear that Mainland leaders not only want the LegCo seat back, they need to eliminate Chan from politics. Her electoral win is not only a victory for democracy in Hong Kong, it is threatening to the rulers of the modern Chinese state. And unfortunately for Beijing, her presence in the legislature undermines a core assumption of the Communist Party of China. Ever since the early 1990′s, Chinese officials have been betting that continual economic growth will keep them in power. Yet Hong Kong’s strong economy this decade did not translate into sufficient support at the polls for the pro-Beijing Ip.

Moreover, Chan’s victory also undercuts an emerging trend in Western thinking. Due to the apparent success of present-day Communism in China, political scientists are beginning to believe that authoritarian is a sustainable form of governance. Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, for instance, is no friend of Communism, but he now talks of “resilient authoritarianism.” Dozens of analysts have picked up on this theme and doubt the link between economic progress and democratization. Francis Fukuyama’s seminal End of History is now ridiculed.

Yet Anson Chan’s victory reminds political scientists that real people do not think prosperity is a substitute for representative governance. The academics and analysts should remember their Tocqueville. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution he wrote that sustained prosperity does not tranquilize a citizenry. On the contrary, it promotes “a spirit of unrest.”

So we are all in debt to Chan, dubbed “Hong Kong’s conscience,” for reminding us that repressive governments are never as strong as they appear. Yesterday was a good moment for the people of Hong Kong—and for the rest of us as well.

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Two Shades of Black

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s September 24 speech at Columbia University seems like ancient history. The news media has long since turned its attention to other obsessions, such as what a helluva nice guy Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is, or just how low our expectations for the upcoming Annapolis conference should be. But professors at Columbia apparently have remarkably long attention spans, and the handling of Ahmadinejad’s speech remains deeply contentious among faculty members.

The fault lines of this dispute are numbingly predictable. Last week, over 100 faculty members signed a petition, protesting Bollinger’s leadership in light of the Ahmadinejad circus:

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

Not to be outdone, as of Monday, 70 faculty members had signed a counter-protest petition defending Bollinger, disputing the notion that the president’s combative introduction of Ahmadinejad allied Columbia with (heaven forbid) the Bush administration:

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

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s September 24 speech at Columbia University seems like ancient history. The news media has long since turned its attention to other obsessions, such as what a helluva nice guy Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is, or just how low our expectations for the upcoming Annapolis conference should be. But professors at Columbia apparently have remarkably long attention spans, and the handling of Ahmadinejad’s speech remains deeply contentious among faculty members.

The fault lines of this dispute are numbingly predictable. Last week, over 100 faculty members signed a petition, protesting Bollinger’s leadership in light of the Ahmadinejad circus:

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

Not to be outdone, as of Monday, 70 faculty members had signed a counter-protest petition defending Bollinger, disputing the notion that the president’s combative introduction of Ahmadinejad allied Columbia with (heaven forbid) the Bush administration:

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

Last week, my contentions colleague Noah Pollak applauded the pro-Bollinger professors for standing up to the “tenured thugs,” who have undertaken “the setting of ideological boundaries by purging and intimidating those who would ignore them.”

Yet, for everything that one finds troubling about the anti-Bollinger petition—most especially, the presumption that we should be hospitable to Holocaust-denying dictators—it is hard to sympathize with Bollinger’s defenders. Indeed, the debate among Bollinger’s supporters and detractors obscures the fact that, no matter ones views of Bollinger’s firm introduction of Ahmadinejad, the entire affair should never have occurred in the first place. By inviting Ahmadinejad, Bollinger granted an academic forum to a most academically dishonest leader, dangerously boosting Ahmadinejad’s credibility where the United States can least afford it: among Iranians.

Again, this is all old news and you’ve probably heard it before. But here’s a new twist: I hereby declare myself the first contentions writer openly to obey a Rashid Khalidi-signed petition: after all, the anti-Bollinger petition decries the “intervention” of outsiders in faculty matters. Thus, as it is impossible to choose between the president that invited Ahmadinejad and professors who would have been more accommodating, I abstain from taking sides. Bollinger and his miffed opponents deserve one another completely.

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Columbia’s Tenured Thugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is Russia Our Enemy?

In New York on Tuesday, Intelligence Squared, a British-based debate forum, sponsored a discussion on one of today’s critical issues: Is Russia becoming our enemy again?

The debaters who took the benign view—especially Robert Legvold of Columbia University and Mark Medish of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace—argued that we should not call Russia an enemy because that might make it one. There is, of course, a dose of logic in this simple proposition. After all, we don’t need to create another antagonist at this moment, especially if it’s a large nation with a chip on its shoulder and a finger on the button.

Yet a mutually self-destructive spat of name-calling is not the problem we face at this time. “Just last week George W. Bush insisted in a speech that Russia is not an enemy of the United States,” said the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, as he argued that Moscow is indeed becoming an adversary. “Now if that does not convince this audience that our side is right, I don’t know what will.”

In just a few words Stephens identified perhaps the most important shortcoming of American foreign policy of this era. We don’t have to worry about making Russia an enemy by calling it one. On the contrary, we have to be concerned that we will permit Russia to become an enemy by failing to speak plainly.

In recent months, Moscow has been supporting the atomic aspirations of the Iranians, bombing the Georgians, upgrading Syria’s air defenses, poisoning and shooting foreign nationals on foreign soil, seizing foreign-owned energy investments without justification, threatening to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, harassing the Estonian government, and resuming cold war patrols of heavy bombers far from its shores (and close to our shores and those of our allies). In short, the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin has tried to upend the international system by taking down the post-cold war architecture.

And what is America doing? We call the Russian autocrat a friend and trustworthy partner. Methinks we do not protest enough.

In New York on Tuesday, Intelligence Squared, a British-based debate forum, sponsored a discussion on one of today’s critical issues: Is Russia becoming our enemy again?

The debaters who took the benign view—especially Robert Legvold of Columbia University and Mark Medish of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace—argued that we should not call Russia an enemy because that might make it one. There is, of course, a dose of logic in this simple proposition. After all, we don’t need to create another antagonist at this moment, especially if it’s a large nation with a chip on its shoulder and a finger on the button.

Yet a mutually self-destructive spat of name-calling is not the problem we face at this time. “Just last week George W. Bush insisted in a speech that Russia is not an enemy of the United States,” said the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, as he argued that Moscow is indeed becoming an adversary. “Now if that does not convince this audience that our side is right, I don’t know what will.”

In just a few words Stephens identified perhaps the most important shortcoming of American foreign policy of this era. We don’t have to worry about making Russia an enemy by calling it one. On the contrary, we have to be concerned that we will permit Russia to become an enemy by failing to speak plainly.

In recent months, Moscow has been supporting the atomic aspirations of the Iranians, bombing the Georgians, upgrading Syria’s air defenses, poisoning and shooting foreign nationals on foreign soil, seizing foreign-owned energy investments without justification, threatening to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, harassing the Estonian government, and resuming cold war patrols of heavy bombers far from its shores (and close to our shores and those of our allies). In short, the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin has tried to upend the international system by taking down the post-cold war architecture.

And what is America doing? We call the Russian autocrat a friend and trustworthy partner. Methinks we do not protest enough.

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Evil Empire Symphonies

The announcement that the New York Philharmonic likely will travel to North Korea next February, at the behest of that country’s Culture Ministry, brings up memories of orchestral maneuvers during cold wars past. First Run Features has just issued on DVD the Oscar-winning 1979 documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, in which the great violinist hears direct testimony of the ghastly sufferings experienced by Chinese classical musicians during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Any trip to North Korea looks likely to be just as harrowing. Kim Jong Il, according to his official biography, has written 1,500 books and six operas, “all of which are better than any in the history of music.” In 2001, the University Press of the Pacific published Kim Jong Il’s Art of Opera, which contains such gems as: “An opera singer must sing well. A stage actor’s main task is to speak well and act well. While an opera singer’s main task is to sing well.” We are also informed that an “orchestra must accompany songs skillfully.” These gross banalities are natural from a philistine who requires that all music in his country be in praise of himself and Communism.

Jasper Becker’s Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea from Oxford University Press accuses Kim and his father Kim Il Sung of responsibility for the deaths of 7 million North Koreans from famine, war, and political oppression. Becker particularly condemns politicians, from Vladimir Putin to Madeleine Albright, who returned home after trips to North Korea reporting “how rational, well-informed, witty, charming, and deeply popular Kim Jong Il is.” This kind of flattering publicity is already being churned out by the Philharmonic, whose public relations director Eric Latzky informed the New York Times that Pyongyang, based on a preliminary visit, is “clean and orderly and not without beauty, and had a kind of high level of culture and intelligence.”

Isaac Stern visited Communist China after the worst of the Cultural Revolution was already past, but North Korea is still a tragedy-in-progress. In Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform, published earlier this year by Columbia University Press, co-authors Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland point out that Kim Jong Il’s “culpability in this vast misery elevates the North Korean famine to the level of a crime against humanity.” Mismanagement, after Soviet subsidies slowly stopped in the 1980′s, was aggravated by brutal state policies like the notorious 1991 “Eat Two Meals a Day” campaign and the 1997 songun or “military first” policy, giving the army and political hacks first claim on any foreign aid. Haggard and Noland state that by 2005, around 30 percent of foreign aid had been stolen by Kim and his cronies, while the famine deaths continued. New York Philharmonic musicians might choke on their after-concert dinners if they read these books. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but he was not a Philharmonic violinist.

The announcement that the New York Philharmonic likely will travel to North Korea next February, at the behest of that country’s Culture Ministry, brings up memories of orchestral maneuvers during cold wars past. First Run Features has just issued on DVD the Oscar-winning 1979 documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, in which the great violinist hears direct testimony of the ghastly sufferings experienced by Chinese classical musicians during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Any trip to North Korea looks likely to be just as harrowing. Kim Jong Il, according to his official biography, has written 1,500 books and six operas, “all of which are better than any in the history of music.” In 2001, the University Press of the Pacific published Kim Jong Il’s Art of Opera, which contains such gems as: “An opera singer must sing well. A stage actor’s main task is to speak well and act well. While an opera singer’s main task is to sing well.” We are also informed that an “orchestra must accompany songs skillfully.” These gross banalities are natural from a philistine who requires that all music in his country be in praise of himself and Communism.

Jasper Becker’s Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea from Oxford University Press accuses Kim and his father Kim Il Sung of responsibility for the deaths of 7 million North Koreans from famine, war, and political oppression. Becker particularly condemns politicians, from Vladimir Putin to Madeleine Albright, who returned home after trips to North Korea reporting “how rational, well-informed, witty, charming, and deeply popular Kim Jong Il is.” This kind of flattering publicity is already being churned out by the Philharmonic, whose public relations director Eric Latzky informed the New York Times that Pyongyang, based on a preliminary visit, is “clean and orderly and not without beauty, and had a kind of high level of culture and intelligence.”

Isaac Stern visited Communist China after the worst of the Cultural Revolution was already past, but North Korea is still a tragedy-in-progress. In Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform, published earlier this year by Columbia University Press, co-authors Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland point out that Kim Jong Il’s “culpability in this vast misery elevates the North Korean famine to the level of a crime against humanity.” Mismanagement, after Soviet subsidies slowly stopped in the 1980′s, was aggravated by brutal state policies like the notorious 1991 “Eat Two Meals a Day” campaign and the 1997 songun or “military first” policy, giving the army and political hacks first claim on any foreign aid. Haggard and Noland state that by 2005, around 30 percent of foreign aid had been stolen by Kim and his cronies, while the famine deaths continued. New York Philharmonic musicians might choke on their after-concert dinners if they read these books. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but he was not a Philharmonic violinist.

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Cheapening Free Speech

When Columbia University invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak last month, the most common refrain uttered by the University’s defenders was that, by doing so, the University was honoring the time-tested and proudly American principle of “free speech.” This country was founded upon a resistance to monarchical authority; a corollary to that impulse is the individual’s freedom to say or publish what he thinks. No one can quibble with this understanding of a bedrock American freedom. But where Columbia’s defenders went wrong was in their contention that protesting Ahmadinejad’s presence would contradict thi fundamentally American notion.

This has always been a silly and unsophisticated understanding of what the Bill of Rights actually says, or what the “spirit” of free speech actually means. No one has denied Ahmadinejad a platform for his odious views; indeed, just the day after his rant at Columbia he was given an international soapbox at the United Nations General Assembly. And the fact that his views on matters ranging from the existence of the Holocaust to the future existence of Israel are so well known further lays waste to the claim that not inviting Ahmadinejad would strike a blow to “free speech.”

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When Columbia University invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak last month, the most common refrain uttered by the University’s defenders was that, by doing so, the University was honoring the time-tested and proudly American principle of “free speech.” This country was founded upon a resistance to monarchical authority; a corollary to that impulse is the individual’s freedom to say or publish what he thinks. No one can quibble with this understanding of a bedrock American freedom. But where Columbia’s defenders went wrong was in their contention that protesting Ahmadinejad’s presence would contradict thi fundamentally American notion.

This has always been a silly and unsophisticated understanding of what the Bill of Rights actually says, or what the “spirit” of free speech actually means. No one has denied Ahmadinejad a platform for his odious views; indeed, just the day after his rant at Columbia he was given an international soapbox at the United Nations General Assembly. And the fact that his views on matters ranging from the existence of the Holocaust to the future existence of Israel are so well known further lays waste to the claim that not inviting Ahmadinejad would strike a blow to “free speech.”

What ultimately mattered was that a distinguished University lent credence to his views. Columbia’s physics department would never host a speech by a member of the Flat Earth Society, nor should it. People who think the moon landing was a hoax or that the Holocaust never happened have every right to utter and publish these beliefs; they have no “right” to a speaking engagement at an Ivy League School.

This crucial distinction is one that has long been lost on those people who organize events on college campuses. The latest example occurs across the pond at Oxford University, where the Oxford Union—the school’s prestigious debating society that counts leading politicians, journalists, and business leaders as alumnae—has invited a rogue’s gallery to take part in a “Free Speech Forum” set for the end of November. The Union has already been excoriated by critics, as noted on contentions, for staging a debate on the Middle East conflict and loading it with anti-Israel activists.

Among those invited to the “Free Speech Forum” are David Irving (the notorious Holocaust denier), Nick Griffin (the leader of the anti-Semitic, racist, and fascist British National Party), and Alexander Lukoshenko, the dictator of Belarus. The Union’s president told the Guardian that, “The Oxford Union is famous for is commitment to free speech and although I do think these people have awful and abhorrent views I do think Oxford students are intelligent enough to challenge and ridicule them.” Indeed, one Oxford Union committee member even used Columbia’s example as a justification for the invite: “If Columbia can invite Ahmadinejad, then why shouldn’t we invite Irving?” Thankfully, Lukoshenko is under a European Union travel ban and will not be able to attend. Unfortunately, both the fascist and the Holocaust denier have indicated their eager anticipation.

The primary outcome of this invitation is the Oxford Union’s discrediting of itself. As with Ahmadinejad at Columbia, there is nothing to be “learned” from engaging in dialogue with fascists and Holocaust-deniers. Oxford students are indeed an “intelligent” bunch: all the more reason that they do not need to spend an evening listening to these men, thus granting them legitimacy. One presumes that the motivating impulse behind Oxford’s “Free Speech Forum” is to present some of the most outlandish views possible. But the purpose of freedom of speech is to elevate discussion and broaden our common understanding, not to promote lies and hate (Griffin’s and Irving’s specialty).

To honor “free speech,” ought not the Oxford Union instead extend invitations to individuals living in countries where the principle is non-existent? Why not invite democracy activists in China or exiled Zimbabwean journalists, of which there is no shortage in the United Kingdom?

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Bill Richardson’s Remarkable Plan to Disarm Iran

Bill Richardson is not among the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. But he is notable for having more foreign-policy experience than the leading three: John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. He served as UN ambassador from 1997 to 1998 and then went on to head the Department of Energy, where he dealt not only with the problems posed by OPEC and our dependence on imported oil, but also with the dependability and security of America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

With a two-theater war under way, and the menace of Iran’s nuclear program looming over the horizon, is Richardson worth a second look? Is he made of presidential timber, or perhaps vice-presidential timber?

We got a glimpse of him this past weekend on Face the Nation, where Bob Schieffer questioned him on what to do about Iran.

Richardson was adamant that he would not have invited the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University and is “glad we didn’t let him go to Ground Zero.” He expressed determination to stop Iranian interference with the American war effort in Iraq: “We cannot have them, obviously, continue helping the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards in Iraq.” And he is also determined to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring the most fearsome weapon known to man: “we cannot have Iran have nuclear weapons.”

This is tough talk. What are Richardson’s means for realizing these laudable objectives? The way to accomplish them, he told Schieffer, “perhaps is a carrot-and-stick policy.”

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Bill Richardson is not among the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates. But he is notable for having more foreign-policy experience than the leading three: John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton. He served as UN ambassador from 1997 to 1998 and then went on to head the Department of Energy, where he dealt not only with the problems posed by OPEC and our dependence on imported oil, but also with the dependability and security of America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

With a two-theater war under way, and the menace of Iran’s nuclear program looming over the horizon, is Richardson worth a second look? Is he made of presidential timber, or perhaps vice-presidential timber?

We got a glimpse of him this past weekend on Face the Nation, where Bob Schieffer questioned him on what to do about Iran.

Richardson was adamant that he would not have invited the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University and is “glad we didn’t let him go to Ground Zero.” He expressed determination to stop Iranian interference with the American war effort in Iraq: “We cannot have them, obviously, continue helping the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards in Iraq.” And he is also determined to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring the most fearsome weapon known to man: “we cannot have Iran have nuclear weapons.”

This is tough talk. What are Richardson’s means for realizing these laudable objectives? The way to accomplish them, he told Schieffer, “perhaps is a carrot-and-stick policy.”

“Perhaps” a carrot-and-stick policy? Was the tentativeness revealed here just a verbal slip? To answer that, it helps to know just what are Richardson’s carrots and what are his sticks.

To begin with carrot number one, Richardson would not have voted–“as I regret Senator Clinton did”–for a Senate resolution designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorists. “This was provocative. It didn’t need to happen.”

Carrot number two would be to cease “calling [the Iranians] names” and “labeling them terrorists,” which is “just making the situation worse and enflaming the Muslim world.”

Carrot number three would be to rule out a military strike against the facilities housing Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Such a move, said Richardson, would be

enormously unwise, because it would strengthen the hard-liners in Iran like Ahmadinejad. It would embolden those elements in Iran that want to provoke a war against the United States. It would further inflame the Muslim world that is already very strongly against us as we’re trying to resolve the situation in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It would be a disastrous event.

Carrot number four would be to “engage Iran,” something that has to be done with tact. Thus, “I would go around Ahmadinejad. . . . I would go to the moderate Islamic clerics. I would talk to students. I would talk to university professors, business leaders. Forty percent of the vote in Iran in that last presidential election went to a moderate candidate.” Richardson was referring here to the ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who won 35 percent of the vote in a run-off in 2005, has been implicated as an organizer of Iranian terrorism abroad, and is known as one of the fathers of the Iranian nuclear-weapons effort. (It is true that, by comparison with Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani was indeed the moderate candidate.)

Carrot number five is to help Iran transform its atomic weapons into a peaceful energy program: “we can work with them to develop a civilian nuclear-fuel cycle, perhaps with the Russians.”

Carrot number six would be to withdraw all American forces from neighboring Iraq within eight months of assuming office and then invite Iran to take part in a “reconciliation effort” that would involve an “all-Muslim peacekeeping force headed by the UN.”

Now for Richardson’s sticks. There is none. If this man is presidential or vice-presidential timber, we are talking of balsa wood.

To watch the tough-talking Richardson in action, click below.

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Cartoons After Columbia

Unctuous bows, veiled threats, and smug mockery do not an edifying speech make, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s performance at Columbia University offers at least one consolation: the cartoons. The utter absurdity of the event has drawn forth a pageant of arresting editorial cartoons, some quite amusing. But only one managed to capture its essential grotesqueness—the ostentatious display of tolerance to a man whose most notable characteristic is his murderous intolerance, killing with roadside bombs today and atomic weapons tomorrow.

Presumably because of the pressure of deadlines, most cartoonists did not deal with the substance of the Iranian president’s talk, and depicted the event only in generic terms. Ed Stein of the Rocky Mountain News, for example, simply showed the worm in the Big Apple. Others focused on the theme of free speech. Pat Oliphant showed a disdainful Statue of Liberty, holding a diminutive Ahmadinejad at arm’s length as he jabbers away harmlessly; for Tom Toles, Columbia gave its speaker a rope long enough with which to hang himself, the noose labeled “free speech.”

Those who waited until after the speech to draw produced more penetrating images. Jerry Holbert of the Boston Herald had Ahmadinejad telling a politically incorrect joke (“a bunch of American infidels, a rabbi, and a suicide bomber walk into a bar”), which, while amusing, was not enough removed from reality to be truly funny. Far less amusing was the smattering of cartoonists who evidently have no objection to Ahmadinejad at all. Some like Tony Auth, the graphically inept cartoonist of the Philadelphia Inquirer, did not even think the event worthy of note. But then this discreet silence is preferable to the work of Lalo Alcaraz, who writes the daily comic strip La Cucaracha. His cartoon showed the Iranian under a sign labeled Republican Party Dept. of Homosexual Control, sitting between a photograph of President Bush and a sign “22 days gay free.” In other words, the only real problem Alcaraz finds with Ahmadinejad, whose regime enforces the public execution of homosexuals, is that the Iranian leader reminds the cartoonist of Republicans—whose actions might just conceivably remove the death threat from those same homosexuals.

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Unctuous bows, veiled threats, and smug mockery do not an edifying speech make, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s performance at Columbia University offers at least one consolation: the cartoons. The utter absurdity of the event has drawn forth a pageant of arresting editorial cartoons, some quite amusing. But only one managed to capture its essential grotesqueness—the ostentatious display of tolerance to a man whose most notable characteristic is his murderous intolerance, killing with roadside bombs today and atomic weapons tomorrow.

Presumably because of the pressure of deadlines, most cartoonists did not deal with the substance of the Iranian president’s talk, and depicted the event only in generic terms. Ed Stein of the Rocky Mountain News, for example, simply showed the worm in the Big Apple. Others focused on the theme of free speech. Pat Oliphant showed a disdainful Statue of Liberty, holding a diminutive Ahmadinejad at arm’s length as he jabbers away harmlessly; for Tom Toles, Columbia gave its speaker a rope long enough with which to hang himself, the noose labeled “free speech.”

Those who waited until after the speech to draw produced more penetrating images. Jerry Holbert of the Boston Herald had Ahmadinejad telling a politically incorrect joke (“a bunch of American infidels, a rabbi, and a suicide bomber walk into a bar”), which, while amusing, was not enough removed from reality to be truly funny. Far less amusing was the smattering of cartoonists who evidently have no objection to Ahmadinejad at all. Some like Tony Auth, the graphically inept cartoonist of the Philadelphia Inquirer, did not even think the event worthy of note. But then this discreet silence is preferable to the work of Lalo Alcaraz, who writes the daily comic strip La Cucaracha. His cartoon showed the Iranian under a sign labeled Republican Party Dept. of Homosexual Control, sitting between a photograph of President Bush and a sign “22 days gay free.” In other words, the only real problem Alcaraz finds with Ahmadinejad, whose regime enforces the public execution of homosexuals, is that the Iranian leader reminds the cartoonist of Republicans—whose actions might just conceivably remove the death threat from those same homosexuals.

In compensation for this, the event has produced at least one instant classic. In the cartoon by Sean Delonas of the New York Post, Ahmadinejad is shown at the podium as he calls on a questioner, saying “One last question, yes, the gentleman in the back.” Our point of view is from behind Ahmadinejad, and we must peer deep into the crowd to see the questioner, a skeletal concentration camp victim, in his stripes and yellow star. He wears a mournful and weary expression, and we are not even certain if he is dead or alive.

In every sense it is a masterpiece. Most editorial cartoonists think schematically, like Toles or Stein, placing cut-out figures on flat backgrounds. But Delonas typically employs dramatic perspective, as here with the haunting juxtaposition of foreground and background. Rather than a self-contained visual pun entailing a single joke, Delonas’s image implies much more than it shows, and we can’t help but imagine what is about to be said. Whatever the reason, it does what all successful graphic art must do: present an unforgettable image that resonates in the mind. It is a work of great dignity that almost washes away the vicious agitprop of Alcaraz.

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Columbia’s Master Class

If Columbia University President Lee Bollinger had a burning desire to expose Columbia students to Islam and the realities of contemporary Iran, then inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak was not the most effective method of exposure.

Ahmadinejad is first and foremost a politician, an extraordinarily shrewd one at that. His goal is not education, but rather propagation of his odious ideas.

Given the two leaders’ divergent goals—one to educate and the other to indoctrinate—it seems odd that President Bollinger extended Ahmadinejad an invite. Why not ask Iranian scholars or journalists to illuminate aspects of Iranian society? Well, SIPA, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, has done just that. As it says on SIPA’s website:

“Over the course of the 2007-2008 academic year, SIPA will host a lecture series examining the thirty year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Political leaders, scholars, and human rights activists will be invited to discuss the impact of the Islamic Republic of Iran on international security, peace, human rights, energy, and other critical issues.”

Dandy. I guess inviting Ahmadinejad rounded out the playbill, and had the added benefit of making not only the Columbia President, but also the Iranian President, look good.

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If Columbia University President Lee Bollinger had a burning desire to expose Columbia students to Islam and the realities of contemporary Iran, then inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak was not the most effective method of exposure.

Ahmadinejad is first and foremost a politician, an extraordinarily shrewd one at that. His goal is not education, but rather propagation of his odious ideas.

Given the two leaders’ divergent goals—one to educate and the other to indoctrinate—it seems odd that President Bollinger extended Ahmadinejad an invite. Why not ask Iranian scholars or journalists to illuminate aspects of Iranian society? Well, SIPA, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, has done just that. As it says on SIPA’s website:

“Over the course of the 2007-2008 academic year, SIPA will host a lecture series examining the thirty year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Political leaders, scholars, and human rights activists will be invited to discuss the impact of the Islamic Republic of Iran on international security, peace, human rights, energy, and other critical issues.”

Dandy. I guess inviting Ahmadinejad rounded out the playbill, and had the added benefit of making not only the Columbia President, but also the Iranian President, look good.

The New York Times today sang Bollinger’s praises, singling out how the lawyer and First Amendment scholar “defended the event as in the best tradition of America’s free speech, then freely told Mr. Ahmadinejad: ‘You exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.’”

It is true that President Bollinger presented a scathing indictment of the Iranian President, addressing him: “I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions, but your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mind-set that characterizes what you say and do.”

And while it is possible that with these words Bollinger redeemed himself in the eyes of some Columbia alumni and trustees, when Ahmadinejad did finally reach the microphone, he was able to use Bollinger’s insults to his own advantage, morphing himself into the rooted-for underdog.

According to the Times’s live blogging from the Columbia event yesterday,

Mr. Ahmadinejad began: “At the outset, I want to complain a bit about the person who read this political statement against me. In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims…”

The room erupted in applause.

Out of the fray, then, of the critical salvos, Columbia President Lee Bollinger emerges, in the eyes of many, as a strong critic of tyranny, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turns up as an advocate for free expression.

Too bad the event wasn’t billed as a master class in image manipulation.

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The Tittering at Columbia

There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.

Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.

The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?

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There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.

Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.

The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?

“Imbecile,” according to Webster’s, suggests someone “incapable of earning a living”—so that is not right because our Columbia dean’s accounts at TIAA-CREF are undoubtedly doing quite well.

Is “idiot” better? Perhaps, because it is defined as someone who is “incapable of avoiding the common dangers of life.” But since the term also refers to someone who is “incapable of connected speech,” it too is inaccurate. Coatsworth’s words may be deficient in various ways, but they are certainly connected; indeed, as Stephens shows, they are a constituent element of an entire worldview.

“Simpleton” implies “silliness or lack of sophistication,” and while Coatsworth is worse than silly, he is certainly sophisticated; indeed, he is a dean at one of our leading universities.

In the end, perhaps “fool”—a person “lacking in judgment or prudence”—is the most appropriate word. But as Webster’s points out, when all of these terms are used in their most general way, they all fit the bill insofar as they are often applied interchangeably to refer “to anyone regarded as lacking sense or good judgment.”

Fortunately, there are other and better solutions being developed than anything in the works at Columbia to deal with Ahmadinejad’s nuclear-weapons program, elements of which are buried deep underground in hardened facilities across Iran.

Defense Daily reports today that Northrop-Grumman is making rapid progress in bringing on board a new weapon. Here is its dispatch based upon an interview with Harry Heimple, a company spokesman:

By next year a 30,000-pound bomb capable of blasting into subterranean tunnels will begin operating in the Air Force’s bomber fleet, according to industry officials.

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) built by Boeing will be integrated by Northrop Grumman on both the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress. . .

The B-2A can carry two MOPs, one in each of its weapon bays. The munition Northrop Grumman calls “like” the Joint Direct Attack Munition with a guidance system aided by the Global Positioning System, MOP contains more than 5,300 pounds of conventional explosives inside of a 20.5-foot-long steel enclosure. The weapon is said to be able to penetrate up to about 60 feet of dirt and concrete.

The mass makes it three and a half times as powerful as the Air Force’s heaviest weapons, Heimple said. After extensive testing to gauge whether it is better to drop multiple bombs in the same spot or to drop one enormous bomb, the Air Force has opted for the MOP, saying more mass is the right answer, Heimple said.

The first lethality test of the weapon took place at the end of March at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in a tunnel complex with helicopters and jeeps inside. The bomb was placed nose-down in the complex and fired. The Air Force measured the blast for pressure and temperature.

“The results were pretty amazing,” Heimple said.

The private sector is thus doing things that are far more significant than the laughter on Morningside Heights which greeted the Iranian president’s remarks about homosexuality. Since Columbia continues to exclude ROTC from campus, the complacent tittering at Ahmadinejad is the university’s only contribution, thus far, to our common defense.

 

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Columbia’s Defeat

Speaking in New York on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly annual session, French President Nicholas Sarkozy declared that a third round of sanctions against Iran was both desirable and likely. If the U.N. will not adopt a third resolution, Sarkozy suggested, the EU will: “Between surrender and war, there is a range of solutions that exist like the reinforcement of sanctions, which will eventually have an effect,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying. No war, clearly, though not surrender, either—a word that could describe Columbia University’s decision to host Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Speaking in New York on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly annual session, French President Nicholas Sarkozy declared that a third round of sanctions against Iran was both desirable and likely. If the U.N. will not adopt a third resolution, Sarkozy suggested, the EU will: “Between surrender and war, there is a range of solutions that exist like the reinforcement of sanctions, which will eventually have an effect,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying. No war, clearly, though not surrender, either—a word that could describe Columbia University’s decision to host Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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“Free Speech for Terrorists?”

This afternoon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke by invitation at Columbia University. (See Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post here.) Ahmadinejad has made clear that he considers the U.S. and Iran to be mortal enemies, and that the victory of Iran in the struggle between them is divinely ordained. This is to say nothing of his intention to develop a nuclear bomb, his genocidal attitude toward Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his blatant anti-Semitism and hatred of Christianity. In March 2005, the noted legal scholar Andrew McCarthy addressed in COMMENTARY the question of how far American legal protections of speech should extend toward our nation’s declared Islamist enemies. In “Free Speech for Terrorists?” he concludes that the First Amendment is not now and never has been a suicide pact.

This afternoon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke by invitation at Columbia University. (See Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post here.) Ahmadinejad has made clear that he considers the U.S. and Iran to be mortal enemies, and that the victory of Iran in the struggle between them is divinely ordained. This is to say nothing of his intention to develop a nuclear bomb, his genocidal attitude toward Israel, his denial of the Holocaust, and his blatant anti-Semitism and hatred of Christianity. In March 2005, the noted legal scholar Andrew McCarthy addressed in COMMENTARY the question of how far American legal protections of speech should extend toward our nation’s declared Islamist enemies. In “Free Speech for Terrorists?” he concludes that the First Amendment is not now and never has been a suicide pact.

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Shedding Light on Iran

As everybody’s favorite Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrives in New York, two recent articles about Iranian activities deserve more attention than they’ve been getting.

This article reports on a convoy captured by NATO forces on September 6 in the western Afghan province of Farah, which borders Iran. The convoy was full of bombs of the kind that Iran has also been supplying to insurgents in Iraq. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. As the Washington Post account notes: “International forces captured two smaller shipments of sophisticated roadside bombs believed to be from Iran in April and May in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and one of the most violent areas in the country.”

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As everybody’s favorite Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrives in New York, two recent articles about Iranian activities deserve more attention than they’ve been getting.

This article reports on a convoy captured by NATO forces on September 6 in the western Afghan province of Farah, which borders Iran. The convoy was full of bombs of the kind that Iran has also been supplying to insurgents in Iraq. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. As the Washington Post account notes: “International forces captured two smaller shipments of sophisticated roadside bombs believed to be from Iran in April and May in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and one of the most violent areas in the country.”

Then there’s this more recent article, which quotes an American military spokesman in Baghdad, Admiral Mark Fox, saying that U.S. troops are finding that Iran is smuggling into Iraq not only explosively formed projectiles (the potent land mines that can punch a hole in any armor in the U.S. arsenal), but also the advanced RPG-29 (much more potent than the RPG-7, or rocket propelled grenade, which is already available to the insurgents), 240 mm. rockets (which have been landing on the Green Zone), and, most ominously of all, man-portable surface-to-air missiles such as the infrared-guided Misagh 1.

The Misagh 1 is said by the CIA to be modeled on the Chinese-made QW-1, which was unveiled in 1994, and which was “claimed to surpass the US Stinger in maximum effective range, target seeker tracking capability, warhead power and other indicators.”

Thus the Iranian action in supplying these weapons to Iraqi insurgents is reminiscent of what the U.S. did in the 1980′s when the Reagan administration decided to escalate our proxy war with the Soviet Union by supplying Stinger missiles to the mujahideen guerrillas in Afghanistan. This was widely seen as a turning point in the conflict, since, to some extent, it negated the Russian advantage in airpower.

Put together, these reports suggest that Iran is now escalating its war against the U.S. and our democratic allies. And the Bush administration approach—of combining loud threats with economic sanctions—isn’t doing much to dissuade the Iranians from their warlike course. But perhaps Columbia University’s students and faculty can convince Ahmadinejad of the error of his ways when he shows up to speak at their campus.

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Hitler at Columbia

How many American soldiers perished because the bomb built by Georg Elser to kill Adolf Hitler in a beer hall in Munich in November 1939 failed to go off on time and the dictator lived to prosecute the war he had launched two months earlier? 

The number is known to precision: 292,131, including 31,215 from the state of New York, where Columbia University is located. The total number of casualties in that war–U.S. and foreign, Axis and Allied, military and civilian alike–is considerably higher: perhaps as many as 72 million.

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How many American soldiers perished because the bomb built by Georg Elser to kill Adolf Hitler in a beer hall in Munich in November 1939 failed to go off on time and the dictator lived to prosecute the war he had launched two months earlier? 

The number is known to precision: 292,131, including 31,215 from the state of New York, where Columbia University is located. The total number of casualties in that war–U.S. and foreign, Axis and Allied, military and civilian alike–is considerably higher: perhaps as many as 72 million.

As I noted recently in the Weekly Standard, Elser, who was apprehended by the German border police, handed over to the Gestapo, and subsequently executed, explained his action this way: “I wanted through my deed to prevent even greater bloodshed.”

John Coatsworth, the dean who invited the nuclear-bomb-seeking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia today, would have had a different approach. As he told Fox News on Saturday, he would have extended an invitation to Hitler: “If he were willing to engage in a debate and a discussion, to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”

Coatsworth’s name will not make it into the standard histories as Elser’s has. But it deserves to be recorded for posterity. The university’s invitation to the genocidal aspirant Ahmadinejad is repugnant on many grounds. The outrage committed by Dean Coatsworth upon the dead of World War II–and, along the way, upon the memory of Georg Elser, who readily sacrificed his own life for the peace of the world–staggers the imagination. 

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“Confronting Ideas” at Columbia

Regarding Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak this coming Monday on the Columbia campus, the Columbia Spectator today reports:

David Feith, CC ’09 and editor of the Jewish affairs publication the Current, expressed his concern that there was a difference between refusing to suppress hateful speech and actively inviting and providing a platform for it. Bollinger responded that the invitation very well may serve to help controversial speakers, but that the negative is “far outweighed by the importance of confronting ideas and not shielding ourselves from the world as it is.”

And what ideas will the Columbia community confront when it hears President Ahmadinejad of Iran? Denial of the Holocaust and pleas for the destruction of Israel. As Victor Davis Hanson writes on the Corner, “This is not a matter of free speech but of common decency and the most elemental common sense.”

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Regarding Columbia University President Lee Bollinger’s invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak this coming Monday on the Columbia campus, the Columbia Spectator today reports:

David Feith, CC ’09 and editor of the Jewish affairs publication the Current, expressed his concern that there was a difference between refusing to suppress hateful speech and actively inviting and providing a platform for it. Bollinger responded that the invitation very well may serve to help controversial speakers, but that the negative is “far outweighed by the importance of confronting ideas and not shielding ourselves from the world as it is.”

And what ideas will the Columbia community confront when it hears President Ahmadinejad of Iran? Denial of the Holocaust and pleas for the destruction of Israel. As Victor Davis Hanson writes on the Corner, “This is not a matter of free speech but of common decency and the most elemental common sense.”

I would add that Bollinger’s move is also a flagrant exploitation of the notion of dialog that universities cherish. Dialog is not possible with a madman (or someone who adopts insane political positions for tactical reasons) as interlocutor. And there can be no doubt that Ahmadinejad falls into one of those two categories. Would Lee Bollinger invite the British Holocaust denier David Irving so that students could “confront ideas” about Auschwitz? What about Jean-Marie LePen, to help students “confront ideas” about racism and xenophobia?

Here are just a few of the criticisms of Bollinger’s decision. But note the absence of criticism on TNR’s the Plank or the Huffington Post. Where is the liberal outrage? Aren’t these people allegedly anti-theocracy? They are when it comes to the far milder effusions of American evangelicals. Isn’t Ahmadinejad precisely the kind of theocrat they should hate? Yet Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, can’t understand why Ahmadinejad wouldn’t be allowed to go to Ground Zero, “[e]specially when free speech and letting even the obnoxious have their say are supposedly central to who we are?” If only “obnoxiousness” were the Iranian president’s primary character flaw.

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Asians in Classical Music

Anyone who has been to a classical concert recently, especially at a conservatory, will note the ever-increasing number of Asian musicians, what some call an “Asian Invasion.” In 2006, of the nine new musicians hired by the New York Philharmonic, six were Asian. At the noted Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, fully three-quarters of the piano students are from Asia. A new study from Temple University Press, Musicians from a Different Shore, by Mari Yoshihara, analyzes the phenomenon.

Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim recalls, during an interview transcribed in the book, that when he studied at Juilliard in the 1970’s, “Eastern European and Jewish students were diminishing and Asians were just coming up.” Kim adds: “Right now at Juilliard, it’s like all Asian.” Yoshihara asserts that in fact only 30 percent of Juilliard students today are Asian, yet the impression remains. Many Asian families seem willing to make any sacrifice in order to advance their offspring’s studies. At ten, Kim made bi-weekly flights to Juilliard from his family’s home in South Carolina, so he could study with legendary pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. Classical music enjoys great prestige among educated families in China, Japan, and Korea, akin to that routinely felt a century ago in bourgeois households in Middle and Eastern Europe.

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Anyone who has been to a classical concert recently, especially at a conservatory, will note the ever-increasing number of Asian musicians, what some call an “Asian Invasion.” In 2006, of the nine new musicians hired by the New York Philharmonic, six were Asian. At the noted Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, fully three-quarters of the piano students are from Asia. A new study from Temple University Press, Musicians from a Different Shore, by Mari Yoshihara, analyzes the phenomenon.

Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim recalls, during an interview transcribed in the book, that when he studied at Juilliard in the 1970’s, “Eastern European and Jewish students were diminishing and Asians were just coming up.” Kim adds: “Right now at Juilliard, it’s like all Asian.” Yoshihara asserts that in fact only 30 percent of Juilliard students today are Asian, yet the impression remains. Many Asian families seem willing to make any sacrifice in order to advance their offspring’s studies. At ten, Kim made bi-weekly flights to Juilliard from his family’s home in South Carolina, so he could study with legendary pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. Classical music enjoys great prestige among educated families in China, Japan, and Korea, akin to that routinely felt a century ago in bourgeois households in Middle and Eastern Europe.

Another interviewee, the eminent Taiwanese-born violinist Cho-Liang Lin (profiled on contentions earlier this year) points out that nowadays Asian music students all want to be solo stars instead of ensemble musicians; most do not “want to play the trumpet, they hardly play the clarinet, but they have to play a solo instrument, piano or violin, or maybe sometimes cello, but bassoon, out of the question, you know.”

Despite the indisputable number of talented Asian performers, Yoshihara points out that Asians remain severely underrepresented on a management level, on boards of trustees, and in other power positions in the classical music world. On the boards of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Asians are as rare as hen’s teeth. And even when it comes to musicians, misunderstandings still remain. Joel Tse, principal flutist of the Toledo Symphony, recounts that when he plays school concerts in Ohio, students ask him, “Are you related to Jackie Chan?” When the violinist Muneko Otani, who teaches at Columbia University, tours in Oklahoma, people ask her about Pearl Harbor, as if her Japanese ancestry sufficed to make her a ranking expert on the faraway subject. The viola player Junah Chung relates that when his blonde wife, also a musician, auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, she was told by another string player: “Oh thank God, a blonde violinist! This orchestra is starting to look like the Shanghai Symphony.” Even setting aside blatant racism, it is clear that Asian musicians still have some ways to go before they are integrated fully into America’s classical music scene.

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Against the Boycott

The presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Brown, conspicuously absent from the original list of signatories, have since posted assurances that they join the almost 300 American college and university presidents who signed a statement earlier this month protesting the vote of Britain’s University and College Union to impose a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!” read the American counter-declaration, composed by Columbia University’s President Lee Bollinger. “[We] do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”

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The presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Brown, conspicuously absent from the original list of signatories, have since posted assurances that they join the almost 300 American college and university presidents who signed a statement earlier this month protesting the vote of Britain’s University and College Union to impose a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!” read the American counter-declaration, composed by Columbia University’s President Lee Bollinger. “[We] do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”

It is heartening to see such unanimity among academic leaders who normally shun group protests or statements; still, it is less heartening when one considers that these leaders may have found it easier to denounce an outrage overseas than to tackle prejudice in their own institutions. President Bollinger and his colleagues know that anti-Israel venom is widespread on American campuses. The real test of their resolve to preserve academic integrity will occur here, at home.

Anti-Israel sentiment penetrates American campuses at both the student and professorial levels. Every year the average campus welcomes Arab and Muslim students for whom Israel’s illegitimacy is a matter of faith, conjoined in most instances with plain anti-Semitism. The Pew Research Center finds that Muslims hold unfavorable views of Jews at astonishing levels: Jordan, 100 percent; Lebanon, 99 percent; Morocco, 88 percent. Arab and Muslim students inculcated with these prejudices from birth see no harm in promoting them. To the contrary, since they regard Israel as the root of evil, agitation against it is for them often a matter of cultural self-expression. Dissenters from this norm are often afraid of being ostracized—or, worse, of not being able to return to their native communities should they stray from an ideology that unites the Arab world.

The campus ethos of all-embracing multiculturalism aggravates the problem by refraining from distinguishing between a culture of aggression and a culture of accommodation—two opposites trapped in a philosophy of equivalence. Ignored are the radically divergent histories of Arabs and Jews that produced today’s preposterous global imbalance between 1 billion-plus Muslims on the one hand, and 13 million Jews (4 million fewer than in 1939) on the other. Historically, Jews have been the no-fail target of innumerable aggressors; since the 1870′s they have been the ideological butt of anti-liberal movements everywhere.

Indeed, Middle East-style anti-Semitism plays a larger role in the international arena today than its European-style equivalent did a century ago. But our universities provide almost no academic or extra-curricular opportunities to discuss the issue. If anything, as the scholar Martin Kramer has shown, the hate-ridden attitudes within the Arab world find a natural reflection in the highly prejudicial bias of the academic discipline known as Middle East Studies. The current director of the Center for Middle East Studies at Harvard, as well as a number of others who teach in the field, were among the signatories of a Harvard-MIT petition urging divestment from Israel—a petition meant to echo and give a highbrow patina to the currently fashionable calumny of the Jewish state as an “apartheid” regime. Sami al-Arian may be the only U.S. professor convicted of conspiracy to help Islamic Jihad, but others support Arab antagonism in their own ways.

The protest against the British academic boycott published in the New York Times was framed strictly as a defense of academic freedom and solidarity with Israeli colleagues. It avoided any mention of the ideology of hate that fuels this boycott. One might as well condemn cancer without investigating its cause or doing what one can to prevent its spread. Having once joined in symbolic action, these presidents of American colleges and universities would do well to appoint a committee from within their midst to investigate the spread of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel prejudices on their own campuses and within their own curricula, where it does the most damage. As in medicine, prevention is the best cure.

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