Commentary Magazine


Topic: MIT

Turkey and the Other MIT

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization is known by the initials for its Turkish name: MIT.  It has focused for decades on internal security, but its recently appointed director, 42-year-old Hakan Fidan, intends to change that. A University of Maryland graduate, Fidan had multiple NATO assignments during his military career and wrote a doctoral thesis comparing Turkey’s foreign intelligence with America’s and Britain’s. He’s a long-time intimate of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the architect of Erdogan’s regional outreach policy.

In many ways, Fidan is an emblem of Turkey’s foot in the West. But peel back the veneer a little, and he also symbolizes Turkey’s unique position straddling East and West. Before assuming his post at MIT in June, Fidan was deeply involved in Turkey’s efforts to broker agreements on Iran’s nuclear program. Observers describe him variously as having “close knowledge” of Iran and being an admirer and supporter of the Islamic Republic. Government sources in Israel are reportedly concerned that he has been instrumental in souring ties between Ankara and Jerusalem and that he may have been a key government player behind the Turkish-sponsored May flotilla. Meanwhile, Turkey’s military — long the guardian of “Kemalist” secularism at the pinnacle of national power — views him with misgiving as an Islamist, like Erdogan, whose control of domestic intelligence will consolidate the ruling AKP’s growing hold on the courts, media, and civil communications. Comparisons of Fidan with the intelligence-service henchmen of 20th-century totalitarians can’t help but arise.

Given these trends, Michael Rubin wonders at NRO if it’s a good idea to put a new missile-defense radar in Turkey and sell the Turks the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But there appears to be a more immediate vulnerability opening up, with this weekend’s news that Turkey and Iran will be sharing “real-time intelligence” on Kurdish separatists. In the intelligence world, this is a major advance in information sharing. It implies a daily routine: a means of constant communication involving low- or mid-level functionaries. The routine is certain to be administered, moreover, through closer ties between the two intelligence services: regular meetings, exchanges of personnel, ministerial-level interest in the product at both ends of the exchange pipeline.

Western intelligence professionals should recognize opportunity here along with danger. It might not be a bad thing to have a NATO ally in privileged contact with Iran’s intelligence service. But making use of such a connection requires a clear-headed, unsentimental approach, one that must start with the premise that Turkey’s loyalties are already divided.

It should be obvious at this point that they are; or, more accurately, that Erdogan’s loyalty is to a vision of a resurgent Turkey that wields an increasing influence in both the East and the West. But it shouldn’t surprise us that Erdogan’s Turkey is out for itself. There is nothing to be gained from addressing Turkey in a fatuous manner, as Obama and the U.K.’s David Cameron both have, but neither would it be wise to repudiate Turkey for its emerging connections to the East. The U.S. and our European allies should continue to be more interesting and rewarding partners than Russia or Iran; we should encourage liberalism and the modern legacy of secular government in Turkey; and we should firmly separate the issues of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs from our relations with Turkey and resist any efforts by the Erdogan government to meld them together.

Meanwhile, for each of our regional security arrangements in which Turkey has a featured role (e.g., the missile-defense radar), we should have a backup plan.

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization is known by the initials for its Turkish name: MIT.  It has focused for decades on internal security, but its recently appointed director, 42-year-old Hakan Fidan, intends to change that. A University of Maryland graduate, Fidan had multiple NATO assignments during his military career and wrote a doctoral thesis comparing Turkey’s foreign intelligence with America’s and Britain’s. He’s a long-time intimate of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the architect of Erdogan’s regional outreach policy.

In many ways, Fidan is an emblem of Turkey’s foot in the West. But peel back the veneer a little, and he also symbolizes Turkey’s unique position straddling East and West. Before assuming his post at MIT in June, Fidan was deeply involved in Turkey’s efforts to broker agreements on Iran’s nuclear program. Observers describe him variously as having “close knowledge” of Iran and being an admirer and supporter of the Islamic Republic. Government sources in Israel are reportedly concerned that he has been instrumental in souring ties between Ankara and Jerusalem and that he may have been a key government player behind the Turkish-sponsored May flotilla. Meanwhile, Turkey’s military — long the guardian of “Kemalist” secularism at the pinnacle of national power — views him with misgiving as an Islamist, like Erdogan, whose control of domestic intelligence will consolidate the ruling AKP’s growing hold on the courts, media, and civil communications. Comparisons of Fidan with the intelligence-service henchmen of 20th-century totalitarians can’t help but arise.

Given these trends, Michael Rubin wonders at NRO if it’s a good idea to put a new missile-defense radar in Turkey and sell the Turks the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But there appears to be a more immediate vulnerability opening up, with this weekend’s news that Turkey and Iran will be sharing “real-time intelligence” on Kurdish separatists. In the intelligence world, this is a major advance in information sharing. It implies a daily routine: a means of constant communication involving low- or mid-level functionaries. The routine is certain to be administered, moreover, through closer ties between the two intelligence services: regular meetings, exchanges of personnel, ministerial-level interest in the product at both ends of the exchange pipeline.

Western intelligence professionals should recognize opportunity here along with danger. It might not be a bad thing to have a NATO ally in privileged contact with Iran’s intelligence service. But making use of such a connection requires a clear-headed, unsentimental approach, one that must start with the premise that Turkey’s loyalties are already divided.

It should be obvious at this point that they are; or, more accurately, that Erdogan’s loyalty is to a vision of a resurgent Turkey that wields an increasing influence in both the East and the West. But it shouldn’t surprise us that Erdogan’s Turkey is out for itself. There is nothing to be gained from addressing Turkey in a fatuous manner, as Obama and the U.K.’s David Cameron both have, but neither would it be wise to repudiate Turkey for its emerging connections to the East. The U.S. and our European allies should continue to be more interesting and rewarding partners than Russia or Iran; we should encourage liberalism and the modern legacy of secular government in Turkey; and we should firmly separate the issues of Israel and the Palestinian Arabs from our relations with Turkey and resist any efforts by the Erdogan government to meld them together.

Meanwhile, for each of our regional security arrangements in which Turkey has a featured role (e.g., the missile-defense radar), we should have a backup plan.

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Frank Luntz on Why American Jewish Students Won’t Defend Israel

PR guru Frank Luntz gave a lengthy interview last week to the Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz. Much of it was what one might expect from a PR guru. But one incident he described was shocking: a session with 35 MIT and Harvard students, 20 non-Jews and 15 Jews:

“Within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with ‘the war crimes of Israel,’ with ‘the Jewish lobby,’ with ‘the Jews have a lot more power and influence’ – stuff that’s borderline anti-Jewish.

And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn’t say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything.”

After three hours, Luntz dismissed the non-Jews and confronted the Jews, furious that “you all didn’t say sh*t.”

“And it all dawned on them: If they won’t say it to their classmates, whom they know, who will they stand up for Israel to? Two of the women in the group started to cry. … The guys are like, “Oh my God, I didn’t speak up, I can’t believe I let this happen.” And they’re all looking at each other with horrible embarrassment and guilt like you wouldn’t believe.”

But Luntz didn’t stop with illustrating this gaping hole in what American Jews are evidently teaching their children; he also explained it:

“The problem that I see is that so many parents in the Jewish community taught their kids not to judge. I’m going to say something that’s a little bit ideological, but I find that kids on the right are far more likely to stand up for Israel than kids on the left. Because kids on the right believe that there is an absolute right and wrong; this is how they’ve been raised.

Kids on the left have been taught not to judge. Therefore those on the left will not judge between Israel and the Palestinians; those on the right will.”

This is a travesty — because this particular right/left difference shouldn’t exist. First, it’s a travesty of everything the left once stood for — which was upholding a particular set of values, not refusing to judge between those values and others. Willingness to defend your own values shouldn’t be a trait limited to the right.

But it’s also a travesty because it shouldn’t be hard for any Jewish leftist to explain why Israel, for all its flaws, is still a far better example of the left’s one-time values, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, and human rights, than any of its enemies. As Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, said in explaining why he chose to represent a country that allegedly oppresses his fellow Muslim Arabs, “We’re a multicultural, multilingual, multireligious country and I’m happy and proud to be part of it.”

Israel’s PR failings are innumerable. But if American Jews can’t get this particular message across to their children, the fault isn’t Israel’s; it’s their own. And only American Jews themselves can fix it.

PR guru Frank Luntz gave a lengthy interview last week to the Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz. Much of it was what one might expect from a PR guru. But one incident he described was shocking: a session with 35 MIT and Harvard students, 20 non-Jews and 15 Jews:

“Within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with ‘the war crimes of Israel,’ with ‘the Jewish lobby,’ with ‘the Jews have a lot more power and influence’ – stuff that’s borderline anti-Jewish.

And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn’t say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything.”

After three hours, Luntz dismissed the non-Jews and confronted the Jews, furious that “you all didn’t say sh*t.”

“And it all dawned on them: If they won’t say it to their classmates, whom they know, who will they stand up for Israel to? Two of the women in the group started to cry. … The guys are like, “Oh my God, I didn’t speak up, I can’t believe I let this happen.” And they’re all looking at each other with horrible embarrassment and guilt like you wouldn’t believe.”

But Luntz didn’t stop with illustrating this gaping hole in what American Jews are evidently teaching their children; he also explained it:

“The problem that I see is that so many parents in the Jewish community taught their kids not to judge. I’m going to say something that’s a little bit ideological, but I find that kids on the right are far more likely to stand up for Israel than kids on the left. Because kids on the right believe that there is an absolute right and wrong; this is how they’ve been raised.

Kids on the left have been taught not to judge. Therefore those on the left will not judge between Israel and the Palestinians; those on the right will.”

This is a travesty — because this particular right/left difference shouldn’t exist. First, it’s a travesty of everything the left once stood for — which was upholding a particular set of values, not refusing to judge between those values and others. Willingness to defend your own values shouldn’t be a trait limited to the right.

But it’s also a travesty because it shouldn’t be hard for any Jewish leftist to explain why Israel, for all its flaws, is still a far better example of the left’s one-time values, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, and human rights, than any of its enemies. As Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, said in explaining why he chose to represent a country that allegedly oppresses his fellow Muslim Arabs, “We’re a multicultural, multilingual, multireligious country and I’m happy and proud to be part of it.”

Israel’s PR failings are innumerable. But if American Jews can’t get this particular message across to their children, the fault isn’t Israel’s; it’s their own. And only American Jews themselves can fix it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Candid. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon’s interview should be read in full. A sample: “Yaalon said bluntly that he believes Iran’s regime is ‘not sure that there is a will’ on the part of the United States right now to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. … When asked if he felt the Obama administration was open to military action against Iran, Yaalon said that, according to the traditions of Israel’s forefathers, righteous people hope that the job might be done by others. On the other hand, he said, there is another old saying that goes like this: ‘If I’m not for myself, then who is for me?’ He added, ‘So we should be ready.’”

Intriguing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for him: “First it was President Barack Obama, then White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now U.S. Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias is joining the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial subpoena list.” His opponent pours salt in the wound: “[Rep. Mark] Kirk’s campaign said the development is part of a ‘troubling pattern’ with Giannoulias that includes regulators shutting down his family’s Chicago bank in April after it failed to raise new capital. ‘Now we’ve learned Giannoulias’ name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich’s public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer,’ Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.”

Effective. Timothy Dalrymple dismantles the mischaracterizations by liberal Christians of the Tea Party movement, and includes this on taxation: “To resent a tax hike (or the prospect of one) is not to neglect the needy, and to wish to retain control over the funds one has secured in order to care for one’s family is not necessarily selfish. Conservatives generally are more generous with their giving than liberals, yet they resent it when a distant bureaucracy extracts their money in order to distribute public funds to the special interest groups on whose votes and donations they rely. Conservatives would prefer that care for the needy remain as local and personal as possible.”

Curious. Who are the 32% who view Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano favorably? “Forty-two percent (42%) regard the attorney general unfavorably, with 26% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion. One-in-four voters (26%) still don’t know enough about Holder to venture any kind of opinion of him. This marks a very slight worsening of the numbers for Holder from last August just after his announcement that the Justice Department was investigating how the Bush administration treated imprisoned terrorists.”

Explosive. A Justice Department trial team lawyer goes public: “Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”

Grouchy. The left is dismayed again: “On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.”

Frightful. From an MIT professor: “The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).” Because the deficit plainly isn’t big enough, and we’ve been too miserly in our spending.

Unfair? Maybe. Ezra Klein, who recommended Dave Weigel as a “conservative voice,” seems to have gotten away scot-free, while Weigel had to resign and his bosses had to scrape egg off their faces.

Candid. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon’s interview should be read in full. A sample: “Yaalon said bluntly that he believes Iran’s regime is ‘not sure that there is a will’ on the part of the United States right now to exercise the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. … When asked if he felt the Obama administration was open to military action against Iran, Yaalon said that, according to the traditions of Israel’s forefathers, righteous people hope that the job might be done by others. On the other hand, he said, there is another old saying that goes like this: ‘If I’m not for myself, then who is for me?’ He added, ‘So we should be ready.’”

Intriguing. And the timing couldn’t be worse for him: “First it was President Barack Obama, then White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now U.S. Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias is joining the Rod Blagojevich corruption trial subpoena list.” His opponent pours salt in the wound: “[Rep. Mark] Kirk’s campaign said the development is part of a ‘troubling pattern’ with Giannoulias that includes regulators shutting down his family’s Chicago bank in April after it failed to raise new capital. ‘Now we’ve learned Giannoulias’ name has come up on federal wire taps talking about the Illinois Senate seat and he has been subpoenaed in former and disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich’s public corruption trial. This revelation raises additional questions about Alexi Giannoulias that he needs to answer,’ Kirk spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement.”

Effective. Timothy Dalrymple dismantles the mischaracterizations by liberal Christians of the Tea Party movement, and includes this on taxation: “To resent a tax hike (or the prospect of one) is not to neglect the needy, and to wish to retain control over the funds one has secured in order to care for one’s family is not necessarily selfish. Conservatives generally are more generous with their giving than liberals, yet they resent it when a distant bureaucracy extracts their money in order to distribute public funds to the special interest groups on whose votes and donations they rely. Conservatives would prefer that care for the needy remain as local and personal as possible.”

Curious. Who are the 32% who view Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano favorably? “Forty-two percent (42%) regard the attorney general unfavorably, with 26% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion. One-in-four voters (26%) still don’t know enough about Holder to venture any kind of opinion of him. This marks a very slight worsening of the numbers for Holder from last August just after his announcement that the Justice Department was investigating how the Bush administration treated imprisoned terrorists.”

Explosive. A Justice Department trial team lawyer goes public: “Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department’s enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election.”

Grouchy. The left is dismayed again: “On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.”

Frightful. From an MIT professor: “The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).” Because the deficit plainly isn’t big enough, and we’ve been too miserly in our spending.

Unfair? Maybe. Ezra Klein, who recommended Dave Weigel as a “conservative voice,” seems to have gotten away scot-free, while Weigel had to resign and his bosses had to scrape egg off their faces.

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ObamaCare Bedevils Romney

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

Mitt Romney is the most experienced presidential candidate of the 2012 aspirants, having slogged through the 2008 primary and pre-primary campaigns. He has written a book and developed an easier, less stilted demeanor and public persona. He speaks authoritatively on foreign policy. But he has a big problem: ObamaCare looks a good deal like the ex-governor’s RomneyCare, his signature health-care legislation. A former advisor and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber remarks: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now (with the passage of the new federal law) it’s Mitt Romney.” Yikes.

Romney’s plan includes mandatory insurance for individuals — an anathema to conservatives. And the plan faces hard realities, which conservatives predict will befall ObamaCare too. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Three of largest four — Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Community Health — posted operating losses in 2009. In an emergency suit heard in Boston superior court yesterday, they argued that the arbitrary rate cap will result in another $100 million in collective losses this year and make it impossible to pay the anticipated cost of claims. It may even threaten the near-term solvency of some companies.

So until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies. A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers — under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments — resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums. Let that one sink in: Mr. Patrick has made the health insurance business so painful the government actually has to order private companies to sell their products (albeit at sub-market costs). . . .

On top of that, like ObamaCare, integral to the Massachusetts overhaul are mandates that require insurers to cover anyone who applies regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions and to charge everyone about the same rates. This allows people to wait until they’re about to incur major medical expenses before buying insurance and transfer the costs to everyone else. This week Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a big uptick in short-term customers who ran up costs more than four times the average, only to drop the coverage within three months.

Romney cites the differences between the bills — his contained no massive tax hike and didn’t savage Medicare. Mostly, he’s focused on the Tenth Amendment — the argument that the federal government shouldn’t and can’t constitutionally occupy the health-care field, which has been subject to state regulation. It’s far from clear that this will be enough to satisfy the Republican primary electorate, which is going to hear Romney’s opponents attack him for passing ObamaCare-lite. They likely will be proposing market-based plans akin to those which the GOP proposed in Congress. But for whatever reason — perhaps concern about reviving the flip-flop label — Romney isn’t disowning his past effort and he’ll have to withstand the onslaught if he’s going to do better than second place this time around. Every candidate has handicaps but in an election in which the Republicans are trying to elect a president to rip out ObamaCare before it takes root, Romney will have his work cut out for him, living down what was once a selling point for his candidacy.

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Breaking Israel’s Academic Stranglehold

This week’s recognition of Ariel College as a “university center” — a step toward full-fledged university status — outraged Israel’s academic establishment.

For some, the objection is political: the institution is located in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, so hard-core leftists want it dismantled, not upgraded — though all Israeli governments have sought to retain Ariel under any peace agreement.

But for most, the objection is ostensibly professional: academically, they claim, Ariel is no better than other colleges that haven’t been upgraded; the Council for Higher Education, an independent professional body that oversees Israeli academia, opposes the upgrade; and the final approval was ordered by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, constituting blatant political interference in higher education.

The actual facts are these: because Israel never annexed the West Bank, formal legal authority there lies with the army — specifically, the GOC Central Command — rather than civilian bodies. Thus Ariel isn’t formally subject to the CHE. But since the army clearly can’t oversee universities, a CHE clone, the Council for Higher Education-Judea and Samaria, was created to do the job.

In 2006, a CHE-JS subcommittee recommended the upgrade, and in 2007 the full CHE-JS adopted this recommendation. All six subcommittee members admittedly lean politically right; most leftists wouldn’t serve on the CHE-JS. But as one member of the regular CHE acknowledged, all were also “people of the first rank in research” — including Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann, Israel Prize laureate Yuval Ne’eman (the father of Israel’s space program), and Israel Prize laureate Daniel Sperber.

Despite this, the GOC Central Command refused for three years to confirm the decision. Hence, when Barak finally ordered him to do so, he was not overruling the professionals’ decision but upholding it.

As for the CHE’s opposition, that had nothing to do with Ariel’s qualifications: it opposed the upgrade because it saw “no academic need for another university.”

In truth, as researcher Dan Ben-David has documented, Israel desperately needs another university. From 1973 to 2005, Israel’s population doubled, yet the number of senior faculty per capita plunged 50 percent. At its two flagship universities, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, the number of researchers fell 14 percent and 21 percent, respectively, while the Technion, Israel’s MIT, added exactly one position. The result is a huge brain drain: fully 25 percent of Israeli academics work overseas, compared to less than 4 percent of European academics.

So what’s the real objection? Money. Israel’s universities are almost wholly state-funded. And while many colleges also receive state funds, universities get much more. Hence a new university would mean a smaller share of the pie for existing ones. And since existing universities control the CHE, they are determined to block newcomers.

But for a country with no natural resources, dependent entirely on its brainpower, a system that prevents new institutions from flourishing is bad news. It is therefore vital to end the CHE’s stranglehold, and in parallel to encourage existing universities to develop nongovernmental funding sources. A school shouldn’t have to be located in the West Bank to obtain recognition as an Israeli university.

This week’s recognition of Ariel College as a “university center” — a step toward full-fledged university status — outraged Israel’s academic establishment.

For some, the objection is political: the institution is located in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, so hard-core leftists want it dismantled, not upgraded — though all Israeli governments have sought to retain Ariel under any peace agreement.

But for most, the objection is ostensibly professional: academically, they claim, Ariel is no better than other colleges that haven’t been upgraded; the Council for Higher Education, an independent professional body that oversees Israeli academia, opposes the upgrade; and the final approval was ordered by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, constituting blatant political interference in higher education.

The actual facts are these: because Israel never annexed the West Bank, formal legal authority there lies with the army — specifically, the GOC Central Command — rather than civilian bodies. Thus Ariel isn’t formally subject to the CHE. But since the army clearly can’t oversee universities, a CHE clone, the Council for Higher Education-Judea and Samaria, was created to do the job.

In 2006, a CHE-JS subcommittee recommended the upgrade, and in 2007 the full CHE-JS adopted this recommendation. All six subcommittee members admittedly lean politically right; most leftists wouldn’t serve on the CHE-JS. But as one member of the regular CHE acknowledged, all were also “people of the first rank in research” — including Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann, Israel Prize laureate Yuval Ne’eman (the father of Israel’s space program), and Israel Prize laureate Daniel Sperber.

Despite this, the GOC Central Command refused for three years to confirm the decision. Hence, when Barak finally ordered him to do so, he was not overruling the professionals’ decision but upholding it.

As for the CHE’s opposition, that had nothing to do with Ariel’s qualifications: it opposed the upgrade because it saw “no academic need for another university.”

In truth, as researcher Dan Ben-David has documented, Israel desperately needs another university. From 1973 to 2005, Israel’s population doubled, yet the number of senior faculty per capita plunged 50 percent. At its two flagship universities, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, the number of researchers fell 14 percent and 21 percent, respectively, while the Technion, Israel’s MIT, added exactly one position. The result is a huge brain drain: fully 25 percent of Israeli academics work overseas, compared to less than 4 percent of European academics.

So what’s the real objection? Money. Israel’s universities are almost wholly state-funded. And while many colleges also receive state funds, universities get much more. Hence a new university would mean a smaller share of the pie for existing ones. And since existing universities control the CHE, they are determined to block newcomers.

But for a country with no natural resources, dependent entirely on its brainpower, a system that prevents new institutions from flourishing is bad news. It is therefore vital to end the CHE’s stranglehold, and in parallel to encourage existing universities to develop nongovernmental funding sources. A school shouldn’t have to be located in the West Bank to obtain recognition as an Israeli university.

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UN Panel Admits the Glaciers Won’t Disappear

Earlier this week, we noted in Contentions the revelation that another one of the standard scare stories of the global-warming “consensus” had been debunked when it was revealed that the assertion that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2030, made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, was completely unfounded. Today comes news that the panel (which shared a bogus Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007) has itself admitted that its widely quoted assertion was not substantiated. MIT’s Technology Review reports that in the face of evidence that shows there was no data to back up the claim, the UN group has now backed down and publicly admitted that they were at fault.

According to Technology Review, “The disappearance of the glaciers would require temperatures far higher than those predicted in even the most dire global warming scenarios, says Georg Kaser, professor at the Institut für Geographie der Universität, Innsbruck. The Himalayas would have to heat up by 18 degrees Celsius and stay there for the highest glaciers to melt—most climate change scenarios expect only a few degrees of warming over the next century. The mistake has called into question the credibility of the IPCC, which has been considered an authoritative source for information about climate change.”

Like the equally embattled Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that produced the “Climategate” e-mail scandal, the reputation of the UN panel was supposedly impeccable because of its devotion to the practice of peer-reviewed studies. But in this case, the notorious assertion about the glaciers was based not on critical research but on what the panel now says is “grey literature,” a theory that is not based on peer-reviewed sources.

The point here is not just that another instance of global-warming hysteria has been debunked. It is that the sources of the now widely accepted theory that the planet is “melting” and that this is the result of human activity are themselves deeply compromised. As the Climategate e-mails illustrated, the scientists involved in these assertions are so blinded by their ideological fervor that they are willing to falsify information, dissemble about their research, and suppress informed dissent. Under these circumstances, the refrain that the “science” behind global warming is settled is nothing more than an attempt to stifle the growing chorus of skepticism about this “scientific consensus.”

As it happens, Technology Review admits that they had also publicized the now discredited claim about the glaciers in their own pages in an article about efforts to combat climate change. The article about the panel’s admission of error includes a link to their own correction.

Earlier this week, we noted in Contentions the revelation that another one of the standard scare stories of the global-warming “consensus” had been debunked when it was revealed that the assertion that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2030, made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, was completely unfounded. Today comes news that the panel (which shared a bogus Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore in 2007) has itself admitted that its widely quoted assertion was not substantiated. MIT’s Technology Review reports that in the face of evidence that shows there was no data to back up the claim, the UN group has now backed down and publicly admitted that they were at fault.

According to Technology Review, “The disappearance of the glaciers would require temperatures far higher than those predicted in even the most dire global warming scenarios, says Georg Kaser, professor at the Institut für Geographie der Universität, Innsbruck. The Himalayas would have to heat up by 18 degrees Celsius and stay there for the highest glaciers to melt—most climate change scenarios expect only a few degrees of warming over the next century. The mistake has called into question the credibility of the IPCC, which has been considered an authoritative source for information about climate change.”

Like the equally embattled Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that produced the “Climategate” e-mail scandal, the reputation of the UN panel was supposedly impeccable because of its devotion to the practice of peer-reviewed studies. But in this case, the notorious assertion about the glaciers was based not on critical research but on what the panel now says is “grey literature,” a theory that is not based on peer-reviewed sources.

The point here is not just that another instance of global-warming hysteria has been debunked. It is that the sources of the now widely accepted theory that the planet is “melting” and that this is the result of human activity are themselves deeply compromised. As the Climategate e-mails illustrated, the scientists involved in these assertions are so blinded by their ideological fervor that they are willing to falsify information, dissemble about their research, and suppress informed dissent. Under these circumstances, the refrain that the “science” behind global warming is settled is nothing more than an attempt to stifle the growing chorus of skepticism about this “scientific consensus.”

As it happens, Technology Review admits that they had also publicized the now discredited claim about the glaciers in their own pages in an article about efforts to combat climate change. The article about the panel’s admission of error includes a link to their own correction.

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Re: Re: Big Bang Machine Felled by Frenchman from the Future

Anthony’s and Rick’s posts on the now interrupted effort to recreate the Big Bang reminded me immediately of two things: Dr. Strangelove, and recent developments in climate science. Anthony’s “Dr. [THREE NAMES]” sounds, for one thing, eerily like Peter Sellers’s turn as Dr. Strangelove in the eponymous 1964 movie. For another, Rick’s quotation from the Lederman and Teresi book evokes — inevitably, once Dr. Strangelove is in view — the mushroom clouds with which the movie concludes, and the voice of Vera Lynn singing “We’ll Meet Again.”

These images, with their overtones of surreal Cold War irony, are a reminder that politics is incapable of infinite sweet sadness. Politics is all about definite and identifiable causes, and effects crying out for “management.” That’s why politics can’t be entrusted with speculative cosmology — or with speculative climatology.

It now turns out that there is some French bread gumming up our effort to understand, and attach cosmological import to, the behavior of our climate. What we might call the “butter” on the French bread is this eye-opening conclusion, from a 2009 study of 15 years’ worth of satellite data by MIT scientists: that the “greenhouse effect” does not behave as predicted by climatology models. When carbon and temperatures increase, the earth releases more heat energy as opposed to trapping more of it.

Now that’s a big pat of butter. But the “French bread” itself is more informative still: an acknowledgment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that when it comes to the actual processes of climate feedback — the processes that create (or mitigate) the greenhouse effect — we have no accepted way to measure or directly analyze them. Climate scientist Roy W. Spencer calls this admission “amazing.” Citing the relevant passage in the IPCC report, he puts the inconvenient truth as follows:

Despite the fact that the magnitude of anthropogenic global warming depends mostly upon the strengths of feedbacks in the climate system, there is no known way to actually measure those feedbacks from observational data.

I’d agree that that’s amazing, particularly in light of the certainty with which global-warming proponents assert that we can not only understand but also predict those feedbacks.

It’s good to be reminded at such a time that even supercollider scientists can come off, in expressing the idea of there being a parsable algorithm at work in the universe, just like ancient Greeks explaining their cosmos through Promethean myth. Faith that there are systemic explanations for big things, if we can only demonstrate them, is a key element of scientific inquiry. We shouldn’t disdain such lines of thought.

But it’s also a relief to know about the French bread. Until the proposition of the “God particle attacking us” can be measured and tested, the “French bread in the collider” explanation will do, for the human purposes that matter. When it comes to the politics of climate science, we should keep our eyes on the French bread as well.

Anthony’s and Rick’s posts on the now interrupted effort to recreate the Big Bang reminded me immediately of two things: Dr. Strangelove, and recent developments in climate science. Anthony’s “Dr. [THREE NAMES]” sounds, for one thing, eerily like Peter Sellers’s turn as Dr. Strangelove in the eponymous 1964 movie. For another, Rick’s quotation from the Lederman and Teresi book evokes — inevitably, once Dr. Strangelove is in view — the mushroom clouds with which the movie concludes, and the voice of Vera Lynn singing “We’ll Meet Again.”

These images, with their overtones of surreal Cold War irony, are a reminder that politics is incapable of infinite sweet sadness. Politics is all about definite and identifiable causes, and effects crying out for “management.” That’s why politics can’t be entrusted with speculative cosmology — or with speculative climatology.

It now turns out that there is some French bread gumming up our effort to understand, and attach cosmological import to, the behavior of our climate. What we might call the “butter” on the French bread is this eye-opening conclusion, from a 2009 study of 15 years’ worth of satellite data by MIT scientists: that the “greenhouse effect” does not behave as predicted by climatology models. When carbon and temperatures increase, the earth releases more heat energy as opposed to trapping more of it.

Now that’s a big pat of butter. But the “French bread” itself is more informative still: an acknowledgment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that when it comes to the actual processes of climate feedback — the processes that create (or mitigate) the greenhouse effect — we have no accepted way to measure or directly analyze them. Climate scientist Roy W. Spencer calls this admission “amazing.” Citing the relevant passage in the IPCC report, he puts the inconvenient truth as follows:

Despite the fact that the magnitude of anthropogenic global warming depends mostly upon the strengths of feedbacks in the climate system, there is no known way to actually measure those feedbacks from observational data.

I’d agree that that’s amazing, particularly in light of the certainty with which global-warming proponents assert that we can not only understand but also predict those feedbacks.

It’s good to be reminded at such a time that even supercollider scientists can come off, in expressing the idea of there being a parsable algorithm at work in the universe, just like ancient Greeks explaining their cosmos through Promethean myth. Faith that there are systemic explanations for big things, if we can only demonstrate them, is a key element of scientific inquiry. We shouldn’t disdain such lines of thought.

But it’s also a relief to know about the French bread. Until the proposition of the “God particle attacking us” can be measured and tested, the “French bread in the collider” explanation will do, for the human purposes that matter. When it comes to the politics of climate science, we should keep our eyes on the French bread as well.

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Big Bang Machine Felled by Frenchman from the Future

So efforts by scientists to re-create the big bang — that moment, if one can speak of a moment, as in time, before there was time, or at least a decent wristwatch, when energy, or some hot gooey primordial stuff, spewed out a burgeoning universe, eventuating in the birth of galaxies, the advent of life, and the eventual cancellation of Charles in Charge — have failed once again.

It seems that the quixotic quest to find Higgs Boson, once thought to be the front man for an Air Supply tribute band, but which turns out to be the “God” particle,” has come to a crumbling halt.

First, about a year ago, the Large Hadron Collider (not to be confused with the Medium Hadron Collider and Omnidirectional Shower Head) went phffffff when, shortly upon whiz-banging, hydrogen began to leak from its cooling thingee, ruining a good pair of chinos and an autographed picture of Carol Channing.

Now, after months of grueling repair work by the finest minds that could be found on Craigslist, the whole epic venture to determine how matter attains mass, or why matadors go to Mass, or some such thing, I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention, has gone kablooey once again.

Turns out a piece of French bread gummed up the works.

Yes. French bread.

And that’s not the weird part.

As the narrator of this CNN piece relates:

According to two physicists, the culprit could be the Higgs-Boson Particle traveling back in time to destroy itself.

I hate when that happens.

One of those physicists, a man with three names and a thick foreign accent, and not one of those mad-scientist accents either, but more like that of a maitre’d at a bad fusion restaurant, said, “It would look as if the future has an influence on what happens today or yesterday.”

Which would explain my VISA bill. But I digress.

The narrator continued:

Dr. [THREE NAMES] says it looks like the Higgs Boson Particle may be so abhorrent to nature that it rippled back in time to sabotage the machine that created it.

But why French bread, when a bag of gummi bears would have proved just as effective? Unless Higgs Boson is a diversion, and some French saboteurs from the future have deliberately screwed things up, envious of others’ potential achievement. (You know how they get …)

In any event, judge for yourself:

I know what you’re thinking: this is CNN, and so this has to be a put-on. Or just wrong. And to be honest, French people from the future I’ve spoken to deny having anything to do with this. But they would, then, wouldn’t they? And I suppose the Belgians had nothing to do with the waffle that was found in the gene splicer at MIT’s Lab 40. Saw that on CNN too.

So efforts by scientists to re-create the big bang — that moment, if one can speak of a moment, as in time, before there was time, or at least a decent wristwatch, when energy, or some hot gooey primordial stuff, spewed out a burgeoning universe, eventuating in the birth of galaxies, the advent of life, and the eventual cancellation of Charles in Charge — have failed once again.

It seems that the quixotic quest to find Higgs Boson, once thought to be the front man for an Air Supply tribute band, but which turns out to be the “God” particle,” has come to a crumbling halt.

First, about a year ago, the Large Hadron Collider (not to be confused with the Medium Hadron Collider and Omnidirectional Shower Head) went phffffff when, shortly upon whiz-banging, hydrogen began to leak from its cooling thingee, ruining a good pair of chinos and an autographed picture of Carol Channing.

Now, after months of grueling repair work by the finest minds that could be found on Craigslist, the whole epic venture to determine how matter attains mass, or why matadors go to Mass, or some such thing, I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention, has gone kablooey once again.

Turns out a piece of French bread gummed up the works.

Yes. French bread.

And that’s not the weird part.

As the narrator of this CNN piece relates:

According to two physicists, the culprit could be the Higgs-Boson Particle traveling back in time to destroy itself.

I hate when that happens.

One of those physicists, a man with three names and a thick foreign accent, and not one of those mad-scientist accents either, but more like that of a maitre’d at a bad fusion restaurant, said, “It would look as if the future has an influence on what happens today or yesterday.”

Which would explain my VISA bill. But I digress.

The narrator continued:

Dr. [THREE NAMES] says it looks like the Higgs Boson Particle may be so abhorrent to nature that it rippled back in time to sabotage the machine that created it.

But why French bread, when a bag of gummi bears would have proved just as effective? Unless Higgs Boson is a diversion, and some French saboteurs from the future have deliberately screwed things up, envious of others’ potential achievement. (You know how they get …)

In any event, judge for yourself:

I know what you’re thinking: this is CNN, and so this has to be a put-on. Or just wrong. And to be honest, French people from the future I’ve spoken to deny having anything to do with this. But they would, then, wouldn’t they? And I suppose the Belgians had nothing to do with the waffle that was found in the gene splicer at MIT’s Lab 40. Saw that on CNN too.

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What a Disgrace

I thought that the follies of academia had lost their power to outrage me. I was wrong. Reading this New York Times account, about how some scholars have come under fire from their colleagues for working with the U.S. military, enraged me.

There is nothing particularly new in the article, but it did wrap-up three current campus controversies:

At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual, even though the center’s aim was to reduce civilian casualties. Members of the American Psychological Association have had fervid exchanges over what role — if any — its members should have in military interrogations. And anthropologists have passionately argued over a Pentagon program that uses these social scientists in war zones.

The article did not touch upon the continuing refusal of most Ivy League schools to allow ROTC on campus, but this is another sign of the nauseating anti-military, indeed anti-American, bias that still seems to prevail at our elite universities. In this regard, Naval Institute Proceedings prints an instructive letter from Owen West, a Harvard graduate and Marine Corps reservist who has served two tours in Iraq.

In the letter, West recounts the discrimination and animus endured by him and his fellow classmates in the early 1990′s when they had to go to MIT to take their ROTC instruction. “On graduation day, neither outgoing president Derek Bok nor incoming president [Neil] Rudenstine attended our commissioning ceremony. In twenty years, Bok refused to attend even one commissioning,” he notes. Larry Summers broke with tradition by attending the commissioning ceremonies when he was president, but it was this kind of gesture that helped lead to a faculty revolt that toppled Summers. His successors, West notes, are back to their pernicious old ways: “This year, interim president Bok and incoming president Drew Faust did not attend the commissioning ceremony.”

Reading accounts like this, I have to take a deep breath before commenting, otherwise all that will come out will be a string of expletives. What a disgrace that anyone employed in an American university should think it a disgrace to work with and honor the men and women who risk their necks to protect us. It reminds me of Orwell’s disgust in 1943 with those “advocating non-resistance from behind the guns of the American fleet.” Some things, alas, never change.

I thought that the follies of academia had lost their power to outrage me. I was wrong. Reading this New York Times account, about how some scholars have come under fire from their colleagues for working with the U.S. military, enraged me.

There is nothing particularly new in the article, but it did wrap-up three current campus controversies:

At Harvard, some faculty and activists have been troubled that the university’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy helped revise the counterinsurgency field manual, even though the center’s aim was to reduce civilian casualties. Members of the American Psychological Association have had fervid exchanges over what role — if any — its members should have in military interrogations. And anthropologists have passionately argued over a Pentagon program that uses these social scientists in war zones.

The article did not touch upon the continuing refusal of most Ivy League schools to allow ROTC on campus, but this is another sign of the nauseating anti-military, indeed anti-American, bias that still seems to prevail at our elite universities. In this regard, Naval Institute Proceedings prints an instructive letter from Owen West, a Harvard graduate and Marine Corps reservist who has served two tours in Iraq.

In the letter, West recounts the discrimination and animus endured by him and his fellow classmates in the early 1990′s when they had to go to MIT to take their ROTC instruction. “On graduation day, neither outgoing president Derek Bok nor incoming president [Neil] Rudenstine attended our commissioning ceremony. In twenty years, Bok refused to attend even one commissioning,” he notes. Larry Summers broke with tradition by attending the commissioning ceremonies when he was president, but it was this kind of gesture that helped lead to a faculty revolt that toppled Summers. His successors, West notes, are back to their pernicious old ways: “This year, interim president Bok and incoming president Drew Faust did not attend the commissioning ceremony.”

Reading accounts like this, I have to take a deep breath before commenting, otherwise all that will come out will be a string of expletives. What a disgrace that anyone employed in an American university should think it a disgrace to work with and honor the men and women who risk their necks to protect us. It reminds me of Orwell’s disgust in 1943 with those “advocating non-resistance from behind the guns of the American fleet.” Some things, alas, never change.

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Praising Noam Chomsky

Osama bin Laden’s latest videotaped message, his first in three years, contains several pearls of wisdom. But the following is most apt:

This war was entirely unnecessary, as testified to by your own reports. And among the most capable of those from your own side who speak to you on this topic and on the manufacturing of public opinion is Noam Chomsky, who spoke sober words of advice prior to the war, but the leader of Texas doesn’t like those who give advice.

Two years ago, Chomsky was voted the world’s top public intellectual in a poll conducted jointly by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect, the latter a British publication (Vaclav Havel came in fourth). Chomsky is enormously popular on American college campuses, and loved especially by Europe’s chattering classes. And he is not just the favorite public intellectual of Osama bin Laden, but of Hugo Chavez, the caudillo of Caracas, as well.

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Osama bin Laden’s latest videotaped message, his first in three years, contains several pearls of wisdom. But the following is most apt:

This war was entirely unnecessary, as testified to by your own reports. And among the most capable of those from your own side who speak to you on this topic and on the manufacturing of public opinion is Noam Chomsky, who spoke sober words of advice prior to the war, but the leader of Texas doesn’t like those who give advice.

Two years ago, Chomsky was voted the world’s top public intellectual in a poll conducted jointly by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect, the latter a British publication (Vaclav Havel came in fourth). Chomsky is enormously popular on American college campuses, and loved especially by Europe’s chattering classes. And he is not just the favorite public intellectual of Osama bin Laden, but of Hugo Chavez, the caudillo of Caracas, as well.

Last September, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Chavez waved around a copy of Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, while denouncing President Bush as “the devil.” “The people of the United States should read this. . .instead of. . .watching Superman movies,” Chavez told the assembled dignitaries.

Given his views of America and the West in general, it comes as no surprise that the MIT professor’s greatest fans are the Venezuelan military despot and the man responsible for the death of 3,000 on September 11, 2001. And with fans like that . . .

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Rising Star

The leftwing blogosphere has found its next star. He is an articulate champion of a modern leftist sensibility:

• He says that the war in Iraq has failed to produce democracy and has only created “civil war” that is “getting out of [Bush’s] control.”

• He calls the war in Iraq “unjust” and says it was launched based “on deception and blatant lies.”

• He says that the war has made a mockery of our “slogans of justice, liberty, equality, and humanitarianism”—instead replacing them with “fear, destruction, killing, hunger, and illness.” He goes on to say that “more than 650,000 of the people of Iraq” have died “as a result of the war and its repercussions.”

• He says that the “vast majority” of the American public wants the war to stop and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” leading to the “vast majority” of the American electorate “being afflicted with disappointment.”

• Why haven’t the Democrats done what they were supposed to? He has an explanation: “they are the same reasons that led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment—and there isn’t any—in the Democrats’ failure to stop the war.”

• He bemoans that the White House is focused on Iraq rather than on the real dangers facing all mankind, such as “global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations,” “the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes, and real estate mortgages,” and of course “the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa.”

• He is particularly peeved that President Bush “insists on not observing the Kyoto accord.”

• He decries the entire process of “globalization,” which he sees as nothing more than the attempts of “the capitalist system . . . to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations.”

• He cites the growing consensus of thinkers who “have declared the approach of the collapse of the American Empire.”

• And he recommends that anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in the world read the works of MIT professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA official Michael Scheuer.

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The leftwing blogosphere has found its next star. He is an articulate champion of a modern leftist sensibility:

• He says that the war in Iraq has failed to produce democracy and has only created “civil war” that is “getting out of [Bush’s] control.”

• He calls the war in Iraq “unjust” and says it was launched based “on deception and blatant lies.”

• He says that the war has made a mockery of our “slogans of justice, liberty, equality, and humanitarianism”—instead replacing them with “fear, destruction, killing, hunger, and illness.” He goes on to say that “more than 650,000 of the people of Iraq” have died “as a result of the war and its repercussions.”

• He says that the “vast majority” of the American public wants the war to stop and “elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven’t made a move worth mentioning,” leading to the “vast majority” of the American electorate “being afflicted with disappointment.”

• Why haven’t the Democrats done what they were supposed to? He has an explanation: “they are the same reasons that led to the failure of former President Kennedy to stop the Vietnam War. Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment—and there isn’t any—in the Democrats’ failure to stop the war.”

• He bemoans that the White House is focused on Iraq rather than on the real dangers facing all mankind, such as “global warming resulting to a large degree from the emissions of the factories of the major corporations,” “the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes, and real estate mortgages,” and of course “the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa.”

• He is particularly peeved that President Bush “insists on not observing the Kyoto accord.”

• He decries the entire process of “globalization,” which he sees as nothing more than the attempts of “the capitalist system . . . to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations.”

• He cites the growing consensus of thinkers who “have declared the approach of the collapse of the American Empire.”

• And he recommends that anyone who wants to know what’s really going on in the world read the works of MIT professor Noam Chomsky and former CIA official Michael Scheuer.

The only area in which this bold thinker seems to differ from modern Western leftist orthodoxy is in his prescription for all these ills: “To conclude, I invite you to embrace Islam, for the greatest mistake one can make in this world and one which is uncorrectable is to die while not surrendering to Allah, the Most High, in all aspects of one’s life—i.e., to die outside of Islam.”

So perhaps Osama bin Laden won’t be blogging for DailyKos anytime soon. After all, hardcore leftists don’t look kindly on fundamentalist religion (though they tend to be more suspicious of Baptist preachers than of Muslim terrorist leaders). But the overlap between bin Laden’s world view (at least as it’s expressed in his most recent videotape) and that of many Western leftists is uncanny. This does not mean, I should stress, that leftists support al Qaeda. It does seem to mean, however, that bin Laden is trying to rally the “antiwar” crowd to his side in language they understand.

The Occam’s Razor explanation is that, like the North Vietnamese Communists during the 1960’s, he is attempting to manipulate public opinion among his enemies, and that he is good at doing so because his ideology is not that of traditional Islam, but rather a weird amalgam of Islamic teaching and modern totalitarian ideologies. That is, he probably believes the rants he spews out.

Of course, conspiracy theorists will posit that this all just a big ruse, and that precisely because bin Laden is posing as a man of the Left, this is a transparent attempt to discredit the Left and thereby to keep in power Bush, Cheney, et al., who are supposedly doing so much good for bin Laden’s cause. No doubt the works of bin Laden’s favorite American commentators will provide chapter and verse for this argument.

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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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Stem-Cell Politics, Then and Now

Embryonic stem-cell research first became possible with human cells in 1998, and became a political issue immediately thereafter. To derive the cells, researchers had to destroy human embryos, which drew strong opposition from people (like me) who believe that nascent human lives should not be treated as raw materials for research.

Just a few months after the first human stem-cell experiments, President Clinton assigned his board of bioethics advisors, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), to consider the issues involved. Their report, published in 1999, has helped ever since to define the Democrats’ approach to the issue. In light of the headlines today about a new way to produce stem cells without destroying embryos, that report is worth another look.

The commission made a point of taking into account the ethical issues raised by embryo-destructive research. “In our judgment,” the report concluded, “the derivation of stem cells from embryos remaining following infertility treatments is justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research.”

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Embryonic stem-cell research first became possible with human cells in 1998, and became a political issue immediately thereafter. To derive the cells, researchers had to destroy human embryos, which drew strong opposition from people (like me) who believe that nascent human lives should not be treated as raw materials for research.

Just a few months after the first human stem-cell experiments, President Clinton assigned his board of bioethics advisors, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), to consider the issues involved. Their report, published in 1999, has helped ever since to define the Democrats’ approach to the issue. In light of the headlines today about a new way to produce stem cells without destroying embryos, that report is worth another look.

The commission made a point of taking into account the ethical issues raised by embryo-destructive research. “In our judgment,” the report concluded, “the derivation of stem cells from embryos remaining following infertility treatments is justifiable only if no less morally problematic alternatives are available for advancing the research.”

At the time, there were no such alternatives. The NBAC’s conclusion was taken (and certainly intended) as an endorsement of embryo-destructive stem-cell research, which quickly became the view of the Clinton administration and of American liberals more generally. But the big stem-cell story of the past two years has been the emergence of precisely those “less morally problematic alternatives” imagined by the commission.

The news this morning deals with the most promising and significant advance yet on that front. Scientists at MIT and in Japan have managed to coax regular skin cells (in mice) to become cells that seem to have the abilities and characteristics of embryonic stem cells. If this pans out in human cells, it would mean that the benefits of embryonic stem cells could be attainable without the ethical (and political) drawbacks of embryo-destructive research.

This is just the latest in a series of such developments over the past two years. But the advocates of such research have not yet decided how to handle this new trend. Congressional Democrats, persuaded that stem cells are a powerful political winner for them, talked down the alternatives at first, insisting they were scientifically unworkable or unnecessary. But as more scientific publications have emerged enlarging on these alternatives, they have changed their strategy, attempting to co-opt the new alternatives into their effort to fund embryo-destructive research. A bill being considered in the House today (and which has already passed the Senate) would use taxpayer dollars to encourage the on-going destruction of embryos from IVF clinics for their stem cells, but at the same time would also fund the emerging alternatives.

The internal contradiction is stark: the bill stokes the controversy over stem cells even as it funds new techniques that might quiet it. President Bush has pledged to veto the bill because it violates the principles behind his stem-cell funding policy, and the Congress seems unlikely to muster the votes to override his veto. So the political status quo won’t change, but the state of the science is clearly pulling in the opposite direction from the Democrats’ political strategy.

Developments like the one making news today could (in time) mean the end of the stem-cell debate, and an end that lets everyone win: the research would advance without human embryos being harmed. In light of the news this morning, it’s time for the Democrats to rediscover the long-forgotten last clause of the Clinton commission’s stem-cell recommendation.

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Striking Iran: Cakewalk or Slam-Dunk?

In 1981, Israel hit Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak. Eight F-16 fighter-bombers and eight F-15 fighters swooped in to carry out a precision strike that set back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions by more than a decade.

As the whole world knows, Israel now faces a similar challenge from Iran, which has an ambitious nuclear program of its own, and whose president has threatened to wipe Israel from the map. Unlike Osirak, however, the Iranian program is housed in multiple sites, with the most critical ones hardened against attack from the air, and all of them situated much further away from Israel than Osirak was.

A key question therefore is whether Israel possesses the military means to attack the Iranian facility on its own, or whether it would depend upon the far mightier United States to help it or do the job in its entirety. This question is being analyzed in defense ministries and intelligence agencies around the world. But the central issues have been laid out for the public in great detail by two MIT military analysts, Whitney Raas and Austin Long, in a paper that appears in the spring issue of International Security.

One of the problems entailed in such a raid would be dealing with the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, which Raas and Long call “one of the most difficult and important targets.” It is 23 meters underground and covered by multiple layers of concrete, such that “only a very robust strike could hope to destroy or at least render unusable” the centrifuges that it houses. Read More

In 1981, Israel hit Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak. Eight F-16 fighter-bombers and eight F-15 fighters swooped in to carry out a precision strike that set back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions by more than a decade.

As the whole world knows, Israel now faces a similar challenge from Iran, which has an ambitious nuclear program of its own, and whose president has threatened to wipe Israel from the map. Unlike Osirak, however, the Iranian program is housed in multiple sites, with the most critical ones hardened against attack from the air, and all of them situated much further away from Israel than Osirak was.

A key question therefore is whether Israel possesses the military means to attack the Iranian facility on its own, or whether it would depend upon the far mightier United States to help it or do the job in its entirety. This question is being analyzed in defense ministries and intelligence agencies around the world. But the central issues have been laid out for the public in great detail by two MIT military analysts, Whitney Raas and Austin Long, in a paper that appears in the spring issue of International Security.

One of the problems entailed in such a raid would be dealing with the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, which Raas and Long call “one of the most difficult and important targets.” It is 23 meters underground and covered by multiple layers of concrete, such that “only a very robust strike could hope to destroy or at least render unusable” the centrifuges that it houses.

To attack such a target, Israel would need to use penetrating warheads that are either “delay-fused bombs that have been modified to have a more ‘pointed’ shape and extensively structurally reinforced,” or even more advanced  warheads that “detonate in stages to increase penetration.” To destroy Natanz effectively, one technique, write Raas and Long, would be to use such weapons

targeted on the same aimpoint but separated slightly in release time to “burrow” into the target. Essentially one bomb hits the crater made by the previous weapon, a technique contemplated by the U.S. Air Force in the first Gulf war. This takes advantage of the extremely high accuracy of LGB’s [laser-guided bombs] in combination with a penetrating warhead. The IAF [Israeli Air Force] appears to have purchased penetrating LGB’s with this technique in mind. General Eitan Ben-Elyahu, former commander of the IAF and a participant in the Osirak strike, commented on this method of attacking hardened facilities in Jane’s Defense Weekly: “Even if one bomb would not suffice to penetrate, we could guide other bombs directly to the hole created by the previous ones and eventually destroy any target.”

Is Israel going to strike Iran? We do not yet know the answer, and there are many imponderables, including its calculation of whether the U.S. will strike first and its additional calculation of Tehran’s likely response.

Not only does Iran have long-range missiles but it also has Hizballah cells all over the world poised to carry out terror missions in the event of an attack. We ourselves are not exempt; according to the State Department’s 2006 annual report on terrorism, Hizballah has “established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and Asia.” If that were not enough, FBI Director Robert Mueller has confirmed that Hizballah “retains the capability to strike in the U.S.”

In response to Israeli attacks on its leaders in the early 1990’s, Hizballah, in separate incidents, bombed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29, and the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85. Of course, once Iran has nuclear weapons, we would not be worrying about the lives of hundreds but the lives of hundreds of thousands and even millions. The dangers posed to Israel and to the rest of the world would thus seem to be intolerable, except of course to some of the writers at Vanity Fair—see my Learning to Love the Islamic Bomb.

However one judges Israeli intentions vis-a-vis Iran, the Raas-Long paper is of the view that the Jewish state has the capability to go it alone. Their conviction is that despite all the complexities of the Iranian target set, the advent of precision-guided munitions means that such an assault today would appear “to be no more risky than the earlier attack on Osirak.”

Of course, it should be obvious, at the same time, that such a military operation would be neither a slam-dunk nor a cakewalk. Thus, one does not have to be a Vanity Fair writer, or to love the Islamic bomb, to see that Israel’s decision, whatever it is, will be one of the biggest rolls of the dice in the sixty-year history of the Jewish state.

 

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Weekend Reading

In May 1969, the critic Lionel Abel published an essay in COMMENTARY taking forceful issue with a new book, American Power and the New Mandarins, by Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at MIT who was then only beginning to make a name for himself as an influential left-wing scourge of American “imperialism.” The immediate subject of Chomsky’s book was the American intervention in Vietnam, but his intent was to place this conflict within a much broader context—namely, the supposedly uninterrupted history of American malefaction on the world scene. (Chomsky did not spare his own kind, either: he attacked American intellectuals, the “new mandarins” of his title, for what he saw as their shameful, passive complicity in their government’s evil deeds.)

Abel’s essay, entitled “The Position of Noam Chomsky,” focused devastatingly on the chief moral underpinning of Chomsky’s argument: namely, that America’s wanton and self-interested resort to force in foreign lands robbed it of any standing or credibility in the struggle it professed to be waging against Communist totalitarianism. Along the way, Abel also dealt in passing with Chomsky’s distorted version of a speech given by President Harry Truman at Baylor College linking economic freedom with political freedom, a speech interpreted by Chomsky in his book as a thinly veiled justification for the global spread of American-style capitalism by any and all means.

Read More

In May 1969, the critic Lionel Abel published an essay in COMMENTARY taking forceful issue with a new book, American Power and the New Mandarins, by Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at MIT who was then only beginning to make a name for himself as an influential left-wing scourge of American “imperialism.” The immediate subject of Chomsky’s book was the American intervention in Vietnam, but his intent was to place this conflict within a much broader context—namely, the supposedly uninterrupted history of American malefaction on the world scene. (Chomsky did not spare his own kind, either: he attacked American intellectuals, the “new mandarins” of his title, for what he saw as their shameful, passive complicity in their government’s evil deeds.)

Abel’s essay, entitled “The Position of Noam Chomsky,” focused devastatingly on the chief moral underpinning of Chomsky’s argument: namely, that America’s wanton and self-interested resort to force in foreign lands robbed it of any standing or credibility in the struggle it professed to be waging against Communist totalitarianism. Along the way, Abel also dealt in passing with Chomsky’s distorted version of a speech given by President Harry Truman at Baylor College linking economic freedom with political freedom, a speech interpreted by Chomsky in his book as a thinly veiled justification for the global spread of American-style capitalism by any and all means.

Abel’s essay elicited a lengthy response from the aggrieved Chomsky, to which Abel responded vigorously in turn. But this was not the end of the matter. In a subsequent issue of the magazine, the political historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., then an eloquent defender of cold-war anti-Communism, lit into Chomsky’s response, with specific reference to Truman’s disputed speech at Baylor College. Schlesinger’s critique drew forth yet another outpouring from the voluble Chomsky. The series of exchanges and sub-exchanges ended with a final comment by Schlesinger in which the historian curtly dismantled several additional Chomskyan claims. Chomsky has not yet replied.

This riveting intellectual feud took place over 35 years ago. But the central issues debated by Abel, Chomsky, and Schlesinger—in a nutshell, whether American power is a force for good or for ill in the world, and whether the means deployed by America are proportionate to the ends—are still very much alive today as we enter the fourth year of our war in Iraq and as the Chomskyan position still informs the mindset of many educated Americans. As this weekend’s reading, we offer the full text of these remarkable items from our archive.

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Don’t Trust the Experts

Max Boot’s insistence that only climatologists should be allowed to comment on global warming is bizarre, and actually anti-scientific, if you think about it. As I’ve pointed out before, science is not some kind of cabal, or a secret society open only to initiates; the beauty of science is that the evidence is there for everyone to look at and interpret. (This is why Al Gore, an ex-politician who earned a D in a college course called “Man’s Place in Nature,” feels qualified to disagree with Richard Lindzen, the Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.) The “consensus” offered in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers is not evidence, but the interpretation of evidence that’s been sanctioned by a particular body of scientists. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right one—especially if that body has been engineered to exclude or put pressure on scientists with other views.

The cancer analogy Mr. Boot offers doesn’t make much sense. When an oncologist tells you that you have cancer, you’re dealing with something that can be proven beyond a doubt—usually by looking at a biopsy sample. By contrast, the worry about global warming involves changes that are merely predicted to occur with more or less likelihood. In most cases, the predictions are based on trends whose existence can’t even be established with certainty. There’s no gold standard here; there’s only a set of assumptions and the statistical models built around them. You don’t have to be a climatologist to understand the potential pitfalls of making predictions this way.

A better analogy would be asking twenty oncologists about the odds that you’ll develop cancer at some point in the near future. It’s almost impossible to imagine that you’d get the same answer from all of them, and some of their guesses might be no better than a meteorologist’s—especially if the meteorologist has read the literature on cancer risk factors, as anyone with a basic understanding of statistics and experimental design can easily do. In fact, such a meteorologist might be able to tell you that the “consensus” of medical professionals on cancer detection and prevention often has no basis in fact. Of course, it’s cheap and easy to eat more fiber, or to do a breast self-exam (neither has been proven to reduce cancer mortality), so one might as well do these things. Cutting carbon dioxide emissions in half, by contrast, is neither cheap nor easy.

One might ask, moreover, why Mr. Boot feels that the “policy implications” of global warming are something that can be discussed without any scientific literacy. Consider his recommendation that we end sugar subsidies to make sugar-derived ethanol cheaper. What makes Mr. Boot think that burning ethanol would contribute less to climate change than burning fossil fuels? Isn’t this also a scientific question?

I certainly agree with Mr. Boot that it would be desirable for us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but the argument for this doesn’t have to invoke the bogeyman of climate change.

Max Boot’s insistence that only climatologists should be allowed to comment on global warming is bizarre, and actually anti-scientific, if you think about it. As I’ve pointed out before, science is not some kind of cabal, or a secret society open only to initiates; the beauty of science is that the evidence is there for everyone to look at and interpret. (This is why Al Gore, an ex-politician who earned a D in a college course called “Man’s Place in Nature,” feels qualified to disagree with Richard Lindzen, the Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.) The “consensus” offered in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers is not evidence, but the interpretation of evidence that’s been sanctioned by a particular body of scientists. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right one—especially if that body has been engineered to exclude or put pressure on scientists with other views.

The cancer analogy Mr. Boot offers doesn’t make much sense. When an oncologist tells you that you have cancer, you’re dealing with something that can be proven beyond a doubt—usually by looking at a biopsy sample. By contrast, the worry about global warming involves changes that are merely predicted to occur with more or less likelihood. In most cases, the predictions are based on trends whose existence can’t even be established with certainty. There’s no gold standard here; there’s only a set of assumptions and the statistical models built around them. You don’t have to be a climatologist to understand the potential pitfalls of making predictions this way.

A better analogy would be asking twenty oncologists about the odds that you’ll develop cancer at some point in the near future. It’s almost impossible to imagine that you’d get the same answer from all of them, and some of their guesses might be no better than a meteorologist’s—especially if the meteorologist has read the literature on cancer risk factors, as anyone with a basic understanding of statistics and experimental design can easily do. In fact, such a meteorologist might be able to tell you that the “consensus” of medical professionals on cancer detection and prevention often has no basis in fact. Of course, it’s cheap and easy to eat more fiber, or to do a breast self-exam (neither has been proven to reduce cancer mortality), so one might as well do these things. Cutting carbon dioxide emissions in half, by contrast, is neither cheap nor easy.

One might ask, moreover, why Mr. Boot feels that the “policy implications” of global warming are something that can be discussed without any scientific literacy. Consider his recommendation that we end sugar subsidies to make sugar-derived ethanol cheaper. What makes Mr. Boot think that burning ethanol would contribute less to climate change than burning fossil fuels? Isn’t this also a scientific question?

I certainly agree with Mr. Boot that it would be desirable for us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but the argument for this doesn’t have to invoke the bogeyman of climate change.

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