Commentary Magazine


Topic: Stanford

A Response to John Derbyshire

In his post responding to George W. Bush’s op-ed on combating AIDS in Africa, John Derbyshire writes this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

Perhaps the future of sub-Saharan Africa would be brighter if the people of that place changed some of their customs; but now, thanks to us, they don’t have to.

Here are a few facts that undermine Derbyshire’s case: (a) Africans have fewer sex partners on average over a lifetime than do Americans; (b) 22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years (for South African and Namibian youth, the figure is 50 percent in five years); and (c) America’s efforts are helping to create a remarkable shifts in how, in Africa, boys view girls — reflected in a decline of more than 50 percent in sexual partners among boys.

So Derbyshire’s argument that our AIDS efforts are “more likely to be negative than positive” because they will continue to subsidize and encourage “unhealthy, disease-spreading habits” is not only wrong but the opposite of reality.

There is more. Derbyshire’s view might best be expressed as “the Africans had an AIDS death sentence coming to them.” But in Africa, gender violence and abuse is involved in the first sexual encounter up to 85 percent of time. And where President Bush’s PEPFAR initiative has been particularly effective is in slowing the transmission of the disease from mothers to children. Perhaps Derbyshire can explain to us how exactly infants are complicit in their AIDS affliction. Or maybe he doesn’t much care if they are. Read More

In his post responding to George W. Bush’s op-ed on combating AIDS in Africa, John Derbyshire writes this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

Perhaps the future of sub-Saharan Africa would be brighter if the people of that place changed some of their customs; but now, thanks to us, they don’t have to.

Here are a few facts that undermine Derbyshire’s case: (a) Africans have fewer sex partners on average over a lifetime than do Americans; (b) 22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years (for South African and Namibian youth, the figure is 50 percent in five years); and (c) America’s efforts are helping to create a remarkable shifts in how, in Africa, boys view girls — reflected in a decline of more than 50 percent in sexual partners among boys.

So Derbyshire’s argument that our AIDS efforts are “more likely to be negative than positive” because they will continue to subsidize and encourage “unhealthy, disease-spreading habits” is not only wrong but the opposite of reality.

There is more. Derbyshire’s view might best be expressed as “the Africans had an AIDS death sentence coming to them.” But in Africa, gender violence and abuse is involved in the first sexual encounter up to 85 percent of time. And where President Bush’s PEPFAR initiative has been particularly effective is in slowing the transmission of the disease from mothers to children. Perhaps Derbyshire can explain to us how exactly infants are complicit in their AIDS affliction. Or maybe he doesn’t much care if they are.

Let’s now turn to Derbyshire’s characterization that America is becoming the “welfare provider of last resort to all the world’s several billion people”: he is more than a decade behind in his understanding of overseas-development policy.

President Bush’s policies were animated by the belief that the way to save lives was to rely on the principle of accountability. That is what was transformational about Bush’s development effort. He rejected handing out money with no strings attached in favor of tying expenditures to reform and results. And it has had huge radiating effects. When PEPFAR was started, America was criticized by others for setting goals. Now the mantra around the world is “results-based development.” Yet Derbyshire seems to know nothing about any of this. That isn’t necessarily a problem — unless, of course, he decides to write on the topic.

Beyond that, though, the notion that AIDS relief in Africa is AFDC on a global scale is silly. We are not talking about providing food stamps to able-bodied adults or subsidizing illegitimacy; we’re talking about saving the lives of millions of innocent people and taking steps to keep human societies from collapsing. Private charity clearly wasn’t enough.

On the matter of Derbyshire’s claim that AIDS relief in Africa is unconnected to our national interest: al-Qaeda is actively trying to establish a greater presence in nations like Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria, which have become major ideological battlegrounds. And mass disease and death, poverty and hopelessness, make the rise of radicalism more, not less, likely. (Because of AIDS, in some countries nearly a half-century of public-health gains have been wiped away.)

Many things allow militant Islam to take root and grow; eliminating AIDS would certainly not eliminate jihadism. Still, a pandemic, in addition to being a human tragedy, makes governments unstable and regions ungovernable. And as one report put it, “Unstable and ungoverned regions of the world … pose dangers for neighbors and can become the setting for broader problems of terrorism … The impoverished regions of the world can be unstable, volatile, and dangerous and can represent great threats to America, Europe, and the world. We must work with the people of these regions to promote sustainable economic growth, better health, good governance and greater human security. …”

One might think that this observation very nearly qualifies as banal — but for Derbyshire, it qualifies as a revelation.

For the sake of the argument, though, let’s assume that the American government acts not out of a narrow interpretation of the national interest but instead out of benevolence — like, say, America’s response to the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia and other nations in the Indian Ocean. Why is that something we should oppose, or find alarming, or deem un-conservative? The impulse to act is, in fact, not only deeply humane but also deeply American.

In a speech in Lewiston, Illinois, in 1858, Abraham Lincoln, in quoting from the Declaration (“all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable right”), said:

This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.

This belief about inherent human dignity does not mean that America can solve every problem in the world or that we shouldn’t focus most of our energy and treasure on America itself. But if the United States is able, at a reasonable cost ($25 billion over five years), to help prevent widespread death, that is something we should be proud of it. (A recent Stanford study found that PEPFAR was responsible for saving the lives of more than a million Africans in just its first three years.)

Derbyshire seems to take an almost childish delight in advertising his indifference to the suffering of others, at least when the others live on a different continent and come from a different culture. Back in February 2006, when more than 1,000 people were believed to have died when an Egyptian ferry sank in the Red Sea, Derbyshire wrote:

In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don’t care about Egyptians.

Cultivating what Adam Smith (in The Theory of Moral Sentiments) called “sympathy” and “fellow feeling” is a complicated matter. Suffice it to say that very few of us care about the suffering and fate of others as much as we should. Yet most of us aren’t proud of this fact; we are, rather, slightly embarrassed by it. Not John Derbyshire. He seems eager to celebrate his callousness, as if it were a sign of manliness and tough-mindedness. I haven’t a clue whether this is a pose, done for shock value or some such thing, or real. All we can do is judge Derbyshire by his public words. And they are not only unpersuasive; they are at times downright ugly.

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North Korea & Iran: Containment vs. Regime Change

North Korea doesn’t have a whole lot going for it beyond a large army and a nuclear arsenal. So it should be no surprise that the regime resorts to saber-rattling to remind the world that it needs to be propitiated. Earlier this year, in March, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. Today the North shelled a South Korean island, killing two more soldiers. This comes only days after a Stanford professor reported finding a vast new uranium-enrichment plant in North Korea, suggesting that the North is gearing up to produce a lot more atomic weapons.

North Korea watchers think that this provocative behavior is meant to ease the leadership transition to a third-generation of Marxist dictators. Kim Jong-il, the current ruler, has just elevated his son Kim Jung-un to four-star rank — widely seen as a perquisite for taking over from his old man. But whatever the explanation, attacks on another country are clearly unacceptable. Problem is, it is devilishly difficult to respond to because North Korea is, after all, a nuclear power.

After the Cheonan’s sinking, the U.S. pushed for a UN resolution condemning the attack, but it was so watered down by the time it passed that it did not even mention North Korea’s culpability. It would be nice if this time the UN were to show some fortitude in upbraiding a nation other than Israel. But no matter what resolution the UN passes, its significance will be purely symbolic.

South Korea has already cut most economic times with the North, so there is not much more that can be done on that front either.

The ultimate solution is plain: regime change. But how to achieve it is another matter. China is North Korea’s major remaining lifeline, but unfortunately it is hard to see how to persuade the Chinese to cut off their client state. They may not like Pyongyang’s powerplays, but they are even less wild about the notion of a unified Korea allied with the United States.

So we are where we have essentially been since the end of the Korean War: practicing containment and hoping for the day when North Korea will finally implode. For those who advocate containment as the solution to the Iranian nuclear threat, it is worth noting how destabilizing a nuclear-armed rogue state can be and how hard it is to contain. Even now, North Korea could be planning to export nuclear know-how or uranium to Iran. If so, what are we going to do about it? My guess: not much. That is an argument for stopping Iran by any means necessary before it crosses the nuclear threshold and becomes as dangerous as North Korea.

North Korea doesn’t have a whole lot going for it beyond a large army and a nuclear arsenal. So it should be no surprise that the regime resorts to saber-rattling to remind the world that it needs to be propitiated. Earlier this year, in March, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. Today the North shelled a South Korean island, killing two more soldiers. This comes only days after a Stanford professor reported finding a vast new uranium-enrichment plant in North Korea, suggesting that the North is gearing up to produce a lot more atomic weapons.

North Korea watchers think that this provocative behavior is meant to ease the leadership transition to a third-generation of Marxist dictators. Kim Jong-il, the current ruler, has just elevated his son Kim Jung-un to four-star rank — widely seen as a perquisite for taking over from his old man. But whatever the explanation, attacks on another country are clearly unacceptable. Problem is, it is devilishly difficult to respond to because North Korea is, after all, a nuclear power.

After the Cheonan’s sinking, the U.S. pushed for a UN resolution condemning the attack, but it was so watered down by the time it passed that it did not even mention North Korea’s culpability. It would be nice if this time the UN were to show some fortitude in upbraiding a nation other than Israel. But no matter what resolution the UN passes, its significance will be purely symbolic.

South Korea has already cut most economic times with the North, so there is not much more that can be done on that front either.

The ultimate solution is plain: regime change. But how to achieve it is another matter. China is North Korea’s major remaining lifeline, but unfortunately it is hard to see how to persuade the Chinese to cut off their client state. They may not like Pyongyang’s powerplays, but they are even less wild about the notion of a unified Korea allied with the United States.

So we are where we have essentially been since the end of the Korean War: practicing containment and hoping for the day when North Korea will finally implode. For those who advocate containment as the solution to the Iranian nuclear threat, it is worth noting how destabilizing a nuclear-armed rogue state can be and how hard it is to contain. Even now, North Korea could be planning to export nuclear know-how or uranium to Iran. If so, what are we going to do about it? My guess: not much. That is an argument for stopping Iran by any means necessary before it crosses the nuclear threshold and becomes as dangerous as North Korea.

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Survey Says: Obama Is Responsible for the Election Tsunami

A study by David Brady of Stanford and the Hoover Institution leaves us in no doubt: At least 20 seats on November 2 were lost to Democrats as a direct result of votes cast in favor of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. And if you assign (to be generous) only 25 percent of the votes cast due to the economy to Obama’s ledger, you find he is the reason both for the loss of the House and the astonishing size of the wave that engulfed his party. I explain it all in a column in the New York Post. It begins:

President Obama sounded a bizarre note upon his return home on Sunday when asked about upcoming ne gotiations with Republicans in Congress: “They’re still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no,” he said.

The thing is it doesn’t matter what the GOP strategy was in the election’s run-up. What matters is what the voters said by the way they cast their votes. It was the voters who said no. A remarkably original analysis of election results by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research makes this not just an assertion but a matter of fact.

You can read the whole thing here.

A study by David Brady of Stanford and the Hoover Institution leaves us in no doubt: At least 20 seats on November 2 were lost to Democrats as a direct result of votes cast in favor of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. And if you assign (to be generous) only 25 percent of the votes cast due to the economy to Obama’s ledger, you find he is the reason both for the loss of the House and the astonishing size of the wave that engulfed his party. I explain it all in a column in the New York Post. It begins:

President Obama sounded a bizarre note upon his return home on Sunday when asked about upcoming ne gotiations with Republicans in Congress: “They’re still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no,” he said.

The thing is it doesn’t matter what the GOP strategy was in the election’s run-up. What matters is what the voters said by the way they cast their votes. It was the voters who said no. A remarkably original analysis of election results by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research makes this not just an assertion but a matter of fact.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.'”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

Mind-boggling: Admiral Mike Mullen proclaims, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome. …In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.” The only difference is that one way there’s a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.

Priceless: “Goldman Sachs is launching an aggressive response to its political and legal challenges with an unlikely ally at its side — President Barack Obama’s former White House counsel, Gregory Craig.”

Suspicious: “The Securities and Exchange Commission fraud case against Goldman Sachs may be settled before it ever sees a courtroom. Yet intentionally or not, the SEC has already secured at least one victory in the court of media opinion. Last Friday, the same day that the government unexpectedly announced its Goldman lawsuit, the SEC’s inspector general released his exhaustive, 151-page report on the agency’s failure to investigate alleged fraudster R. Allen Stanford. Mr. Stanford was indicted last June for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $8 billion. … But the SEC is very good at nailing politically correct targets like Goldman years after the fact on charges that have little or nothing to do with the investing public. On the Goldman case, by the way, the news broke yesterday that the SEC commissioners split 3-2 on whether to bring the lawsuit — a rare partisan split on such a prominent case and further evidence of its thin legal basis.” And just in the nick of time to help the PR on the financial regulations bill!

Definitive (confirmation that the Dems are in a heap of trouble): “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot, tying the GOP’s high for the year recorded the second week in March and their biggest lead in nearly three years of weekly tracking.”

Frightening but not surprising: “It may be too late to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, a former senior US defence official has warned. The official, who has long experience with several US administrations, said President Obama had waited too long to take tough action against Tehran. ‘Fifteen months into his administration, Iran has faced no significant consequences for continuing with its uranium-enrichment programme, despite two deadlines set by Obama, which came and went without anything happening,’ the former official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times. ‘Now it may be too late to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-capable.'”

Gutsy: “After being stonewalled by the Obama administration for five months, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Me, issued subpoenas Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder for a list of witnesses and documents regarding the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood massacre.”

Irrelevant: “Mitt Romney continues to look like the early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. A Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Romney leading former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in every region except the South, where Huckabee uses his home-field advantage to lead the field.” Ask Rudy Giuliani what early polls mean.

Depressing: “Both left and right [in Israel] are troubled, and both largely about the same things, especially the Iranian nuclear program combined with growing tensions with the Obama administration. ‘There is a confluence of two very worrying events,’ said Michael Freund, a rightist columnist for The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview. ‘One is the Iranian threat, an existential threat. Add to that the fact that for the first time in recent memory there is a president in the White House who is not overly sensitive to the Jewish state and its interests. You put the two together and it will affect anyone’s mood, even an optimist like me.” Overly? Not at all.

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Too Deep a Hole for Tom Campbell?

The California media have certainly latched on to the controversy over Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian connection. The question they’re now raising is whether the self-inflicted wound is fatal. First, it was the Los Angeles Times. Now the San Jose Mercury News focuses on Campbell’s letter written on behalf of the terrorist, as well as Campbell’s inability to get his story straight:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell is facing a potentially crippling controversy over his past defense of a fired Florida professor with ties to terrorists and his inconsistent statements regarding what he knew and when about the man’s actions.

Dogged for weeks by criticism over his defense of Sami Al-Arian, who later pleaded guilty to aiding terrorists, Campbell has denied knowing about the man’s incendiary past, which included nods to Islamic jihad and calls for “death to Israel.” He also said that his dealings with Al-Arian occurred before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

But Campbell, who was then a Stanford law professor, wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf months after the Sept. 11 attacks that casts doubt on his claims of ignorance about Al-Arian’s radicalism.

“His inconsistent statements are particularly damaging because it creates a credibility problem,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

It’s hard to square his recent campaign defense, offered up in last Friday’s debate, and the written evidence:

Campbell has deflected campaign attacks by saying he did not know about the O’Reilly interview at the time and that he wrote the letter before the Sept. 11 attacks. But it turns out neither is true.

Campbell stated in his letter that he “read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn” but said in a separate passage that he never heard Al-Arian “say anything anti-Semitic, or racist, or religionist, against any group.”

As he did with the Los Angeles Times, Campbell tries some damage control:

Asked to clarify the discrepancy, Campbell said in an interview Tuesday that he could not recall whether all or part of the O’Reilly interview had been read to him or whether he had seen a copy before penning the letter. Whatever the case, though, he insisted that he did not see or hear the “death to Israel” passage.

“I did not hear, I did not read, I was not aware of statements Sami Al-Arian had made relative to Israel,” Campbell said in the interview. “And I would not have written the letter had I known about those. … To say ‘Death to Israel’ is abhorrent, it’s horrible.” He repeated that he erred in not researching Al-Arian more thoroughly before coming to his defense. … “I hope that the fact I did not remember precisely because of the passage of years is understood.”

Well, suffice it to say, it’s not understood. Was he lying about the letter or inexcusably careless? Either way, he now has a burgeoning controversy that is not likely to abate. His opponents are certainly going in for the kill. Chuck DeVore’s communications director, Joshua Trevino, says to me of the latest: “Tom Campbell’s credibility is eroded when his statements about his past with Islamic radicals are proven false. But what really erodes his credibility is the plain existence of a past with Islamic radicals. Campbell’s inconsistencies are a handy news hook — but the underlying problem is his lack of judgment in ever having affiliated with anti-American, pro-terror Islamists.”

There are moments in a campaign when a tipping point is reached — can the candidate extract himself from the crisis or has he, by his own words, dug himself a hole too deep? Right now, it seems, Campbell’s explanations aren’t helping his cause, and the media smell blood in the water. We’ll see how voters react.

The California media have certainly latched on to the controversy over Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian connection. The question they’re now raising is whether the self-inflicted wound is fatal. First, it was the Los Angeles Times. Now the San Jose Mercury News focuses on Campbell’s letter written on behalf of the terrorist, as well as Campbell’s inability to get his story straight:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell is facing a potentially crippling controversy over his past defense of a fired Florida professor with ties to terrorists and his inconsistent statements regarding what he knew and when about the man’s actions.

Dogged for weeks by criticism over his defense of Sami Al-Arian, who later pleaded guilty to aiding terrorists, Campbell has denied knowing about the man’s incendiary past, which included nods to Islamic jihad and calls for “death to Israel.” He also said that his dealings with Al-Arian occurred before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

But Campbell, who was then a Stanford law professor, wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf months after the Sept. 11 attacks that casts doubt on his claims of ignorance about Al-Arian’s radicalism.

“His inconsistent statements are particularly damaging because it creates a credibility problem,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

It’s hard to square his recent campaign defense, offered up in last Friday’s debate, and the written evidence:

Campbell has deflected campaign attacks by saying he did not know about the O’Reilly interview at the time and that he wrote the letter before the Sept. 11 attacks. But it turns out neither is true.

Campbell stated in his letter that he “read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn” but said in a separate passage that he never heard Al-Arian “say anything anti-Semitic, or racist, or religionist, against any group.”

As he did with the Los Angeles Times, Campbell tries some damage control:

Asked to clarify the discrepancy, Campbell said in an interview Tuesday that he could not recall whether all or part of the O’Reilly interview had been read to him or whether he had seen a copy before penning the letter. Whatever the case, though, he insisted that he did not see or hear the “death to Israel” passage.

“I did not hear, I did not read, I was not aware of statements Sami Al-Arian had made relative to Israel,” Campbell said in the interview. “And I would not have written the letter had I known about those. … To say ‘Death to Israel’ is abhorrent, it’s horrible.” He repeated that he erred in not researching Al-Arian more thoroughly before coming to his defense. … “I hope that the fact I did not remember precisely because of the passage of years is understood.”

Well, suffice it to say, it’s not understood. Was he lying about the letter or inexcusably careless? Either way, he now has a burgeoning controversy that is not likely to abate. His opponents are certainly going in for the kill. Chuck DeVore’s communications director, Joshua Trevino, says to me of the latest: “Tom Campbell’s credibility is eroded when his statements about his past with Islamic radicals are proven false. But what really erodes his credibility is the plain existence of a past with Islamic radicals. Campbell’s inconsistencies are a handy news hook — but the underlying problem is his lack of judgment in ever having affiliated with anti-American, pro-terror Islamists.”

There are moments in a campaign when a tipping point is reached — can the candidate extract himself from the crisis or has he, by his own words, dug himself a hole too deep? Right now, it seems, Campbell’s explanations aren’t helping his cause, and the media smell blood in the water. We’ll see how voters react.

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The Elite Education Sidestep

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

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The Clash of the Titans

Yesterday, the controversial Regina Ip announced her candidacy for a seat in LegCo, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Opposing her is the formidable Anson Chan, dubbed by many as “Hong Kong’s conscience.” The December 2 contest, a by-election, is now called the “Clash of the Titans,” yet it is more important than that. At stake is nothing less than democracy in what is now a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

“I am now a different Regina Ip from the one before,” the candidate said in making her announcement. That’s good, because few in Hong Kong liked the old one. As the reviled Secretary for Security, she pushed aggressively in 2003 for the adoption of wide-ranging antisubversion legislation known as Article 23. Her hardline tactics triggered a protest of 500,000 citizens and ultimately led to the government’s dropping of the draconian proposal. Ip also made few friends when, arguing against democracy, she said, “Adolf Hitler was returned by universal suffrage, and he killed 7 million Jews.” The public reaction to her was so great that she had to resign. Ip then spent three years in Stanford and came back as a self-proclaimed democrat. The candidate began her campaign yesterday by offering “sincere apologies” to the public for making mistakes four years ago in trying to railroad passage of Article 23.

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Yesterday, the controversial Regina Ip announced her candidacy for a seat in LegCo, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Opposing her is the formidable Anson Chan, dubbed by many as “Hong Kong’s conscience.” The December 2 contest, a by-election, is now called the “Clash of the Titans,” yet it is more important than that. At stake is nothing less than democracy in what is now a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

“I am now a different Regina Ip from the one before,” the candidate said in making her announcement. That’s good, because few in Hong Kong liked the old one. As the reviled Secretary for Security, she pushed aggressively in 2003 for the adoption of wide-ranging antisubversion legislation known as Article 23. Her hardline tactics triggered a protest of 500,000 citizens and ultimately led to the government’s dropping of the draconian proposal. Ip also made few friends when, arguing against democracy, she said, “Adolf Hitler was returned by universal suffrage, and he killed 7 million Jews.” The public reaction to her was so great that she had to resign. Ip then spent three years in Stanford and came back as a self-proclaimed democrat. The candidate began her campaign yesterday by offering “sincere apologies” to the public for making mistakes four years ago in trying to railroad passage of Article 23.

“The by-election has come during a critical stage for democracy,” said Anson Chan earlier this week. There seems to be a consensus in Hong Kong that there should be universal suffrage by 2012, the year of the next election for the chief executive, the city’s top post. Beijing, which has consistently opposed broadening the electorate, is now trying once again to defer the issue.

Both Chan and Ip say they are in favor of 2012. Yet Ip wants universal suffrage only if Chinese leaders concur. She also argues that she will be better able to work with China. She’s undoubtedly correct because it’s clear she has the backing of both the Chinese leadership and Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing political party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Today, some argue that the election of Anson Chan will confirm Beijing’s fear that universal suffrage is dangerous because it will only lead to the election of “hostile forces.” Perhaps that is the case, but if pro-democrats are elected then at least China will have to make its position clear. Ip, if chosen, will never force the universal suffrage issue. The people of Hong Kong have a right to know where China stands on the most important issue they face.

Why elect Anson Chan even if she cannot bring about democracy? If for no other reason, then because of the work she will do to expose autocracy.

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Chelsea Clinton: Good for the Jews?

It’s hard to grasp the point of yesterday’s front page New York Times article on Chelsea Clinton by wunderkind reporter Jodi Kantor. While it’s clear that Kantor intended her piece to reveal the “real” Chelsea, she admits at the outset that the former first daughter and her parents “turned down interview requests for the article, as they have for countless others on the subject.” So, how does Kantor remedy this lack? With received wisdom and banalities, naturally. Kantor helpfully informs readers that the young Clinton has strawberry blond hair and favors tasteful pantsuits, that she graduated in 2001 from Stanford, did a stint at McKinsey, and works at a hedge fund run by a donor to various Clinton causes. That’s hard-hitting reportage.

The only mildly interesting nugget in the piece was the paragraph near the end, in which we discover that Chelsea hopes to learn “more about Judaism,” the faith of her boyfriend Marc Mezvinsky. Clinton, a “churchgoing Methodist,” has, of late, been attending Sabbath dinners. Perhaps Judaism will reach the White House in 2008 after all.

It’s hard to grasp the point of yesterday’s front page New York Times article on Chelsea Clinton by wunderkind reporter Jodi Kantor. While it’s clear that Kantor intended her piece to reveal the “real” Chelsea, she admits at the outset that the former first daughter and her parents “turned down interview requests for the article, as they have for countless others on the subject.” So, how does Kantor remedy this lack? With received wisdom and banalities, naturally. Kantor helpfully informs readers that the young Clinton has strawberry blond hair and favors tasteful pantsuits, that she graduated in 2001 from Stanford, did a stint at McKinsey, and works at a hedge fund run by a donor to various Clinton causes. That’s hard-hitting reportage.

The only mildly interesting nugget in the piece was the paragraph near the end, in which we discover that Chelsea hopes to learn “more about Judaism,” the faith of her boyfriend Marc Mezvinsky. Clinton, a “churchgoing Methodist,” has, of late, been attending Sabbath dinners. Perhaps Judaism will reach the White House in 2008 after all.

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Flawed Logic on Iran

Dissecting and analyzing what passes for news in the New York Times can be a full-time job. (The estimable Hilton Kramer used to do precisely that for the New York Post.) I generally try to steer clear of doing it, for fear of getting nothing else accomplished. But a longish piece that appeared this Sunday in the New York Times magazine cries out for a critical reading.

The article, “Hard Realities of Soft Power,” is by Negar Azimi, identified as an “editor at Bidoun, a cultural magazine based in New York City.” (Bidoun’s website provides further information: she is a 2001 Stanford graduate and a current Harvard grad student who spent a few years living in Cairo.) Its premise is summarized in a lengthy subtitle: “The United States has dedicated tens of millions of dollars to promoting democracy in Iran. But for Iranian democrats and America alike, the effort may be more trouble than it’s worth.”

This “may” is a bit coy: the article itself makes clear that, in the author’s opinion, American support for democracy promotion is counterproductive. Its only result, she implies, is to get Iranian reformers into trouble with a regime intensely suspicious of external subversion, and to undermine the reformers’ credibility.

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Dissecting and analyzing what passes for news in the New York Times can be a full-time job. (The estimable Hilton Kramer used to do precisely that for the New York Post.) I generally try to steer clear of doing it, for fear of getting nothing else accomplished. But a longish piece that appeared this Sunday in the New York Times magazine cries out for a critical reading.

The article, “Hard Realities of Soft Power,” is by Negar Azimi, identified as an “editor at Bidoun, a cultural magazine based in New York City.” (Bidoun’s website provides further information: she is a 2001 Stanford graduate and a current Harvard grad student who spent a few years living in Cairo.) Its premise is summarized in a lengthy subtitle: “The United States has dedicated tens of millions of dollars to promoting democracy in Iran. But for Iranian democrats and America alike, the effort may be more trouble than it’s worth.”

This “may” is a bit coy: the article itself makes clear that, in the author’s opinion, American support for democracy promotion is counterproductive. Its only result, she implies, is to get Iranian reformers into trouble with a regime intensely suspicious of external subversion, and to undermine the reformers’ credibility.

In one of the article’s more dubious conceits, Azimi even links an increase in U.S. funding for democracy promotion in Iran—Congress budgeted $75 million for this fiscal year, up from just a few million in the past—to the increased repression of the regime, including the detention of four Iranian-Americans on risible charges of spying. Deep in the article, Azimi actually undercuts this argument when she notes that there is nothing exactly new about the Islamic Republic of Iran cracking down on perceived threats to its authority: “The postrevolutionary regime has been attacking its domestic opponents as Western lackeys for 27 years.”

Indeed. Even back in 1979, the Iranian hardliners were determined to believe that the U.S. was plotting against their revolution from our embassy, which they dubbed a “Den of Spies.” No such plot existed, but it didn’t stop the Islamofascists in Tehran then or now from using such suspicions as a convenient cudgel against anyone they don’t like. And if the recent arrests are linked to increased American efforts at democracy promotion, it may confirm that the U.S. program makes sense. If the Iranian regime is so afraid of such pressure, shouldn’t we keep the squeeze on?

But in truth we have no real idea why the Iranian-Americans—and many others, such as the fifteen British sailors seized in March and subsequently released—have been arrested recently. It may well be a show of Iranian muscle-flexing aimed at deterring the U.S. from pressing too hard not only on regime change, but on Iran’s nuclear weapons program and its support of terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The decision-making processes of the Iranian regime remain opaque, so it’s a bit of a stretch to blame the latest repression on the actions of the United States Congress or the State Department. The real culprit here is the odious nature of the Iranian regime.

And it’s absurd to complain, as Azimi does, that the American program hasn’t borne any fruit; it’s just getting started. (Only in the past year, for example, has the Voice of America increased its Farsi programming from one hour a night to five hours.) Democracy-promotion is a long-term enterprise and can’t be expected to reap overnight results.

There is no question that the obstacles to overthrowing the mullahs—obstacles that Azimi amply highlights—are such that we may never succeed. But what’s the alternative? Negar doesn’t explore that in her article. But the usual alternative cited in Washington circles is outreach to, and accommodation with, the Iranian regime—the essence of the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s thinking. And how likely is that to work?

Two of the Iranian-Americans now languishing in Iranian prison, ironically, are advocates of this approach. They were against regime change and received no money from the U.S. democracy promotion funds. According to Azimi, one of them (Haleh Esfandiari, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center) even “declined offers to appear on Voice of America, for fear of being tied to an American agenda.” Their shabby treatment indicates what the mullahs think of well-intentioned (if deeply naïve) attempts to find common ground between the Iranian government and the Great Satan.

This was, incidentally, precisely the point that Reuel Gerecht made a month ago in a New York Times op-ed. Perhaps Negar’s editors should have been paying closer attention to what their paper’s op-ed page has to say.

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Godfather of Film

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is one of those men who, along with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, made the modern world—for what is more characteristic of the modern world than motion pictures? For his sequential photographs of leaping horses, made in the 1870’s for California governor Leland Stanford, and his monumental Animal Locomotion (1887), Muybridge is justly regarded as the godfather of the movie. And yet for a generation he has been the victim of sustained academic calumny. Two events this month make clear the extent of this injustice.

The first is the publication of Marta Braun’s Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), a study of Muybridge’s French counterpart. The subject of a respectful New York Times review, Braun’s book argues that Marey was the true innovator, in contrast to Muybridge, who supposedly manipulated his images to make them more pleasing and to ensure that they reinforced Victorian sexual stereotypes. This is a theme that Braun has been restating since her 1984 article “Muybridge’s Scientific Fictions,” which has become the prevailing scholarly wisdom.

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Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is one of those men who, along with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, made the modern world—for what is more characteristic of the modern world than motion pictures? For his sequential photographs of leaping horses, made in the 1870’s for California governor Leland Stanford, and his monumental Animal Locomotion (1887), Muybridge is justly regarded as the godfather of the movie. And yet for a generation he has been the victim of sustained academic calumny. Two events this month make clear the extent of this injustice.

The first is the publication of Marta Braun’s Picturing Time: The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904), a study of Muybridge’s French counterpart. The subject of a respectful New York Times review, Braun’s book argues that Marey was the true innovator, in contrast to Muybridge, who supposedly manipulated his images to make them more pleasing and to ensure that they reinforced Victorian sexual stereotypes. This is a theme that Braun has been restating since her 1984 article “Muybridge’s Scientific Fictions,” which has become the prevailing scholarly wisdom.

In that article, Braun made much of the fact that Muybridge photographed women in domestic settings—sweeping, pouring tea, getting out of bed. She implies that Muybridge could see women only as housewives (or objects of sexual fantasy), and that this lessens the value of his work. In truth, it is remarkable how liberated Muybridge’s women are. They are also shown jumping over hurdles, throwing baseballs, leaping over sawhorses—activities conveniently ignored by Braun (and the scholars who cite her, not subjecting her work to the same skepticism that she brought to Muybridge’s). That her interpretation should become the prevailing wisdom, enshrined even at the National Museum of American History, says less about Muybridge than it does about the debunking mood of art scholarship in the mid-80’s, when Braun first emerged on the scene.

For an antidote to this sort of reductive scholarship, one turns with pleasure to Equus Unbound, a small but terrific exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania that highlights the activities of Fairman Rogers, the chief sponsor of Muybridge’s motion study experiments. Rogers was an engineering professor and amateur horseman, whose interest in horses was scientific, aesthetic, and social (he was the author of the celebrated Manual of Coaching). The show makes clear that Muybridge was supported in his pioneering work by some of the nation’s leading engineers, biologists, and physicists. It is a first step in removing a generation’s worth of tarnish from Muybridge’s unfairly besmirched reputation.

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Mosley and the New Anti-Semitism

The oldest hatred never ceases to astonish us with its ability to rejuvenate itself. Anti-Semitism—nowadays invariably focused on Israel and repackaged as “anti-Zionism”—is once again ubiquitous in western countries. In some quarters, it is even considered respectable. Just as this salon anti-Semitism served the Nazis in the 1930’s by denying the threat to the very existence of the Jewish people in Europe, so today the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the West serves the Islamists by denying the existential threat to the Jews of Israel.

To see how history is repeating itself, it is useful to compare the tactics used by the new anti-Semites with those of one of the most notorious anti-Semites in the history of the English-speaking world: the pre-war leader of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley.

One of the commonest arguments used by the new anti-Semites is that nobody is allowed to criticize or even mention the “Israel lobby”—which amounts to claiming that Jews are above criticism. In their scurrilous polemic “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government respectively, claim that “the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy.” (Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote about Walt and Mearsheimer in the November 2006 issue of COMMENTARY.)
Besides being wholly untrue—there are few subjects on which debate is livelier than Israel—this argument has a thoroughly disreputable pedigree. Here is Sir Oswald Mosley, even after the Holocaust, making exactly the same complaint: “If you wanted to stop some Jews profiteering, you were accused of wanting to destroy all Jews. If you objected to the way some of them treated their labor, you were accused of seeking to deny all of then the right to live. If you dared to criticise anything that any Jew did, you were accused of seeking to crucify the whole race.”

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The oldest hatred never ceases to astonish us with its ability to rejuvenate itself. Anti-Semitism—nowadays invariably focused on Israel and repackaged as “anti-Zionism”—is once again ubiquitous in western countries. In some quarters, it is even considered respectable. Just as this salon anti-Semitism served the Nazis in the 1930’s by denying the threat to the very existence of the Jewish people in Europe, so today the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the West serves the Islamists by denying the existential threat to the Jews of Israel.

To see how history is repeating itself, it is useful to compare the tactics used by the new anti-Semites with those of one of the most notorious anti-Semites in the history of the English-speaking world: the pre-war leader of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley.

One of the commonest arguments used by the new anti-Semites is that nobody is allowed to criticize or even mention the “Israel lobby”—which amounts to claiming that Jews are above criticism. In their scurrilous polemic “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government respectively, claim that “the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy.” (Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote about Walt and Mearsheimer in the November 2006 issue of COMMENTARY.)
Besides being wholly untrue—there are few subjects on which debate is livelier than Israel—this argument has a thoroughly disreputable pedigree. Here is Sir Oswald Mosley, even after the Holocaust, making exactly the same complaint: “If you wanted to stop some Jews profiteering, you were accused of wanting to destroy all Jews. If you objected to the way some of them treated their labor, you were accused of seeking to deny all of then the right to live. If you dared to criticise anything that any Jew did, you were accused of seeking to crucify the whole race.”


The new anti-Semites allege that the “Israel lobby” controls American foreign policy. Having dragged President George W. Bush into Iraq, they claim, it is now trying to manipulate him into attacking Iran. This argument, too, was a staple of Mosley and his blackshirts. In November 1938, immediately after the Kristallnacht progrom in Nazi Germany, Mosley wrote: “Why is it only when Jews are affected that we have any demand for war with the country concerned?” The anti-Semites and the appeasers were then and are now natural allies.

Mearsheimer and Walt claim that the new anti-Semitism is an invention of the Israel lobby. They also deny that anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, suggesting that this too is a myth created by the Israel lobby. (For a concise history of European anti-Semitism, see Paul Johnson’s article in the June 2005 issue.) Yet according to the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, in 2006 there was a 37 percent increase in violent assaults on Jews and a 46 percent increase in attacks on synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and other communal property. This is an alarming rate of increase in a single year, and the trend is long-term: the numbers have doubled over a decade and are now at their highest level since records began. In its impact on the daily lives of British Jews, anti-Semitism is now much worse than it was in Mosley’s time. The situation in much of continental Europe is even worse.

This is not yet the case in the United States, but that is no reason to be complacent. Some university campuses have become places where thinly-disguised anti-Semitism is openly propagated. One such is Columbia, which invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak last September. The invitation was withdrawn, but the fact that it was issued at all is bizarre. Another is Stanford, where groups calling themselves the “Coalition for Justice in the Middle East” and “Students Confronting Apartheid in Israel” invited Norman Finkelstein to address them last month. Mr. Finkelstein is not in the same league of infamy as the Iranian president, but his book The Holocaust Industry defames those who keep alive the memory of the Holocaust’s six million Jewish victims and has handed a potent slogan to anti-Semites everywhere. Like other self-hating Jews of his ilk, he has embraced the Islamist cause. He is associated with more overt anti-Semites such as David Duke and David Irving. Academic freedom does not have to extend to offering platforms to a Finkelstein or an Ahmadinejad. Europe has let the genie of anti-Semitism out of the bottle; America must not follow suit.

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Iran’s Long War

There has been a surge of alarmism about Iran within the U.S. foreign-policy community. Many experts fear that belligerent fanatics will soon use their fearsome arsenals to put the entire world at risk with unprovoked aggression.

Makes sense, you might say. Except that in the view of some analysts, the fanatics are in Washington not Tehran. Some of our most eminent foreign-policy thinkers seem to think that supposedly trigger-happy hawks in America are a bigger threat to world peace than terrorism-sponsoring mullahs in Iran.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, Zbigniew Brzezinski warned of a looming conflict with Iran “and much of the world of Islam at large” in which he sees the U.S. as the culprit: “A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive’ U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” Note the skeptical quotes around “defensive.” In Brzezinski’s telling, a U.S. attack on Iran could resemble Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, which was preceded by a staged provocation in which SS soldiers in Polish uniforms pretended to attack a German radio station.

Stanford political scientists Larry Diamond and Leonard Weiss take up a similar refrain in the Los Angeles Times, urging Congress to use “its power of the purse to prevent an American attack on Iran.” Weiss and Diamond concede that “Iran is not innocent of dangerous and provocative behavior” but go on to assert that “war is not yet justified, except in the minds of those who have been lobbying for it for years.” Whoever they are.

As it happens, I agree with Weiss and Diamond—and with Edward Luttwak—that it’s not time to bomb, at least not yet. But I take exception to the premise of their argument and of Brzezinski’s, which is that if the U.S. were to bomb Iran, this would amount to starting a war out of the blue. In reality, Iran has been waging war on the U.S. for a quarter century, from the 1979 hostage crisis to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut to its present policy of supplying Explosively Formed Projectiles—i.e., highly potent landmines—to Shiite and possibly even Sunni insurgents in Iraq who use them to blow up American armored vehicles, killing or injuring the occupants. A U.S. attack on Iran would not represent the beginning of a war; it would merely represent belated recognition on our part that a war is going on.

That isn’t to say that military action is the right course. For the time being, I would prefer more political, economic, and diplomatic pressure, which already seems to be taking a toll on President Ahmadinejad’s popularity with the Iranian political class. But my fear is not that we will respond too belligerently but that, as in years past (including during the first six years of the Bush administration), we will respond too supinely—that we will continue to do nothing, beyond a few tartly worded statements, about the growing Iranian threat. That really will make war more likely.

There has been a surge of alarmism about Iran within the U.S. foreign-policy community. Many experts fear that belligerent fanatics will soon use their fearsome arsenals to put the entire world at risk with unprovoked aggression.

Makes sense, you might say. Except that in the view of some analysts, the fanatics are in Washington not Tehran. Some of our most eminent foreign-policy thinkers seem to think that supposedly trigger-happy hawks in America are a bigger threat to world peace than terrorism-sponsoring mullahs in Iran.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, Zbigniew Brzezinski warned of a looming conflict with Iran “and much of the world of Islam at large” in which he sees the U.S. as the culprit: “A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive’ U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.” Note the skeptical quotes around “defensive.” In Brzezinski’s telling, a U.S. attack on Iran could resemble Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, which was preceded by a staged provocation in which SS soldiers in Polish uniforms pretended to attack a German radio station.

Stanford political scientists Larry Diamond and Leonard Weiss take up a similar refrain in the Los Angeles Times, urging Congress to use “its power of the purse to prevent an American attack on Iran.” Weiss and Diamond concede that “Iran is not innocent of dangerous and provocative behavior” but go on to assert that “war is not yet justified, except in the minds of those who have been lobbying for it for years.” Whoever they are.

As it happens, I agree with Weiss and Diamond—and with Edward Luttwak—that it’s not time to bomb, at least not yet. But I take exception to the premise of their argument and of Brzezinski’s, which is that if the U.S. were to bomb Iran, this would amount to starting a war out of the blue. In reality, Iran has been waging war on the U.S. for a quarter century, from the 1979 hostage crisis to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut to its present policy of supplying Explosively Formed Projectiles—i.e., highly potent landmines—to Shiite and possibly even Sunni insurgents in Iraq who use them to blow up American armored vehicles, killing or injuring the occupants. A U.S. attack on Iran would not represent the beginning of a war; it would merely represent belated recognition on our part that a war is going on.

That isn’t to say that military action is the right course. For the time being, I would prefer more political, economic, and diplomatic pressure, which already seems to be taking a toll on President Ahmadinejad’s popularity with the Iranian political class. But my fear is not that we will respond too belligerently but that, as in years past (including during the first six years of the Bush administration), we will respond too supinely—that we will continue to do nothing, beyond a few tartly worded statements, about the growing Iranian threat. That really will make war more likely.

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