Commentary Magazine


Topic: Yale

Yale and the Causes of Anti-Semitism

Last week, the New York Times published a series of letters in response to an op-ed by Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, entitled, “Why Jews are Worried,” which examined the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

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Last week, the New York Times published a series of letters in response to an op-ed by Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, entitled, “Why Jews are Worried,” which examined the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

One of the letters caught my eye. It blamed the rise of anti-Semitism on Israel and seemed to hint that Jews themselves are to blame for their support of Israel. Here is the letter in full:

Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond. The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank. As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.

The author of the letter is Bruce M. Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale University.

The firestorm initiated by the letter has spread far beyond New Haven. Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, from Chabad at Yale, released the following statement, transposed here by David Bernstein at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog:

Reverend Bruce Shipman’s justification of anti-Semitism by blaming it on Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza is frankly quite disturbing. His argument attempts to justify racism and hate of innocent people, in Israel and around the world.  One can and should study the Israeli policies regarding human rights, and the honest student will realize the painstaking efforts undertaken by Israel to protect innocent civilians. Hamas, ISIS and other radical groups make it their mission to torture, rape and kill as many civilians as possible. Yet, no moral person however, would attempt to justify blatant global anti-Moslem hatred in light of these atrocities. I call upon Bruce Shipman to retract and apologize for his unfortunate and misguided assertion. Instead of excusing bias and hatred against others, he should use his position to promote dialogue, understanding, and tolerance.

Shipman at first responded to the controversy by doubling down but, when the controversy continued, issued what can best be called a non-apology apology.

Let’s assume Shipman is sincere in wanting to walk back the crisis. That’s fine, but what he omits–even days into the controversy–suggests he is wrong on any number of levels. He appears ignorant of Hamas’s founding charter which promotes genocide against Jews. While Nazi analogies are sometimes overused, they are relevant to Hamas or Hezbollah, both of whom make no secret that they seek to target not only Israel, but also Jews. On October 23, 2002, for example, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah encouraged all Jews to gather in Israel, thereby saving Hezbollah “the trouble of going after them worldwide.” The land dispute between Palestinians and Israelis is secondary to these movements. He also seems to forget that the occupation of Gaza ended nearly a decade ago and, as with the Oslo Accords and the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Israel’s compromises were met with a massive increase in Israelis killed at the hand of terrorists.

The problem is not just Shipman. In 2011, Yale University shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism after it had been in operation for only six years. Professors complained that the program’s consideration of contemporary anti-Semitism was too political and not academic enough. This charge, of course, was nonsense as the program attracted the foremost scholars in the field to its conferences and colloquia. Perhaps—with Yale University actively seeking donations from and partnerships with Arab governments as well as a predominant attitude on campus encapsulated by Shipman—the idea of the study of contemporary anti-Semitism simply hit too close to home amongst the Yale faculty, many of whom might not like to consider the uncomfortable questions such study might encourage.

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Ideological Bigotry at Yale

Community service and “social justice” at Yale is coordinated through Dwight Hall which helps student organizations with basic administrative functions: photocopying, lending cars, some funding, and provision of rooms for meetings. While technically a non-profit and independent of Yale, the organization sits on Yale’s campus, is the main clearing house for community service, and uses Yale’s name with the permission of the university. Here’s the mission, according to the group’s website:

The mission of Dwight Hall at Yale is ‘to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world….’ Dwight Hall recognizes that long-term solutions to the world’s problems come from focusing on developing passionate innovative leaders. Dwight Hall exists as a place to cultivate student leaders invested in ethical productivity, creativity, communication, and collaboration.  Dwight Hall promotes a culture of action and reflection that encourages student leaders to share best practices, learn from successful leaders, and collaborate on solving societal challenges.

The organization brags on its website about its outreach:

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Community service and “social justice” at Yale is coordinated through Dwight Hall which helps student organizations with basic administrative functions: photocopying, lending cars, some funding, and provision of rooms for meetings. While technically a non-profit and independent of Yale, the organization sits on Yale’s campus, is the main clearing house for community service, and uses Yale’s name with the permission of the university. Here’s the mission, according to the group’s website:

The mission of Dwight Hall at Yale is ‘to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world….’ Dwight Hall recognizes that long-term solutions to the world’s problems come from focusing on developing passionate innovative leaders. Dwight Hall exists as a place to cultivate student leaders invested in ethical productivity, creativity, communication, and collaboration.  Dwight Hall promotes a culture of action and reflection that encourages student leaders to share best practices, learn from successful leaders, and collaborate on solving societal challenges.

The organization brags on its website about its outreach:

Dwight Hall is comprised of four networks that support our student-led programs.  The Networks promote community-based learning, innovative programming, best practices, and collaborative communication.  These networks are categorized as Education, Social Justice, International, and Public Health and together contain over 90 student-lead programs that engage 3,500 students each year in service and social justice activities.  Dwight Hall students contribute more than 150,000 hours of direct service and advocacy each year.

The organization’s cabinet—comprised of the leaders of other student groups and elected officers—have, without explanation, denied “Choose Life at Yale” (CLAY) membership. Here’s the report from the Yale Daily News:

After spending the year as a provisional member of Dwight Hall, Choose Life at Yale (CLAY) — Yale’s pro-life student organization — was denied full membership status in Dwight Hall’s Social Justice Network for the upcoming school year. The approximately 90-member Dwight Hall Cabinet, which comprises member group leaders and executive committee members, gathered Wednesday night to vote on CLAY’s status within Dwight Hall. After deliberation, they denied the organization membership, blocking further access to Dwight Hall’s resources, including funds, cars and printing services. “We are all obviously disappointed and frustrated with this decision, especially after having gone through this year-long provisional process,” said Christian Hernandez ’15, the president of CLAY’s Spring 2014 board. Each full member organization of Dwight Hall is allowed one vote during cabinet meetings, according to Shea Jennings ’16, Dwight Hall’s public relations coordinator. Representatives from each organization up for a vote, including CLAY, gave a brief presentation before the cabinet voted, she added. Jennings said that the body does not debate immediately before a vote, as Dwight Hall assumes each representative comes bearing the carefully considered views of his or her member group. Still, in the weeks leading up to the vote, she added that discussion among member groups about CLAY far exceeded that of any other organization seeking full member status this year. “Generally what happens is in most member groups the decision is made without as much discussion,” Jennings said. “Because this was a more political decision, there was more discussion.”

Personally, I am more on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate than on the pro-life side, although I both respect the views and principles of those who come down on the other side of the debate and shudder at the radicalism inherent at the extremes. But, even as someone who would disagree with CLAY’s broader goals, the vote to deny CLAY full membership is a poor reflection on Dwight Hall, Yale University, and its undergraduate student body. It shows the closed mindset of the Yale campus and the failure more broadly of Yale’s administration, deans, and faculty to cultivate an atmosphere that prizes debate on divisive social issues rather than tries to wield power arbitrarily to shut it down.

Are Yale’s pro-choice organizations really lacking in the self-confidence or ability needed to debate ideas and, if necessary, out-compete in organization? Social justice is always an amorphous concept prone to political abuse; it is too bad that Yale student leaders interpret social justice in terms of political conformity rather than any real diversity. It’s hard not to look at Dwight Hall’s action and not see something rotten in New Haven.

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Yale Gives Class in Hypocrisy

The one-sided moral outrage of the Ivy Leagues–and in particular of my alma mater, Yale, where I received an MA in history–is a sight to behold. For decades, Yale and the other Ivies refused to host ROTC on campus because of the military’s discrimination against gays. That stance was only reversed last year after the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet now Yale is opening its first-ever foreign campus in Singapore in cooperation with the National University of Singapore. This, in a country with an authoritarian political system that not only criminalizes homosexuality but even political protests and political speech.

Singapore is not the People’s Republic of China but nor is it Taiwan; it is rated by Freedom House as being only “partly free.” Freedom House notes: “Academics engage in political debate, but their publications rarely deviate from the government line on matters related to Singapore. The Societies Act restricts freedom of association by requiring most organizations of more than 10 people to register with the government, and only registered parties and associations may engage in organized political activity. Political speeches are tightly regulated, and public assemblies must be approved by police.” In keeping with this policy the new Yale campus “won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies.”

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The one-sided moral outrage of the Ivy Leagues–and in particular of my alma mater, Yale, where I received an MA in history–is a sight to behold. For decades, Yale and the other Ivies refused to host ROTC on campus because of the military’s discrimination against gays. That stance was only reversed last year after the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Yet now Yale is opening its first-ever foreign campus in Singapore in cooperation with the National University of Singapore. This, in a country with an authoritarian political system that not only criminalizes homosexuality but even political protests and political speech.

Singapore is not the People’s Republic of China but nor is it Taiwan; it is rated by Freedom House as being only “partly free.” Freedom House notes: “Academics engage in political debate, but their publications rarely deviate from the government line on matters related to Singapore. The Societies Act restricts freedom of association by requiring most organizations of more than 10 people to register with the government, and only registered parties and associations may engage in organized political activity. Political speeches are tightly regulated, and public assemblies must be approved by police.” In keeping with this policy the new Yale campus “won’t allow political protests, nor will it permit students to form partisan political societies.”

Moreover, as  Wikipedia notes, the Singapore armed forces discriminate against gays, who are grouped in a legal category known as Category 302, which applies to “homosexuals, transvestites, paedophiles, etc.” and further classified into those “with effeminate behavior” and those “without effeminate behavior.” Gays are put through modified basic military training and after graduation have severe restrictions on their military occupations, which limits their access to sensitive information.

Little wonder that many Yale professors are protesting the new campus. But Yale’s management appears not to care that the university is giving a graduate-level class in hypocrisy.

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Yale’s History Department Losing Students

Yale’s history department was once the flagship of the university. In academic year 1999-2000, for example, Yale had nearly 350 tenured faculty members, more than a third of whom were in the humanities. More than one-third of these, in turn, were historians. History was by far the most popular major.

How much a decade can alter the landscape: The history major is in sharp decline if not freefall with the slack picked up by the social sciences: political science and economics. History Department chair Laura Engelstein has said she wants to get to the bottom of the hemorrhaging program. “If it reflects something that we could change, we would want to change it, but it’s not clear what exactly is causing this to happen,” she told the Yale Daily News.

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Yale’s history department was once the flagship of the university. In academic year 1999-2000, for example, Yale had nearly 350 tenured faculty members, more than a third of whom were in the humanities. More than one-third of these, in turn, were historians. History was by far the most popular major.

How much a decade can alter the landscape: The history major is in sharp decline if not freefall with the slack picked up by the social sciences: political science and economics. History Department chair Laura Engelstein has said she wants to get to the bottom of the hemorrhaging program. “If it reflects something that we could change, we would want to change it, but it’s not clear what exactly is causing this to happen,” she told the Yale Daily News.

The faculty has floated a few theories:  Frances Rosenbluth, an administrator for the social sciences, suggested students are attracted to the social sciences because students “seem drawn to questions about how the world works.” Some history faculty members suggested that perhaps “structural changes” could rectify the problem. The department has responded with cosmetic changes, defining “pathways” to better structure the students’ program.

Alas, the department appears to be missing the elephant in the room. History was popular when it was relevant. Back in the 1980s, when I first visited Yale, the department was at its peak, sporting such professors as Paul Kennedy, Jonathan Spence, Donald Kagan, Michael Howard, Gaddis Smith, Robin Winks, Ben Kiernan, and John Blum. Earlier stars included C. Vann Woodward and Firuz Kazemzadeh. Throughout the 1990s, when I attended Yale as both an undergraduate and graduate student, the department prided itself on eschewing trendy academic theories and keeping to the basics. “Theory is for those who do not have libraries,” one faculty member quipped. I believed it. After all, when in my freshman year, I took H. Bradford Westerfield’s “Introduction to International Relations,” the Iron Curtain had just crumbled but Westerfield could not be bothered to change his syllabus. It was a lesson on just how irrelevant trendy theories could be. Meanwhile, at academic conferences, history graduate students from other universities would sometimes quip that Yale sported the “Department of Military and Diplomatic History,” as if that were somehow a bad thing. Certainly, I gained exposure to economic and social history—indeed, my dissertation strayed into those fields—but more traditional methods always provided the framework.

Cracks began to appear in the 1990s. When the American political historian John Blum retired, he was replaced by a series of historians who focused far more on social history. As retirements and deaths took their toll, the character of the department changed. Social history became paramount. Englestein’s bio, for example, describes how she focuses on the “social and cultural history of late imperial Russia, with attention to the role of law, medicine, and the arts in public life. She has also explored themes in the history of gender, sexuality, and religion.” Asian specialists can pick from faculty members focusing in social and cultural history in pre-modern China or infanticide in Japan; whereas the new crop of American historians focuses on such topics as the history of home healthcare workers, “biological motherhood in America,” American Indians in northeastern United States, or race in California. As Paul Kennedy nears retirement, John Gaddis is the main exception to prove the rule. Regardless, their International Security Studies program increasingly appears to be a spin off, if nothing else to insulate it from those in the university hostile to grand strategy.

Perhaps it’s time for Yale’s history department to consider the obvious. They are losing enrollment because they have pigeonholed themselves into irrelevancy. Yale students are intellectually curious, but the department no longer provides them a path to satiate their curiosity. Not all fields are created equally, nor can one encourage sub-specialization endlessly within the faculty without hurting the cohesive whole.

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Paula Hyman, RIP

I’ve been aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln for the past week or so and completely offline, and so I was saddened to learn that Paula Hyman passed away this past week. While a review of a book Hyman co-authored  in 1976 received a not too favorable COMMENTARY review, Hyman was a pillar of Jewish life at Yale University. According to the obituary in the Yale Daily News:

Hyman came to Yale in 1986 as the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. She served as the chair of the Judaic Studies program for 13 years, and remained active despite her illness, advising six of 15 current graduate students. Hyman published extensively on topics including the history of Jewish women, Jewish feminism and French Jewry and served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research.

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I’ve been aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln for the past week or so and completely offline, and so I was saddened to learn that Paula Hyman passed away this past week. While a review of a book Hyman co-authored  in 1976 received a not too favorable COMMENTARY review, Hyman was a pillar of Jewish life at Yale University. According to the obituary in the Yale Daily News:

Hyman came to Yale in 1986 as the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. She served as the chair of the Judaic Studies program for 13 years, and remained active despite her illness, advising six of 15 current graduate students. Hyman published extensively on topics including the history of Jewish women, Jewish feminism and French Jewry and served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research.

An unavowed feminist, Hyman was particularly active in seeking to reform the place of women in Conservative Judaism in the 1980s. Looking back at my nine years at Yale, I regret not taking any of Hyman’s courses. Along with Gaddis Smith, Paul Kennedy, Jonathan Spence, the late Robin Winks and the recently deceased David Montgomery, she enjoyed a reputation among both students and faculty during my time at Yale as a truly great teacher. Alas, it was only after I finished my coursework that I came to know Hyman, and it was only during my own rare visits to Yale when we would cross paths that we would chat.

While we never discussed Yale politics, she was an important voice. As Yale’s history department has lurched ever more toward trendy theory and away from traditional research, and as Yale’s faculty more generally have become increasingly politicized, Hyman remained a voice for sanity. Her politics may have been more to the left than the right, but she was a traditional academic who valued research, reasoned argument, and had little tolerance for those who allowed their own personal politics to corrupt their research. During the Juan Cole debacle, Hyman was a voice of sanity and defended the decision—wise in hindsight given Cole’s decline—to decline him an offer.

Yale will be far worse off with her loss. May she rest in peace.

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Are Chinese Mothers Superior?

A certain essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” to which one excerpted reaction from the Journal community itself was “I am in disbelief after reading this article.” The author is a Chinese mother, Amy Chua, a professor of law at Yale perhaps best known for writing the New York Times bestseller World on Fire.

The essay affirms that stereotypical Chinese parenting produces stereotypical cases of success for the children raised in that fashion — impeccable grade reports, precocious competence in the violin and piano (but mind you, those instruments and no other!), and fortitude of mind in the child to boot — and it explains how all this can be achieved by drawing on representative episodes from the author’s own experience as a Chinese mother. The most instructive and blood-chilling of these is the story of how little Lulu, Chua’s youngest daughter, was compelled to learn, just in time for her piano recital, how to play “The Little White Donkey” — a most difficult piece, apparently requiring uncommon ambidexterity, and, one would think, rapid and fluent communication between the hemispheres of a seven-year-old’s brain, across its not fully developed corpus callosum:

Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off. “Get back to the piano now,” I ordered. … She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic. … I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress. … Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

The author beams with pride over this “success story” and seems to consider it a vindication of her school of parenting against all naysayers. And throughout the article, starting from its title, she does little to disguise her scorn for Western parents, their tolerance for underachievement in their own children, and their squeamishness at the sight or report of the treatment other (luckier) children undergo every day in the hands of their Chinese mothers.

Having long been convinced that nothing harms stereotypical Western children more than their parents’ stereotypical laxness, I nevertheless find appalling much of what Chua states and even more of what she implies. Perhaps the foibles of modern Western parenting have grown so obvious and so ridiculous that any criticism of them is allowed to stick and any proposed alternative is welcomed; the more diametrically opposed to the status quo, the better even. But what Chua is prescribing in her article should not be rashly applauded by even the most frustrated critics of modern parenting mores. Read More

A certain essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” to which one excerpted reaction from the Journal community itself was “I am in disbelief after reading this article.” The author is a Chinese mother, Amy Chua, a professor of law at Yale perhaps best known for writing the New York Times bestseller World on Fire.

The essay affirms that stereotypical Chinese parenting produces stereotypical cases of success for the children raised in that fashion — impeccable grade reports, precocious competence in the violin and piano (but mind you, those instruments and no other!), and fortitude of mind in the child to boot — and it explains how all this can be achieved by drawing on representative episodes from the author’s own experience as a Chinese mother. The most instructive and blood-chilling of these is the story of how little Lulu, Chua’s youngest daughter, was compelled to learn, just in time for her piano recital, how to play “The Little White Donkey” — a most difficult piece, apparently requiring uncommon ambidexterity, and, one would think, rapid and fluent communication between the hemispheres of a seven-year-old’s brain, across its not fully developed corpus callosum:

Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off. “Get back to the piano now,” I ordered. … She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic. … I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress. … Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

The author beams with pride over this “success story” and seems to consider it a vindication of her school of parenting against all naysayers. And throughout the article, starting from its title, she does little to disguise her scorn for Western parents, their tolerance for underachievement in their own children, and their squeamishness at the sight or report of the treatment other (luckier) children undergo every day in the hands of their Chinese mothers.

Having long been convinced that nothing harms stereotypical Western children more than their parents’ stereotypical laxness, I nevertheless find appalling much of what Chua states and even more of what she implies. Perhaps the foibles of modern Western parenting have grown so obvious and so ridiculous that any criticism of them is allowed to stick and any proposed alternative is welcomed; the more diametrically opposed to the status quo, the better even. But what Chua is prescribing in her article should not be rashly applauded by even the most frustrated critics of modern parenting mores.

What’s right with Chinese parenting? It demands and expects the attainment of competence through perseverance and industry. It accepts no excuses for failure. It discourages trivial pursuits. It desensitizes children to occasional harshness from others, even loved ones. Now, is there anything wrong with Chinese parenting? I’d say plenty. The readiest hint can be found in Chua’s own opening: stereotypical Chinese parenting is responsible for cases of stereotypical success in the children subjected to it. It’s what it’s known for. Nothing more. One cannot imagine Da Vinci raised by a Florentine “Chinese” mother or Beethoven by a German one. Genius cannot develop and flourish when its would-be building materials have been deformed and forcibly molded to the shape of a narrow box designed by stereotypical Chinese parents. John Ruskin developed a singular mind in spite of an upbringing with some Chinese flavor to it, not because of it. And in Praeterita, his autobiography, he looks back with his usual keen discernment on the chief calamities of his childhood:

My judgment of right and wrong, and powers of independent action, were left entirely undeveloped; because the bridle and blinkers were never taken off me. Children should have their times of being off duty, like soldiers; and when once the obedience, if required, is certain, the little creature should be very early put for periods of practice in complete command of itself; set on the barebacked horse of its own will, and left to break it by its own strength. But the ceaseless authority exercised over my youth left me, when cast out at last into the world, unable for some time to do more than drift with its vortices. My present verdict, therefore, on the general tenor of my education at that time, must be, that it was at once too formal and too luxurious; leaving my character, at the most important moment for its construction, cramped indeed, but not disciplined; and only by protection innocent, instead of by practice virtuous.

What Ruskin laments the want of, in his own childhood, can be roughly summarized as the rudiments of Stoicism, which, if genius does not need them, the well-ordered mind of the upright citizen certainly does. Instilling Stoic values in a child by the Chinese method is a contradiction in terms. And any nobility of soul, grandeur of mind, or genuine self-discipline in man partakes of Stoic values. It is of this tradition of Stoicism — which, however modified, has shone bright in the high noon of every great Western culture — that we are the almost bankrupt heirs today. Only faint shadows of its former glory survive in popular culture. One of them, as it pertains to the upbringing of children, is the notion (sneered at by Chua), commonly accepted though perhaps misunderstood even by its adherents, that the child, as far as it is capable of rational thought, is a free agent, entitled to make its own decisions and deserving what minimal freedom it requires in order to follow the basic dictates of its conscience. The application of this principle in practice today almost always ends up in a grotesque caricature of its intended meaning, but that meaning itself is noble, and not only that, I will go further and say that an understanding of that meaning, whether conscious or intuitive, is necessary to the mental constitution of any citizen of a free society — just as necessary today as it was to the breeding of the English gentleman in the golden days of the Empire or to the education of the likes of Cato the Younger, Cicero, and Seneca.

To be the master of oneself and one’s passions, to understand the rightness of one’s moral law and to obey it out of a sense of inward affinity to what’s good and natural; to practice virtue as its own reward, freely; to view one’s sense of duty serenely and make it one with one’s will and desires; and to stand firm in the face of hardship or even annihilation, without bending to coercion from tyrants or losing oneself in any frenzied mob — this is the ideal of discipline that cuts against the grain of the Chinese method, which, despite the good intentions of many of its practitioners, must be recognized for what it is: i.e., the relic of an authoritarian and collectivistic, however stable, culture and a tool for the perpetuation of the same. The mettle to confront mortal danger, eagerly if principle requires it and always with composure, does not come from yielding in childhood to threats of starvation, corporeal punishment, sequestration of property, and the like. On the contrary, someone who values freedom and deserves it tries to teach himself and his child to be indifferent to such debasing stimuli; whereas a child raised to respond to them — and their lowest common denominator is always brute force — grows up to be a cowardly, obedient serf of his parents, elders, and dictators. The only form of discipline he learns is that of endurance, which is also the main virtue he is expected to practice throughout his life as the subject of an absolute external authority that can’t be argued or reasoned with. But said serf might learn to play “The Little White Donkey” at the age of seven, and that’s worth something, right?

In all earnestness, please consider the premises of Chinese parenting as laid out in Chua’s own words:

a) Children are not allowed to 1) play any instrument other than the piano and violin, 2) not play the piano and violin, 3) choose their own extracurricular activities. (Even Socialist Realism permits greater freedom of expression.)

b) Children owe their parents everything (as do citizens to the State).

c) Parents know what is best for their children and therefore override all their children’s own desires and preferences. (The state knows what’s best for the little people and gets it done against their will, but with their best interests very much at heart. Isn’t this how the Communist Party of China justifies its autocratic rule to itself and to the rest of the world?)

In light of all this, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Amy Chua’s bestseller is subtitled “How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.”

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Morning Commentary

Despite the beltway chatter about President Obama’s recent “moves to the center,” Charles Krauthammer points out that the “shift” was just for show. Far from embracing a more moderate course, the president has instead used administrative power to stealthily impose several unpopular left-wing policies: “Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of Dec. 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.”

The U.S. military’s recent crackdown on the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan is paying dividends. Officials confirmed this morning that NATO forces took out the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz, Mullah Mawlawi Bahadur, last night. But the Washington Examiner’s Sara Carter reports that the region has also seen a steady increase in insurgents over the past year.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looks back on the 111th Congress — and the assessment is not pretty: “The real story of 2010 is that the voters were finally able to see and judge this liberal agenda in its unvarnished form. For once, there was no Republican President to muddle the message or divide the accountability.”

At the New Republic, Eric Weinberger wonders whether academic freedom will be protected at Yale’s new college in Singapore. The idea seems unlikely given the trial of Alan Shadrake, a British journalist facing prison in that country for publishing an allegedly “defamatory” book about Singapore’s justice system.

M. Zuhdi Jasser throws his support behind Rep. Peter King’s plans to hold hearings on Islamic radicalization before the House Homeland Security Council next year: “Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.”

Secret papers released by the National Archives reveal how strained was the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Menachem Begin, who clashed over Begin’s support of the settlements in the West Bank. According to the papers, “Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the ‘most difficult’ man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy ‘absurd.’”

Despite the beltway chatter about President Obama’s recent “moves to the center,” Charles Krauthammer points out that the “shift” was just for show. Far from embracing a more moderate course, the president has instead used administrative power to stealthily impose several unpopular left-wing policies: “Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of Dec. 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.”

The U.S. military’s recent crackdown on the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan is paying dividends. Officials confirmed this morning that NATO forces took out the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz, Mullah Mawlawi Bahadur, last night. But the Washington Examiner’s Sara Carter reports that the region has also seen a steady increase in insurgents over the past year.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looks back on the 111th Congress — and the assessment is not pretty: “The real story of 2010 is that the voters were finally able to see and judge this liberal agenda in its unvarnished form. For once, there was no Republican President to muddle the message or divide the accountability.”

At the New Republic, Eric Weinberger wonders whether academic freedom will be protected at Yale’s new college in Singapore. The idea seems unlikely given the trial of Alan Shadrake, a British journalist facing prison in that country for publishing an allegedly “defamatory” book about Singapore’s justice system.

M. Zuhdi Jasser throws his support behind Rep. Peter King’s plans to hold hearings on Islamic radicalization before the House Homeland Security Council next year: “Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.”

Secret papers released by the National Archives reveal how strained was the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Menachem Begin, who clashed over Begin’s support of the settlements in the West Bank. According to the papers, “Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the ‘most difficult’ man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy ‘absurd.’”

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DADT Will Soon Be a Non-Event

In a year’s time, I predict, the lifting of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military will have become a non-event. The military will adjust, as it always does, sooner or later, to social trends. The military rules that now govern relations between men and women will be extended to gays. There will undoubtedly be issues of sexual harassment and sexual relations and sexual tensions to handle — just as there are today. But handle them the military will.

There will not be, I predict, much resistance within the ranks, a few nasty comments by hard-bitten NCOs aside, because attitudes toward gays have shifted so much toward acceptance in the years since DADT was enacted in 1993. In any case, the numbers involved will be small (gays are a tiny minority of the population and presumably only a tiny minority of that minority will sign up for uniformed service — just as only a tiny minority of the heterosexual population volunteers). So their incorporation will not be disruptive and will not change the overall culture of the armed forces, much less lead to a loss of combat competence — which is as high as it has ever been because today’s troops have seen action nonstop since 2001.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of this policy change will be the return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Already Harvard and Yale are talking about reinstating their ROTC programs. This, too, will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society’s elites.

In a year’s time, I predict, the lifting of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to allow gays to serve openly in the military will have become a non-event. The military will adjust, as it always does, sooner or later, to social trends. The military rules that now govern relations between men and women will be extended to gays. There will undoubtedly be issues of sexual harassment and sexual relations and sexual tensions to handle — just as there are today. But handle them the military will.

There will not be, I predict, much resistance within the ranks, a few nasty comments by hard-bitten NCOs aside, because attitudes toward gays have shifted so much toward acceptance in the years since DADT was enacted in 1993. In any case, the numbers involved will be small (gays are a tiny minority of the population and presumably only a tiny minority of that minority will sign up for uniformed service — just as only a tiny minority of the heterosexual population volunteers). So their incorporation will not be disruptive and will not change the overall culture of the armed forces, much less lead to a loss of combat competence — which is as high as it has ever been because today’s troops have seen action nonstop since 2001.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of this policy change will be the return of ROTC to Ivy League campuses. Already Harvard and Yale are talking about reinstating their ROTC programs. This, too, will not make much of a change in either the Ivy League or the military, but it is a small, welcome step toward bridging the chasm that separates the armed forces from society’s elites.

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What We Had Here Was Not a Failure to Communicate

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions – but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

The day before the election, the New York Review of Books posted a rant about right-wing radio and TV hosts by Yale professor David Bromwich.

Regarding Rush Limbaugh, Bromwich mixed faux analysis (“Limbaugh seldom speaks overtly about race,” but “no careful listener can doubt that race is an element”) with personal insults (Limbaugh is a “demagogue” with a “sadistic streak” who “mixes truth and falsehood at pleasure” and is “almost infantile in his self-love”). Bromwich’s analysis of Glenn Beck was that he is a “charlatan” with an “alarmingly incoherent personality” who exerts his “strongest enchantment” when he “goes awry.” Nuanced.

It was surprising to see an article composed of little more than ad hominem attacks published in a journal with intellectual pretensions – but perhaps it simply reflected the well-known fact that left-wing intellectuals are hard-wired to write like that when they are scared.

Bromwich’s piece was a reminder of the leftist tendency to oscillate between love of the people in the abstract and disappointment in actually existing people. Two years ago, the people who attended Obama rallies were the people we were waiting for; two years later, the president’s press secretary told them to get drug-tested, the vice president lectured them to stop whining, and the president warned them he was beginning to think they were not serious. And those were the supporters; opponents were branded class enemies.

Bromwich attributes Obama’s political problems not to his policies or programs but to the absence of an effective communications strategy:

Looking back, one feels it was an astonishing negligence for the Obama White House to embark on a campaign for national health care without a solid strategy for fighting the tenacious opposition it could expect at the hands of Fox radio and TV.

Bromwich does not indicate what the strategy should have been — only that it should have been solid (solid strategies are the best kind). But if you can’t convince the public of your program when you have the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC), public television (PBS), the most established cable news network (CNN), the “news” show most watched by young voters (The Daily Show), and unlimited access to the bully pulpit, it is not likely that your problem was the hands of a single network. More likely it was the people.

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The Laws of War Evidently Don’t Apply to Israel

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

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Ahmadinejad Goes to Yale

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

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The Afghan Study Group Opines

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

Something called the Afghan Study Group has produced a report on “A New Way Forward in Afghanistan.” A quick glance at the list of signatories shows a group of individuals who are not exactly notable for their expertise in Afghanistan but who can be counted on to oppose any plan of winning a war, be it the “surge” in Iraq or the one now going on in Afghanistan. For instance: Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman, left-wing blogger and Arabist Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas, telecom executive Leo Hindery, the notorious Iran apologists Flynt and Hillary Leverett, and, of course, anti-Israel propagandist Stephen Walt of Harvard. There are, to be sure, among the people who have signed on, a few who have actually spent some time in the region, such as former State Department employee Matthew Hoh and think-tanker Selig Harrison. But the report is notable for its standard anti-war bromides rather than any convincing “way forward” and certainly not for any “new way” put forth.

My article in COMMENTARY, on the “Case for Optimism,” offers a detailed rebuttal of many of the vapid arguments they make, but a few further observations are in order. First there is the wishful thinking that somehow victory isn’t important: “Protecting our interests does not require a U.S. military victory over the Taliban,” they write. “A Taliban takeover is unlikely even if the United States reduces its military commitment … and the risk of a new ‘safe haven’ there under more ‘friendly’ Taliban rule is overstated.” Talk about a triumph of hope over experience. The Taliban took over Afghanistan in the 1990s when the U.S. wasn’t involved and immediately turned their country into a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Why would they do any differently today? If anything, the ties between al-Qaeda and the Taliban are stronger today than they were in the 1990s.

Their recommendations are really grasping for straws. They loudly demand: “Emphasize power-sharing and political inclusion,” “encourage economic development,” and “engage regional and global stakeholders in a diplomatic effort designed to guarantee Afghan neutrality and foster regional stability.” As if the U.S. hasn’t been doing all of the above since 2001. Guess what? It hasn’t worked. The Taliban are a determined, well-armed insurgency group and they see no reason to reach a power-sharing deal, no matter what “regional and global stakeholders” say. Of course, there is not a hint of how key stakeholders such as Iran and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, can be convinced to cut them off. Instead, there is a blind hope that somehow “economic development” will ameliorate Afghanistan’s woes in the face of abundant evidence that the economic aid provided since 2001 has instead made the situation worse in many respects, by fueling out-of-control corruption.

The authors of this report, with their faith in negotiating with the enemy, would do well to read this recent Wall Street Journal dispatch by ace correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov, which notes what anyone with any knowledge of Afghanistan already knows. First, that “Afghanistan’s three largest ethnic minorities” oppose “outreach to the Taliban, which they said could pave the way for the fundamentalist group’s return to power and reignite civil war.” Second, “Unless it is dealt a decisive setback in coming months, the only thing the Taliban may be interested in negotiating with Mr. Karzai is how to secure control of the central government in Kabul.” Third, “Few Afghans … believe that the Taliban, who already control ethnic Pashtun pockets throughout northern and western Afghanistan, would really stop the war after gaining the south and the east.”

In other words, negotiations with the Taliban would not result in some kind of painless resolution of the long-running war. It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s. The members of the Afghan Study Group seem to think that outcome would be in America’s interests. Luckily President Obama does not. He has been right to increase our commitment in Afghanistan in the face of such feckless second-guessing on the home front. I only hope he keeps his nerve as pressure builds for a premature pullout that would hand the jihadists their biggest victory ever.

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President Obama: Jimmy Carter Redux?

That’s not my own title — that’s the subject of a Politico forum on whether Obama is another failed president. I think we can all agree that Obama is in bad shape if that’s the conversation.

Stuart Gottlieb of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale has this to say:

For 18 months Obama supporters, especially in the media, have returned time and again to the “Reagan analogy” — a transformative president comes to office in a time of deep economic recession and intense foreign policy challenge, charts a bold course, loses popularity (and many seats in Congress) during his first term, only to see his economic and foreign policy visions vindicated in time for a landslide re-election and a revered place in presidential history. Unfortunately, Obama has thus far charted an opposite course.

Steven G. Calabresi of Northwestern University adds:

Obama is showing signs of serious incompetence in crisis management with the Gulf oil spill that do call to mind memories of Jimmy Carter’s botched effort to manage the Iranian hostage crisis. In addition, he is projecting U.S. weakness abroad which is emboldening Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and North Korea to take aggressive anti-Western threats. At home, he is pursuing economic policies that will eventually lead to a return to the stagflation of the 1970s. There is essentially no new jobs creation in the private sector because Obama has scared the daylights out of small businesses and no one wants to invest or expand in this economic climate. Meanwhile, the steady cranking of the government printing presses to pay for our gargantuan deficits almost guarantees that inflation will eventually return. Once the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, the recovery will take a huge hit as taxes go up. Higher unemployment, higher inflation, and ultimately higher interest rates are what lie before us. Taken together these three things mean a higher misery Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if this trip back to the 1970s were limited to just wearing bell bottoms! But, it is not.

The Democrats’ rebuttals aren’t that effective. Patrick J. Egan says: “The Gulf oil spill is certainly hurting and humbling the Obama presidency. But unlike the Iranian hostage crisis, the disaster does not give Republicans any evidence they can use to promote an obvious policy alternative.” Umm, executive incompetence? A government stretched too thin to do the fundamental tasks? A blame-somebody-else fixation? Surely they can do better than that.

This, from Princeton’s Julian E. Zelizer, might be the wisest counsel:

Carter stumbled as a result of the difficulties he faced heading his own party – failing to offer policies that nurtured intraparty alliances – as well particular decisions that he made which did not offer effective political responses to the crises. President Obama is still early in his presidency and can chart a different history for himself. But Carter’s history is one he should take a close look at.

True, but does Obama know he’s failing? Does he want to change? We’ve seen no evidence of that to date, but maybe after the midterms, there will be some soul-searching in the White House.

That’s not my own title — that’s the subject of a Politico forum on whether Obama is another failed president. I think we can all agree that Obama is in bad shape if that’s the conversation.

Stuart Gottlieb of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale has this to say:

For 18 months Obama supporters, especially in the media, have returned time and again to the “Reagan analogy” — a transformative president comes to office in a time of deep economic recession and intense foreign policy challenge, charts a bold course, loses popularity (and many seats in Congress) during his first term, only to see his economic and foreign policy visions vindicated in time for a landslide re-election and a revered place in presidential history. Unfortunately, Obama has thus far charted an opposite course.

Steven G. Calabresi of Northwestern University adds:

Obama is showing signs of serious incompetence in crisis management with the Gulf oil spill that do call to mind memories of Jimmy Carter’s botched effort to manage the Iranian hostage crisis. In addition, he is projecting U.S. weakness abroad which is emboldening Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and North Korea to take aggressive anti-Western threats. At home, he is pursuing economic policies that will eventually lead to a return to the stagflation of the 1970s. There is essentially no new jobs creation in the private sector because Obama has scared the daylights out of small businesses and no one wants to invest or expand in this economic climate. Meanwhile, the steady cranking of the government printing presses to pay for our gargantuan deficits almost guarantees that inflation will eventually return. Once the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year, the recovery will take a huge hit as taxes go up. Higher unemployment, higher inflation, and ultimately higher interest rates are what lie before us. Taken together these three things mean a higher misery Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if this trip back to the 1970s were limited to just wearing bell bottoms! But, it is not.

The Democrats’ rebuttals aren’t that effective. Patrick J. Egan says: “The Gulf oil spill is certainly hurting and humbling the Obama presidency. But unlike the Iranian hostage crisis, the disaster does not give Republicans any evidence they can use to promote an obvious policy alternative.” Umm, executive incompetence? A government stretched too thin to do the fundamental tasks? A blame-somebody-else fixation? Surely they can do better than that.

This, from Princeton’s Julian E. Zelizer, might be the wisest counsel:

Carter stumbled as a result of the difficulties he faced heading his own party – failing to offer policies that nurtured intraparty alliances – as well particular decisions that he made which did not offer effective political responses to the crises. President Obama is still early in his presidency and can chart a different history for himself. But Carter’s history is one he should take a close look at.

True, but does Obama know he’s failing? Does he want to change? We’ve seen no evidence of that to date, but maybe after the midterms, there will be some soul-searching in the White House.

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RE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

Noah Pollak’s superb piece on Beinart prompts, first, my regret that I left Yale just before Noah arrived, so I can’t claim to have taught him anything.  But it, along with Benjamin Kerstein’s essay on “Liberalism and Zionism,” prompts a further reflection. Both Noah and Ben argue that Beinart exemplifies the vacuity of liberalism. As Noah puts it, “Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel. … In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.”

True. But it is both more and less than that. For Beinart is not really writing about Israel at all. For him, and for the thousands of allies this lonely man possesses, the real issue is that, as Ben points out, Israel was born of a 19th-century nationalist impulse. At the time, that was not illiberal. On the contrary, support for national self-determination, as long as the people in question were capable of founding and sustaining a legitimate, sovereign state, was the essence of liberalism. The only difference was that the Jewish people, instead of being oppressed by one foreign power — as the Poles were by the Russians, or the Greeks by the Turks — were being oppressed by many.

The problem today is not that the peace process has failed or that this reveals the failure of the liberal vision. All that is true enough. The problem is that the liberal vision itself has changed. Not all liberals reject the nation-state, but suspicion of the nation-state as the organizing unit for the world does stem predominantly from the left. In view of the importance that the left attaches to the state as the provider of welfare benefits, this is both ironic and contradictory. But it does not change the fact that one reason liberals (especially those of a European persuasion) have fallen out of love with Israel is that it — along with the United States — was founded on and persists in maintaining a democratic and nationalist vision.

This is why the liberal critics bracket Israel and the U.S. They claim they do so because the U.S. supports Israel. Actually, they do it because they reject the worldview on which both nations are founded, the worldview that has motivated the U.S. to support Israel. For the critics, democracy and nationalism must ultimately be in conflict. Hence the importance of the EU and transnational initiatives like the International Criminal Court. This is a worldview founded in the European reaction to the Second World War. The fact that this war led to the destruction of the European nations and the rise of the Israeli one is another reason for anti-national liberals to look upon it with scorn: to them, Israel appears to be resisting the lessons of history.

The failure of the peace process undoubtedly contributes to the rising scorn. But the liberal retreat from Israel began long before Oslo and its failure.  It dates from the 1967 war, which shocked the newly sensitive souls of many on the left. Israel, in other words, is really a case study. It was protected for a time from the decay of the ideology of liberal nationalism on the left by the socialism of many of its founders and by the horror of the Holocaust. But that immunity began to expire two generations ago, and the process is continuing, as essays like Beinart’s reveal. The fact that Beinart himself believes he is writing uniquely and revealingly about Israel is just more evidence that liberals of his ilk have no idea how far they have drifted from the ideology their forebears celebrated.

Noah Pollak’s superb piece on Beinart prompts, first, my regret that I left Yale just before Noah arrived, so I can’t claim to have taught him anything.  But it, along with Benjamin Kerstein’s essay on “Liberalism and Zionism,” prompts a further reflection. Both Noah and Ben argue that Beinart exemplifies the vacuity of liberalism. As Noah puts it, “Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel. … In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.”

True. But it is both more and less than that. For Beinart is not really writing about Israel at all. For him, and for the thousands of allies this lonely man possesses, the real issue is that, as Ben points out, Israel was born of a 19th-century nationalist impulse. At the time, that was not illiberal. On the contrary, support for national self-determination, as long as the people in question were capable of founding and sustaining a legitimate, sovereign state, was the essence of liberalism. The only difference was that the Jewish people, instead of being oppressed by one foreign power — as the Poles were by the Russians, or the Greeks by the Turks — were being oppressed by many.

The problem today is not that the peace process has failed or that this reveals the failure of the liberal vision. All that is true enough. The problem is that the liberal vision itself has changed. Not all liberals reject the nation-state, but suspicion of the nation-state as the organizing unit for the world does stem predominantly from the left. In view of the importance that the left attaches to the state as the provider of welfare benefits, this is both ironic and contradictory. But it does not change the fact that one reason liberals (especially those of a European persuasion) have fallen out of love with Israel is that it — along with the United States — was founded on and persists in maintaining a democratic and nationalist vision.

This is why the liberal critics bracket Israel and the U.S. They claim they do so because the U.S. supports Israel. Actually, they do it because they reject the worldview on which both nations are founded, the worldview that has motivated the U.S. to support Israel. For the critics, democracy and nationalism must ultimately be in conflict. Hence the importance of the EU and transnational initiatives like the International Criminal Court. This is a worldview founded in the European reaction to the Second World War. The fact that this war led to the destruction of the European nations and the rise of the Israeli one is another reason for anti-national liberals to look upon it with scorn: to them, Israel appears to be resisting the lessons of history.

The failure of the peace process undoubtedly contributes to the rising scorn. But the liberal retreat from Israel began long before Oslo and its failure.  It dates from the 1967 war, which shocked the newly sensitive souls of many on the left. Israel, in other words, is really a case study. It was protected for a time from the decay of the ideology of liberal nationalism on the left by the socialism of many of its founders and by the horror of the Holocaust. But that immunity began to expire two generations ago, and the process is continuing, as essays like Beinart’s reveal. The fact that Beinart himself believes he is writing uniquely and revealingly about Israel is just more evidence that liberals of his ilk have no idea how far they have drifted from the ideology their forebears celebrated.

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RE: Kagan’s Vulnerability

Emily Bazelon at Slate writes in defense of Elena Kagan:

She was one of 40 law professors who signed that brief. In law school faculties at the time, people were falling over themselves to oppose the Solomon Amendment. Eight other universities filed briefs, along with 56 Columbia law professors and 44 Yale law professors. At some schools, it was out of the mainstream not to sign. Obama has already said it’s time to start getting rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The White House can support Kagan’s stand on this issue without taking on a new political battle.

Hmm. Is this argument meant to persuade us that Kagan is in the mainstream of judicial thought, or rather that there is something terribly wrong with the law professors who populate elite universities? All of these people got the law wrong. Really wrong — 8-0 wrong.

Moreover, you will note how easily the left conflates a policy issue — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is bad, so we’re getting rid of it — with the legal argument that proved to be a dead-bang loser at the Supreme Court. Bazelon muddles the two. The question is: did Kagan? And, more important, will she do so on the Court?

Emily Bazelon at Slate writes in defense of Elena Kagan:

She was one of 40 law professors who signed that brief. In law school faculties at the time, people were falling over themselves to oppose the Solomon Amendment. Eight other universities filed briefs, along with 56 Columbia law professors and 44 Yale law professors. At some schools, it was out of the mainstream not to sign. Obama has already said it’s time to start getting rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The White House can support Kagan’s stand on this issue without taking on a new political battle.

Hmm. Is this argument meant to persuade us that Kagan is in the mainstream of judicial thought, or rather that there is something terribly wrong with the law professors who populate elite universities? All of these people got the law wrong. Really wrong — 8-0 wrong.

Moreover, you will note how easily the left conflates a policy issue — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is bad, so we’re getting rid of it — with the legal argument that proved to be a dead-bang loser at the Supreme Court. Bazelon muddles the two. The question is: did Kagan? And, more important, will she do so on the Court?

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Yale Names Its World Fellows

Yale’s just announced its 2010 class of World Fellows, its pallid imitation of the Rhodes. Two biographies caught my eye:

Lumumba Di-Aping (Sudan)

Deputy Permanent Representative, Sudan Mission to United Nations. A diplomat and chief negotiator on financial and economic affairs, Di-Aping represented developing countries as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China at the recent Copenhagen climate change conference.

and

May Tony Akl (Lebanon)

Foreign Press Secretary, Office of MP Michel Aoun. Akl advises former Prime Minister Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. She is a founding member of the Free Patriotic Movement.

So who do we have? We have a representative of the criminal and genocidal Sudanese regime who made headlines earlier in the year when he claimed that the Copenhagen climate-change agreement was “a solution based on values that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.” And we have the press secretary for the former Lebanese PM and party allied with Hezbollah.

Great choices, Yale, great choices.

Yale’s just announced its 2010 class of World Fellows, its pallid imitation of the Rhodes. Two biographies caught my eye:

Lumumba Di-Aping (Sudan)

Deputy Permanent Representative, Sudan Mission to United Nations. A diplomat and chief negotiator on financial and economic affairs, Di-Aping represented developing countries as Chairman of the Group of 77 and China at the recent Copenhagen climate change conference.

and

May Tony Akl (Lebanon)

Foreign Press Secretary, Office of MP Michel Aoun. Akl advises former Prime Minister Aoun, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc. She is a founding member of the Free Patriotic Movement.

So who do we have? We have a representative of the criminal and genocidal Sudanese regime who made headlines earlier in the year when he claimed that the Copenhagen climate-change agreement was “a solution based on values that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.” And we have the press secretary for the former Lebanese PM and party allied with Hezbollah.

Great choices, Yale, great choices.

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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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Liberal Legal Pundit Behaving Badly?

It’s not quite John Edwards territory, but it’s close. The New York Daily News (h/t Glenn Reynolds) reports:

One of the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals went public Wednesday when married CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin squared off with a woman who says he’s the father of her baby. Yale-educated lawyer Casey Greenfield — the daughter of eminent CBS News analyst Jeff Greenfield — had a chilly faceoff with Toobin in Manhattan Family Court. … Toobin, who glumly sat several rows away from Casey Greenfield before the hearing, is said to have privately admitted to fathering the child, believed to have been born last summer, sources said. A friend of Greenfield’s said the outspoken Toobin has resisted putting his name on the infant’s birth certificate and hasn’t given his former lover the child support she’s requested.

(Toobin is married to his “college sweetheart,” we are told, and has two teenage daughters.) Well this is a little embarrassing for someone who opines on others’ legal obligations.

And then there is the deliciously revealing suggestion (“One of  the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals”) that the media, again, were not reporting a sex scandal that the media would rather not report on. Is this a protect-their-own racket or just the run-of-the-mill “give liberals a break” rule? Hard to say. I’m sure the Gray Lady’s Clark Hoyt and the rest of the mainstream media ombudspeople will get on it right away. Because, after all, they have no problem reporting on Republican sex scandals, no matter how sketchy the sourcing.

It’s not quite John Edwards territory, but it’s close. The New York Daily News (h/t Glenn Reynolds) reports:

One of the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals went public Wednesday when married CNN correspondent Jeffrey Toobin squared off with a woman who says he’s the father of her baby. Yale-educated lawyer Casey Greenfield — the daughter of eminent CBS News analyst Jeff Greenfield — had a chilly faceoff with Toobin in Manhattan Family Court. … Toobin, who glumly sat several rows away from Casey Greenfield before the hearing, is said to have privately admitted to fathering the child, believed to have been born last summer, sources said. A friend of Greenfield’s said the outspoken Toobin has resisted putting his name on the infant’s birth certificate and hasn’t given his former lover the child support she’s requested.

(Toobin is married to his “college sweetheart,” we are told, and has two teenage daughters.) Well this is a little embarrassing for someone who opines on others’ legal obligations.

And then there is the deliciously revealing suggestion (“One of  the media elite’s most whispered-about scandals”) that the media, again, were not reporting a sex scandal that the media would rather not report on. Is this a protect-their-own racket or just the run-of-the-mill “give liberals a break” rule? Hard to say. I’m sure the Gray Lady’s Clark Hoyt and the rest of the mainstream media ombudspeople will get on it right away. Because, after all, they have no problem reporting on Republican sex scandals, no matter how sketchy the sourcing.

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Obama Envoy Vouched for Convicted Terrorist?

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

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Climate-Change Skepticism on the Rise

Those who wondered how Climategate and Himalayagate would affect public opinion need look no further. A new study released today by Yale and George Mason researchers reports that since fall 2008, “public concern about global warming has dropped sharply.” Notably, the study finds public trust in both scientists and politicians has also decreased, as has confidence that a climate-change consensus exists among scientists.

Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, says the results are not the consequence of Climategate alone — or, as he wryly puts it, “a set of emails stolen from climate scientists and used by critics to allege scientific misconduct.” Instead, he suggests that unemployment, the health-care debate, and general frustration with Washington have “largely push[ed] climate change out of the news.”

But that’s an unlikely hypothesis, especially given high-profile events like Copenhagen. In fact, the Google News Archives graph seems to show, if anything, an uptick in news coverage about climate change. The fact is, there has been effulgent coverage on climate change lately — and this study suggests that the public doesn’t like what it sees.

Perhaps most interesting is the statement made by Edward Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication:

The scientific evidence is clear that climate change is real, human-caused and a serious threat to communities across America. … The erosion in both public concern and public trust about global warming should be a clarion call for people and organizations trying to educate the public about this important issue.

If Mr. Maibach really believes that the evidence is so clear-cut, he’s absolutely right; in light of the climate-change community’s recent woes, the public would welcome an education from scientists who both present and defend the evidence for climate change.

Those who wondered how Climategate and Himalayagate would affect public opinion need look no further. A new study released today by Yale and George Mason researchers reports that since fall 2008, “public concern about global warming has dropped sharply.” Notably, the study finds public trust in both scientists and politicians has also decreased, as has confidence that a climate-change consensus exists among scientists.

Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, says the results are not the consequence of Climategate alone — or, as he wryly puts it, “a set of emails stolen from climate scientists and used by critics to allege scientific misconduct.” Instead, he suggests that unemployment, the health-care debate, and general frustration with Washington have “largely push[ed] climate change out of the news.”

But that’s an unlikely hypothesis, especially given high-profile events like Copenhagen. In fact, the Google News Archives graph seems to show, if anything, an uptick in news coverage about climate change. The fact is, there has been effulgent coverage on climate change lately — and this study suggests that the public doesn’t like what it sees.

Perhaps most interesting is the statement made by Edward Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication:

The scientific evidence is clear that climate change is real, human-caused and a serious threat to communities across America. … The erosion in both public concern and public trust about global warming should be a clarion call for people and organizations trying to educate the public about this important issue.

If Mr. Maibach really believes that the evidence is so clear-cut, he’s absolutely right; in light of the climate-change community’s recent woes, the public would welcome an education from scientists who both present and defend the evidence for climate change.

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