To the Editor:
Casting himself as a civil libertarian concerned with “real-world outcomes,” Andrew C. McCarthy resurrects Alan M. Dershowitz’s “torture warrant” idea, but with a twist [“Torture: Thinking About the Unthinkable,” July-August]. Like Dershowitz, Mr. McCarthy objects to those who “mouth . . . opposition to all torture while knowing full well that forms of it are occurring.” “By imposing an absolute ban on something we know is occurring,” he claims, “we promote disrespect for the rule of law in general and abdicate our duty to enact tailored and meaningful regulations.”
The solution, according to Mr. McCarthy, is not to allow any federal judge to issue a torture warrant, as Dershowitz advocates, but to create a specialized court for that purpose—something akin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Such a court, he contends, could “develop an expertise” on when torture is necessary for counterterrorist purposes.
Both the premise of Mr. McCarthy’s argument and his proposed solution are flawed. In fact, one does not “promote disrespect for the rule of law” by imposing a ban that some people still violate. Armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape all regularly occur, but no one believes that the absolute ban on these crimes undermines the law, or that it would be better to “regulate” them by, say, outlining when rape might be justified. Rather, these crimes prompt us to redouble our enforcement efforts. The crime of torture should be no different.
Indeed, if Mr. McCarthy were really concerned with “real-world outcomes,” he would worry about the legitimizing effect of ever officially authorizing torture. An absolute ban makes clear that torture is never justified, but a qualified regulation signals that torture might sometimes be acceptable. That permissive signal encourages more torture.
Israel provides a case in point. Its 1987 Landau Commission tried to regulate torture by justifying the use of “moderate physical pressure” in rare cases deemed necessary to prevent an imminent terrorist attack—the so-called ticking-bomb scenario that torture proponents love to invoke. But the ticking-bomb scenario is infinitely elastic, and Israeli interrogators aggressively exploited it. In the quest to save lives, they figured, why stop with the terrorist suspect himself? Why not torture his associates who might know something about an attack? And why stop with an imminent attack? Are the potential victims of future attacks not just as worthy of protection? The slope became very slippery. By the time the Israeli Supreme Court stepped in and called an end to this misguided experiment, in 1999, some 80 percent of Palestinian detainees were being tortured.
As for Mr. McCarthy’s faith in specialized national-security tribunals like the FISA court, it is misplaced at best. From 1993 to 2003, the FISA court considered 9,955 applications for wiretaps. It approved all but five. This blank-check approach to official national-security claims should hardly surprise us, because—as is required in national-security cases—the proceedings are closed and ex parte. Never hearing from anyone but the government, the court naturally defers to its claims of necessity. There is no reason to believe that a torture court, facing similarly urgent ex parte claims, would be any less deferential.
Human Rights Watch
New York City
To the Editor:
Under U.S. law, no torture is permitted—period. This is not the outcome Andrew C. McCarthy wishes. He wants the government to be able to torture—and to have justification for it. “Suppose,” he writes, “that a radiological bomb will be detonated momentarily in the heart of a major metropolis.”
In this set-up, we are asked to assume that thousands will die unless torture is practiced. But is Mr. McCarthy’s argument just quantitative? Though it might be less dramatic to “save” one life rather than thousands by resorting to torture, it would be no less justified according to his logic.
Next, in Mr. McCarthy’s scenario, we have on the one hand an imminent catastrophe (the ticking time bomb) and on the other hand a judicial procedure to obtain a legal warrant for torture, which cannot possibly be completed in time. We are asked to believe that at the critical moment the Attorney General will go before a judge, respond to questions, hear the decision, and then communicate it to the state’s torturers, who will then begin their legal acts—all within the framework of a crisis.
We are also asked to believe that this special judge will actually weigh whether to grant the warrant. What judge would choose to err on the side of the one for whom torture is proposed? If wrong, the judge faces the possibility of thousands dying because he did not grant the warrant. If he does grant the warrant and the torture victim has no information, only one innocent person will have suffered and there will be no publicity. Which risk is the experienced judge more likely to take?
And what happens if the “torture-lite” advocated by Mr. McCarthy is insufficient to produce the alleged information? Is he proposing that we simply give up and let those thousands die? What happens if the state’s licensed torturers then adopt more severe methods? Would Mr. McCarthy demand their prosecution for violation of the warrant?
Under the guise of tough practical thinking, Mr. McCarthy tries to have it both ways. But there is no clean, antiseptic manner to engage in torture.
To the Editor:
Andrew C. McCarthy’s claim that he is bringing “rationality” to a subject that has until now been mired in emotionalism is breathtaking in its arrogance. His accusation that human-rights activists are giving comfort to terrorists is truly beneath contempt. The use of torture by agents of the United States has been a colossal moral and political disaster. The revelations coming from the outing of the torture memos produced by the staff of the Justice Department have sickened many in the legal community, and remind one of the clever work of the judicial arm of the German state during the 1930’s.
The idea that the U.S. should contain terror by enshrining terror in its own legal system would not deserve a reply but for its appearance in Commentary. Mr. McCarthy offers nothing to support his contention that such corruption of this nation’s values would be justified. There have been no intelligence coups based upon the Abu Ghraib interrogations. The only noticeable result has been the debasement of our national character in the eyes of the world community. This, at a time when we are trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the very people our soldiers have been torturing.
There is nothing that Mr. McCarthy proposes in his essay that has not been done in the past when this country has confronted unconventional forces. We tortured and we terrorized and we lost. We lost on many levels.
To the Editor:
Exceptional circumstances in which persons are permitted to transgress the law are very difficult to define with precision. That is why the criminal law usually sticks with general prohibitions and allows for things like the necessity defense to cover and protect those who violate the law in good faith to prevent an evil of greater magnitude than the one the violated law was meant to deter.
I cannot imagine rules and regulations that would adequately cover every instance in which torture might be morally and legally justifiable; nor can I imagine a court authorizing torture as a matter of public record. I consider it preferable to do what most other nations do: have strongly worded laws prohibiting torture in general. When a violation occurs and is publicly revealed, the offending country can say, “It was a violation of our law and stated policy. The violators will be tried and punished.”
The decision whether or not to employ torture during interrogations should be left in the hands of a person whose judgment is trusted, who is not visibly connected with civilian authority, and who is willing to undergo the risk of criminal punishment if his necessity defense does not hold up in court. Hypocritical? Perhaps, but at least it is a workable solution. Mr. McCarthy’s solution is not.
Barton L. Ingraham
Santa Fe, New Mexico
To the Editor:
On the whole I liked Andrew C. McCarthy’s article, but it has two defects. First, he does not mention the argument of the great humanitarian, Jeremy Bentham, that torture should be permitted in cases of large-scale arson. This was the closest early 19th-century approximation to our problem with modern terrorists. If even Bentham made an exception for this particular crime, it is hard to argue that people who favor torture for terrorists are necessarily wrong. It should, of course, be pointed out that what Bentham was thinking of in connection with torture was much more painful than anything we have done in Iraq.
An argument against torture is that we could achieve the same ends simply by paying large sums of money for information. In order to use torture, you have to find someone who has information you want. If you offer rewards, these people come to see you voluntarily. The use of rewards for information has been an important part of British police techniques for centuries. I would argue that we should totally abandon torture, or simple mistreatment like that used in Iraq, but offer large amounts of money together with anonymity for information. This is not only more humane, it should be much more effective.
George Mason University
To the Editor:
Andrew C. McCarthy delves deeply into the reasoning for forswearing the use of torture, but somehow he misses the principal point. The United States should only consider giving up the use of this instrument if, and only if, it can extract a credible promise from its enemies to do likewise. Such agreements should be entered into on a case-by-case basis, and considered only when the outcome of such an agreement will not compromise the overriding goal of swift and decisive victory. Under present circumstances, our people, when held prisoner, are decapitated; our enemies, by contrast, are protected from the rigors of prison life.
To win the war, the administration is going to have to take the gloves off. The alternative is to lose the war, or more precisely not to win it. In that case, we should prepare ourselves for new and deadly attacks within the borders of the United States, and the rise of leadership with far more Draconian proposals than my own.
James H. Fink
To the Editor:
In his clear, concise discussion of the legal issues related to torture, Andrew C. McCarthy makes two critical points. First, the war on terror is not war as envisioned by the drafters of the Geneva Convention. For them, “war” meant the world wars: conflicts of unparalleled destruction, to be sure, but fought by the regular armed forces of nation-states and directed by men who, however ruthless or hateful, could generally be expected to act on the basis of rational calculation. In formulating and adopting the rights and responsibilities of combatants, there was little reason to consider or address phenomena like the suicidal “holy warrior,” whose goal is to achieve reward in heaven by killing “infidels” on earth.
Second, there are humanitarian considerations on both sides of the issue. Critics of America’s conduct of the war have too often been allowed to seize the “humanitarian” label—claiming that the United States has somehow “lost its soul” in pursuing al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein. But the war on terror (whether in Afghanistan or Iraq) is not a war of conquest or national aggrandizement. It is being fought to prevent the wholesale butchery of innocent men, women, and children. That is a humanitarian consideration of the very highest order, and it is time the “human rights” community acknowledged this in something other than meaningless platitudes condemning “terrorism in all its forms.”
In fact, as Mr. McCarthy also makes clear, absolutes do not wear well in this area. Torture is illegal, and its use is repugnant to American values. Not all coercion, however, constitutes “torture,” and there are circumstances in which most people would even countenance the use of torture to achieve a greater good—as with the proverbial nuclear bomb hidden somewhere in Manhattan.
Like Alan M. Dershowitz, Mr. McCarthy suggests institutional reforms that would regularize (and thereby limit) the use of extreme measures. As he acknowledges, even proposing such changes would result in a storm of criticism from Europe and the Muslim world. And, however hypocritical these attacks plainly would be, they are a legitimate (if not necessarily an overriding) concern for U.S. policy-makers. Moreover, with the war only in its fourth year, it is probably too early for fundamental changes in the judicial system like the creation of a National Security Court.
The danger Mr. McCarthy identifies—that our courts will be compromised or corrupted by efforts to accommodate their processes to meet an unprecedented terrorism threat—is real. Other democracies have established courts and procedures for terrorism cases and have not lost their liberties—or their souls—as a result. Great Britain is a notable example, where special courts were created to deal with the threat of IRA terror. If the war with al Qaeda and its allies is to last for many more years or decades, then structural changes will have to be made—and it is time to start talking about those changes and the form they might take. Mr. McCarthy’s thoughtful piece is an excellent contribution to this critical national discussion.
Lee A. Casey
David B. Rivkin, Jr.
Andrew C. McCarthy writes:
My critics fault me for endeavoring to bring the practical world to bear on a subject so fraught with emotion and piety. Frank Miata, indeed, is himself particularly emotional in his condemnation. Not surprisingly, however, neither he nor any of my other critics is willing to wrestle with the question I posed: assuming current law were not an issue, if there were a ticking bomb, would you permit thousands of people to be slaughtered despite the fact that you might be able to prevent their demise by the non-lethal, court-authorized torture of a terrorist? I know what my own answer would be: although I fully agree that torture is repugnant and contrary to our values, I believe it would be more repugnant willfully to allow the mass murder of moral innocents in order to vindicate a value protecting the right of the morally guilty to remain pain-free.
This debate is not about recognizing values, it is about weighing them when they collide. I do not think, for example, that Mr. Miata’s passion on the subject of torture means he does not care about innocent life, nor would I accuse him of “debas[ing] . . . our national character” when he accords what I regard as insufficient weight to innocent life. These are excruciating choices. Though I disagree with them, I respect the position of Mr. Miata, my former colleague Kenneth Roth, and Harold Nelson that torture should never, ever be permissible. What I am unwilling to do is to relieve them of the burden of their choice. And in that calculus I am far less concerned than Mr. Miata about winning hearts and minds or about the sensibilities of the so-called “world community.” I want to save innocent lives.
It is not enough to state the obvious: that torture is bad. Killing is also bad. But we permit the death penalty to punish murderers, we unavoidably kill innocent civilians in prosecuting a just war, and, on 9/11, we were poised to shoot down civilian airliners, piloted by terrorists but loaded with innocent passengers, in order to prevent the murder of thousands more innocents should those planes have been permitted to strike their targets. These are judgments about revered but competing values that responsible officials have to make. Refusing even to acknowledge them by claiming that torture is simply unthinkable is a cop-out.
When it comes to weighing choices, I did not attempt to draw support from Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian defense of torture, as Gordon Tullock suggests I might have done, because I do not agree with it. I do not think torture can be justified by raw arithmetic: for example, that the torture of one person is justified to save one hundred. By that measure, any kind of physical abuse could be justified, including the torture of moral innocents (as by threatening to kill a terrorist’s children in order to coerce information). I am in favor of a serious discussion about appropriate moral limitations. “Anything goes” is even less worthy than an absolute prohibition.
Kenneth Roth is a civil libertarian by any definition, but his critique of my position is flawed and his own claims are unpersuasive. For starters, he has my basic argument wrong. I contend that (a) torture should not be the subject of a flat ban and (b) acknowledging its place but tightly regulating its use will result in less torture than occurs now. He conflates these two points, suggesting that my argument against a ban is based on a calculation that since torture cannot practically be prevented, we might as well legalize it. That is simply wrong.
I am in favor of a limited resort to torture not because I have thrown up my hands at the possibility of outlawing it effectively but because I believe there are extreme cases in which it is warranted—that is, where it is a lesser moral evil than idling while innocents are mass-murdered. Having come to that conclusion, I believe that expressly legalizing but heavily regulating it in extreme cases is not only more honest but would better ensure that torture is a rarity than what we have now (and what Mr. Roth prefers): an absolute proscription that we know is being violated.
Mr. Roth disdains my argument that permitting the law to be flouted promotes disrespect, but his own argument is hollow. We are well aware, he says, that the law against rape is violated, and yet we maintain it. But rape laws are vigorously enforced; when they are violated, the rapists are pursued. I was talking about a situation in which laws are on the books but not vigorously enforced, as when we nominally proscribe drug trafficking but do not enforce the ban on marijuana possession. This “wink and nod” tolerance results in more crime because it informs a society that the authorities are not serious. Thus, there is not only a great deal of marijuana use but creeping increases in other minor drug use as well as in crimes of distribution. If we banned only what we were committed to enforcing, there would be less drug crime overall.
Mr. Roth’s mention of robbery actually reinforces my point. We have an absolute ban on robbery, but we also permit the government, under a court-issued warrant, to break into a person’s home and seize evidence. If the police engage in lawless searches, they are subject to prosecution and civil suits. Few would argue that the well-established search-warrant procedure has produced a slippery slope of greater police misconduct. I think torture could be handled analogously. This is not to say that I am urging that torture be “legalized” in the manner of, say, alcohol consumption. It should be banned as robbery is banned, but with the caveats that in extremely rare instances a court may permit it, and that if it occurs outside those parameters it must be robustly prosecuted.
I have more faith than Mr. Roth does in the FISA court. The fact that it has authorized a high percentage of wiretap and search requests is not surprising: the Justice Department vets all applications, and its standards are so demanding that many requests are rejected without the FISA court’s ever hearing about them. Also, the applications Mr. Roth is referring to have a fairly low threshold of proof: namely, probable cause that the subject is an agent of a foreign power. It is unusual to locate such a subject—fewer than a thousand applications a year is not many in a country of 300,000,000—but when it happens it is not hard to establish probable cause, and all the judge is being asked to permit is eavesdropping or a search. Torture warrants would be far rarer, the Justice Department would be an effective gatekeeper, and because the stakes would be higher, judges would be more exacting.
Along these same lines, Harold Nelson is evidently unfamiliar with how courts work. As for his point about timing, emergency procedures are already in place for applications for wiretaps and searches, so that authorization can be sought in minutes. Would courts be cowed? Federal judges today faithfully apply the Constitution to such requests even though the terrorist threat enormously increases the risk to public safety of a refusal to authorize. Pressure in a terror age is the nature of the beast, but the agents, prosecutors, and judges who bear it function quite well, with appropriate deference to the principles they are sworn to uphold.
I am gratified by the number of people who read my essay and took the time to respond so thoughtfully. In particular, I thank Lee A. Casey and David B. Rivkin, Jr. for their kind words and characteristically sharp analysis regarding the inaptness of applying old principles, based on assumptions that no longer hold, to a new form of war with a new type of enemy—one in whose hands these old principles have become weapons.
To the Editor:
George Weigel’s essay, “The Cathedral and the Cube” [June], offers a salutary reminder of Christianity’s influence in teaching “European man about himself, his dignity,” and in thus helping, after a fashion, to lay the foundations of our current notions of tolerance and freedom. But he gives far too much credit to Christian motives and intentions.
Although Mr. Weigel may be right that modern-day ideas like the circumscribed powers of secular and religious leaders emerged from the medieval struggles between popes and emperors, it is a bit rich to argue that, just because the Church engaged with nascent states in a war for sovereignty over people’s lives, the Church is somehow responsible for the Enlightenment notion of pluralism. The fundamental philosophy of Christianity has not changed: it knows, uniquely, how people should lead their lives. If the European Church subscribes today to the Enlightenment principle of pluralism, it is only because that is its sole remaining option.
Mr. Weigel also makes the old mistake of conflating secularism, a creed espoused by both Stalinists and Nazis, with humanism, which has no truck with repression of any kind. Although Christianity is the enemy of both, it is wrong to smear the latter with the outlook of the former.
In the end, Europeans—and Americans, too—do not need the doctrines of Judeo-Christianity to teach us about rights, dignity, and destiny. To the contrary, it is in listening to the Christian message that the primary purpose of life is to serve God, and that reward will come “hereafter,” that we become aware of how the focus of our actions can often veer distressingly from the goal of human happiness. On the crucial moral issues of war, abortion, and euthanasia, to name but three, it is just as well that rational debate can take place among civilized men and women without the influence of Christianity to “enlighten” us.
To the Editor:
At the end of his article, George Weigel asks the fundamental question: “Who, or what, will teach the Europeans of the future that the democratic values . . . are indeed worth promoting—and, especially, worth defending?”
The question is critical because democracy in its modern form is the first and only political regime that does not indoctrinate its children in the superiority of its values. In this it differs from both hierarchical political regimes (including Communism and fascism) and religious denominations, which try to instill their version of the truth, and their prescriptions for living, in the minds of children from the moment they are capable of understanding.
Among the reasons that can be given for democracy’s deviation from the rule is its assumption that man is a rational being who can decide by himself what is best, and who will thus, in time, choose democracy. That at any rate is the assumption, but in my opinion it is a false and dangerous one. Totalitarian regimes have enjoyed popular support of the utmost conviction, and many people have been willing to die for them.
If we want to generate support of equal intensity for democracy as the best arrangement of our affairs, we would be wise to instruct our children in its superiority. We can learn from the example of others how to create explicit formulations of our values—a democratic catechism or, if you will, a democratic etiquette. The churches have done it, and I do not see why our secular systems could not follow suit.
A. van Dantzig
To the Editor:
George Weigel raises the interesting question as to which culture would better protect human rights: the one that has built the rational but featureless cube (La Grande Arche in Paris) or the one that built Notre-Dame and the other great gothic cathedrals of France?
While he ends with a somewhat balanced sense of the need for both, Mr. Weigel seems to lean toward the cathedral, chiding the Europeans now crafting the preamble to the proposed European constitution for repressing, on the one hand, the Christian past and, on the other, the “all-too-modern and all-too-secular horrors of Nazism and Communism . . . that the new Europe has but recently emerged [from].”
Yet it would seem to me that Nazism and Communism, although secular in form, are on a continuum with the singleminded, ruthless vision of the Church, which also overrode consideration for the individual. Here, as quoted by Arthur Koestler, is what Dietrich von Nieheim, bishop of Verden, wrote in De Schismate (ca. 1411):
When the existence of the Church is threatened, she is released from the commandments of morality. With unity as the end, the use of every means is sanctified, even cunning, treachery, violence, simony, prison, death. For all order is for the sake of the community, and the individual must be sacrificed to the common good.
The seeds of any totalitarian system can be found in this statement. That, to me, is the heritage that both Europeans and Mr. Weigel need to acknowledge.
Teaneck, New Jersey
To the Editor:
The question as to whether Europe will be Christian or secular is overshadowed by what George Weigel himself calls “the Islamist enemy that is now inside Europe’s home” and that, he avers, is growing closer to demographic and political significance. This, indeed, is the looming threat to both the Christian and secular values of Western Europe.
It is nearly 30 years since Jean Raspail’s novel, The Camp of the Saints, was published in English, telling of an overwhelming third-world invasion of Western Europe. Back then the book’s vision was described alternatively as “satirical,” “far-fetched,” and “disturbing.” Today, it is no joke.
New York City
George Weigel writes:
In “The Cathedral and the Cube” I tried to make three points, variously missed by Robert Stein, A. Van Dantzig, and Menorah Rotenberg: (1) Democracy is a way of life based on shared moral commitments, not simply a matter of procedures and institutions. (2) The argument over acknowledging a Christian contribution to modern European civilization in the preamble to the European constitution reveals a determination among European intellectual and political elites to “establish” secularism as the official house ideology of the European Union. (3) The current demographic crisis of Europe is one expression of a longstanding crisis of civilizational morale, which is itself a by-product of atheistic humanism and its teaching that the God of the Bible is the enemy of human liberation.
On some specific issues raised by my correspondents: Robert Stein suggests that pluralism is an “Enlightenment notion.” But pluralism was a sociologial fact in Europe long before it became a plank in the ideological platform of Enlightenment political theorists. No less an authority than the sociologist Peter L. Berger has recently written (in the Journal of Democracy) that the outcome of the investiture controversy, the lengthy struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire to which I referred in my article, “laid the groundwork of institutional pluralism and of what later developed into civil society” in the West.
As for Mr. Stein’s suggestion that Catholicism has only accommodated itself to pluralism out of expediency, may I suggest that he take a half-hour and read Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on the free society, Centesimus Annus, which was published thirteen years ago? In that remarkable document, Mr. Stein will, I hope, find a much more robust defense of pluralism—the engagement of differences within a bond of mutual respect—than any likely to be mounted by today’s intellectual heirs of the Enlightenment, for whom pluralism is mere plurality and “tolerance” is essentially an indifference to difference. After digesting Centesimus Annus, perhaps Mr. Stein will turn next to the Pope’s 1993 encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, where he will find a robust defense of the ancient Jewish and Christian claim that serving God and pursuing human happiness are not antinomies, as he seems to imagine them to be.
I would be delighted if today’s “secular systems” could inculcate the values of democracy, as A. Van Dantzig suggests. But experience in both the United States and Western Europe suggests that the elites in charge of our respective educational establishments have little interest in teaching the moral superiority of democracy over other systems of governance, because they really do not believe it is possible. In an intellectual climate dominated by the call of Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida for a Europe “neutral toward worldviews,” it is very difficult to imagine educational systems being prepared to defend the proposition that democracy is morally superior to what is on offer in other parts of the world. Of course, the scenario alluded to by Frederic Wile might help concentrate some minds here.
It is very tiresome to be forced to rebut new forms of the always-protean Black Legend. But I wonder how Menorah Rotenberg would square the conception of a “singleminded, ruthless vision of the Church,” a vision supposedly overriding every “consideration for the individual,” with the role of the Catholic Church in the revolution of 1989 in east central Europe—a revolution that produced a greater gain for freedom than any other event in the last half of the 20th century. This reader, too, might want to have a look at Centesimus Annus.
To the Editor:
Perhaps nothing is more certain than the law of unintended consequences, as Sam Schulman’s essay, “How Feminism Saved Marriage,” so aptly illustrates [July-August]. He might have put more emphasis on the fact that the feminist movement, by opening up previously “masculine” interests and occupations to women—and, to a lesser extent, “feminine” areas to men—inadvertently fostered greater intimacy and intellectual rapport between the sexes. This increased sharing of interests could only help to deepen marriage.
The chief mistake of many doctrinaire advocates of traditional sex roles is to overemphasize the differences between the sexes. On the other hand, the major error of much of feminism is to insist that there are no important differences between the sexes. The truth is that we are far more alike than different, but some differences are both real and important.
I grew up in roughly the same pre-feminist era Mr. Schulman describes. Women were largely confined to the occupations of secretary, nurse, teacher, and housewife (“homemaker” and “stay-at-home-mom” were not yet part of our lexicon). The percentage of female attorneys and physicians languished in the single digits. Women in politics were patronized. When Phyllis Schlafly ran for the presidency of the National Federation of Republican Women, her supporters carried signs complaining, “Men in the party want women to do the menial work and not make policy.”
There was a crying need for a women’s liberation movement, and it has accomplished a great deal. Women are now a majority in our law schools, and female political candidates, both conservative and liberal, are commonplace. These changes are most welcome.
At the same time, the differences between the sexes are such that some areas will remain largely the province of one sex or the other. Men are the majority of lumberjacks, coal miners, movers, and garbage collectors, as they are in other occupations in which physical strength is at a premium. Most athletic competitions are gender-segregated and must remain so if women’s sports are to continue to exist. It would make little sense to hold sexually integrated beauty pageants.
Phyllis Schlafly has said that her feminist opponents “have not done anything good.” But perhaps one of the good things they did was to make it possible for Schlafly herself to become a household name. Those of us who are not political partisans can see that there was a need for women like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, who pointed out the unnecessarily restrictive nature of the gender distinctions that were made well into the 1970’s. But we can also see the need for women like Schlafly, who insist on making some distinctions. The emerging synthesis of these views neither exaggerates nor denies sex differences but puts them in perspective, thus nourishing close, happy marriages.
Sam Schulman writes:
In her thoughtful letter, Denise Noe suggests an experiment in alternative history-writing. What if the Prussians had not arrived in time to save Wellington at Waterloo? What if a modern-day John Stuart Mill had inadvertently used the manuscript of The Feminine Mystique to light the oven? Without the impact of radical feminism, she seems to think, American women would never have entered the “male professions” in any numbers.
I cannot join her in this thought experiment. It is impossible to accept that the women of my generation would have remained acquiescent while we boys were rebelling against our fathers; nor did they. It is equally impossible to accept that the sexual revolution would have affected only one sex and not the other. Artificial boundaries were coming down in the early 1960’s. Long-established men-only and women-only educational institutions were merging or becoming coeducational, and women were flocking to professional schools—all before the flare-up of radical feminism. Simpleminded caricatures of the 1950’s and early 60’s like last year’s ludicrous Mike Newell movie, Mona Lisa Smile, in which a liberated female teacher confronts a robotic class of Wellesley girls, are just that: caricatures.
The truth is that every trend affecting the position of women in the world after 1970 was already well under way in 1969, and in 1929, and in 1909. The 1950’s may have represented a brief pause for rest—a time, in the title of a John Updike story, “When Everyone was Pregnant”—but by the opening of the 60’s the integration of women into the workplace had resumed its rapid pace.
Denise Noe is also more sanguine than I am about the effects of this opening-up of professions and of the office collegiality it produced between the sexes. In her view, this new atmosphere, which “inadvertently fostered greater intimacy and intellectual rapport,” helped to deepen marriage as well. While I agree that collegiality between men and women has increased and is a good thing in itself, the effect on marriage is not so clear. It remains the case, fortunately or not, that one can be married to only one person (at a time) of the opposite sex. In the new world of work, by contrast, we labor closely and intimately with many others, sharing vivid, seductive, and sometimes even heroic experiences. Compared with this, a mere marriage can seem awfully pallid and empty.
I am strongly reminded in this connection of a critical moment at the conclusion of E.M. Forster’s novel, A Passage to India (1924), one of the great liberal documents of the last century. Riding together in the Indian countryside, the Muslim hero, Dr. Aziz, repels the idealism of Fielding, the English liberal, by insisting that separation must come before reconciliation:
“Clear out you fellows, double quick I say! We may hate one another, but we hate you most. If I don’t make you go, Ahmed will, Karim will, if it’s fifty-five hundred years we shall get rid of you, yes, we shall drive every blasted Englishman into the sea, and then”—he rode against him furiously—”and then,” he concluded, “you and I shall be friends.”
Forster, himself a liberal (of a kind now extinct) who could laugh at himself with some self-knowledge, has Fielding instantly ruin the moment: “‘Why can’t we be friends now?,’ said the other, holding [Aziz] affectionately.”
Something of Fielding’s wistful, emollient, generous, but misplaced spirit pervades the sentiments of Denise Noe. The radical feminism of 1969 demanded an “Azizian” stage of total separation between the sexes. The actual feminism that ensued brought men and women into much closer contact and even a kind of friendship, but a kind very different from that dreamed of by the movement’s liberal well-wishers. I am curious about the fate of this relationship, achieved with so much difficulty and shared sacrifice on the part of both men and women. I am especially curious now, in the age of gay marriage, when we see women’s place in marriage, which is a very different thing from friendship and even from intimacy, being desacralized and shouldered aside by the judicial invention of a new form of matrimony: matrimony without matrons.
Jews of North Africa
To the Editor:
Robert Satloff’s excellent article on the North African anti-Semitic tradition ends a bit too early [“In Search of ‘Righteous Arabs,’” July-August]. It does not go beyond the 1942 American-British landings on the continent, and therefore glosses over what was perhaps the ugliest period of anti-Jewish policies in French North Africa.
The stringent Vichy racist laws were not abrogated until a year after the Allied forces achieved direct control of the area. Efforts by international organizations and Jewish advocacy groups to rescind those laws were repeatedly rebuffed by General Eisenhower’s staff on the grounds that the Allies needed the assistance of the local French (Vichy) apparatus, which was in turn dependent on the goodwill of the local Arab population. As a result, several hundred thousand Jews in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia continued to live under discriminatory conditions during all of 1942 and most of 1943.
The State Department files for that period are filled with petitions by Jewish groups for the abrogation of the statutes, as well as with the dilatory responses of the U.S. military and diplomatic authorities. Needless to say, the British liaison officers were even less responsive, fearing at every turn that benevolence toward the Jews might induce desires to lift the blockade on immigration to Palestine. It was a sorry chapter indeed, one whose lesson was not lost on the region’s Islamic activists.
To the Editor:
Robert Satloff is perhaps too complacent about such “familiar facts” as the pro-Nazi exploits of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem. I am amazed that Holocaust museums have shown so little interest in displaying the damning photographs of the mufti meeting with Hitler and giving the Nazi salute to Bosnian Muslim SS divisions. Let it not be forgotten that the mufti was still the Palestinian Arab leader in 1948, and would no doubt have carried out his genocidal plans against the Jews had the Arabs won.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Robert Satloff writes:
Herbert Rosenblum is on the mark. In an unseemly chapter of the war, vanquished Vichy French governors of North Africa were permitted to maintain their anti-Semitic policies under the gaze of thousands of U.S. and British troops who had come ashore in Operation Torch in November 1942. Convinced (without proof) by the French that a too-hasty change in the local status quo would trigger violent opposition from millions of North African Muslims, American generals and their political advisers struck an agreement—dubbed the “Darlan deal,” after the ranking Vichy officer in the area, Admiral Jean-François Darlan—that gave free access through the region to U.S. and Allied troops, but little else.
As a result, local Jews continued to be shorn of their property by confiscatory laws, to be forced into underground schools by quotas even more extreme than those in metropolitan France, and to be tortured in Vichy French slave-labor camps. While I was unable to delve into this topic in my article, I do plan to examine it in a larger work now under way.
But there is another note. In the finest American tradition, a group of Jewish GI’s who had come ashore in Torch and were moved by the terrible situation of their North African coreligionists organized themselves to lodge a formal protest with Robert Murphy, presidential envoy and chief political adviser to the U.S. forces in Algiers. In his memoirs, A Diplomat among Warriors, Murphy dismisses these soldiers as naifs; as Mr. Rosenblum points out, it was months before political and media outrage forced a change in Allied policy. But the courage of those Jewish GI’s, many of them probably first-generation Americans themselves, should not be forgotten. For two years I have been looking for veterans of that episode but regrettably have come up empty-handed. I have not even succeeded in finding an independent record of their meeting with Murphy. I urge anyone with information to contact me at [email protected]
As Jack Bloom reminds us, the sordid relationship between Haj Amin al-Husseini and the Nazis has been insufficiently stresssed by some historians. But it is also true that the entire Arab role in the Holocaust has sometimes been falsely equated with the actions of the mufti. As I tried to show in my article, the record was much more mixed than that. There were Arab leaders—including the Bey of Tunis, the Sultan of Morocco, and many of their ministers and governors—who showed kindness and compassion to Jews facing wartime persecution; there were also local Arab leaders willing to sell out the Jews or actively to collaborate with the anti-Jewish programs of the Germans, the French, and the Italians. Without underplaying the story of the mufti, my own interest lies in evaluating that mixed record through an examination of what Arabs did in their own countries, cities, towns, and villages when their Jewish neighbors came under assault.
To the editor:
Terry Teachout’s efforts to stimulate interest in underrated composers like Edward Elgar are entirely praiseworthy [“Unloved Elgar,” July-August]. At the same time, he undermines his aim by listing in his discography performances that are hard to find or feature dinosaur sound.
Pablo Casals’s performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto is a good one, but Jacqueline du Pré’s is stronger and more obtainable, and has far better sonics. As for Elgar’s interpretations of his own works, chacun à son goût and all that, but many of us find them too fast and abrupt, at the cost of the music’s considerable poetry and eloquence. The sound is good 1930’s vintage—and that’s the problem.
There are plenty of CD’s of Elgar’s music in print with excellent sound and interpretation—e.g., Andrew or Colin Davis’s recording of the symphonies, Vernon Handley’s outstanding version of the Second Symphony (which includes the vital organ part), and Barbirolli’s or Hickox’s Dream of Gerontius. Furthermore, the budget label Naxos has superb readings of Falstaff and the reconstructed Third Symphony—itself a splendid piece of work, pace Elgar’s wish that it not be completed. Any of these will support the essential rightness of Mr. Teachout’s evaluation of a great and thoughtful composer.
To the Editor:
Thank you for the outstanding article by Terry Teachout on the life and music of Elgar. I had no use for Elgar’s music when I was younger, but have come to love it deeply. Mr. Teachout’s article was balanced, informative, and has inspired me to revisit some of that music.
I would add one item to his discography. The EMI disc of the Cello Concerto and Sea Pictures with John Barbirolli, Jacqueline du Pré, Janet Baker, and the London Symphony (EMI Classics 5 62886 2) is one of the greatest Elgar recordings.
St. Petersburg, Florida
To the Editor:
Thank you for publishing Terry Teachout’s “Unloved Elgar.” I have been an Elgar fan since I was a teenager studying in England, but the restorative optimism of a former age was brought home all the more acutely to me after 9/11, when I consoled myself with Elgar’s luminous First Symphony. Sunny confidence emerges triumphantly from the struggles of the first movement. For this modern man, there is no equal to Elgar.
T. J. Olson
To the Editor:
I wonder what source Terry Teachout used when writing that the aging Fritz Kreisler opted not to record Elgar’s technically demanding Violin Concerto under the composer’s baton. In 1932, when the sixteen-year-old Yehudi Menuhin recorded the piece with Elgar conducting, Kreisler was fifty-seven years old. Past the age of seventy, Kreisler was still playing his own fiendishly difficult arrangement of the Paganini D Major Concerto with several orchestras in the United States and eventually recorded it with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. As it happens, both recordings are extraordinary.
Jonathan Sternberg Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Terry Teachout writes:
Some modern-day listeners are acutely allergic to 78-era sound, no matter how painstakingly remastered it may be. To them I would recommend any of the Elgar performances mentioned by my correspondents (though I myself have never cared for either of Jacqueline du Pré’s recordings of the Cello Concerto, which I find too emotionally extreme). Nevertheless, I urge those with open ears to hear Elgar’s own performances, as well as the other pre-LP recordings listed in my discography. The sound can be a bit creaky, but Elgar’s interpretations in particular are invariably striking, not least for their often-startling rhythmic flexibility.
Fritz Kreisler’s 1936 recording of his charming one-movement adaptation of the Paganini D Major Concerto, currently available on Symposium 1282, has long been a personal favorite of mine. Alas, it leaves no doubt that Kreisler’s technique was in decline by the mid-30’s. Increasing deafness had caused his intonation to become uncertain, especially in double-stopped passages, suggesting that he would have found the finger-twisting solo part of Elgar’s concerto too daunting to record in the studio (though he continued to give occasional public performances of the concerto as late as 1934, when he played it in London at an Elgar memorial concert).
The story of how Fred Gaisberg of HMV tried in vain to persuade Kreisler to record the Elgar Violin Concerto is told in detail in Jerrold Northrop Moore’s fascinating Elgar on Record: The Composer and the Gramophone (1974) and more concisely in Michael Kennedy’s Portrait of Elgar (1968, rev. 1987).