All About Josh

Saturday, October 05, 2002

UPENN ON CHOMSKY: Noam Chomsky spoke at the University of Pennsylvania this past Thursday, and Daily Penn columnist Ariel Benson has something to say about his visit.

LILEKS FISKS PAUL WELLSTONE: ...and it's well worth your time reading.

JEFFREY GOLBERG ON IRAQ: Goldberg, in Slate, explains why -- for the millionth time -- there needs to be regime change in Iraq.

There are, of course, many repugnant dictators in the world; a dozen or so in the Middle East alone. But Saddam Hussein is a figure of singular repugnance, and singular danger. To review: There is no dictator in power anywhere in the world who has, so far in his career, invaded two neighboring countries; fired ballistic missiles at the civilians of two other neighboring countries; tried to have assassinated an ex-president of the United States; harbored al-Qaida fugitives (this is, by the way, beyond doubt, despite David Plotz's assertion to the contrary); attacked civilians with chemical weapons; attacked the soldiers of an enemy country with chemical weapons; conducted biological weapons experiments on human subjects; committed genocide; and then there is, of course, the matter of the weaponized aflatoxin, a tool of mass murder and nothing else.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

MY COLUMN TO THE EAGLE: Here's my latest column in American University's student newspaper, responding to a professor's claim that professors in the School of International Service care about scholarship, despite their evident anti-Israel bias. You guys get an advanced look at it -- it's either coming out tomorrow or next Monday. Here it is:

In his recent column in the Eagle, Professor Paul Wapner defended his School of International Service colleagues against claims of pro-Palestinian bias, and asserted the school’s commitment to scholarship, at the same time dismissing requests for ideological balance.

It’s encouraging that Wapner is in favor of sound scholarship. Sound scholarship requires the use of a diverse set of sources and is based on historical facts. Far too often in SIS, facts are ignored in favor of one-sided ideological imbalance. A quick walk to the AU bookstore easily demonstrates this point. Several books by the leftist professors Edward Said and John Esposito are often assigned in Middle East courses, rarely counterbalanced by their ideological and scholarly opposites, such as Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes. Professor Laura Drake, who taught at American University last year, participated in a particularly virulent anti-Israel rally on the quad that was widely criticized. Only one professor of Israeli background is on the SIS staff, while professors presenting the Arab perspective are well represented.

Wapner commented that he’s committed to "the radical idea that all people are equal, and thus equally possess rights and have responsibilities. This causes people to speak out about the plight of the Palestinians." In the interest of scholarship, I’d like to point out some facts. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where there are thriving feminist and gay movements. Many Palestinians in the West Bank have been executed for participating in such "heresy." Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has an independent judiciary. Both Arab and Jew can expect fair treatment in the Israeli courts. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to have freedom of speech. Elsewhere, as many Palestinian critics of Yasser Arafat discovered, dissent means death. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that allows all its citizens, both Arab and Jew, to vote and participate in a representative democracy. In the West Bank and in the rest of the Middle East, repressive dictatorships are commonplace.

Is Israel a perfect country? Of course not; no sovereign nation is without its flaws. But compared to its neighbors, its record is quite favorable. Anyone who believes in human rights and liberal values would embrace Israel’s record and spend a great deal more time criticizing the Arab’s world miserable record when it comes to freedom. Israel is a tiny country the size of New Jersey in a region that extends for thousands of miles. Yet it receives most of the blame for all the region’s ills, despite it only occupying a sliver of space in the Middle East. And there undoubtedly is a degree of anti-Semitism to this unceasing focus on Israel, the only Jewish state in the world.

While there is a difference between anti-Semitism – hatred of Jews – and anti-Zionism – hatred of Israel – they are much closer than many want to acknowledge. One can be a principled anti-Zionist and love Jews, but that is rarely the case. The government-run Saudi, Egyptian and Palestinian press all portray Jews in identical fashion to how Goebbels portrayed the Jews during his reign as Hitler’s propaganda minister. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a text which accuses Jews of murdering Christian children, is a best-seller in the Arab world. Arafat first came into prominence when his organization murdered eight Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, part of his oft-stated goal to drive the Jews into the sea.

This hatred toward Israel supporters also extends to the college campus. At UC-Berkeley, pro-Israel supporters rallying for peace were violently attacked by a counter-demonstration of Palestinians. A mob of violent protesters at Concordia College in Montreal violently prevented former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking. A liberal George Washington University student who went downtown to protest against a band of neo-Nazi marchers was spit on and jeered by her fellow counter-protesters because she was carrying an Israeli flag. At many universities, Arab student groups set up mock checkpoints, conveniently ignoring the suicide bombings that necessitate those security measures.

The reason that the Arab world lags behind the Western world in progress is not because of Israel and past Western colonialism, despite what some leftist professors in SIS might want students to believe. Several Arab intellectuals – in conjunction with the United Nations – published the Arab Human Development Report in July, which places the blame squarely on the Arab nations’ lack of democracy – not on Israel and its policy towards the Arabs. The report argues there is a "poverty of capabilities and poverty of opportunities," not a poverty of resources. Money is diverted away from education to prop up the coffers of tyrannical leaders. The report concludes the Arab world’s lack of freedom has undermined their human development.

It is apparent that Israel receives so much attention in SIS classrooms because of ideological reasons, and not because of sound scholarship which Professor Wapner prizes so dearly. Israel is used as an excuse to distract the Arab world from their real internal problems. The Arab Human Development report concludes by saying "Only an unbiased, objective analysis" could help the "Arab peoples and policy-makers in search of a brighter future." If only unbiased, objective analyses toward the Middle East would be the credo of the School of International Service.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

CLINTON AND GORE, BOTH AGAINST WAR: Both president and vice-president of the last administration spoke out forcefully against pre-emptively striking Iraq today. Former President Clinton spoke at a Labor party meeting in England, where his rationale for not striking Iraq now is because the former Bush administration did not condemn the Iraqi gassing of Kurds forcefully enough in 1988. Huh? Wouldn't Iraq's ruthlesness make it more imperative to force regime change in Iraq? He also:

criticized the Bush administration for rejecting the 1997 Kyoto accord on global warming, the new International Criminal Court to try alleged war criminals and the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Those policies, he said, had understandably made Britons and others wary of conservatives in the administration and more inclined not to trust them on Iraq

Okay, so the Kyoto accord was rejected 98-0 by the Senate -- which Clinton knew full well when he sent the treaty to them. And the International Criminal Court was hardly embraced by the Clinton administration -- and it's a good thing. Fortunately, President Bush II has the cajones to openly state his hostility to a court that makes a joke of American sovereignty.

And here's an account of Gore's speech, saying we should put economic concerns ahead of our national security. The unnamed Washington Post "Staff Writer" (there's a byline strike at the Post) writes:

Gore's speech was short on specifics.

No kidding. Just criticize and attack the Bush administration's capable handling of foreign policy, and try to switch the topic to economics -- to which Gore offers no specific solution. Just more attacks. What a political hack. I can't believe I actually voted for the guy in 2000. Never again.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

JONAH GOLDBERG ON THE UNITED NATIONS: Jonah Goldberg has a good anti-idiotarian piece at the NRO today, making these accurate comments about the United Nations:

One is tempted to explain the very concept of "sovereign" in "sovereign state," but since those who use this argument are already deeply antagonistic to the idea that America has any right to do anything on its own, let's just skip right past that. Instead, let's go to the moral heart of the matter. People who think we must go through the U.N. seem to believe that the U.N. is an objectively neutral or moral institution. In their eyes, getting approval from the U.N. is like getting approval from a judge or a priest. Or, they think the U.N. is where the nations of the world put aside their petty self-interest and do whatever is in the best interests of humanity.

There's only one problem with this. None of the nations in the U.N. — especially the permanent members of the Security Council — are acting on such pure motives. France isn't opposed to invading Iraq out of an abiding love of peace. It's opposed to an American invasion largely because France has been trading with Iraq for years, despite the sanctions. France has billions of dollars in oil contracts it doesn't want to lose. Which is why, according to numerous accounts, the French have made it known that if they can keep their existing contracts, they will probably approve a U.S. invasion.

Or, consider Russia. Russia's foot-dragging is also largely about oil — and securing the $8 billion Iraq already owes them. But Russia also wants the U.S. to turn a blind eye to its military abuses in Chechnya and Georgia. And, by the way, a precondition for China's vote is tacit American approval of a Chinese crackdown on separatist Muslim Uighurs. Now, how is it that an American invasion of Iraq is somehow morally superior with U.N. approval if that approval can only be bought by American support for bloodshed elsewhere? Altruism and charity aren't the coin of the realm on the Security Council; blood and oil are. As the editors of National Review put it in the latest issue: "We will leave it to the shrinks to determine why American liberals consider it a mark of morality in foreign policy when that policy coincides with Russian and French strategies that are themselves arrived at for the crassest of reasons. In general, making 'international opinion' the benchmark for right and wrong is a mistake, since so much of it is driven by fear, self-interest, and greed."

There's a lot more good stuff. I recommend reading the whole piece.

Monday, September 30, 2002

ETHNIC STUDIES ON CAMPUS AND CAMPUSWATCH: I just came back from an African-American history class (required as a prerequisite for history majors) at American University. Today, we spent 90 minutes arguing about some girl's comment that she feels America is discriminatory to her, and that she'd much rather live in Africa -- and then later, she amended that list to include London and Paris. (I responded by comparing the representation of African-Americans in Congress to people of African descent in the parliaments of Paris and London combined.) That was just the tip of the iceberg. The amazing thing is how much credence that viewpoint had in our 30-or-so person class. Except for myself and two other articulate students, everyone else felt that, to some degree, America oppresses minorities and is a horrible country to live in. As to be expected, some people made analogies to the Holocaust, comparing the Founding Fathers to Nazis but were reformed after the civil rights movement. And that was the middle of the road, ideologically, in the class. The entire class is a joke -- as my friend Ben commented to me, taking the class probably decreases my knowledge base.

So it was nice to read Steve Den Beste's latest essay on ethnic studies, and his devoting much time writing about this sickly field. Read the whole thing, but here's the money excerpt:

I have no use for any field that deliberately constructs fallacious myths and sweeps unpleasant truths under the rug and tries to claim that they are science or history in order to support some sort of political indoctrination, irrespective of what they hope to accomplish doing so. I prefer unpleasant truths to pleasing lies, and I think that American blacks are ill served by deception and rationalization.

I gather that there are those in that field who are trying to counter the extremists, to change Afrocentrist study so that it ceases to be apology for antiwhite bigotry and instead becomes a straightforward study of Africa. One can hope. There was much in sub-Saharan Africa to be proud of. There were major cities there, like Zimbabwe. There was a rich culture, a great oral tradition, amazing arts and crafts. African music has strongly influenced the development of modern American music, including jazz and rock. (Not in the way that many American Blacks think it has, however. I really enjoy listening to traditional African music, but it bears no resemblance whatever to rap, and it involves far more melody and singing and far less beat and percussion than many think. There's a great deal of it in the movie "Zulu"; it's worth watching that movie just to hear the music, such as at the great marriage ceremony at the beginning of the film, or the chant the Zulu warriors make just before their final charge. [It's unfortunate that the film makers felt the need to libel the Reverend Witt. In the actual Battle of Rorke's Drift, he helped carry a box of ammunition around to give bullets to the soldiers who were fighting.])

There was also barbarism and war and hostility and a great deal of killing. Africans did and do still practice slavery. Africans were and are just as complicated as anyone else. They were no more "noble savages" than anyone else was. But even in that there is much to study. I've always found the true history of sub-Saharan Africa to be fascinating to the extent that I've studied it; I first got turned onto it when I started reading about Shaka, one of the great military leaders of all time, who I think of as the African Temujin (and for me, at least, that is high honor indeed). His advances in military science were quite amazing for his place and time. He designed new weapons and new tactics, and actually created an entire national military system which permitted him to collect and move a truly mammoth military force at speeds of up to 20 miles per day on foot. With them he conquered a major empire. Unfortunately, the leaders which followed him became decadent, and ultimately the Zulu had the misfortune of being where the British wanted to go. And yet, the Zulu were one of the few aboriginal armies in the world to actually hand a major European force a catastrophic defeat in the colonial wars, a defeat which actually brought down the British government.

But the culture (or cultures, for it was culturally a very rich and diverse place) in sub-Saharan Africa had little to do with ancient Egypt, and in any case the Greeks and Romans did not actually steal everything important that they had from Egypt. Most of the contentions of Afrocentrism are total bunk.

And that this class suffers from these ahistorical biases is very sad. Thirty-four thousand dollars for a major in history, and this is what I'm getting.

That's why I'm totally in support of Campus Watch, Daniel Pipes' think-tank to expose these teachers who propagate an ahistorical narrative of the Middle East, largely imbued with anti-Semitism. My professor who teaches my US and the Middle East class (who is actually quite good) implicitly criticized the site for its restriction on academic freedom. But teaching at the university level should be a privelege, not a right. And it's certainly not the right to propagandize. There's a popular site at American University called GradeYourProf, which lists every professor and allows any student to grade them. While students in my Middle Eastern history class were laughing at CampusWatch, I asked the class what they thought of a site that grades professors based on their teaching ability like GYP, which many of the students use frequently to choose classes during registration. No response.

It's all about accountability. If I'm paying 35,000 dollars to attend a university, I want to know who's teaching based on history and who's not. And that's what CampusWatch is all about.

THE BUSH DOCTRINE: Jackson Diehl has an excellent column in today's Washington Post about the new Bush Doctrine of pre-emption, which he attributes largely to Condoleezza Rice. Here's the key quote:

The national security doctrine issued this month by the White House packs into just 34 pages everything the foreign policy of the 1990s lacked. It begins by embracing two facts that have been obvious since 1991, but hard for a democratic and sometimes insular society to accept: that America has unmatched and unprecedented power in the world and therefore no choice but to shape the international order; and that it faces threats that are utterly different but in some ways more dangerous than the threats from the old Soviet Union.

The Bush doctrine commits the United States to act aggressively, with others or alone, "to promote a balance of power that favors freedom." The phobias about engaging abroad that paralyzed policy in the '90s, and infuriated the internationalists, are banished. This isn't just the Jacksonian assertion of American interests, though that is surely part of it. There is also a Wilsonian promise to "bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets and free trade to every corner of the world" -- and a Kissingerian strategy of maintaining a "great power balance" that decisively favors the United States. The ambition is breathtaking: "We will work to translate this moment of influence," declares the doctrine, "into decades of peace, prosperity and liberty." It is, in short, a bold -- and mostly brilliant -- synthesis, one that conceivably could cause national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who executed it, to be remembered as the policymaker who defined a new era.

TORRICELLI STEPS DOWN: Bob Torricelli announced today he's not running for re-election, leaving the Democrats in a lurch. This pompous senator not only has screwed over his constituents with his pompous, self-interested persona but now the Democratic party, as he's waited this long to step down. I'm listening to his speech now on FOX News, and I've never seen a speech so filled with 'me's and I's -- it's incredibly self-serving. In fact, he's even invoked former President Bill Clinton often in his speech, and it's been that long -- since President Clinton's presidency -- that I've heard someone so full of himself.

ON MODERN ANTISEMITISM: Mike Silverman of Red Letter Days calls European anti-Zionism for what it is -- blatant anti-Semitism. In it, he links to a fine column by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter about anti-Semitism. Alter writes:

The virus of true anti-Semitism is so strong in so much of the world—where synagogues are burned and people cheer suicide bombers—that garden-variety stupidity doesn’t rate, even for the Anti-Defamation League.

And don't forget Cathy Young's article on the topic, which can be found here.