Historian's Take on the News: Archives 1-29-03 to 3-14-03
HOWARD ZINN: WHY HE OPPOSES WAR WITH IRAQ (posted 3-14-03)
HOWARD ZINN: WHY HE OPPOSES WAR WITH IRAQ (posted 3-14-03)Kim Campbell, staff writer of the Christian Science Monitor (March 13, 2003):
Howard Zinn frames his opposition to a war with Iraq in terms of the casualties.
"I believe that people who die in wars, whether they are civilians or soldiers, are innocent," the historian and activist told an audience last week at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. "A lot of innocent people will die in this war."
Mr. Zinn's focus on the human toll of an attack is not surprising, given his interest in telling American history from the bottom up, from the view of the factory workers, women, and minorities - not the officials - who lived through it.
Politically, Zinn stands to the left of the left. His recent UMass talk, for example, was sponsored by the on-campus International Socialist Club. But his bestselling "A People's History of the United States," first published more than 20 years ago, is regularly assigned in college classes across the nation. That and a long tradition of activism ensure that his name is well-known among a significant segment of the antiwar movement.
Zinn starts from the perspective that wars never solve fundamental problems, "that war by its nature has unpredictable consequences. That the means of war are inevitably horrible and ends of war are always uncertain."
He is not dissuaded by the argument that more Iraqis could die if Saddam Hussein remains in power. "That is a permanent argument for any atrocity," he says. "The only way you can justify something which is obviously atrocious is by claiming that it will prevent something that is more atrocious."
Mr. Hussein is a tyrant and is tyrannizing his own people, Zinn says, "but that's true of many, many places in the world."
Zinn, a bombardier in World War II, who later became an antiwar activist, is not a pacifist. "I don't argue for an absolute stance against the use of violence or military action," he says. "But I place very rigorous barriers against military action."
He proposes, rather, a solution that he believes would reduce the dangers of terrorism against the US. He wants America to stop being a military superpower, to pull its forces out of countries all over the world, and not antagonize people.
He's probably among a small minority who think bombing Afghanis-tan was not the appropriate response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The US is no safer from terrorism, argues the professor emeritus from Boston University. Any thwarting of the terrorist network is offset by "the increased number of people hostile to the United States as a result of its policy."
To win the war on terror, he says, the US needs to get at the roots of that hostility. "If it doesn't do that, no military action ... is going to have any effect in diminishing terrorism."
ALLAN LICHTMAN: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND WAR (posted 3-14-03)Jill Lawrence, writing in USA Today about the effect of a war on Iraq on the developing presidential election of 2004 (March 12, 2004):
Historians point to 1940 as an example of how war can upend a primary campaign. The Republican candidates were Sens. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan and Robert Taft of Ohio, both conservative isolationists, and Thomas Dewey, then a New York County prosecutor without national experience. Come spring,"The German blitzkrieg streaked across Europe, gobbling up one country after another. The French government fell. And none of these guys seemed adequate anymore," says Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University."So out of the woodwork comes Wendell Wilkie." Wilkie, a former Democrat and first-time candidate, was"an internationalist but not considered a warmonger," Lichtman says. Eastern business interests saw him as their best shot against Franklin Roosevelt. Wilkie gathered so much steam he won the nomination. But Americans declined to change presidents with the world at war.
ROGER MORRIS: JFK'S ROLE IN REGIME CHANGE IN IRAQ (posted 3-14-03)Roger Morris, author of Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, writing about the Kennedy administration's role in unseating Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who had seized power from the Hasemite king of Iraq in 1958; in the NYT (March 14, 2003):
From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem's harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington's Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980's against the common foe of Iran. By 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel's arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country's old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East all steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.
In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies chiefly France and Germany resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.'s "Health Alteration Committee," as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.
Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.
As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.
According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.
The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad for American firms, their first major involvement in Iraq.
JAMES RESTON, JR.: LESSONS OF THE CRUSADES (posted 3-14-03)James Reston, Jr., author of Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade, during an appearance on NPR:
Even in the first Crusade in the years 1095 to 1098 AD, the European victory over Arab forces came with the massacre of thousands of Arab defenders. The streets of Jerusalem, it was said, ran ankle deep in blood. When the killing was over, the Crusaders stripped off their armor, repaired to the Holy Sepulchre, fell to their knees in a ceremony of pious self-congratulation.
The Arab world intensely remembers this history 900 years later. This is the first lesson of Western crusades. The Arab blood that is spilled by overpowering Western force will be remembered for generations. Resentment in that part of the world runs deep.
The second lesson of the Crusades goes to the matter of occupation. After Jerusalem fell, crusading soldiers had accomplished what they came to do. The cities emptied, and few Europeans remained to defend them. Crusades, we now know, are open-ended. They involve not just the war, but its long and tedious aftermath. And the two cannot be separated.
The third lesson comes in the establishment of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. It lasted 80 years, from 1098 to 1187 AD. But in those 80 years, there was never peace. The occupiers and the natives were separated by too vast a gulf of culture and religion.
It was the great Saladin, the supreme hero of the Arab world, conqueror of the West, the lance of jihad, who brought the Arab resistance to its culmination. He could defeat the might of the West only by uniting a thousand far-flung Arab tribes. It took outside aggression and foreign occupation to unite those tribes into a successful countercrusade.
It's no mystery then why the memorials to Saladin dot the Arab world today, nor is it a mystery why so many modern Arab leaders over the years have attempted to don the mantle of Saladin. No doubt as America establishes its modern crusader kingdom in Iraq, there will be many more Arab leaders who seek to do the same in the future.
The last lesson comes from the Third Crusade of Richard the Lionheart. Richard I of England amassed the greatest force of the Middle Ages to confront Saladin. At first his allies were the Germans and the French, but their armies were to dissipate in the dust and the quicksand of the Middle East. Richard had to go it alone.
When he approached Jerusalem, he finally had his Epiphany. Reconsidering his entire enterprise, he decided to give it up and withdraw. He had no doubt that he could take the city. His force was overwhelming. But the problem of the First Crusade haunted him. Who, after the military victory, would volunteer to stay then, and for the next 80 years?
One can only hope that these historical lessons have come into play somewhere in America's war deliberations. It would be a tragedy if, like Richard the Lionheart, George Bush's Epiphany comes too late.
KENNETH M. POLLACK: HISTORY LESSON ... SADDAM WON'T BE DETERRED BY INSPECTIONS (posted 3-13-03)Kenneth M. Pollack, writing in the NYT (February 21, 2003):
With the Bush administration set to put a resolution on Iraq before the United Nations Security Council next week, those opposed to war will rally around the notion that Saddam Hussein can be deterred from aggression. They will continue to say that the mere presence of United Nations inspectors will prevent him from building nuclear weapons, and that even if he were to acquire them he could still be contained.
Unfortunately, these claims fly in the face of 12 years -- and in truth more like 30 years -- of history.
Observers have a very poor track record in predicting the progress of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. In the late 1980's, the nuclear experts of the American intelligence services were convinced that the Iraqis were at least 5 and probably 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not even believe that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, United Nations inspectors found that not only did Iraq have a program far more extensive than anyone had realized, but it was also less than two years away from producing a weapon.
Four years later, the international agency was so certain that it had eradicated the Iraqi nuclear program that it wanted to end aggressive inspections in favor of passive ''monitoring.'' Then a slew of defectors came out of Iraq -- including Hussein Kamel al-Majid, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein who led the Iraqi program to build weapons of mass destruction; Wafiq al-Samarrai, one of Saddam Hussein's intelligence chiefs; and Khidhir Hamza, a leading scientist with the nuclear weapons program. These defectors reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be.
In the late 1990's, American and international nuclear experts again concluded that the Iraqi nuclear program was dormant: yes, the scientists were still working in teams; yes, they still had all of the plans; and yes, they probably were hiding some machinery -- but they were not making any progress. Then another batch of important defectors escaped to Europe and told Western intelligence services that after the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Saddam Hussein had started a crash program to build a nuclear weapon and that the Iraqis had devised methods to hide the effort.
The reports of these defectors prompted the German intelligence service in 2001 to conclude that Iraq was only three to six years away from having one or more nuclear weapons. Today, the American, British and Israeli intelligence services believe that unless he is stopped, Saddam Hussein is likely to acquire a nuclear weapon in the second half of this decade....
America has never encountered a country that saw nuclear weapons as a tool for aggression. During the cold war we feared that the Russians thought this way, but we eventually learned that they were far more conservative. Our experts may be split on how to handle North Korea, but they agree that the Pyongyang regime wants nuclear weapons for defensive purposes -- to stave off the perceived threat of an American attack. The worst that anyone can suggest is that North Korea might blackmail us for economic aid or sell such weapons to someone else (with Iraq being near the top of that list). Only Saddam Hussein sees these weapons as offensive -- as enabling aggression.
DAVID FROMKIN: LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE (posted 3-13-03)David Fromkin, author of A Peace to End All Peace,; in the NYT (March 9, 2003):
A ghost has been haunting the United States. It is the specter of the Ottoman Empire.
The ghost is with us today, in the antagonism between Turkey and the Kurds in any war over Iraq. It was with us two years ago, when Osama bin Laden, in a televised message, said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were in retaliation for what the West had done 80 years earlier: divvy up the remains of the Ottoman Empire.
The ghost made its appearance when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, igniting the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Kuwait belonged to Iraq, Mr. Hussein argued, because modern Iraq was the lineal descendant and heir of Ottoman Basra. And Kuwait had come under the sovereignty of the province of Basra in the days of the Ottoman Empire.
The ghost was with us when Yugoslavia disintegrated into savage ethnic feuds. Many traced the disintegration to the Ottomans' efforts to set various Christian nationalities against one another. And conflicting claims notably Serbia's to Kosovo were based on the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans more than half a millennium ago.
Today, the more ambitious spirits in the Bush administration propose not merely to invade Iraq, but to use it as a base for transforming the Arab Middle East. Once before in modern times, Western countries England and France set about remaking these Ottoman lands. After emerging victorious from World War I, they redrew the map of the Middle East. Iraq was one of the artificial states to emerge.
A thousand years ago, Turkish warriors were the last of the nomad horsemen who streamed from Asia to conquer Europe. The riders were a mixed lot. Each band had a leader and a common language. Legend had it that one leader, Osman, led Turkish-speaking warriors, who eventually became the Ottomans.
The Ottomans went to Anatolia, essentially today's Turkey, on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire. Often they would cross the water to Europe, paid to fight for Christian rulers. Later, acting for themselves, they occupied the Balkans. In 1453, they captured Constantinople, now Istanbul, and with it the remains of the Byzantine Empire. At their zenith, the Ottoman armies fought their way to the gates of Vienna.
The Turks prospered on their captured wealth, so in the 19th century, when they stopped expanding, they started to retreat. The decline opened up enticing prospects for Europe's great powers, which expected to annex strategically important territories. The Ottoman Empire had settled the Balkans and the Middle East; these were the land bridges that joined Europe, Asia and Africa. But the European powers were surprised when the indigenous European subjects of the empire including Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria won independence for themselves.
After World War I, Britain and France, by defeating the Ottoman Empire, won control of the Arab lands, and with it, a tantalizing bauble: the likelihood that vast deposits of oil might be found there.
The Europeans and their American business partners hoped to establish stable and friendly regimes. After they redrew the borders in the early 1920's, Britain and France introduced a state system, and sought to supply political guidance too. But the system did not endure. Instead, the area grew more turbulent and unsettled.
DAVID M. KENNEDY: THE NECESSITY OF SACRIFICE DURING WARTIME (posted 3-13-03)David Kennedy, writing in the NYT (February 16, 2003):
PRESIDENT BUSH may believe that a war against Iraq can be waged without disrupting home-front business as usual. But the gods of war have always demanded sacrifice.
From time out of mind, warriors have been asked to lay down their bodies on the martial altar. Modern wars have also visited agonies of deprivation on civilian populations, immolating countless noncombatants as well.
But sacrifice is about more than death and mayhem. The word itself literally means ''to make holy,'' a reminder that sacrifice has a spiritual and symbolic rationale more venerable than its military one.
In a total war like World War II, the lines between battlefront and home front blurred, compelling far-reaching economic mobilizations and requiring civilian moral and material support -- not to mention political approval -- to maintain a fighting force in the field.
War leaders have long understood the utility of nurturing the feeling that ''we're all in this together,'' combatant and noncombatant alike, whether the privations on the home front were truly necessary or not. The sentiment of shared sacrifice binds soldier to civilian. For better or worse, that sentiment is what has made modern warfare -- industrialized and full throttle -- possible.
Woodrow Wilson took America into its first modern war in 1917 with a blizzard of propaganda about the need for citizens to conserve food with ''meatless Tuesdays'' and ''wheatless Wednesdays.'' But Wilson's studied refusal to require rationing suggested that his real aims had as much to do with stimulating patriotic fervor and a sense of citizen involvement as with conserving food.
In World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration elevated the spirit of sacrifice to a high art. Some 405,000 American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and merchant mariners, along with a handful of civilians, made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Germany, Japan and Italy. Yet after the short-lived post-Pearl Harbor panic, residents of the continental United States had virtually nothing to fear from enemy malice. But to sustain the martial spirit -- and sanctify the dead -- Americans safe at home nonetheless needed to feel they, too, were making sacrifices in the pursuit of victory.
ROOSEVELT'S Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau Jr., recognized that necessity, organizing a mammoth campaign to urge Americans to curtail consumer spending and buy war bonds instead. The bonds helped pay for the war, of course, and also soaked up income that might have fueled inflation. But Morgenthau admitted that ''60 percent of the reason'' for the bond drive was ''to give the people an opportunity to do something,'' and ''make the country war-minded.'' He would use the bonds, he explained, to ''sell the war, rather than vice versa.''
WHEN ISLAM FIRST APPEARED IN AMERICA (posted 3-12-03)Anouar Majid, chairman of the English department at the University of New England, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (March 12, 2003):
Islam, like Roman Catholicism, arrived in the New World before any Protestant denomination or most other nonnative religions. But Islam was never accepted as a mainstream faith, on either theological or ideological grounds. Cotton Mather, the clergyman from Massachusetts, minced no words in condemning Muslims and renegades (Christian converts to Islam), and upholding the superiority of Christianity. He may even have set the tone for the current evangelical dismissal of Muhammad as a violent man by calling him -- in a 1721 treatise, The Christian Philosopher -- a"thick-skull'd Prophet."
Such sentiments were more or less shared by members of the Revolutionary generation. As the historian Robert J. Allison noted in his masterly study The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World, 1776-1815, Islam was treated by all political factions as the antithesis of liberty. There was bipartisan agreement, to use today's political lingo, that Islam encouraged a despotism that inevitably leads to economic and cultural ruin. Many Americans, when they surveyed the history of North Africa, attributed the region's former glory to the Carthaginians and Romans, as if Islamic rule were merely an interlude to European colonialism.
Indeed, the new nation's first war was with Muslim corsairs from the Barbary states (particularly Algiers and Tripoli), a conflict that consolidated American patriotism and led to the profiling of Arab-looking people, tough immigration laws, and the establishment of the U.S. Navy....
American literature of the period touched on Islam as well. In 1797, Royall Tyler published The Algerine Captive, one of the first American novels to consciously part ways with British sensibilities and affirm the new nation's revolutionary values. When Tyler's Yankee protagonist, Doctor Underhill, is held captive in Algiers, his faith is challenged by a smart"mollah," but he never gives in and turns renegade, as Cotton Mather had feared. Instead, the doctor sets out to understand Muslims.
After noting that Islam has nothing to do with the cruel behavior of his captors, he says,"I cannot help noticing it as extraordinary, that the Mahometan should abominate the Christian on account of his faith, and the Christian detest the Mussulman for his creed; when the Koran of the former acknowledges the divinity of the Christian faith, and the Christian Messias, and the Bible of the latter commands us to love our enemies. If either would follow the obvious dictates of his own scripture, he would cease to hate, abominate, and destroy the other." Tyler concludes his remarkable novel by warning the U.S. government not to let"foreign emissaries inflame us against one nation, by raking up the ashes of long extinguished enmity."
EUROPEAN HISTORIANS PROTEST A WAR IN IRAQ (posted 3-11-03)Anne Deighton et al., writing in the Financial Times (March 8, 2003):
Sir, We the undersigned are contemporary historians. George W. Bush compares the reconstruction of Germany (and of Japan) after the second world war, and Iraq today. This is a pick-and-mix history of regime change.
Think of Germany in 1945. There had been years of Allied bombing, land-based warfare -"total" war to stop a country intent on invasion and world domination. Finally, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. Its borders were dramatically and permanently changed. It was occupied militarily by the four Allied powers for nearly a decade.
West Germany's recovery came in part because it was already a leading industrialised country. It also had a history of western culture, institutions, religions, parties and democracy. It still took time, money, imagination and sustained political will all round not least from the US. European integration helped to weave the fledgling state into a new west European system, while Communist regimes in Europe warned of the possible consequences of failure. Iraq is different in every way: resources, borders, institutions, religion, regional neighbours, political culture and ethnic composition.
Historians have much to say about the complexities of regime change. But history is not a supermarket where decision-makers fill up trolleys of false historical analogies.
JACKSON LEARS: MR. BUSH'S CRUSADE (posted 3-11-03)Rutgers professor of history Jackson Lears, writing in the NYT (March 11, 2003):
President Bush's war plans are risky, but Mr. Bush is no gambler. In fact he denies the very existence of chance."Events aren't moved by blind change and chance" he has said, but by"the hand of a just and faithful God." From the outset he has been convinced that his presidency is part of a divine plan, even telling a friend while he was governor of Texas,"I believe God wants me to run for president."
This conviction that he is doing God's will has surfaced more openly since 9/11. In his State of the Union addresses and other public forums, he has presented himself as the leader of a global war against evil. As for a war in Iraq,"we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them." God is at work in world affairs, he says, calling for the United States to lead a liberating crusade in the Middle East, and"this call of history has come to the right country."
Mr. Bush's speeches are not the only place one finds this providentialist spirit — everyone from Christian fundamentalists to interventionist liberals is serving up missionary formulas: bogus analogies to the war against Hitler; contrasts between American virtue and European vice; denials that sordid material interests could have anything to do with the exalted project of exporting American democracy.
To those who worry about the frequent use of religious language, Mr. Bush's supporters insist that the rhetoric of Providence is as American as cherry pie. This is true, but it is crucial to understand that Providence can acquire various meanings depending on the circumstances. The belief that one is carrying out divine purpose can serve legitimate needs and sustain opposition to injustice, but it can also promote dangerous simplifications — especially if the believer has virtually unlimited power, as Mr. Bush does. The slide into self-righteousness is a constant threat....
In the wake of World War I, Woodrow Wilson showed that it was possible to use redemptive rhetoric for aims that went beyond nationalism, and yet to still fall victim to hubris. By intervening in the war and ensuring a just peace, said Wilson,"America had the infinite privilege of fulfilling her destiny and saving the world."
The failure of Wilson's postwar dream helped make most Americans skeptical of world-saving fantasies during World War II. Thus our most necessary war was also the most resistant to providentialist interpretation. It was a dirty job, and somebody had to do it: that was the dominant view, among policymakers and the public. Only in retrospect has World War II acquired an aura of sanctity.
DALLEK & GOODWIN: WHAT HAPPENS TO BUSH'S DOMESTIC AGENDA IN THE EVENT OF WAR (posted 3-7-03)Robert Dallek and Doris Kearns Goodwin, as quoted in the NYT (March 2, 2003):
Some historians, like Robert Dallek, argue that the Bush administration is attempting the impossible [by pushing for a major domestic program, including huge tax cuts, at a time of war]."If you go to war, there is no room for a significant domestic agenda and you can document that," Mr. Dallek said."Imagine what it would take to put across a major health reform program, a major drug program. Where is the political energy when you get into a war?"
No one was more bitterly aware of that trade-off than Johnson, who told the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in 1970:"I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved -- the Great Society -- in order to get involved with that . . . of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs." Johnson, of course, tried to juggle a long, draining war and profoundly ambitious -- and expensive -- domestic social programs.
ALLAN LICHTMAN: BUSH IS BETTING HIS PRESIDENCY ON IRAQ (posted 3-7-03)Allan Lichtman, presidential historian, as quoted in an article in the NYT (March 2, 2003):
In the modern presidency,"foreign policy is more likely to defeat than re-elect a president," said Allan J. Lichtman, a historian at American University, who cited the examples of Harry S. Truman enmeshed in Korea, Lyndon B. Johnson undone by Vietnam and Jimmy Carter stymied by the Iranian hostage crisis.
"Even some of the greatest foreign policy triumphs are no guarantee, so in strictly political terms, he's taking a great risk going to war in Iraq," Mr. Lichtman said."His biggest danger is the economy. No incumbent president has ever been re-elected during an election-year recession, and that's one of the most potentially perilous effects of this war."
HOWARD ZINN: BUSH WON'T BE ABLE TO UNIFY THE COUNTRY AROUND A WAR (posted 3-7-03)Howard Zinn, writing in commondreams.org (February 27, 2003):
The assumption is that once the soldiers are in combat, the American people will unite behind the war. The television screens will be dominated by images showing"smart bombs" exploding, and the Secretary of Defense will assure the American people that civilian casualties are being kept to a minimum. (We're in the age of megadeaths, and any number of casualties less than a million is no cause for concern).
This is the way it has been. Unity behind the president in time of war. But it may not be that way again.
The anti-war movement will not likely surrender to the martial atmosphere. The hundreds of thousands who marched in Washington and San Francisco and New York and Boston - and in villages, towns, cities all over the country from Georgia to Montana - will not meekly withdraw. Unlike the shallow support for the war, the opposition to the war is deep, cannot be easily dislodged or frightened into silence.
Indeed, the anti-war feelings are bound to become more intense. To the demand"Support Our GIs", the movement will be able to reply:"Yes, we support our GIs, we want them to live, we want them to be brought home. The government is not supporting them. It is sending them to die, or to be wounded, or to be poisoned by our own depleted uranium shells".
No, our casualties will not be numerous, but every single one will be a waste of an important human life. We will insist that this government be held responsible for every death, every dismemberment, every case of sickness, every case of psychic trauma caused by the shock of war.
And though the media will be blocked from access to the dead and wounded of Iraq, though the human tragedy unfolding in Iraq will be told in numbers, in abstractions, and not in the stories of real human beings, real children, real mothers and fathers - the movement will find a way to tell that story. And when it does, the American people, who can be cold to death on"the other side", but who also wake up when"the other side" is suddenly seen as a man, a woman, a child - just like us - will respond.
This is not a fantasy, not a vain hope. It happened in the Vietnam years. For a long time, what was being done to the peasants of Vietnam was concealed by statistics, the"body count", without bodies being shown, without faces being shown, without pain, fear, anguish shown. But then the stories began to come through - the story of the My Lai massacre, the stories told by returning GIs of atrocities they had participated in.
And the pictures appeared - the little girl struck by napalm running down the road, her skin shredding, the mothers holding their babies to them in the trenches as GIs poured rounds of bullets from automatic rifles into their bodies.
When those stories began to come out, when the photos were seen, the American people could not fail to be moved. The war"against Communism" was seen as a war against poor peasants in a tiny country half the world away.
At some point in this coming war, and no one can say when, the lies coming from the administration -"the death of this family was an accident","we apologize for the dismemberment of this child","this was an intelligence mistake","a radar misfunction" - will begin to come apart.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE KURDS (posted 3-7-03)Jason Goodwin, author of Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, writing in the NYT (March 4, 2003):
Under the Ottoman empire they enjoyed the preferential status granted to all Muslim subjects; clannish and nomadic, they roamed the mountains under the guidance of conservative-minded clan chiefs and sent their sons to be soldiers for the multi-ethnic, multifaith empire.
But the Kurds were badly prepared when the empire began to fracture toward the end of the 19th century. With one ethnic group after another asserting its identity and proclaiming independence, the Turks faced political eclipse. It was only by stressing a new-found ethnicity of their own that the Turks were able to forge a post-Ottoman country founded on the Western model. In 1924 they abolished the caliphate, taking away the sultan's role as religious leader; it is no accident that the Kurdish language was outlawed on the same day. Being Muslim no longer counted, and the Kurds — frequently dismissed as"mountain Turks" — found themselves second-class citizens, denied the right to use their languages or express their culture.
Eighty years of Turkish repression has fostered a cycle of violence and a legacy of mistrust. The Kurds even find it hard to unite among themselves over means or aims — some insist on independence, others would be happy with some sort of official"recognition" and autonomy, while others have gravitated toward guerrilla groups espousing causes from Islamist extremism to revolutionary Marxism.
The Kurds of Iraq — invaded, tortured, displaced and bombed with chemical weapons by the Iraqi army in the 1980's — now enjoy a measure of autonomy under the the allies' no-fly zone. They have organized practical self-government and have achieved some peace and even prosperity — mainly as middlemen in the large black economy of the Iraq-Turkey-Iran borderlands.
WHEN PLAYING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT SPORTING EVENTS BECAME COMMON (posted 3-6-03)Richard C. Crepeau, professor of history at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, in an article posted on poppolitics.com (February 28, 2003):
It is all over the papers, the television news and radio talk shows.
Toni Smith, a Manhattanville College senior and basketball player, has been turning her back on the flag during the playing of the national anthem for the past several weeks. As America gears up for a war, the protest against her protest has been growing. Last weekend, Smith was confronted on the court by a Vietnam veteran toting an American flag that he shoved in her face.
Surprisingly and admirably, Manhattanville College authorities have defended Smith's right to do what she is doing, although one suspects that as the pressures mount it will become more difficult for them to do so. As for Smith, she calmly explained that she has been doing this all season and that it is a form of protest:
"A lot of people blindly stand up and salute the flag, but I feel that blindly facing the flag hurts more people. There are a lot of inequities in this country, and these are issues that needed to be acknowledged. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and our priorities are elsewhere."...
Looking at this controversy, it might be useful to review the history of playing the national anthem at athletic events. First, it is important to note that there was no official national anthem until the 1930s. During World War I, however, President Wilson declared the"Star Spangled Banner" the unofficial national anthem, and the intense display of public patriotism during this period led to it being played on many public occasions.
It is generally accepted that its first appearance during a sporting event was the 1918 World Series. To demonstrate major league patriotism, baseball teams had the players march in formation during pre-game military drills while carrying bats on their shoulders. During the seventh-inning stretch of game one, when the band spontaneously began to play the"Star Spangled Banner," the Cubs and Red Sox players stood at attention facing the centerfield flag pole. The crowd sang along and applauded when the singing ended. ...
The"Star Spangled Banner" was finally declared the official national anthem in 1931. Even though by 1934 some ballparks had public address systems, it still was not played at every game. The coming of war in the late 1930s changed all of that. During the 1939-40 National Hockey League season, the Canadian anthem was played at games in Canadian cities as Canada was already at war. Then the practice spread to Madison Square Garden and from there it was transferred from hockey to baseball.
In 1940, with the fighting underway in earnest and America becoming more conscious of the possibility of war, there was increased talk of the need to hear the national anthem before all baseball games. This was suggested by The Sporting News in June, while at the same time the president of the International League called for the anthem to be played in U.S. league cities, as was already being done in Canadian cities. By 1941, the practice of playing the anthem before sporting events had achieved nearly universal status. At some games the pledge of allegiance was added, and, by 1941,"I Am an American Day" became a feature at major league parks.
It would be nice to say that all of this was due to pure patriotic expression, but of course much of it was created by PR-conscious owners who wanted to make sure that no one would question the patriotism of athletes who played games during World War II while others went off to serve their country.
IRAQ'S HISTORY OF TERRORISM (posted 3-4-03)Daniel L. Byman, a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, in an article on "Terrorism and the War with Iraq," published by Brookings (March 3, 2003):
Although Iraq has repeatedly employed terrorism as an element of its foreign policy in the past, at least since the 1980s, it has carefully chosen its proxies and used them to pursue limited objectives. Baghdad, however, has often failed when trying to use terrorist violence successfully, suggesting that the regime's own capabilities are limited.
Iraq supported several terrorist groups in the past. For example, Baghdad has harbored the May 15 Organization—a Palestinian group known for bombing airplanes—and gave sanctuary to the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)—infamous for the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer. Iraq helped form the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), using it to assassinate Syrian and Palestinian opponents. Most of Iraq's support to these groups has consisted of logistical support, such as bases, training, and supplies. Nevertheless, the scale of its backing of terrorist groups was dwarfed by others like Iran, which tried to create large popular insurgencies from whole cloth.
Iraq has provided more extensive support to the anti-Tehran Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and the anti-Turkey Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) as means of exerting pressure on their northern and eastern neighbors. In both cases, Iraq has helped these groups establish a safe haven in Iraq itself where they could base their guerrilla wars and plan terrorist attacks. Ties to the MEK are particularly close, and it has in essence become a wholly owned proxy of Baghdad for use against Iran.
Ties to these traditional associates have declined or become less important in recent years. The MEK remains active, but the pace of its attacks against Iran has fallen off as Baghdad has attempted to mend fences with Tehran. The PKK has become far less effective since the arrest of its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in 1999. The PLF has not pulled off a major attack since 1992, despite the collapse of the Oslo Accords. ANO has been similarly inactive in recent years, and in August 2002, Abu Nidal himself died in Baghdad in a"suicide" that most suspect was Saddam's effort to distance himself from charges of harboring terrorists.
In general, Saddam distrusts what he cannot control. Thus, Baghdad has avoided close association with independent terrorist groups, preferring to work with organizations that it could dominate. Iraq worked with the Abu Nidal Organization and the PLF over which it exercised considerable control, but never forged strong relationships with Fatah, Hizballah, HAMAS, or other groups with a strong independent base and so would never be subservient to Baghdad. Even then, its support for ANO and PLF ebbed over time in favor of groups like the MEK which were even more tightly controlled by Iraq.
Baghdad's ties are not based on ideology. Iraq has worked with Christians and Islamic fundamentalists, with Persians and Kurds, with fellow Ba'thists and pure killers—as long as they have suited the regime's interests. Nor is Saddam a loyal paymaster. Despite Baghdad's close working relationship with ANO, it did not hesitate to expel the organization in 1983 to gain Western goodwill during its war with Iran.
Whenever it has sought to attack the United States itself, Iraq has preferred to rely on its own operatives. Thus, Iraqi agents—not terrorist proxies—were involved in attempted bombings of U.S. facilities in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia during the first Gulf War. Similarly, Iraq used its own people in the failed assassination of President Bush in 1993. Even though ANO conducted numerous attacks against Americans during the 1970s and 1980s, these were not believed to be at Baghdad's behest.
OCCUPYING IRAQ WON'T BE EASY (posted 3-3-03)John W. Dower, Elting E. Morison Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing in Boston Review (February/March 2003):
Starting last fall, we began to hear that U.S. policymakers were looking into Japan and Germany after World War II as examples or even models of successful military occupations. In the case of Japan, the imagined analogy with Iraq is probably irresistible. Although Japan was nominally occupied by the victorious “Allied powers” from August 1945 until early 1952, the Americans ran the show and tolerated no disagreement. This was Unilateralism with a capital “U”—much as we are seeing in U.S. global policy in general today. And the occupation was a pronounced success. A repressive society became democratic, and Japan—like Germany—has posed no military threat for over half a century.
The problem is that few if any of the ingredients that made this success possible are present—or would be present—in the case of Iraq. The lessons we can draw from the occupation of Japan all become warnings where Iraq is concerned.
It is difficult for most people today to imagine what the situation was like in 1945, in the wake of the Second World War. One must remember that Japan had been engaged in aggression in Asia since 1931, when Imperial Army militarists launched a successful takeover of Manchuria. Open war against China began in 1937, and the great and foolhardy “preemptive” strike against Pearl Harbor took place in December 1941—in the context of a Japanese declaration of war against the United States and European powers with colonies in Southeast Asia. Japan’s aggression was as open and audacious as that of its Axis allies Germany and Italy. ...
So, the dream that everyone embraced once Japan had been defeated was of a nation that would never again bring such havoc on its neighbors or, indeed, on its own people. “Demilitarization” became the watchword of the time, and it was argued that this could only be enduring if the country was “democratized” as well, so that irresponsible leaders could not repeat these horrors.
When I say that “everyone” embraced this vision of a demilitarized, democratized Japan, I have in mind not merely the victorious Allied nations but also the Asian peoples who had been so grievously victimized by the Japanese war machine—many of whom remained at war’s end colonial subjects of the British, French, Dutch, and Americans. I also have in mind the great majority of the Japanese, who found themselves not only bereaved but also living in a country utterly devastated by a miserable, losing war. ...
It is important to keep all this in mind when we begin to talk about drawing lessons from Japan that might be applicable to Iraq after any projected U.S. hostilities. The postwar occupation of Japan possessed a great intangible quality that simply will not be present in the event of a U.S. war against Iraq. It enjoyed virtually unquestioned legitimacy—moral as well as legal— in the eyes of not merely the victors but all of Japan’s Asian neighbors and most Japanese themselves. Japan had been at war for almost fifteen years. It had declared war on the Allied powers in 1941. It had accepted the somewhat vague terms of surrender “unconditionally” less than four years later. Quite the opposite can be anticipated if the United States attacks and then occupies Iraq. The United States will find the legitimacy of its actions widely challenged—within Iraq, throughout the Middle East and much of the rest of the world, and even among many of its erstwhile supporters and allies.
SADDAM IS NO HITLER (posted 2-26-03)Robert Manne, professor of politics at La Trobe University, writing of the implausibility of the Saddam=Hitler analogy; in the Age (Britain)(February 24, 2003):
By the late 1930s, Hitler was the leader of what was already, arguably, the greatest military and economic power in Europe. Saddam is the leader of what is now a desperately impoverished Third World country, which has been crippled by more than a decade of economic sanctions and whose conventional military capacity is far smaller than it was at the time of the outbreak of the 1990 Gulf War.
By the mid-1930s Hitler had managed, without significant diplomatic cost, to break every single aspect of the disarmament provisions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. Unilaterally he had reintroduced conscription, announced his plans for the creation of a major air force and remilitarised the Rhineland. By comparison, since 1991, under the disarmament resolutions of the UN, Saddam has (most reluctantly) been compelled to destroy most of the chemical and biological weapons material he had accumulated and, according to different interpretations, either to abandon altogether or to make no substantial progress with his nuclear plans.
Nor are the very common comparisons of Hitler and Saddam, as"serial aggressors", much more plausible. In less than two years Germany annexed Austria, dismembered Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland. In 1980 Iraq attacked Iran and, in 1990, occupied Kuwait. At this point, the comparison ends.
Although neither of Saddam's acts of aggression can be justified, neither, according to the objective historians, were they entirely unprovoked. In 1980 Saddam had grounds to fear the hostile actions of the new Islamist regime in Iran. In 1990 Kuwait was threatening the post-war Iraqi economy by demanding debt repayments and, through overproduction, by driving down the price of oil.
More importantly, concerning the claim about serial aggression, in 1991 Saddam suffered catastrophic military defeat at the hands of the United States-led forces. Since that time any act of external aggression was certain to trigger a massive Anglo-American military response. Not only was Saddam incapable of external aggression, he had even lost control of large parts of his own Kurdish territory in the north.
JOSEPH S. NYE, JR.: THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT POWER IN KEEPING THE U.S. STRONG (posted 2-26-03)Joseph S. Nye, Jr., dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, writing in the winter issue of Political Science Quarterly:
[N]othing lasts forever in world politics. A century ago, economic globalization was as high by some measures as it is today. World fi- nance rested on a gold standard, immigration was at unparalleled levels, trade was increasing, and Britain had an empire on which the sun never set. As author William Pfaff put it, “Responsible political and economic scholars in 1900 would undoubtedly have described the twentieth-century prospect as continuing imperial rivalries within a Europe-dominated world, lasting paternalistic tutelage by Europeans of their Asian and African colonies, solid constitutional government in Western Europe, steadily growing prosperity, increasing scientific knowledge turned to human benefit, etc. All would have been wrong.”16 What followed, of course, were two world wars, the great social disease of totalitarian fascism and communism, the end of European empires, and the end of Europe as the arbiter of world power. Economic globalization was reversed and did not again reach its 1914 levels until the 1970s. Conceivably, it could happen again.
Can we do better as we enter the twenty-first century? The apocrypha of Yogi Berra warns us not to make predictions, particularly about the future. Yet we have no choice. We walk around with pictures of the future in our heads as a necessary condition of planning our actions. At the national level, we need such pictures to guide policy and tell us how to use our unprecedented power. There is, of course, no single future; there are multiple possible futures, and the quality of our foreign policy can make some more likely than others. When systems involve complex interactions and feedbacks, small causes can have large effects. And when people are involved, human reaction to the prediction itself may make it fail to come true.
We cannot hope to predict the future, but we can draw our pictures carefully so as to avoid some common mistakes.17 A decade ago, a more careful analysis of American power could have saved us from the mistaken portrait of American decline. More recently, accurate predictions of catastrophic terrorism failed to avert a tragedy that leads some again to foresee decline. It is important to prevent the errors of both declinism and triumphalism. Declinism tends to produce overly cautious behavior that could undercut influence; triumphalism could beget a potentially dangerous absence of restraint, as well as an arrogance that would also squander influence. With careful analysis, the United States can make better decisions about how to protect its people, promote values, and lead toward a better world over the next few decades....
In my view, if the United States wants to remain strong, Americans need also to pay attention to our soft power [in addition to our military and economic power]. What precisely do I mean by soft power? Military power and economic power are both examples of hard command power that can be used to induce others to change their position. Hard power can rest on inducements (carrots) or threats (sticks). But there is also an indirect way to exercise power. A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries want to follow it, admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness. In this sense, it is just as important to set the agenda in world politics and attract others as it is to force them to change through the threat or use of military or economic weapons. This aspect of power—getting others to want what you want—I call soft power.29 It coopts people rather than coerces them.
SIMON SCHAMA: NEITHER MUNICH NOR SUEZ (posted 2-25-03)Simon Schama, writing in the Guardian (February 19, 2003):
I don't think it's a case either of 1939 or of 1956. I'm allergic to lazy historical analogies. History never repeats itself, ever. That's its murderous charm. The poet Joseph Brodsky, in his great essay A Profile of Clio, wrote that when history comes, it always takes you by surprise, and that's what I believe, too.
It is not 1939 because Saddam Hussein is not a rolling juggernaut of confident invasion and annexation (although he would probably like to be). Nor is it 1956 because the US is at the clumsy beginning of an imperial career, not the pathetic end of one.
There are two complicated modern problems that make this present situation extremely dangerous but unique. The first is in the shape of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, where you have a movement that hates modernity but is equipped with hi-tech modern weapons. In the past, where you have had a culture that resists modernity, they have had primitive weapons. This is a rich man's terrorism with rich man's toys. Osama bin Laden is a capitalist of death.
The second issue is that, even though it is a struggle to prove a direct link between Bin Laden and Saddam, there is a kind of pond of availability of very nasty chemical and biological weapons. In 1939, you had the spectacle of the German army marching into Austria and Poland with tanks. Then, in a sense, all you had to do to oppose Hitler was meet his tanks with yours. With these weapons, the threat is less familiar, less visible, less clear - but you still need to drain the pond.
Finally, the 1939/1956 controversy does not move the argument on: there has been extraordinarily little debate about what the postwar settlement would be. Anyone could fight this war; it will be easy to win. But no one in the US or UK seems really to have any idea of what to do afterwards: what kind of regime there will be, who to protect and who to do the protecting, what legitimacy a new government will have, and so on.
As a consequence, if you were Bin Laden, you would be thrilled about the prospect of war: either there will be a great fat target of a western presence in Iraq for several years or there will be a broken and chaotic state: either way it will be a teddy bears' picnic for terrorism.
WHAT WOULD BARBARA TUCHMAN SAY ABOUT BUSH'S POLICY ON NORTH KOREA? (posted 2-25-03)Donald C. Hellmann, professor of international studies at the University of Washington, writing in the Seattle Times:
Two decades ago, historian Barbara Tuchman wrote a brilliant book, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam," cataloging the pursuit by governments, throughout history, of policies contrary to their own interests. No matter what its final outcome, the still unfolding American policy toward Korea (both North and South) has produced another candidate for that parade.
Her question, addressed to the ages, must be asked of the current Bush administration: Why do people in high office act contrary to what the available information, common sense, and experience suggest?
North Korea, a tyrannical, economically-failed, rogue state with the third largest army in the world, has long been an enigmatic international problem, especially since the end of the Cold War. Over the past decade, Pyongyang has twice opted to "go nuclear" in defiance of world opinion and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, while its economy has slid into total collapse. As a strategically-located pariah state, it poses a multidimensional threat to regional peace and a clear and present danger to South Korea.
In light of the preeminent place in our policy held by the "war on terror" and the related, imminent, pre-emptive war on Iraq, the fact that South Korea has a GNP roughly equal to the entire Middle East, and the U.S. has 37,000 troops deployed as a military tripwire on the border with North Korea, would lead one to expect that Korea as a matter of course would receive priority and careful consideration in United States strategy. Surprisingly and lamentably, this has not been the case, as just a partial inventory of the policies taken by Washington over the past year can demonstrate.
Folly No. 1: North Korea was linked to Iraq and Iran as the current axis of evil in the 2002 State of the Union address. This linkage, according to a recent book by the writer of the speech, was generated as much by rhetorical considerations as strategic calculations (i.e., three points, not two, better define an axis and "we did not want a third Islamic state"). Including Pyongyang in the axis of evil bewildered the countries of Northeast Asia, linked the fluid Korean situation to the controversial and high-risk war with Iraq, and inevitably enhanced the paranoia in Pyongyang about the military threat from the United States as the drum beats for war with Saddam increased.
Folly No. 2: All of the neighboring countries of North Korea (South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan) have been pursuing policies of engagement with Pyongyang as the best way to prevent both its nuclearization and total collapse. The United States has not. Therefore, when Pyongyang admitted in October that it did have a uranium-enrichment program in violation of the 1994 Framework Agreement, but still wanted to negotiate, the United States refused. Not only did we refuse to talk, the United States made any future talks dependent on Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear weapons program, effectively blocking further negotiations since this weapons program is Kim Jong Il's essential bargaining chip. ...
Folly No. 3: By mismanaging day-to-day diplomacy with South Korea and by inadequately addressing a rising tide of anti-Americanism during a close presidential election, the United States further strained bilateral relations with Seoul. ...
Folly No. 4: CIA Director George Tenet's announcement that North Korea had a three-stage missile capable of reaching our West Coast "with a small nuclear bomb" inevitably invoked a firestorm of public concern. However, this was not new knowledge and was fully elaborated in a 1998 report by our current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. By defining the U.S.-North Korean relationship in narrowly military terms, Pyongyang was provided another opportunity to pull the goatee of Uncle Sam and it announced it would resume the testing of missiles. ...Because these results are contrary to American interests and contrary to what available evidence, common sense, and experience suggest, the Korean policies of the Bush administration fully qualify to join Tuchman's "march of folly."
INTERVIEW WITH OMER BARTOV: ON WAR (posted 2-25-03)Omer Bartov, historian at Brown, and author of Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide and Modern Identity, in the course of an interview with the NYT (February 15, 2003):
QUESTION: How would you link the concerns today about civil liberties with modern warfare?
BARTOV: World War I saw an enormous expansion in the power of the state. Passports and identity cards became crucial documents. Every individual had to be identified so that the state could control its population. The new surveillance state that wants to know everything about its inhabitants is a result of total war. The registration and categorization of populations according to their abilities, gender and ethnic group were all tremendously enhanced. The fear of terrorism in the United States has to do with the ability of terrorist organizations to use weapons that can cause mass death. This is real danger. But such fear of domestic collaborators with terrorism can also appear to legitimize measures that threaten civil liberties, as happened in the Red scare after World War I and McCarthyism in the 1950's.
Modern industrial warfare is not only about producing armaments; it also means the transformation of society. It is, if you like, the dark side of modernity.
QUESTION: You write that museums fail to portray war because the state cannot accept such honesty.
BARTOV:Such exhibits as the Imperial War Museum in London and the Museum of War in Paris glorified the nation through its accomplishment in war. With the transformation in public opinion and the political discourse on war and nation, these museums have become an embarrassment. They reveal that the perfect expression of the nation-state is its ability to mobilize itself for destruction. Creating an effective antiwar war museum, or an antigenocide museum, is probably impossible. The Holocaust Museum presents genocide as horrific and something that must be prevented but obscures the fact that the Holocaust is not an aberration.
Displays of killing machines tend to exhilarate young men rather than repel them. Why are men attracted to such films as"All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930) or"Black Hawk Down"? Because even antiwar films, or books, or photographs, or old soldiers' tales about comradeship make you want to share that experience, or at least to imagine it.
Maybe the only true antiwar films avoid war altogether. In Rene Clement's beautiful"Forbidden Games" there's only one brief war scene. The film is about two children in a peaceful village. But they're constantly burying things. They become completely obsessed with death. It shows what war does to children, to culture, to civilization. ...
QUESTION: How did industrial society and warfare change nationalism?
BARTOV: In World War I the outcast populations joined the nation. Religious minorities like the Jews, political outsiders like the socialists: everybody belongs to one nation. But by the end of the war, the catastrophic human losses and economic upheavals splinter the nation, throwing it into a crisis. These are the origins of fascism: the disillusionment with the old order and the promises of progress and prosperity. Some historians see the entire period of 1914 to 1945 as the epoch of total war, or of the European civil war.
QUESTION: How has genocide fit in?
BARTOV: War has become increasingly related to genocide and other crimes against humanity. Between 1914 and the present, the ratio of military and civilian casualties in war has shifted dramatically. Most of the people who die in war now are civilians, and increasingly soldiers are children. This has to do with defining the nation-state along ethnic and racial categories. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are predicated on ethnic or racial definitions. So the modern period is a precondition for these policies.
QUESTION:Do you see us moving toward preventing genocides?
BARTOV: The first two years of the 21st century have been very depressing. In some ways one is reminded of the period of slaughter at the beginning of the 20th century.
QUESTION: In what way?
BARTOV: There's a growing sense in Europe and the United States of instability, of fear, of threat. Europe feels threatened by invasion from the third world. As it unifies, it closes in on itself. There's growing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism. There are all kinds of shadows from the past. And the United States, after Sept. 11, is filled with a new anxiety it has never felt before.
THE FRANCO-AMERICAN BLAHS (posted 2-24-03)Richard Kuisel, a professor of history at Georgetown University, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (February 24, 2003):
From time to time, we have exhorted others, particularly the French, to follow our way toward prosperity and the good life, yet the French are quite aware of what they perceive as shortcomings in our model. From their perspective, we lack a sense of social solidarity, we are indifferent to the homeless, we tolerate gross income inequalities, we tolerate what they regard as the barbarous death penalty, and we treat the environment recklessly. All these things really jar the French. At the same time, they feel they have a superior social model, one that is more tolerant and more egalitarian. There is also the perception that American culture threatens French identity. What is often missed is that the French feel more endangered by American pop culture because some markers of French identity, such as language and food, are especially vulnerable to America.
But there is something new today. I think the French feel that they are not as dependent as they once were on the United States for their security. At the same time, the Americans are less interested in Europe. Neither side sees the other as necessary. In that sense, I think the Atlantic is widening. So the Iraq crisis enters at a rising curve of difficulty with the French and, to my mind, takes it to a new level.
FREE TRADE: WHY EVEN SMALL COUNTRIES BENEFIT (posted 2-21-03)
FREE TRADE: WHY EVEN SMALL COUNTRIES BENEFIT (posted 2-21-03)Timothy Guinnane, professor of economics and history at Yale University, writing in the Financial Times (London) (February 13, 2003):
Imagine that you are a citizen of a small country facing the decision whether to join an economic organisation dominated by a much larger and more economically advanced leader.
The potential benefits of tariff-free access to a huge market are large. But there are costs, including unrest among those who would suffer from the initial dislocation. You also worry that the leading country is a bully and joining might be the first step towards ending your country's independence.
From this description, some might think of Mexico and the North American Free Trade Area, or several eastern European countries and the European Union. But I am describing Bavaria in 1834. The leading country was Prussia and the organisation the Zollverein, the German free-trade area that preceded the formation of a unified German state. And yes, Bavaria joined.
I am not seriously suggesting an analogy between Mexico and Bavaria. The point is that, in this case, we know how the story turned out. Most current debates about globalisation turn on claims about what will happen if countries open themselves up to trade. Some debates deal with what has already happened - but usually over a short period, often the past 20 years.
This short-term perspective biases attention towards what globalisation's advocates readily concede: in any economy, more open trade entails both winners and losers. The balance of winners and losers depends on the country's economic structure and on how nimble its people and institutions are in adjusting to the new opportunities.
Most of the costs are immediate and short-term. Some people lose their jobs because of trade and some businesses lose out because of trade. But those losses are self-limiting; only in rare cases does the harm extend to the next generation. The benefits can flow for ever. Restricting our attention to a 10- or 20-year period prejudices the case against greater openness.
Integration into the Zollverein in 1834 helped some Bavarians and hurt others. Bavaria was heavily agricultural but had some small-scale industry. Other Zollverein members lagged behind England's industrialisation but were far ahead of Bavaria's. Dropping tariffs meant a flood of manufactured imports that undermined the comparable sectors in Bavaria.
As late as the 1870s there were still small-scale industrial producers that would have been better off if Bavaria had stayed on its own. On the other hand, some of Bavaria's agricultural producers responded quickly to the opportunities implicit in the large and relatively wealthy market now open free of tariffs.
DAVID KENNEDY: IN WAR PRESIDENTS LIE (posted 2-19-03)Stanford University professor David Kennedy, in the course of an interview on NPR (February 13, 2003):
DON GONYEA: Still, even though there seems to be plenty of agreement that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, the numbers show the nation is truly divided over the question of war. According to the history books, that is almost always the case when international conflict looms. Stanford University historian David Kennedy says look at Woodrow Wilson in World War I.
KENNEDY (Stanford University): Woodrow Wilson had the devil's own time trying to persuade the American people in 1914, '15, '16 and early 1917 that what was then known as the European war had anything to do with the security or the future well-being of the United States. So what did he do? He had to resort to--of necessity was making the case for war on the high grounds of morality and principle.
GONYEA: And, Kennedy says, since FDR in World War II, US history also shows many presidents fudging the truth to get the public behind a war the White House sees as necessary.
KENNEDY: Franklin Roosevelt distorted certain naval episodes in the Atlantic by way of moving the Congress further in the direction that he wanted. Lyndon Johnson, we now know, notoriously fudged, to put it mildly, the facts of the Tonkin Gulf confrontation in order to get the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. So, sure, there are these examples in the record.
GONYEA: Kennedy says that history helps to reinforce the skepticism we see today. President Bush has been accused of stretching the facts when he talks of ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein or when he says aluminum tubes the Iraqis have are for nuclear weapons. The administration's biggest critics have even questioned whether or not the raising of the terrorist threat level to code orange is part of the effort to rally around the president and promote the war. One other thing history has taught this administration, based on the experience of the first President Bush, is that once the war starts, the public will rally behind the president but that that support can quickly dwindle when the war is over and domestic concerns return to the fore.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: BUSH DOESN'T CARE ABOUT THE PROTESTS (posted 2-19-03)Douglas Brinkley, in the course of an interview on CNN about the anti-war protests (February 15, 2003):
I think he considers it, but he's looking at his ratings, and so is Karl Rove. And as long as he's in the 60 percent before war, I think he assumes that people will rally around the flag and he'll see himself at 75 or 80 percent. There are some things that one has to be concerned about. The Bush family does not like anybody breaking out of the family. And so, I think when Brent Scowcroft early in the year wrote that op-ed piece that caused such a clamor, was because a fellow Bush person stepped out and criticized them. When General Schwarzkopf has shown some bit of dissent in questioning the wiseness of intervention in Iraq right now, that gets the Bush people's attention, but people chanting"all we are needing is give a peace a chance" or taking out two pages in"The New York Times" isn't going to affect them, because they see that crowd as anti-Bush left leaning liberals, doves, people they don't need to worry about.
I do think the Catholic Church, though is something they need to worry about. And as you say, those so-called soccer moms. The middle class, the independents that might think that Bush's war was not the right war.
LEONARD DINNERSTEIN: ANTI-SEMITISM IS NOT ON THE RISE IN THE U.S. (posted 2-19-03)Leonard Dinnerstein, the University of Arizona historian, commenting on fears that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States; in the Toronot Star (February 12, 2003):
[There is no] new anti-Semitism in the United States. While traditional anti-Semitism exists, it is weak, weaker than it's ever been. There is more anti-feminism and anti-gay bashing than anti-Semitism in the United States. More people are prejudiced against fat people than Jews in the United States."
ROBERT DALLEK: PRESIDENTIAL CRISES (posted 2-19-03)Robert Dallek, in the course of an interview on NPR (February 4, 2003):
Mr. ROBERT DALLEK (Author,""Hail to the Chief"): This is what presidents do. Presidents are crisis managers, and anyone who goes to the presidency had better understand that this is what they're going to have to deal with. NORRIS: The president is playing two roles. He's taken on two simultaneous roles today, the comforter in chief... as he tries to help a grieving nation heal, but also the commander in chief, as he prepares to lead a somewhat wary nation into the possibility of war.
All presidents are both our monarchs and our prime ministers. They take care of both the symbols and substance of American politics. And so he has to speak for the nation, and he has to heal, so to speak, the suffering, the pain. Ronald Reagan did that with the other shuttle disaster; Bill Clinton did it at the time of Oklahoma City; Lyndon Johnson a few days after Kennedy's assassination. Words are weapons at times like this in a positive sense, in the sense that they heal the nation. They speak to it in ways that create a positive feeling, a sense of shared suffering, of shared disaster.
NORRIS: But is this truly an extraordinary moment? I mean, he's dealing with brinksmanship in North Korea, the possibility of war in Iraq, a deepening divide with historical allies......that could transform the relationship with Europe.
Mr. DALLEK: Absolutely. Well, it's a moment of great crisis. And, of course, how he handles these matters is very, very important to the future of the country. So I don't want to belittle it for a second. But on the other hand, it's not as if we haven't been through terrible strains and difficulties before: the Cuban missile crisis, Johnson's constant struggle over Vietnam, the riots in the inner cities over civil rights. So there are great crises that presidents face, and this doesn't diminish for a second the fact that he has to rise to the occasion. He has to meet the challenge.
NORRIS: Is there a model for this presidency?
Mr. DALLEK: For this presidency? Well, there is a model in the sense that Franklin Roosevelt was very wise about going to war; understood that before you could have a war in which you sacrifice great amounts of blood and treasure, you needed to have a consensus at home. Lyndon Johnson missed that lesson. He drove the country into war by a kind of stealth, and there was bitter division in the United States. And it defeated his presidency, it undermined the war efforts, so to speak, and largely left him with a negative historical legacy.
NORRIS: Modern-day presidents--you get this sense that they feel the weight of history on their backs. Do you see that in this president, a concern about how history might remember him? Mr. DALLEK: Oh, without question. Every one of them is so concerned that they walk away from the White House being remembered as great, or near great. After all, the have the kinds of egos that drive them to want to be president in the first place, and so then they're very mindful of what history is going to say about them.
Also, you see, I think, the media has changed the way in which the presidents respond to crises. There's instant attention. You know, before radio, television, people could be more deliberate; presidents could be more cautious, so to speak. But now the pressure on them to act quickly, and that's a great challenge. So you can't sit there and just contrive something, you know, over time. You've got to respond almost instantly to this. And the media instantly judges him, and then it becomes a process of history and the people looking back on what he did.
ROBERT KAGAN: DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPE AND THE U.S. (posted 2-19-03)Robert Kagan, author of Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, in the course of an interview on NPR (February 3, 2003):
NEIL CONAN: I've said the book is short. You don't waste a lot of time getting into it. I'm going to read the first line of your book."It is time to stop pretending," you write,"that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world or even that they occupy the same world." This is an enormous difference.
Mr. KAGAN: Well, yes, it is and it's something that became apparent to me precisely because I was living in Europe. And I must say I went to a lot of trans-Atlantic conferences where Americans and Europeans discussed foreign policy issues, and the opening premise of all these conferences was, 'Of course, we agree on the basic, fundamental questions. It's only the details that we disagree about.' And I must say over the course of some time it became clear to me that wasn't true and that, really, we disagree about fundamentals and that Europeans have really developed a very different view of military power, the legitimacy of power, international institutions and international legal system than Americans and that has really--it goes back before 9/11. It goes back even into the 1990s.
CONAN: You write that, in a way, Europe today--and by Europe you're speaking of the European community--that group of nations--that, in a way, they live in a post-historical world. What do you mean by that?
Mr. KAGAN: What I mean by that is that what Europe has created in the European Union over the past 10 years is really something of a geopolitical miracle. The European powers who fought two horrendous wars in the 20th century and many wars before that have created a system that really has no use for military power. When European countries deal with one another, they deal with one another through diplomatic means, through international legal mechanisms. The European Union is a kind of post-historical state, much as Immanuel Kant once envisioned. It's a kind of condition of perpetual peace, and it's really a wonderful thing for Europeans, and I think Americans should appreciate that it's good for Americans, too, that Europe doesn't really seem threatened by the prospect of a war breaking out anytime soon.
CONAN: Yet the United States, you write, remains mired in history and in a Hobbesian world. What do you mean by that?
Mr. KAGAN: Well, the United States still lives in a world--we're, obviously, not part of this European international system. We are part of a larger international system where there are still aggressors like Saddam Hussein, still dangerous people like Kim Jong Il, still countries that believe in old-fashioned power politics and who need to be deterred with old-fashioned military force. And so, in that sense, America doesn't live in that kind of paradise that Europe has been creating. In fact, America sort of stands guard around the walls of that European paradise. And I think sometimes Europeans don't quite appreciate the degree to which the reason they can enjoy the peace that they enjoy in Europe is due to the power that the United States has used over 50 years and more.
LINCOLN'S AMBITION AND OUR OWN AFTER 9-11 (posted 2-17-03)Doris Kearns Goodwin, writing in the NYT (February 17, 2003):
Before Sept. 11, many of us might have felt, as young Lincoln did when he was young, that the"field of glory" had been harvested by previous generations — that the times seemed somehow trivial. But then the wheel of history turned again. With the war against terror, and the anxieties provoked by warnings of future attacks on American soil, our generation has been provided with its own historic challenge. While our worries are great, even greater opportunities exist for leaders and citizens alike to win the lasting glory. Let us hope that we, and those who lead us, will, like Lincoln, be inspired by the noble ambition to accomplish reputable deeds worthy of remembrance.
DONALD KAGAN: WHY WAR IS NECESSARY (posted 2-14-03)Donald Kagan, in the course of an interview on CBS"Sunday Morning" (February 9, 2003):
It's a certainty that the attacks on the United States will grow and increase and we will encourage all of our opponents to tear up as much of the world order as is still left....
Men go to war because of fear, honor and interest. Fear always plays a critical role. One of the things that often is at work is that there is a fear of the loss of honor....
Nations have always found it necessary to fight off anybody and everybody they perceive as a threat to their existence, and there's no choice. We live in a world which has always been lawless in the sense that there is no law of nations that really binds because it's not backed by legitimate force.
LESSONS FROM THE COLD WAR APPLICABLE TODAY (posted 2-14-03)Stephen Brown, writing in frontpagemag.com: (February 14, 2003)
In his new book, Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union, author Jamie Glazov deals with this remarkable, but frightening, epoch, rendering a detailed account of Canadian foreign policy towards post-Stalinist Russia. The book covers the decade 1953-1963, which contained such pivotal Cold War events as the Soviet 20th Party Congress, the Suez Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Cuban Missile Crisis....
[Glazov] provides a fascinating account of how the St. Laurent government developed and followed a remarkable foreign policy toward the communist giant, termed the" containment-accommodation" approach.
This key theme of accommodation combined with containment was possible for Canada to pursue, since it didn't bear the United States' heavy and noble burden of defending the Western world and thus didn't have to follow the American hard-line policy toward the Soviets. Taking advantage of its fortunate position, Canada decided to use its middle power status to keep the lines of communication open with the Soviet Union, while still contributing to the containment of communist expansionism by membership in Western defensive organizations like NATO.
This Canadian, anti-communist" containment-accommodation" strategy, Glazov shows, resulted in helping to stop communism in its tracks in many areas of the world while, at the same time, facilitating the exposure of the post-Stalinist Soviet regime to ideas that would ultimately plant the seeds of communist self-destruction. It was a strategy, he writes, that was ultimately vindicated by Mikhail Gorbachev, whose Glasnost and Perestroika policies increased East-West contact and Soviet liberalization -- two developments that helped fuel the disintegration of the Soviet empire.
From the book's findings, it becomes clear that Canada's" containment-accommodation" strategy contains vital lessons for today's War on Terror. The reality of the Soviet experience, as outlined by Glazov, is that if tyrannies can be both contained and coaxed into trying to civilize themselves, they will self-destruct. Glazov praises the Western strategy of trying to find friendships within the communist bloc (i.e. Yugoslavia in 1948) -- a tactic that helped to splinter and devastate the Soviet empire.
Thus, in the current war on terrorism, we learn how the West, in drawing from its Cold War experiences with the Soviet Union, must now take a hard-line against militant Islam while simultaneously nurturing democratization and alliances within the Islamic world. In this way, the West can best defend itself, while fuelling the liberalization and fragmentation of its enemy.
ARE THE MEDIA UNDERPLAYING THE PEACE MOVEMENT? (posted 2-12-03)Hilary E. MacGregor, writing about the media's spotty coverage of the anti-war movement; in the Los Angeles Times (February 4, 2003):
Charles Chatfield, a retired professor at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, who has studied the history of antiwar sentiment, says the repertory of protest remains largely unchanged. But the media -- and particularly television -- tend to focus on the newest and most dramatic forms.
During the Vietnam War, for example, there was education in the newspapers, lobbying in Congress, and Southeast Asian specialists all speaking out, Chatfield said."But nobody paid attention. That wasn't the peace movement. TV had convinced people that the peace movement was marches, young people and the counterculture."
Today, though,"marches are not so novel anymore," Chatfield said, and for that reason, news of demonstrations is routinely"buried."
THE LEFT NEEDS TO REDEFINE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE UN-AMERICAN (posted 2-12-03)Michael Kazin, writing in the Washington Post (February 7, 2003):
[T]he American left, the natural vehicle for opponents of imperial overreach, remains a tiny persuasion -- and a sharply divided one at that. The organizers of the recent Washington and San Francisco marches refuse to say anything critical of Saddam Hussein; many belong to the Workers World Party, whose stated goal is"solidarity of all the workers and oppressed against this criminal imperialist system." That viewpoint dismays liberals such as philosopher and editor Michael Walzer, who calls for a"decent" left that would never apologize for tyrants....
Noam Chomsky derisively describes patriotism as the governing elite's way of telling its subjects,"You shut up and be obedient, and I'll relentlessly advance my own interests." Protesters against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank echo Malcolm X's description of himself as a"victim of Americanism" who could see no"American dream," only"an American nightmare." For such activists, fierce love for one's identity group -- whether black, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay or lesbian -- often seems morally superior to devotion to a nation that long tolerated that group's exclusion or abuse.
Progressives have certainly had some cause to be wary of those who invoke patriotism. After World War II,"Americanism" seemed to become the property of the American Legion, the House Un-American Activities Committee and the FBI. In the 1960s, liberal presidents bullied their way into Indochina in the name of what Lyndon Johnson called"the principle for which our ancestors fought in the valleys of Pennsylvania." On the contemporary right, popular talk-show hosts routinely equate a principled opposition to war with a"hatred" for America.
Yet the left's cynical attitude toward Americanism has been a terrible mistake. Having abandoned their defense of national ideals, progressives also lost the ability to pose convincing alternatives for the nation as a whole. They could take credit for helping to reduce the sadism of our culture toward homosexuals and racial minorities. But the right set the political agenda, in part because its activists were willing to speak forcefully in the name of American principles that knit together disparate groups -- such as anti-union businessmen, white evangelicals and Jewish neo-conservatives -- for mutual ends.
Editor's Note: Mr. Kazin has helped organize a conference at Georgetown on the history of Americanism. The conference, open to the public, will be held on March 27-28, 2003.
FRANCO-AMERICAN MESS (posted 2-11-03)
FRANCO-AMERICAN MESS (posted 2-11-03)Stacy Schiff, writing in the NYT (February 6, 2003):
The French-American alliance — whose birth was celebrated 225 years ago this month, with Champagne on one side of the Atlantic and later with rum on the other — has always been an uneasy one."I cannot deny that the Americans are somewhat difficult to handle, especially for a Frenchman," was the quiet verdict of one of our best friends, the Marquis de Lafayette. As late as the close of the Revolution, an American officer warned his superior:"The people do not like Frenchmen; every person they can't understand they take for a Frenchman." And that was during the honeymoon period. No one accused the French then of getting the vapors or of being weak-kneed, as the United States has done now during the Security Council debates over Iraq. But the colonists did believe Voltaire's nation to be one of frivolous, immoral, consumptive pygmy barbers.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is right: France is history. And while the secretary hardly meant to do so, he pointed up a reason why France remains stunningly relevant. In France, a country where the political memory is long, it may not have escaped notice that two centuries ago the Americans came abegging, and that the French rode to the rescue. Not that there seemed much risk in doing so. The whole point was that France was history. We weren't, and represented no threat to Gallic hegemony. The European balance of power alone was at stake, as were some delicious trade advantages. The French foreign minister to whom Lafayette confided his reservations — the 18th-century counterpart of Secretary of State Colin Powell — predicted a short, dim future for this country.
HOW RELIGION IS SHAPING THE IRAQ DEBATE (posted 2-11-03)Paul Boyer, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only):
...religion has always had an enormous, if indirect and underrecognized, role in policy formation.
And that is especially true today, as is illustrated by the shadowy but vital way that belief in biblical prophecy is helping mold grass-roots attitudes toward current U.S. foreign policy. As the nation debates a march toward war in the Middle East, all of us would do well to pay attention to the beliefs of the vast company of Americans who read the headlines and watch the news through a filter of prophetic belief....
Medieval prophecy expounders saw Islam as the demonic force whose doom is foretold in Scripture. As Richard the Lionhearted prepared for the Third Crusade in 1190, the famed prophecy interpreter Joachim of Fiore assured him that the Islamic ruler Saladin, who held Jerusalem, was the Antichrist, and that Richard would defeat him and recapture the Holy City. (Joachim's prophecy failed: Richard returned to Europe in 1192 with Saladin still in power.) Later interpreters cast the Ottoman Empire in the Antichrist role.
That theme faded after 1920, with the Ottoman collapse and the rise of the Soviet Union, but it surged back in the later 20th century, as prophecy popularizers began not only to support the most hard-line groups in Israel, but also to demonize Islam as irredeemably evil and destined for destruction."The Arab world is an Antichrist-world," wrote Guy Dury in Escape From the Coming Tribulation (1975)."God says he will lay the land of the Arabs waste and it will be desolate," Arthur Bloomfield wrote in Before the Last Battle -- Armageddon, published in 1971 and reprinted in 1999."This may seem like a severe punishment, but ... the terms of the covenant must be carried out to the letter."
The anti-Islamic rhetoric is at fever pitch today. Last June, the prophecy magazine Midnight Call warmly endorsed a fierce attack on Islam by Franklin Graham (son of Billy) and summed up Graham's case in stark terms:"Islam is an evil religion." In Lindsey's 1996 prophecy novel, Blood Moon, Israel, in retaliation for a planned nuclear attack by an Arab extremist, launches a massive thermonuclear assault on the entire Arab world. Genocide, in short, becomes the ultimate means of prophetic fulfillment.
Anticipating George W. Bush, prophecy writers in the late 20th century also quickly zeroed in on Saddam Hussein. If not the Antichrist himself, they suggested, Saddam could well be a forerunner of the Evil One. In full-page newspaper advertisements during the Persian Gulf war of 1991, the organization Jews for Jesus declared that Saddam"represents the spirit of Antichrist about which the Bible warns us."...
Academics do need to pay more attention to the role of religious belief in American public life, not only in the past, but also today. Without close attention to the prophetic scenario embraced by millions of American citizens, the current political climate in the United States cannot be fully understood.
Leaders have always invoked God's blessing on their wars, and, in this respect, the Bush administration is simply carrying on a familiar tradition. But when our born-again president describes the nation's foreign-policy objective in theological terms as a global struggle against"evildoers," and when, in his recent State of the Union address, he casts Saddam Hussein as a demonic, quasi-supernatural figure who could unleash"a day of horror like none we have ever known," he is not only playing upon our still-raw memories of 9/11. He is also invoking a powerful and ancient apocalyptic vocabulary that for millions of prophecy believers conveys a specific and thrilling message of an approaching end -- not just of Saddam, but of human history as we know it.
GOVERNMENTS LIE (posted 2-11-03)Howard Zinn, in the course of an interview with Andrew Sigler on the"official Howard Zinn website":
INTERVIEWER: You quoted journalist I.F. Stone, who said that every journalist must remember two words:"Governments lie." We hear"weapons of mass destruction" all the time. Is the true issue at stake here with Afghanistan and Iraq"blood for oil"?
HOWARD ZINN: Not so simply that you can say this is the only motive, but it is the most powerful motive. It is the motive that underlies all American policy in the Middle East ever since the end of WWII. There are others. The motive of political ambition, the motive of Bush thinking war gives him a stature that peacetime doesn't give him. Every president who goes to war immediately has a rise in his ratings.
There's another motive, too. War conceals the failures of the administration at home, and the American economy is faltering. More and more people are losing their jobs. Middle-class people have lost a lot of their savings because of what has happened in the stock market. There's no money in the administration's budget for education or health care. All sorts of services are being cut. There's no better way to make people forget about this than to get us into a war. Then war swallows up everybody's attention.
MICHAEL PARENTI: BUSH'S LIES (posted 2-10-03)Michael Parenti, author of The Terrorism Trap (City Lights), in an op ed emailed to HNN (February 10, 2003):
Bush and other members of his administration have given varied and unpersuasive reasons to justify the "war"---actually a one-sided massacre--- against Iraq. They claim it is necessary to insure the safety and security of the Middle East and of the United States itself, for Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear missiles. But UN inspection teams have determined that Iraq has no such nuclear capability and actually has been in compliance with yearly disarmament inspections.
As for the fact that Iraq once had factories that produced chemical and bacteriological weapons, whose fault was that? It was the United States that supplied such things to Saddam. This is one of several key facts about past US-Iraq relations that the corporate media have consistently suppressed. In any case, according to UN inspection reports, Iraq's C&B warfare capability has been dismantled. Still the Bushites keep talking about Iraq's dangerous "potential." As reported by the Associated Press (2 November 2002), Undersecretary of State John Bolton claimed that "Iraq would be able to develop a nuclear weapon within a year if it gets the right technology." If it gets the right technology? What does that say about anything? The truistic nature of this assertion has gone unnoticed. Djibouti, Qatar, and New Jersey would be able to develop nuclear weapons if they got "the right technology."
Through September and October of 2002, the White House made it clear that Iraq would be attacked if it had weapons of mass destruction. Then in November 2002, Bush announced he would attack if Saddam denied that he had weapons of mass destruction. So if the Iraqis admit having such weapons, they will be bombed; and if they deny having them, they still will be bombed--whether they have them or not.
The Bushites also charged Iraq with allowing al Qaeda terrorists to operate within its territory. But US intelligence sources themselves let it be known that the Iraqi government was not connected to Islamic terrorist organizations. In closed sessions with a House committee, when administration officials were repeatedly asked whether they had information of an imminent threat from Saddam against US citizens, they stated unequivocally that they had no such evidence (San Francisco Chronicle, 20 September 2002). Truth be told, the Bush family has closer ties to the bin Laden family than does Saddam Hussein. No mention is made of how US leaders themselves have allowed terrorists to train and operate within our own territory, including a mass murderer like Orlando Bosch. Convicted of blowing up a Cuban airliner, Bosch walks free in Miami.
Bush and company seized upon yet another pretext for war: Saddam has committed war crimes and acts of aggression, including the war against Iran and the massacre of Kurds. But the Pentagon's own study found that the gassing of Kurds at Halabja was committed by the Iranians, not the Iraqis (Times of India, 18 September 2002). Another seldom mentioned fact: US leaders gave Iraq encouragement and military support in its war against Iran. And if war crimes and aggression are the issue, there are the US invasions of Grenada and Panama to consider, and the US-sponsored wars of attrition against civilian targets in Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and scores of other places, leaving hundreds of thousands dead. There is no communist state or "rogue nation" that has such a horrific record of military aggression against other countries over the last two decades.
Editor's Note: On February 3, 2003, HNN published an article by Juan Cole that disputes the findings of the defense department study cited by Mr. Parenti.
SHOCK AND AWE AND HIROSHIMA (posted 2-10-03)
SHOCK AND AWE AND HIROSHIMA (posted 2-10-03)Ira Chernus, writing in CommonDreams.org (January 27, 2003):
Have your heard of Harlan Ullman? Everyone in the White House and the Pentagon has. They may very well follow his plan for war in Iraq. He wants to do to Baghdad what we did to Hiroshima.
Ullman is what they call a “defense intellectual.” He was the Navy's “head of extended planning” and taught at the National War College. One of his students was Secretary of State Colin Powell, who says he “raised my vision several levels.”
What Powell and everyone in the Bush administration sees now is Ullman’s vision for high-tech war. He calls it “rapid dominance,” or “shock and awe.” The idea is to scare the enemy to death. To win, you don’t need to inflict physical pain and destruction. Just the fear of pain, and the massive confusion it creates, is enough.
Ullman wants the U.S. to (in his words) “deter and overpower an adversary through the adversary’s perception and fear of his vulnerability and our own invincibility.” “This ability to impose massive shock and awe, in essence to be able to 'turn the lights on and off' of an adversary as we choose, will so overload the perception, knowledge and understanding of that adversary that there will be no choice except to cease and desist or risk complete and total destruction."
Ullman is ready to use every kind of weapon to create shock and awe. He once said it might be a good idea to use electromagnetic waves that attack peoples’ neurological systems, “to control the will and perception of adversaries, by applying a regime of shock and awe. It is about effecting behavior." ...
Ullman is sure it will work as well in 2003 as it did in 1945: “You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes.""Super tools and weapons -- information-age equivalents of the atomic bomb -- have to be invented," he wrote in the Economic Times."As the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally convinced the Japanese Emperor and High Command that even suicidal resistance was futile, these tools must be directed towards a similar outcome.”
When he first invented “rapid dominance,” Ullman talked about an “eight-level hierarchy of shock and awe,” with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the top. Now, it seems, that’s where he wants to start.
Is the Hiroshima model just a metaphor? Ullman recently wrote that one way to “shock and awe” Saddam is to remind him that the U.S. has “certain weapons” that can destroy deeply buried facilities. That’s a not-even-thinly-veiled reference to the newest kind of nuclear weapons, the B-61 “bunker-busters.” L.A. Times columnist William Arkin has confirmed that the U.S. is preparing to use “bunker-busters” against Iraq. That would “break down the firewall separating nuclear weapons from everything else,” Arkin warns, and “forever pit the Arab and Islamic world against us.”
EXPLORERS IN THE 16TH CENTURY OFTEN DIED YOUNG (posted 2-5-03)Max Boot, writing in the Washington Post (February 3, 2003):
NASA's safety record is pretty impressive: just three fatal accidents (Apollo 1 in 1967, Challenger in 1986, Columbia on Saturday) in 45 years. It goes without saying that one death is one too many. But compare that record with the hazards of the Age of Exploration that began in the 15th century.
Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) is usually credited as the first man to circle the globe, but he didn't quite make it; he was killed en route while fighting Filipinos. His men carried on, but only 18 of the original 270 crew members survived this pioneering voyage -- a 93 percent fatality rate.
This seems astounding in retrospect, but it was normal at the time. Sailors had a very short life expectancy because of bad weather, foul provisions, harsh discipline, unfriendly natives and -- worst of all in that pre-penicillin age -- contagious diseases. Few famous explorers died in their beds counting their doubloons. Bartolomeu Dias (1450-1500), who discovered the Cape of Good Hope, went down with his ship in an Atlantic storm. Francis Drake (1540-1596), the second man to circumnavigate the globe, was felled by dysentery off Panama. James Cook (1728-1779), who mapped the Pacific, was attacked and eaten by hostile Hawaiians.
Such risks, while off the charts to modern-day Americans, did not faze men who knew that more than a third of Europe's population had been wiped out by the bubonic plague in the 14th century. Naturally we are more sensitive to losses of explorers (and soldiers, another high-risk category), because premature death has become -- thank goodness -- a relatively rare phenomenon in the modern West.
Still, men of the 15th and 16th centuries would have had a greater chance of living out their natural life spans had they not chosen to"follow the sea."
Historians usually ascribe their motivations to the three G's: God, glory and gold, with the last taking pride of place. Hernan Cortes, explaining why he set out to conquer the Aztec empire in 1519, said:"I came here to get rich, not to till the soil like a peasant."
HOW POLITICS PLAYED A ROLE IN SPACE (posted 2-5-03)William E. Burrows, an aerospace historian and the author of By Any Means Necessary: America's Heroes Flying Secret, Missions in a Hostile World, writing in the Los Angeles Times (February 3, 2003):
The space station -- whose own tortured history goes back to 1984 when Ronald Reagan signed off on one called Freedom as an in-your-face gesture to the Russians -- is a case in point.
Last year, with cost overruns plaguing it, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration infuriated its foreign partners in the International Space Station by announcing that it would stop construction when it reached a" core complete" configuration (then set for next year but now in doubt because of the Columbia accident). This announcement had the effect of reducing the crew from six or seven to three, eliminating a lifeboat rescue spacecraft and further taking away several research facilities and crucial equipment for science experiments.
The unfinished station could no better symbolize the troubled space program than if it had been conceived on Madison Avenue. It is and will remain for the indefinite future incomplete: scientifically crippled, essentially purposeless and unreachable by a grounded shuttle fleet that is itself old and weakened by 25%.
The shuttles themselves were compromises that reflected the Nixon administration's frugality and a hazily articulated mission. It was well known in 1969, when Richard Nixon approved the Space Transportation System (eventually to include a station), that two fully reusable spacecraft, one riding on the back of the other, was the obvious way to get into space and stay there. That, however, was taken to be unnecessarily expensive, so a cheaper design that used solid rocket boosters whose sections were sealed with rubber O-rings was chosen instead.
With two catastrophic failures in 113 flights, the shuttle's safety record is actually impressive. Yet a series of potentially dangerous developments that preceded the destruction of Columbia, including cracked fuel lines and a hydraulic system failure, bodes ill for the future of the other aging spacecraft.
If anything good is to come out of the cause for which the Columbia astronauts died, it should be a resolve that it is humanity's destiny to inhabit Earth orbit, the moon and beyond.
WOULD AARON BURR HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED AN ENEMY COMBATANT? (posted 2-5-03)Eric M. Freedman, who teaches legal history and constitutional law at Hofstra Law School, commenting on law.com about the Bush administration position that Yaser Esam Hamdi (an American citizen) can be detained incommunicado indefinitely as an"enemy combatant" (February 2, 2003):
After Aaron Burr left office as vice president following his duel with Alexander Hamilton, he allegedly conspired with Spanish agents to break off some of this country's western territories from their allegiance to the United States. ("Western" in those days began at the Appalachian Mountains.)
Among his alleged co-conspirators were Dr. Erick Bollman and Samuel Swartwout. In December 1806, the pair was seized by Gen. James Wilkinson, denied counsel and access to the courts, and sent by warship to Washington.
There, the U.S. attorney asked the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia to have the two imprisoned pending trial for treason. In support of this, he proffered an affidavit from Gen. Wilkinson and a message from President Thomas Jefferson to Congress stating that Wilkinson's information proved the plot"beyond question." Over the objections of defense counsel, a politically divided bench granted the motion.
The prisoners thereupon applied to the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. Sitting in court, they listened for five days as Chief Justice John Marshall and his colleagues"fully examined and attentively considered" on an item-by-item basis"the testimony on which they were committed," just as"the court below ought to have done" (according to Marshall's opinion). Finding the prosecution's factual proffer insufficient to justify the detention, the Supreme Court ordered the prisoners discharged.
Plainly, the prosecutors of Bollman and Swartwout were simply practicing law 200 years too soon. Had they only had the benefit of last month's 4th Circuit opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, they would have known just how to proceed: announce that the defendants, having been seized in the midst of an armed plot on behalf of a foreign power, were"enemy combatants" and could therefore be held without access to counsel or any opportunity to respond to the allegations against them until such time as, in the president's opinion, Spain no longer posed a threat to national security.
SHOULD BUSH BE ASKING US TO MAKE SACRIFICES? (posted 2-5-03)Donald Goldstein, the military historian at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor, commenting on a columnist's suggestion that President Bush in his State of the Union address should have asked Americans to prepare to make sacrifices if we go to war with Iraq (Pittsburgh Post Gazette February 2, 2003):
This ain't World War II. This is peanuts. I'm sorry. I think you're stretching. What's he going to ask us for?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: ON ALREADY THINKING ABOUT 2004 (posted 2-5-03)Douglas Brinkley, commenting on the significance of the State of the Union address, as quoted in USA Today (January 29, 2003):P>
The golden rule is on the third year of your presidency, there's not a lot of margin for error. Whatever blunders you make in that year are going to be [remembered] on the campaign trail. It's harder to get people to recall the speeches the president gave or the legislation of the first year of the presidency. People want to know,"What's he done for me lately?""Lately" is Year Three.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN AND RICHARD NORTON SMITH: THE CHALLENGE OF THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS (posted 2-4-03)Doris Kearns Goodwin and Richard Norton Smith, in the course of an interview on CNBC (January 28, 2003):
BRIAN WILLIAMS: And, Richard, what a plate--a plate-balancing act it is for this president, preoccupied overseas, so mindful of his father's, at least perceived, domestic failure.
Mr. RICHARD NORTON SMITH (Presidential Historian): Yeah, he doesn't want to be a prisoner of history. He wants to extract what lessons he can from history. But I think it's a mistake, it's an understandable mistake, but it's a mistake to--to frame this as what does the president have to do tonight to persuade the American people, for example, of the wisdom of going to war with Iraq. It is a process of persuasion, it is not going to happen with one speech. It is--in many ways what happened tonight, in some ways grew--growed--grew out of what Hans Blix had to say to the United Nations yesterday. We are being told, at least by Colin Powell, that we're going to be seeing some intelligence reports in the next few days. What happens tonight in many ways is the beginning of a process. Harry Truman famously said 50 years ago that the chief function, the defining mission of a president in the 20th century was the art of persuasion. And that's what tonight is all about.
WILLIAMS: Doris, when Ike was at his height in the polls in this country, your old boss Lyndon Johnson came forward from the Senate, became his good friend, said, 'There's things we can do together, let me help you here,' and made a virtue out of being in the opposition party. Those circumstances could exist today, but we don't really see people stepping forward.
Ms. KEARNS GOODWIN: No, I think it's much harder in today's world. In part because campaigns are so vicious personally, they don't have the same camaraderie that they once had during Johnson's time, during Eisenhower's time. They didn't run home to their electorates all the time, they could play poker together, they could drink together, so they created an ambiance that allowed cooperation both in foreign policy and in domestic policy. There's much more divisiveness in Washington, as we know. We have seen it in the last 10 years.
WILLIAMS: And, Richard, you mentioned this process. The president tonight will talk about the war on terrorism both seen and unseen. And there's really no questioning that latter part, because we really don't know that dynamic of, 'If you people only knew what we deal with on a day-to-day basis.' That does give him a certain reservoir to draw from.
Mr. SMITH: It's a reservoir, but it's always real restraint. I mean, I think one of the things that a lot of people who are very sympathetic to the administration, and indeed sympathetic to the notion that we have to take some kind of military action, are scratching their heads and have wondered really for the last six weeks, the administration in some ways has almost seemed to go into winter hibernation, and we haven't heard a lot of justification, we haven't seen a lot of intelligence. And the other thing, you know, I've been wondering, thinking, you know, I was curious, this is a president who unlike his predecessor, for example, is one of the least self-dramatizing of men. And stop and think, how many times during this relatively young presidency have--have we sat around and said, 'Tonight the president has got to give the speech of his life,' because of the inherent drama and the challenge that he confronts.
WILLIAMS: And, Doris, Richard mentions one area of difference with his predecessor, you couldn't pick any two more striking comparisons to put back-to-back in front of the American people.
Ms. KEARNS GOODWIN: No, when you think about that moment when Clinton had to appear before the country in the State of the Union, when he was in the middle of the impeachment scandal and he was simply given credit for standing up there. Or think about Nixon in 1974, in his State of the Union in the middle of the Watergate scandal where he had that incredible gaff where he meant to say, 'We have to replace the discredited welfare system,' and instead he said 'We have to displace--replace the discredited presidency.' But still, he stood up there, you know, so those were moments when unfor--luckily for us tonight, there's not that kind of scandal backdrop.
WILLIAMS: And, Richard, having watched what has gone on to this White House, in this White House since 9/11, what lesson, as a president watcher, has it reinforced in you as to what the times can do to a leader?
Mr. SMITH: Well, it gives an opportunity to be great. The presidents we remember, the presidents that we talk about, the presidents that we point to generations or centuries later are the presidents who defined the challenge of their times. Lincoln famously said in 1862 in his annual message to Congress, 'The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion.' The fact of the matter is, the nature of the American democracy, particularly in the television age, is to personalize these challenges. All eyes are on the president, we expect the president to lead, and what those polls that we talked about earlier suggest is that millions of people are still willing to be persuaded and to be led.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: THE BEST STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS IN THE 20TH CENTURY (posted 2-4-03)Douglas Brinkley, in the course of an interview on CBS (January 29, 2003):
HARRY SMITH: Let's talk a little history this morning. From your standpoint as an historian, what was the most interesting of all State of the Union addresses?
Prof. BRINKLEY: Well, the most interesting in recent times, meaning the 20th century, I think would be Franklin Roosevelt's famous Four Freedoms speech, which is talked about time and again, because he was able to get a galvanizing principle about what World War II--the gathering war clouds of World War II, was going to be about. That was to fight for freedoms all over the world, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom for religion, freedom from hunger. And it was very grandiose. But that Four Freedoms speech sort of gave a general guiding principle for the Anglo-American alliance in the Second World War, and it eventually led to the Atlantic Charter Agreement between Britain and the United States, and it is considered the cornerstone speech of today's United Nations.
SMITH: In your personal opinion, what was the most memorable of all State of the Union addresses?
Prof. BRINKLEY: Well, I'll tell you, you know, after watching last night, that one to me was very memorable, because we really have what could be a--a serious, serious crisis in the Middle East at hand here, and I know from--you know, I've watched them every year, I comment on them every year, and I was a little taken aback that the normal tone of last night's speech on the economy seemed something that one was expecting, and then when President Bush got into talking about Iraq, you--you felt that he--he felt that Baghdad was the vortex of evil, and you could see the kind of passion building in him. And it suddenly dawned on me that--that this country is really going to war, that there's--really doesn't look like too much of an alternative to--to turning back.
So in recent times, I think this is--last evening's may go down as being one of the most historic State of the Unions because it was the--it's--it's--I--I feel like we're heading a new chapter now. The UN inspections are over, and we're moving into a new direction.
SMITH: Yeah. There were moments in that last several pages of the speech, so often during a State of the Union, it's often interrupted by applause. I'm going to say pages went by with--in absolute silence And toward the end there was a moment that I thought had a kind of an eloquence to it that might even live in history. I want to take a look at the tape. Let's take a listen and we'll come back.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: Americans are a free people who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world. It is God's gift to humanity.
SMITH: You can see that being quoted in the future, can't you?
Prof. BRINKLEY: Absolutely. You can open up the books of--Bartlett's Books of Quotations under Bush and there it'll be, you know, just a decade from now.
MANNING MARABLE: RACISM AND AMERICAN SOCIETY (posted 2-4-03)Political science professor Manning Marable, in the course of an interview on NPR about his new book, The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race In American Life (January 27, 2003):
ALLISON KEYES: You say in your book that the new civil rights movement will be led by the poor and by prisoners and by the hip-hop generation, not by the traditional black middle-class. Why is that?
Prof. MARABLE: That's right.
KEYES: What will be different this time?
Prof. MARABLE: Well, there's a chapter called "The Death of the Talented Tenth." Many listeners will immediately know that Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, the founder of the NAACP, our greatest academician within black history, believed at the beginning of his career that the elite within the black community would lift up the masses. But as Dr. Du Bois acquired a deeper and greater wisdom, he began to see that, actually, history's change occurs rarely from the top down but from the bottom up. The 'We shall overcome' generation had a notion of political organizing that emanated from the middle class. I think the hip-hop generation has a very different point of view on this. There are one million African-American women and men in prison as I speak today. You've got massive incarceration that has devastated our urban communities.
Now I teach in Sing Sing prison on a regular basis. I work with brilliant young Hispanic and black men who are incarcerated in these institutions and, in effect, the punishment continues after they leave the prison for decades to come. We have to reintegrate and find a way to re-empower and refranchise those African-Americans that have been marginalized through the processes of mass incarceration. And my book tries to spell out concrete ways to do that.
KEYES: Where will the resources come from to lead that movement without the financial backing of the black middle class, and doesn't the middle class still have to be a part of that equation?
Prof. MARABLE: Absolutely, they do, and I think that Frantz Fanon, who was the key intellectual in the Algerian revolution, believed that it was the wretched of the Earth who would lead the way. I argue that it's the hip-hop nation. I argue that it's black women and men in communities devastated by mass incarceration. I argue that if you go to Cincinnati, as I have done and I describe in my book, looking at the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and see the devastation of unemployment and police brutality, that community-based organizations and especially faith-based institutions are constructing new models of leadership and advocacy and are leading the way, and the role of the black middle class is to support a process that is already unfolding. ...
KEYES: One of the premises of your book is the absolute difference between the way white Americans and Americans of color feel differently about race. Do you ever see that difference changing appreciably?
Prof. MARABLE: I live in New York City, so I see the parallel racial universes, where every day, where we speak the same language, are theoretically governed by the same set of laws, but encounter reality in fundamentally different ways. And it's not just about trying to catch a cab in Midtown Manhattan going to Harlem. It's also about the fact that the typical black man--almost one-half of all black males die before they collect Social Security. It's also about the fact that the typical black household has only one-eighth of the net wealth of the typical white American household. How do we renegotiate a new racial peace?
I think the last chapter of "The Great Wells of Democracy" is entitled "The Souls of White Folk." So much of the problem of race in American life is not a black problem at all. It's white Americans coming to terms with the reality of the vast historical crimes committed by the American state against the African-American people. And here, we're not pointing fingers. We're talking about historically constructed accumulated disadvantage that the American government and American corporations are responsible for. And until--and this is where I think the issue of reparations come in. Reparations is not fundamentally about the money. It is a recognition of the historic human rights violations that occurred in this country and that we collectively, as citizens, are all responsible for redressing the crimes of history.
MANNING MARABLE: 9-11 and RACISM (posted 2-4-03)Political science professor Manning Marable, in the course of an interview on NPR about his new book, The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race In American Life (January 27, 2003):
ALLISON KEYES: All right. In your chapter in the book,"9/11: Racism In A Time of Terror," you say that the rise of terrorism comes from global apartheid. What does that mean?
Prof. MARABLE: Well, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois in his prophetic book, the"Souls of Black Folk," said that the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line. And by that, he meant colonialism and racial segregation, Jim Crow in the American South. Well, today, the problem of the 21st century is the problem of global apartheid; as Malcolm X put it, the racialized division between the haves and the have-nots on this planet. And I argue that terrorism assumes many different forms. The lynchings that occurred and the mass burnings of black people in Rosewood and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the 1920s were state-sponsored terrorism. The United States, carrying out the coup, eliminating Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 was US state-sponsored terrorism.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: STATE OF THE UNION (posted 2-4-03)Doris Kearns Goodwin, in the course of an interview on MSNBC the day before President Bush delivered his State of the Union address (January 27, 2003):
PAT BUCHANAN: Doris, you worked with President Johnson on his State of the Union addresses, I'm sure, as I worked with Mr. Nixon and President Reagan. Lyndon Johnson used to have sort of sometimes laundry-list approach, all the programs he was announcing. And he would lay out his agenda.
But the other two presidents, it seemed to me, would go for a large thematic speech, with some sort of major issue. How do you see the president's State of the Union shaping up tomorrow night?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, the thing that should be said, in respect to Lyndon Johnson, I wish I had worked with him on the State of the Unions. That was my husband, who actually was deeply involved in the '65 State of the Union.
And that was one of the great State of the Unions, I think, of the 20th century, because he outlined voting rights, Medicare, aid to Appalachia, aid to education. And then, the next morning, he was on the phone getting those things done. And that was the great Congress that passed all those things.
There's a funny story with that, which is that Jack Valenti presumably said to him after the speech, Mr. President, they applauded you 69 times. And he said, no, it was 70 times.
GOODWIN: But I think the idea of a State of the Union message is not simply the rhetoric and the thematic structure. It's to move action, to move Congress, to move the country, to move the world. And that's what it needs to be judged on. Clinton had a lot of good rhetorical State of the Unions. But the question was, did anything happen from those words that were said?
WILL THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT SUCCEED? (posted 1-29-03)An interview with several historians about the anti-war march on Washington; on the "NewsHour" on PBS (January 20, 2003):
LUCY BARBER: I think it depends on how you judge the effectiveness. Have any anti-war protests stopped a war? I don't think so. But on the other hand, there's no question that the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era changed our way of thinking about whether or not we the country should go to war -- so, for example, I think of the fact that these protests now are getting organized and being put on the agenda so much before we've actually committed to any military action, shows that legacy -- that people know that protests can change foreign policy.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean, do you mean that the feeling is that you have to start before the war starts or you don't have a chance of ending it?
LUCY BARBER: I think that's part of the lesson -- that you've got to start earlier, and to put yourself out there. In a sense I think back to what happened during the Operation Desert Storm and how disorganized those who opposed that military action were. So that by the time it actually came around that the Persian Gulf War started, even the anti-war groups had already broken apart from their coalition. So you had two weekends of marches on Washington, because they couldn't even agree to march in the same way. So you see, -- this time a coalition actually holding together, and I think that's going to be one of the most important things for the anti-war movement right now is whether or not they can keep that coalition together.
MARGARET WARNER: Of course the Gulf War ended so quickly that there probably wasn't much time for anything to gather steam. Phil Zelikow, what is your view on how effective or what effect anti-war movements have had?
PHILIP ZELIKOW: Well, the anti-war movement of the 1930s was enormously effective. It was extremely powerful. It effectively paralyzed American diplomacy really at least up until the middle of 1940 and the fall of France, and significantly inhibited American moves right up to Pearl Harbor. So it was very powerful. And then people then looked back on that and wondered whether or not that influence had been beneficial. In the Vietnam War, its influence is much more controversial there's actually a fairly strong argument among some historians that the anti-war movement actually prolonged the war, because it polarized American opinion, helped elect Richard Nixon and gave Nixon additional backing because of the backlash against the way the protesters were conducting themselves. But the cultural momentum from that era of protests was huge. And carried beyond the Vietnam War, and as you can see in the film, lingers today.
MARGARET WARNER: Your view about the effectiveness?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I see it as more positive actually. I think it's a part of the system, because when a president is making a decision to go to war, the most serious decision he can make, you have to hear both arguments and this is one way of doing it. During the Civil War, Lincoln was opposed by a lot of the copperheads of the North, as Phil mentioned a moment ago, they helped Lincoln to focus his arguments and fight this war in a way that had broader support. Even after 39, 40 and had he not had that opposition, he probably would not have been as good both in terms of devising a strategy to fight World War II and also making the case. And I think Vietnam as well. Vietnam, the reason it is more of a tragedy than I think almost anything else is that that movement began in 1965 and had very little effect until we finally ended our active involvement in 1973. That was an absolute rebuke to the way that our system is supposed to operate. When support for a war drops and when there's a huge movement against it, the government is supposed to respond and it did not under Johnson and Nixon. That was the reason I think for that enormous rage. Nixon gave a press conference at the height of the protest in late '69 and said, I know about the protests, he said, under no circumstances will I be affected what so ever by it. That led to the kind of polarization that Philip mentioned.
comments powered by Disqus
- Historian author Antony Beevor says his new World War 2 book may anger Americans
- Ron Radosh and Allis Radosh plan to defend Warren Harding in a new book
- Historians tackle America’s mass incarceration problem
- Report: Russian studies in crisis
- Ken Burns: Donald Trump’s birtherism — a “politer way of saying the ‘N-word'” — proves America isn’t remotely “post-racial”