Historian's Take on the News: Archives 11-1-02 to 1-29-03


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you make of the events today? This is a difficult-this is going to be difficult, I would think, for the Israelis to deal with.

DANIEL PIPES: It certainly is. The Israelis have clearly made a mistake, and need to be more careful. It's a tragedy. We must all urge the Israelis to approach these problems more carefully.

That said, it is also important to realize that the Palestinians have the moral opprobrium here in having the leaders of their military in civilian areas. There is no distinction, and they are making it I think on purpose a target for the Israelis so that when the Israelis do strike, it's likely that they will have civilian casualties.

So, the Israelis have got to be more careful, but the Palestinians are not playing fair. You don't put your military men in houses with children.

BROWN: Well, the guy-I want to understand this because this strikes me a bit of a stretch. You got a guy apparently at home with his wife and children. Now, other than walking around the streets with a target on his back, what is it he's supposed to be doing?

PIPES: Military installations in the Palestinian areas are consistently found in civilian areas. So, what one finds all the time is the Israelis are trying very hard to avoid taking-inflicting casualties and sometimes even taking themselves.

You remember, a few months ago, some 13 Israelis were killed because they fell into a booby trap. So, it happens both ways. I mean, I'm in no way apologizing for what the Israelis have done today. I'm just saying there's a context, and it's one which is tragic.

But it's one in which this man, Salah Shehadeh, has a very important role. He is one of the founders of the military wing of Hamas. He was in Israeli jail for 14 years, from 1984 to 1998. He's a close associate of the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yassin. He's been, as was indicated earlier, on the top of the Israelis' most wanted list for some months now. The Israelis did blow up his house actually in December of last year. He is their target and he is, as I said before, and I think it's fair to say, he's making sure that he's surrounded by his wife, his children and other civilians.

BROWN: Would you agree that the end results of this, whether it was a good move, bad move, stupid, however, the end result of this is simply going to be more violence on both sides, that that is the natural outcome of this sort of event?

PIPES: No. I think I disagree, Aaron. Because I don't think it's a state of peace that's interrupted by the occasional, you know, spasmodic event of violence. I think there's a war taking place and there are occasional lulls in that war. And the key question is not when is the next act of violence going take place. The key question is who is winning this war, who is losing this war, what are the implications of that. It's a war.


Eric Foner, in a letter to the editor of the NYT (7-22-02):

The opening in Battery Park City of a memorial to victims of the Irish famine of 1845-52, near the Living Memorial to the Holocaust, suggests that Americans are more comfortable remembering others' violations of human rights than our own.

The Irish famine and the Holocaust played important roles in New York's history. Thousands of immigrants fled to safety here. These events certainly deserve commemoration. Yet their impact pales in comparison with slavery's. In the colonial era, New York was a major center of slave labor. Slaves represented more than 10 percent of the population in 1750. In the first half of the 19th century, the city grew rich financing, insuring and shipping the cotton produced by Southern slaves.

When will we see, in this city and elsewhere in the country, memorials to the victims of slavery, our home-grown crime against humanity?


Robert Dallek, professor of history at Boston University, in a letter to the editor of the NYT (7-17-02):

"In Tough Times, a Company Finds Profits in Terror War" (July 13) is a reminder that Brown & Root--the forerunner to KBR, the division of Haliburton to which you refer--pioneered the way in wartime corporate corruption.

In the 1940's, the Brown brothers and their executives aggressively broke campaign finance and tax laws while piling up large profits from defense contracts. Closely allied with influential political operators, including Lyndon B. Johnson, they were let off with a slap on the hands.

Like their successors at Halliburton, the Browns had no qualms about becoming"socialized millionaires," as some critics described their gains from government spending, at the same time as they denounced government regulation of the free market and social welfare programs that they complained provided money to people too lazy to work.


Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks,"The Dignity of Difference: Avoiding the Clash of Civilizations," Foreign Policy Research Institute (7-17-02):

With the end of the Cold War, there were two famous scenarios about where the world would go: Francis Fukuyama's End of History (1989) and Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996).

Fukuyama envisaged an eventual, gradual spread first of global capitalism, then of liberal democracy, with the result being a new universalism, a single culture that would embrace the world.

Huntington saw something quite different. He saw that modernization did not mean Westernization, that the spread of global capitalism would run up against countermovements, the resurgence of older and deeper loyalties, a clash of cultures, or what he called civilizations -- in short, a new tribalism.

And to a considerable extent, that is where we are. Even as the global economy binds us ever more closely together, spreading a universal culture across the world -- what Benjamin Barber calls "McWorld" -- civilizations and religious differences are forcing us ever more angrily and dangerously apart. That is what you get when the only two scenarios you have are tribalism and universalism.


Athan Theoharis, professor of history at Marquette University (7-17-02):

Just as the government is now trying to anticipate terrorism, during the Cold War it tried to anticipate espionage. Hoover tried to solicit reports from people to root out Soviet spies and the results were just outrageous. It brought out the crazies and people who wanted to damage certain individuals, using misinformation and false allegations which were then used by the FBI --like those made against Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Harrison Salisbury and Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. From 1936 to 1956 there was an 1,800-percent increase in FBI appropriations. The agency placed illegal wiretaps and conducted break-ins. It failed in catching Soviet spies, but succeeded in helping to shape public opinion. Terrorists and spies take precautions to minimize discovery. The government's techniques then -- and now, it seems -- don't end up getting the perpetrators, but target people based on things like political activity and now religious beliefs.


Richard Jensen, professor of history emeritus, University of Illinois (7-13-02):

In today's NY Times Magazine, the ethics columnist, of all people, repeats the old canard that one of Eisenhower's cabinet nominees said"What's good for General Motors is good for America."

The truth is just the reverse, as I told him.

"What's good for General Motors is good for America"--nobody ever said that. Charles Wilson (cabinet nominee under Ike & former president of GM) was asked if he had to make a decision that was in the interest of the United States but extremely adverse to GM, could he do it. Wilson replied,"Yes, sir, I could. I cannot conceive of one because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa."

He meant"what's not good for our country is not good for GM." The phrasing the ethicist quoted was invented maliciously by his political enemies, who of course never quoted his full response.


Exchange on Richard Jensen's Conservativenet list, responding to the following statement in the NYT:"Justice Breyer said, the court should bear in mind the Constitution's overall objective, that of fostering 'participatory democratic self-government.'"

David Bernstein, associate professor of history, George Mason University (7-8-02):

Breyer's statement is simply absurd. The Constitution requires that states have a republican form of government, and that's about as far as it goes in trying to foster"particpatory self-government." I could think of many, many statements of the Constitution's"overall objective" that would be more accurate than Breyer's.

Bill Leckie (7-8-02):

Professor Bernstein seems to be confusing Justice Breyer's language with that of the Port Huron Statement. Let me suggest that the general trend set in motion by the Reconstruction Amendments has been indeed an increase, however slow and resisted by conservatives, in democracy, and we could interrogate what he means by a"republican form of government" as well, but maybe later. Does Professor Bernstein regard Amendment XVII (1913) as a lesion or corrupt excrescence on the Constitution because it provides that Senators should from its ratification be elected by the people of each state rather than by legislatures? What about the Nineteenth (1920), which gave the vote--increased democratic participation--to women? What about Amendment XXII (1951), limiting presidential terms, which could be construed ad a democratic enhancement? And of course, there is Amendment XXIV (1964), which intruded upon the"republican" prerogative of states to restrict the franchise by means of poll or other taxes? Or again, Amendment XXVI (1971), which gave 18-year-olds the vote? This is all _sola scriptura_, and does not explore the legislation and case law (and state and local resistance to expanding democracy) that has flowed from this continual hewing of Constitutional marble. To write that about all the Constitution does is require a"republican form" of state government is rather a gaping solecism.

David Bernstein (7-8-02):

Justice Breyer surely knows the difference between a democracy and a republic. Some state constitutions have"democratic" participation through referenda, but ours doesn't. Maybe a picayune lawyerly objection, but I'm a picayune lawyer.

But to be more charitable to Breyer, I grant Prof. Leckie's point that several of the Constitution's amendment's have expanded voting rights, and perhaps my original quote was too harsh. But recall that the Greenhouse article said that Breyer believes that the Constititution's *overall* objective is that of fostering"participatory democratic self-government." The Constitution as written, including as amended, would leave very little for the federal government to do (as witnessed by the 2% of GNP taken up by the feds in pre-New Deal times.) This is not a Constitution that primarily is fostering democratic self-government, which was supposed to be primarily happening at the state and local level, with states governed by their own constitutions, but a limited federal government that could repel invaders, coin money, prevent trade wars among the states, and engage in a few other discrete functions. I would say that the trend in Constitutional Law from the 1930s to the 1980s could be described to some extent to fit Breyer's language. But Constitutional law is not the constitution, and for Breyer to acknowledge that the Framers wanted a limited federal government with strict separation of powers would be counter to many of his votes on the Court, especially his unwillingness to acknowledge that the Commerce Clause places *any* limits on federal power, or at least not any he could come up with in response to Justice Rehnquist's challenge in Lopez.


Max Boot, Wall Street Journal editor and author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (7-1-02):

In searching the political clouds for the origins of last week's thunderclap from President Bush--his call for the overthrow of Yasser Arafat--the meteorologists of the press corps have focused on the predictable rift between"hardliners" and"pragmatists." A more accurate description would be to say this represents the triumph of--for want of a better term--Wilsonians over realpolitikers, a development of considerable longterm consequence.

Wilsonians, who long predate Woodrow Wilson, believe that both morality and self-interest should lead the U.S. to champion liberal values abroad. While often portrayed as a soft, fuzzy doctrine, Wilsonianism often requires the use of force. Wilson himself was one of our most interventionist presidents, dispatching troops not only to France but also to Mexico (twice), Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Russia. Wilson was discredited by his post-World War I failures, but the ideas he championed have been one of the sturdiest strains in American foreign policy thinking.

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