Saturday, December 09, 2006

Remembering Jeane Kirkpatrick

From the American Enterprise Institute website:
AEI senior fellow Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who joined the Institute in 1978, died yesterday. As a young political scientist at Georgetown University, Kirkpatrick wrote the first major study of the role of women in modern politics, Political Woman (1974). It was an essay written for Commentary magazine in 1979, Dictatorships and Double Standards (later expanded into a full-length book), that launched her into the political limelight. In the article, Kirkpatrick chronicled the failures of the Carter administration's foreign policy and argued for a clearer understanding of the American national interest. Her essay matched Ronald Reagan's instincts and convictions, and when he became president, he appointed her to represent the United States at the United Nations. Ambassador Kirkpatrick was a member of the president's cabinet and the National Security Council. The United States has lost a great patriot and champion of freedom, and AEI mourns our beloved colleague.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Martin Kramer on the Iraq Study Group Report

From Martin Kramer's Sandstorm
Cogent arguments can be made for each of these three fixes, but only if you accept the core assumption: the receptivity of the Arab world to the democracy message. That is why I cannot regard these as true Plan Bs. Each of them is a Plan A, version 2.0. They build on the very same premise as Plan A: that we just have to find the right path to their open hearts.

And there's the rub. There is a growing suspicion that maybe the problem isn't us, it's them—it is some complex interaction of culture, history, and economy that is the obstacle to a successful democratic transformation.

I say "suspicion" deliberately. The idea of an Arab exception has always been anathema on the left and in Middle Eastern studies, for obvious reasons. But it has been anathema on the right as well. President Bush (following Ronald Reagan) has attacked "cultural condescension," and no one wants to be guilty of that. So we have to keep our suspicions to ourselves.

But let us be frank: there isn't a person in this room who, down in his gut, doesn't harbor such a suspicion. And no amount of historical analogy, social science theory, or stern gazes from Condi Rice can put this suspicion to rest, because too much of the front page of the paper seems to validate it.

There are also subversive texts that go far to substantiate it. One of them was published by The Washington Institute in 1992: Elie Kedourie'sDemocracy and Arab Political Culture. "There is nothing in the political traditions of the Arab world," he wrote, "which might make familiar, or indeed intelligible, the organizing ideas of constitutional and representative government. . . . Those who say that democracy is the only remedy for the Arab world disregard a long experience which clearly shows that democracy has been tried in many countries and uniformly failed."

These words now shock us in their lack of equivocation; a leading political scientist once denounced Kedourie (Baghdad-born and raised) for his "Eurocentric chauvinism." But if it is Eurocentric chauvinism we are out to pillory, might not our gaze fall upon democracy promotion itself? Upon the big-think social scientists and New York intellectuals who ran a few data sets or met a few dissidents and proclaimed the Arab world ready and eager? Upon the CPA appointees who flew into Baghdad loaded with books on the postwar reconstruction of Germany and Japan? One could go on in this vein, but you get the idea.

A Different Freedom

The only exit from our own self-centered chauvinism is to begin to think systematically about the way the Arab world is different, and then to formulate a true Plan B—a plan not fixated on elections, or even on democracy, but on the kind of freedoms whose suppression has been most resented in the region. Those freedoms are not the ones we necessarily value. They are collective, not individual; and they revolve around identity, not interests. There is a yearning for freedom—of a kind I call freedom of identity.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Holiday Book Recommendation

Do you know someone who wants to understand the roots of today's conflict in the Middle East? There's no better introduction than Barbara Tuchman's Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour.

Tuchman published this book--her first--with NYU Press in 1956, dedicated to the memory of her parents Alma Morgenthau and Maurice Wertheim. I had not heard of it before it turned up in my Amazon search for a copy of her classic, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, which I had wanted to read again for perspective on the current Iraq crisis.

I can't say enough good things about this study, which is a careful examination of the role of Britain in the Middle East over the centuries, with special attention to the origins of the Balfour declaration. Tuchman writes with verve and gusto, bringing to life characters from Richard the Lion Hearted to Mark Sykes, T. E. Lawrence, Lord Balfour, and Chaim Weizmann. She's particularly good at describing the conflict in British Jewry between anti-Zionists like Montagu and Montefiores and Zionists like Nathaniel Rothschild. The Manchester Guardian and Winston Churchill come out looking good. Lloyd George is the villain of the piece (she basically calls him a liar).

For Anglophiles, as well as those interested in Zionism, Evangelical Christianity, or the Middle East--or those just wanting to read a brilliant history book...

You can buy the book from, here:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

James Kurth on Crushing Iraq's Sunni Insurgency

From The New Republic (ht Foreign Policy Research Institute):
The Sunni Arabs of Iraq have much to answer for. Since they have
always made up a rather small minority--about 15 to 20 percent of
the country's total population--the regimes they created were
historically authoritarian ones. They compensated for their small
base by employing especially brutal methods against their Kurdish
and Shia neighbors. Successive Sunni governments became
steadily more repressive, leading eventually to the rule of the Baath
Party and culminating in the ferocious regime of Saddam Hussein.

Baathist Iraq was often compared to Nazi Germany: Saddam was
said to play the role of Adolf Hitler and the Baath Party that of the Nazi
Party. A more accurate comparison, however, would analogize the Baath
Party to the Waffen S.S., the Nazi Party's elite unit, and the Sunni Arab
community to the Nazi Party as a whole, which eventually made up as much
as 15 percent of Germany's population.

But, unlike their Nazi counterparts in Germany in 1945, the Sunni
Arabs in Iraq in 2003 were not totally defeated, devastated, and
demoralized by the time their government was toppled.
Consequently, they were soon able to initiate and support a vicious
insurgency. Even now, when Shia militias are taking their revenge
on the Sunni community and only the U.S. military stands in the
way of its decimation, opinion polls show that nearly 90 percent of
Sunnis approve of insurgent attacks on U.S. troops.

Many commentators have suggested partitioning Iraq into three
states--Shia, Kurdish, and Sunni. This would be a good solution in
many respects (analogous to the partitioning of the former
Yugoslavia), except that any Sunni state would be dominated by
an Islamist regime created by the insurgents, who would claim that
they had defeated and driven out the U.S. military and would
continue to inflict murder and mayhem upon their Shia and Kurdish
neighbors. This is why the Sunnis have to be subordinated so that
they have no state at all. The result would be an Iraq partitioned
into two states--a Shia one in the center (including Baghdad) and
the south and a Kurdish one in the north.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mark Steyn on the Baker-Hamilton Commission on Iraq

From The Chicago Sun-Times:
God, I can't go on. I'd rather watch Mia Farrow making out with Mickey Rooney to a Doobie Brothers LP. As its piece de resistance, the Baker Commission concluded its deliberations by inviting testimony from -- drumroll, please -- Sen. John F. Kerry. If you're one of those dummies who goofs off in school, you wind up in Iraq. But, if you're sophisticated and nuanced, you wind up on a commission about Iraq. Rounding it all out -- playing David Gest to Jim Baker's Liza -- is, inevitably, co-chairman Lee Hamilton, former congressman from Indiana. As you'll recall, he also co-chaired the 9/11 Commission, in accordance with Article II Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: "Ye monopoly of wisdom on ye foreign policy, national security and other weighty affairs shall be vested in a retired Representative from the 9th District in Indiana, if he be sufficiently venerable of mien. In the event that he becomes incapacitated, his place shall be taken by Jill St. John." I would be calling for a blue-ribbon commission to look into whether we need all these blue-ribbon commissions, but they'd probably get Lee Hamilton to chair that, too.

Don't get me wrong, I like a Friars' Club Roast as much as the next guy and I'm sure Jim Baker kibitzing with John Kerry was the hottest ticket in town. But doesn't it strike you as just a tiny bit parochial? Aside from Senator Kerry, I wonder whether the commission thought to hear from anyone such as Goh Chok Tong, the former prime minister of Singapore. A couple of years back, on a visit to Washington just as the Democrat-media headless-chicken quagmire-frenzy was getting into gear, he summed it up beautifully:

''The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America's credibility and will to prevail.''

As I write in my new book, Singaporean Cabinet ministers apparently understand that more clearly than U.S. senators, congressmen and former secretaries of state. Or, as one Baker Commission grandee told the New York Times, ''We had to move the national debate from whether to stay the course to how do we start down the path out.''

An ''exit strategy'' on those terms is the path out not just from Iraq but from a lot of other places, too -- including Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, Russia, China, the South Sandwich Islands. For America would be revealed to the world as a fraud: a hyperpower that's all hype and no power -- or, at any rate, no will. According to the New York Sun, ''An expert adviser to the Baker-Hamilton commission expects the 10-person panel to recommend that the Bush administration pressure Israel to make concessions in a gambit to entice Syria and Iran to a regional conference . . .''

On the face of it, this sounds an admirably hard-headed confirmation of James Baker's most celebrated soundbite on the Middle East ''peace process'': ''F - - k the Jews. They didn't vote for us anyway.'' His recommendations seem intended to f - - k the Jews well and truly by making them the designated fall guys for Iraq. But hang on: If Israel could be forced into giving up the Golan Heights and other land (as some fantasists suggest) in order to persuade the Syrians and Iranians to ease up on killing coalition forces in Iraq, our enemies would have learned an important lesson: The best way to weaken Israel is to kill Americans. I'm all for Bakerite cynicism, but this would seem to f - - k not just the Jews but the Americans, too.

It would, furthermore, be a particularly contemptible confirmation of a line I heard Bernard Lewis, our greatest Middle Eastern scholar, use the other day -- that ''America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.'' To punish your friends as a means of rewarding your enemies for killing your forces would seem to be an almost ludicrously parodic illustration of that dictum. In the end, America would be punishing itself. The world would understand that Vietnam is not the exception but the rule.

Why We Blog

From 2 Blowhards:
...I'd suggest, the pleasures of self-expression, connecting with other people, and perpetrating some completely-useless mischief. I won't speak for other blog-creatures, but when I write postings or cruise other blogs, I'm pitching in because it's fun and rewarding to meet interesting people and to take part in freewheeling conversations. (Part of the fun, I'd argue, comes from the fact that it's all so defiantly un-sensible in economic terms.) I suppose I like to think that I'm doing my little bit for opening the general culture-conversation up a bit and providing a place where culture-hounds can hang out and compare notes. But mainly I prowl the blog-world because I find it fun and rewarding. And I find it fun and rewarding because ... Well, I don't know really. It just is. So there.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Did Putin Do It?

(Illustration from the Sherlock Holmes Museum, London)

Someone I know, who has a family history of law enforcement (a descendant of county sheriffs and police chiefs) explained to me that it is possible to figure out whether Vladimir Putin is responsible for the radiation poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. It is a matter of deduction of the Sherlock Holmes kind in the story "Silver Blaze."

It is a matter of the dog-that-didn't-bark-in-the-night.

Since in principle official KGB (now FSB) killings are never solved, whether or not this particular case is solved will provide the answer.

If someone is arrested, tried, and convicted in Britain for poisoning Litvinenko, then Putin probably is innocent of the crime.

But if this crime remains forever unsolved, then, as Sherlock Holmes might have said: "Elementary, my dear Watson..."

You can read more about the case in today's Sunday Times (of London).