Herbert London is author of Decade of Denial, published by Lexington Books, and publisher of American Outlook. He can be reached at: www.herblondon.org.
Rancor and Policy Decisions
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is insisting on a date for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. In fact, the Democratic leadership has embraced this position.
The New York Times has advocated a withdrawal plan and if its campaign to sanitize the Muslim Brotherhood can be seriously entertained, the Times seems to be arguing there isn't that much to worry about in the Muslim world. Tariq Ramadan, a clever spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, was featured in the April 1st Times Magazine with the claim Islam and democracy are not incompatible.
What the Democratic leaders and their acolytes at the Times seem to be arguing is that stabilizing Iraq cannot be achieved and the United States is suffering from hysteria over the Muslim threat that has resulted in a misguided foreign policy.
It is noteworthy that since "the Surge," conditions in Iraq have improved dramatically. However, you wouldn't know that from reading "the paper of record," nor would you get that impression from congressional testimony. As one well-known Iranian journalist noted "the success of the Democratic party is dependent on the American failure in Iraq." As a consequence, good news in Iraq is bad news for the fortunes of the Democratic party.
If true, this is a sad moment in American history when the lives of servicemen and women are mere pawns for political gain. It wasn't that long ago when foreign policy united the parties; when Republicans would cross the aisle to stand with their Democratic counterparts on matters of national security. Those days are gone, a faded memory.
Lest my detractors believe this is a diatribe against Democrats, they would be wrong. In my opinion the president has not used his bully pulpit effectively. He should have put the Democratic-led Congress on notice by going directly to the American people and addressing concerns about the war. He should mobilize the Republican party for political warfare in the national media. And he should create a War Information Office to make the arguments he doesn't.
What may be at stake in World War IV is not evident to most Americans. The people haven't been asked to sacrifice and they haven't been asked to evaluate the costs and benefits in this war. In fact, many Americans don't realize we are at war, despite tocsin in the Muslim world.
Emerging in American politics is a great divide: on one side are Democrats who do not see any value in the Iraq war, and on the other side are Republicans, by no means all, who see a great danger in a cut-and-run strategy. The two views are mutually incompatible. Complicating this stance is a general perception of the threat imposed by Islam.
Some contend Islam is basically benign, notwithstanding fringe groups that have a militant attitude. And others maintain Islam is inherently violent and has imperial goals that threaten the West. Either Islam is a threat or it isn't. Either the West must protect itself from the onslaught or it shouldn't over-react.
It is clear where Ms. Pelosi stands and where she is taking the Democratic party. What is not clear is whether this is in the best interest of the United States. If she is mistaken, there are civilizational consequences that cause even inveterate optimists to shudder.
So hostile to President Bush are Democratic leaders that Zbigniew Brzezinski, a normally reliable analyst of foreign policy, has had sobriety desert him in his new book Second Chance, a book in which he engages in a no-holds-barred attack on the present administration.
The gloves are off and so too is bipartisanship. It seems to me disagreements are useful, but hateful attacks on one another only produce ammunition for the enemy. As I see it, the time has come for Democrats and Republicans to leave politics in the outhouse and consider what is best for the national house in which we all reside.
Making the World More Dangerous
There are times in the course of Washington events when bureaucratic decision making puts the nation at risk. The State Department deal with North Korea is one such event.
In return for the cessation of uranium enrichment at one facility, the U.S. government has pledged oil, food, and equipment for the Kim Jung Il government. Sound familiar? This is a replay of the Clinton administration plan that was abrogated by Kim soon after he obtained assets from the United States and Japan.
In this case, no mention has been made of the nuclear weapons that already exist in North Korea. That issue isn't on the table. In these talks, Kim sets the agenda and the U.S. acquiesces. So hoary are the seemingly ambiguous discussion items that Robert Joseph, senior State Department official, has resigned, and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton has been openly critical of the administration.
The reason for concern is not merely restricted to North Korea. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs in Iran are undoubtedly thinking that they should cash in like their North Korean allies. Talk yields gifts, and, in fact, you don't have to give up any nuclear weapons. All you have to do is make empty promises.
Diplomacy--which appears to have bipartisan support--has its downside. For one thing it legitimizes an illegal act (Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty) and two, it allows this rogue government the time to pursue its weapons agenda under the guise of "serious negotiation." Does anyone believe the Iranians can be talked out of their weapons pursuit or that we can offer blandishments that would dissuade them from their goals? If that were true, Ahmadinejad would have embraced all of the gifts European governments have offered over the last few years in return for a non-nuclear Iran.
Yet the clarion call for discussion is deafening. Recognizing what has emerged in the six-party talks in China, Ahmadinejad will most likely ask for a similar arrangement. It would not be inappropriate, in my judgment, to call it an extortion payment. This is likely to be a one-way deal. He wants what the West will offer, but he will give virtually nothing in return.
The question that remains unresolved is why the Bush administration has acceded to this deal with North Korea. As I see it, the Bush presidency is in free-fall. It is searching for some achievement that it can shove in the face of the Democratically controlled Congress.
It is also true that the pressure from the Iraq Study Group and Democratic-led spokesmen have influenced Condoleezza Rice and her associates. Jaw, jaw is seen as a replacement for war, war. But what the State Department doesn't seem to appreciate is that talk without results only accelerates the momentum for conflict.
If Ahmadinejad can be believed--and why shouldn't he be believed?--nuclear weapons possessed by his government could be used to wipe Israel off the map. After all, a great conflagration is the prelude for the return of the twelfth imam.
The Bush State Department is now signaling that it has moved 180 degrees from its past position. Not only is the military option on the table, but the extortion option is there as well. For the fanatics in North Korea and Iran, this is a moment to behold. For those of us concerned about international stability, these are decisions to lament. The world will be less safe and, alas, more fragile the longer we talk and the more we refuse to act.
The Death of Europe?
Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, contends that the Islamization of Europe is a fantasy that will not occur because the Europeans will undoubtedly rouse themselves and resist what many analysts, including Bernard Lewis and Bat Yor, argue is a virtual fait accompli.
What Peters has suggested is that at some point people will fight to retain their democratic values against the inroads of Sharia. But suppose the will to resist has been destroyed. Suppose as well that Europe suffers from psychological fatigue. Suppose it cannot rouse itself from acquiescence.
Job Cohen, the mayor of Amsterdam and one of the mainstays of the Dutch nation, demands that one accept "the conscious discrimination of women by certain groups of orthodox Muslims" since Holland needs a "new glue" to hold society together. In the name of social cohesion, the Dutch are invited to approve a practice most consider execrable.
Reading the tea leaves of demography that infer the Islamic population is growing at a rate double that of native Europeans, many Europeans have decided to leave the continent. The number of emigrants leaving Germany and the Netherlands has surpassed the number of immigrants moving in. Today Mohammed is the most popular name for newborn boys in Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and several other major European cities.
So deep goes the sentiment of preemptive surrender that German author Henryk Broder tells of a German woman who said sometimes it is better to let yourself be raped than to risk serious injury resisting. Here in unalloyed form is the metaphor for Europe.
Paul Belien, a journalist in Belgium, reports that many Europeans have not learned how to fight for their freedom. A whole generation merely took it for granted. It is a generation that is good at enjoying its freedom, but ignorant about its defense. In a sense rarely acknowledged, these people have already submitted to the dictates of Islam.
Belien notes that those unwilling to fight hate those who do resist. As a consequence, America becomes a symbol for resistance to Islam, the bastion of resisters and the catalyst for anti-Americanism. This is a situation analogous to better red than dead, except now it is better green than dead.
Needless to say, war is horrendous. Yet there are conditions worse than war. When moral sentiment decays, when people will not defend their own interests, the soul of mankind erodes.
At the moment Europe is at the precipice. A philosophical flirtation with relativism and nihilism has made Europe vulnerable to the ideology of jihadism. If there aren't core values worthy of a defense, then there isn't any reason for new immigrants to embrace them. If democracy, the rule of law, and human rights haven't any specific qualities that make them superior to Sharia, there is no need to oppose the assault by the instructors of hate and theocratic dictatorship.
The aggressive secularization in Europe, expunging Christian morality from law and the new continental constitution, goes hand and glove with the tacit acceptance of Islamic law. A vacuum has been created in Europe and it is being filled by an ideology and religion that uses Europe's liberal views to promote an illiberal and intolerant belief system.
It is instructive that if Europe wants to inject any life into this continental corpse, it hasn't any choice but to follow the lead of its avowed target--the United States. The hopes and fears of the Unites States regarding Islam will either be the hopes and fears of Europe or we will see in our lifetime a Europe Islamicized and returned to the dark ages.
The San Francisco University Kangaroo Court
San Francisco University is investigating its College Republicans for hosting an anti-terrorism rally on campus in which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. Several Muslim students filed a complaint arguing they were offended because the flags bore the word "Allah" and the actions were intended to incite and create a hostile environment.
Yet desecrating a flag--even burning an American flag, however distasteful this act may be--is an expression protected by the First Amendment as recent court cases have suggested and cannot be punished at a public university.
Robert Shibley, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) said, "The right to protest is at the very heart of the First Amendment, and means nothing if only inoffensive expression is permitted."
San Francisco University officials replied, noting that the university will "give all parties the confidence that they will be heard and fairly treated by a panel that includes representatives of all the University's key constituencies." Yet this reply implies legitimacy to the complaint rather than a baseless charge.
Presumably in a free society neither a public university nor any government agency has the power to investigate an organization simply for disrespecting a religious symbol. By continuing the investigation, the university has come into direct conflict with the Constitution.
What makes the case stand out is not merely official defiance of the law, but the willingness to accede to political correctness. Suppose, for example, a group of Muslim students at the university decided to step on and burn an American flag. My guess is it would hardly generate a ripple on campus. The administration would probably say "the act is reprehensible, but they have every right to express their opinion."
What this matter suggests is the preemptive surrender of American principles to the forces of protest. Since there are designated victim groups that cannot be offended, free speech is a sacrificial lamb on many campuses. Now it is a punishable offense to challenge Muslims or even contend that many are prone to violence and terror. Such allegations comprise a "hostile environment" or worse, "incivility."
That evangelicals may be called "fanatics" is accepted because this group is not in the "protected" category. In the era of multiculturalism only certain cultures (read: religions) are legitimate. If a Jewish organization were to argue about a hostile campus environment after an Israeli flag were defiled, the Middle East Studies department would most likely file an amicus brief in behalf of the defilers.
That this attitude is now undermining essential liberties has been lost in the effort to be "sensitive" to minority concerns. It also denies reality: whether Muslim students like it or not, Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations. The students who stepped on the flag did not intend to blaspheme "Allah" which was written in Arabic script. They were merely protesting the actions of these Middle East political organizations.
Of course neither reality nor liberty can easily stand up to the fierce wind of political correctness. And universities, which should know better, have become hothouses promoting carefully selected sensitivities rather than defending American virtues and Constitutional principles.
Yale Then and Now
Early April is a nail-biting period for high school seniors eager to learn where they have been accepted to pursue a college education. Parents scour mailboxes and e-mails for the anxiety-laden teens.
In the end, of course, everyone will gain admission somewhere since, as America advertises, we have a college for everyone.
What we don't have is a space for all the applicants to elite institutions, those ivy colleges dripping with tradition and influence.
Arguably the most influential is Yale, former home to Clinton and the Bushes, among other notables. According to Newsweek, Yale may receive more applications for available spots than any other college in the nation.
With that in mind, I recently had the occasion to compare the 1894 Yale College prospectus of elective courses with the 2006-7 Yale College program of study. In doing so, one can't help but be struck by the dramatic change that has occurred in 113 years. Moreover, if evolution infers progress, there is something fundamentally wrong with this comparison.
The 1894 catalogue was 50 pages long. Each course was described succinctly, e.g., "The History of Europe since 1789" or "The Phaedo of Plato." Literature courses are simply named after a playwright, author, or poet such as "Shakespeare" and "Browning."
The introduction merely indicates how many courses must be selected. A statement of aims doesn't appear. Course descriptions when they exist are brief and very much to the point. For example, in "Latin Philology" "such features of the language are studied as its historical development and decay, relations to other languages, forms and syntax, pronunciation, adaptation to literature, etc."
Courses associated with biblical literature are prominently mentioned, but all of what we now call, the liberal arts and science are included.
By contrast the present catalogue is 620 pages. Some of that additional content can be attributed to relatively recent developments in the sciences such as neuroliguistics and computer science. While many traditional courses are retained, the college has clearly embraced the concerns of the zeitgeist. For example, in the women's gender and sexuality program, one can find courses such as "U.S. Lesbian and Gay History," "White Masculinity and Sexuality in U.S. Popular Culture," "Queer Ethnographics," and "Introduction to Queer Cinema."
At the beginning of the catalogue Yale officials state their purpose:
Yale College offers a liberal arts education, one that aims to train a broadly-based, highly-disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used.
The goal is "exploration," stimulating curiosity, and discovering new interests.
These platitudinous claims stand in stark contrast to the simple educational goals implied in the 1894 catalogue. Presumably the 620 pages in the modern catalogue, twelve times the size of the 1894 document, are needed to enhance the exploration. The good, the bad, and the ugly must be explored along with the trivial, the fashionable and the puerile.
In a real sense the college education of fewer course offerings had a more solid foundation than its modern counterpart. After all, 620 pages of courses can only confuse the teenage mind. How does one separate the wheat from the chaff? The modern catalogue also suggests that the faculty has either lost a sense of what a liberal education ought to be or it has been coerced into the "Chinese menu" of educational selection, i.e., so many from column A and column B.
For me, less is more. A course simply devoted to Plato has more to offer than one called "Plato's Philosophical Psychology." In an effort to satisfy the yearning of professors who seek courses in areas narrowly defined, e.g., "Music, Law and Sexual Desire in Medieval Europe," the administration has lost control of the curriculum.
Rather than promote a vision of the academy, professors have abdicated responsibility through choices of every variety, a veritable bouquet of experiences. If you cannot find what you are looking for in the extraordinary course list, you can always engage in that old stand-by independent study. Now you can determine what you want to learn without paying much attention to the guidance of an instructor.
Six hundred and twenty pages of courses reduce to fatuity the notion of a central "core" or what it is a student ought to know. At the moment, a student decides what he should know from a vast reservoir of courses.
Is this any way to manage a university? My guess is Cardinal Newman wouldn't countenance the present curriculum nor, for that matter, would those who attended Yale University more than a hundred years ago. *
"Corruption is no stranger to Washington; it is a famous resident." --Walter Goodman