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Monday, January 31, 2005
Zywicki for Trustee

Todd Zywicki '88, whom I mentioned a few posts ago, has decided to run as an independent petition candidate for the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. You can read his post on Volokh here announcing his decision to run. Further details can be found on his website, including a petition to have his name included in the March ballot. Dartlog and Joe Malchow both support his candidacy, and so do I. He's young, intelligent, moderately libertarian, and an academic. The last seems fairly important. The current board comprises exclusively businessmen. How very strange that an educational institution whose chief business is learning should have no academics among its trustees. Zywicki's election could go some way towards bridging the divides between the faculty and the board, and I think -- given the antipathy demonstrated towards T. J. Rodgers some while back -- that's a good thing.


Roger L. Simon's a Dartmouth graduate? Wow. Didn't know that. (Class of 1964, by the way.)

Update 2

The Hoover Institution's Peter Robinson '79 (who blogs at The Corner) also hopes to join in the race. You can check out his newly-minted campaign website here. Also, Robinson hosts the superb tv show Uncommon Knowledge, which you can view online.

Sunday, January 30, 2005
More on Pipes

It appears that Daniel Pipes's lecture at Dartmouth went relatively smoothly. Good on the Dartmouth community. I just wish The D said more about the Q&A session following the lecture (John, you too). In my experience, that's when the interesting stuff happens.

Anyway, Pipes has a solid article on his website refuting the notion that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The latter comes from paleocon Lawrence Auster, whose essentializing "argument" beggars belief. In the first place, Auster, who claims to be using Pipes's arguments against Pipes, has clearly not read all of Pipes's arguments. How else could he fail to mention articles in which Pipes describes his interactions with moderate Muslims? How could he accuse Pipes of having a "romantic" view of Islam? (I guess the latter's just "relativism.")

Next, Auster doesn't appear to have any credentials as either a scholar of the Muslim world, or as an observer of Islam who's spent time in Islamic societies. He's an armchair pundit who's read bits of the Koran (in translation, no doubt) and a few books that corroborate his limited, nativist view of the world. Now, you don't need a PhD in Islamic History to write intelligently about Islam, but you should at least be able to muster better evidence than secondary quotations from a book written in 1878 and tendentious, post-9/11 quasi-scholarship. How about some Hourani, Riley-Smith, or even Lewis? How about some frickin primary source quotations to back up your claims that medieval Islam was a "parasite civilization"?

All Auster's capable of is tautology. Moderate Islam doesn't exist, according to him, not because all Muslims today want to destroy the West, but because there's no such thing as moderate Islam (again, the external evidence cited to support this point is virtually non-existent). As for people in Turkey, Malaysia, and other parts of the Arab world who identify themselves as moderate Muslims -- well, they're not actually Muslims, says Auster:
As long as Muslims follow the Koranic law that defines Islam, they could not accept the legitimacy of conversion out of the faith (banned by the Prophet on pain of death), nor could they accept, in any permanent sense, the laws of a majority non-Muslim government, since they are commanded by the Prophet to wage Holy War until the entire world has been subjugated to Islam.
Does this sound familiar? It should. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said last Sunday that "Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion," and that is "against the rule of God." No moral equivalence is implied between the two, of course. But you can't help wondering why some people accuse Pipes of being against Islam when guys like these exist.

Friday, January 28, 2005
The Daniel Pipes Controversy (updated)

DPs lecture was quite nice. Not that he *actually* said anything irreverent, or was terribly polemical, but it was fascinating in terms of all the useless controversy it stirred up.

The D summarily reported on the day of the event that was "supported by Jewish students" whereas a particularly pious op.ed (with the appropiate genuflections to political corrections and leftist ambush tactics) maintained that the event should be opposed by "Muslium and concerned students." The D opened its biased reporting on the event with this wonderfully illustrative headline: "" Outside said event, which was filled to the brim with persons, there were obviously Muslium students (given away by the ostentatiously veiled women students) who were handing out pamphets about Dr. Pipes' alleged anti-Islamic stances.

Since I knew one of the "protestors", and if he could speak honestly I would wager to say that he didn't care one way or the other, I decided to reprimand to intellectually dishonest methods of persuasion on the part of Al-Nur, and its slient majority of "concerned students." My position was that by handing out pamphets on "Pipes' Views in Context", uninformed listeners, who would otherwise come tabula rosa, would be pre-biased against Pipes' statements, and might attempt to find discriminatory statements where none were intended. The more intellectually honest approach would be to hand out pamphlets after Dr. Pipes had spoken. The audience would have by then already had time to reflect on his views, and decide for themselves about Dr. Pipes rhetoric. Being myself a supporter of Dr. Pipes, even if I don't always agree with him, I am appalled at the lengths that others will go to discredit a source.

The introduction to Dr. Pipes was given by Economics professor Meir Kohn, who is, as far as I can tell, a bitter man. Obviously a rightist, Kohn proceeded to chastise the university about its leftist speech codes, and the chilling effect that universities have on otherwise free discourse. (And in keeping with the spirit of genuflection, he tipped his hat to Harvard President Larry Summers.) Although I'm fairly certain that Kohn is probably on the wrong side of the censorship debate, his incorrectness not withstanding, he decided to use the crucial moment of the introduction to polarize the discourse more than it should have been. As odious as President Wright's apology before the former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's 1930s lecture, Kohn's unreflective, polemicist denouncement of the university atmosphere was as shoddy as it was dishonest. From equating Marxism with political correctness, Kohn left no room for a principle disagreement over the ontology of the world, or of compromise between the various epistemic communities. Moreover, just like the rest of the colleagues that he denounces, he is not going to step down from his position of power within the generative institutions of the cultural elite. His naive contrariasm is so pre-September 11th.

After Kohn's fiery introduction, where he reveled in being a conservative professor in a conversative department, anything Pipes said would have seemed reasonable. Pipes' basic thesis is rather easy to grasp: the Palestinians and the Israelis are engaged in war. Israel's war aim is that Palestinians come to recognize that Israel is an accomplish fact of both the past and the present. Coming to terms with Israel's existence is a pre-condition for any hope of better future for them. The Palestinian war aim is to psychologically defeat Israel into moving away and granting them their homes back. From these basic premises, he concluded that the foundation of Oslo was that of a lie: that the Palestinian people had finally agreed to Israel's right to exist and that the main issue ahead was about the distribution of resources. For Pipes, diplomatic solutions could not work until one side achieved its war aims; moreover, one side achieving victory would mean that the other side, by definition, would not only lose, but also be defeated. The defeat implicity entailed a pyschological paradigm shift.

The empirical evidence he offered was the 1990s. He theorized, as a historian, that although no material factors on the ground shifted, the expectations and beliefs of both sides in 1993 were vastly different than in 2000. The change in these expectations not only closed the final chapters on Oslo, they would also close the chapters on the Abdullah plan, the Zinni plan, the Marshall plan, and all those other failed attempts. Pipes futher argued that American diplomacy should cultivate a closer relationship with Israel, a Western-style democracy in the Middle East. This closer relationship would place a vice on resources, diplomatic access, and munitions for the Palestinains until they realized that their war effort was, indeed, futile.

Pipes' thesis probably only tells half of the story. There probably was a shift in popular pereceptions on both sides until the Oslo committment seemed not only untenable, but unreasonable in the first place. However, by not detailing the supposedly static material factors, that is the conditions in which perceptions and value judgements are formed, Pipes cannot precisely give us an account of the mechanism for the change of these perceptions. Why did the perceptions sour instead of becoming more positive? Why does Oslo leave such a bitter taste in everyone's mouth? The conditions of Israeli businesses and Palestinian labor, the relationship between foreign labor and immigrant labor, the economic arrangements of Oslo, and the political and social infrastructure both created and destroyed by a concomitant investment from Israel in terms of aid and an expansion of settlements are all material factors that could suggest why the Palestinians decided to remilitarize. Moreover, what effects did the alliance of Likud with market capitalism, especially under Netanyahu have on the cheap Palestinian labor? Or, how did the politics of the racism and discrimination in redistribution among the various types of Jews in Israel affect Israeli-Arabs and the commuting Palestinians from the territories?

On the Palestinian side, Arafat and the PLO's attempt to directly control many of the Palestinian instituions that had formed during the PLOs exile may have contributed to the corruption and decline of Palestinian instituions. Arafat had a perverse incentive to destroy any sources of power and mobilization that did not further his currupt, capricious exercise of power. Moreover, his competition with other insurgency groups like the PLFP, the Islamic Jihad, and Hamas, and their increasing organizational responsibility and care for the laboring population in the territories may have directly contributed to the fall of Oslo and the change in perceptions. It is not just Fatah, or their infamous Al Asqa martyr brigades, that contribute to the Palestinian culture of violence; the other insurgency/resistance/terrorist organizations also vie for the allegiance of the Palestinian population. Some do so by promoting the extermination of the Jews; others by rallying under the banner of nationalism or a politicize Islam. But Dr. Pipes chose not to engage in that level of detail about the factors, material or ideational responsible for the shift within the Palestinian and Israeli consciousnesses between the years 1992-2000.

This lastly leaves responses to this event. President of (C)habad and able assistant to the Rabbi, Ilya Feoktistov '06, in a polemical mudslinging effort cloaked by a veneer of reasonability and social responsibility, decided to compare the Al-Nur students to southern racists. It could have been worse; it could have been a Hitler reference. The amount of logic plus that surrounds this entire event is a tab bit disappointing. In a classic scare tactic, reminscent of Cheney's "Vote for Us Or Die" 2004 campaign, Ilya writes: " there is nothing to prevent the few who do believe in violent Jihad against Jews and Americans from living amongst us and threatening our societies and our lives. They go to college with us, they work and live minutes away from us. They use their coreligionists as human shields by committing evil deeds in the name of Islam and hoping to deflect criticism by claiming Islamophobia on the part of their critics." Now I'm scared.

What bothered me more than this poor attempt at pathos-based persuasion was this little gem (or turd if you prefer): "When two Jewish college students and an African-American were murdered in the South by white supremacists for their participation in the civil rights movement, they gave their lives for the motto "never again," which they applied to all peoples who are in danger of hatred-driven annihilation." A great deal of myth about a supposed black-Jewish civil rights coalition now exists today; moreover, the slippery association of anti-semitism and civil rights murders in America further problematizes and greatly exaggerates the "Jewish community's" direct contribution to civil rights efforts in the 60s. Most of the prominent Jewish lawyers and activists who participated in the civil rights movement were either on the extreme left or were disconnected from the Jewish community. For example, when civil rights activists Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered in Mississippi with their black colleague, neither had a Jewish funeral. In fact, most Jewish constituencies became increasingly hostile to the civil rights project during the King years when the focus shifted from Southern barbarism to Northern economic and social discrimination in the housing and education markets.

Protected as they were by race- and class-interest of white supremacy, most Jewish constituents were unwilling to target the foundation of their social and market power, and end the coercion and bigotry of the perpetual black underclass. Thus, Ilya's appropriation of the civil rights agenda to argue her point is as disappointing as it is infuriating. Not just in the crass showiness of it all (like the veils produced for the occasion of Mr. Pipes), but in the utter a historicity of the assertions.


Comments have been enabled for some time now, but only just have I figured out how they work. You click on the timestamp, and that takes you to a separate page where you can comment on the post.

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Plumer the Stalker

Brad Plumer's been stalking Roger Kimball recently (see here and here). It's good stuff.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Intellectual diversity at Dartmouth

Todd Zywicki '88 at the Volokh Conspiracy comments on an article in today's D by Dan Knecht '05 on the lack of intellectual diversity at Dartmouth. I'm quite surprised that Dan hasn't encountered a conservative professor at Dartmouth in his time there, because I certainly encountered several, including a few who weren't afraid to be seen as right-wing. Take Andrew Samwick and Allan Stam, for instance. And that's of course not including the many conservative speakers who've been to campus recently (Bill Kristol, David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, Reuel Marc Gerecht) or who are going to be on campus soon (Daniel Pipes, Victor Davis Hanson). Put it this way: Dartmouth ain't Columbia

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
A short history of the British Empire

Julia Bernstein '07 wrote an op-ed in The D last week on the Prince Harry's Nazi costume fiasco. In her piece, she also suggested that Harry ought to have known better not to dress up like a Nazi because of the British Empire's history. Here's what I wrote in response. The D, alas, has not published it yet, and I don't think they will, so up it goes:
Julia Bernstein's right to point out that Prince Harry was stupid to dress up as a Nazi. Where she falters is in her analysis of the British Empire, whose "rich history" she believes ought to have reminded Harry not to do what he did. Implicit here is the belief that there are meaningful similarities between the Third Reich and the British Empire, even if the two entities are ultimately incommensurable. This belief is quite false.

Now it is true that Hitler admired the British Empire for its "Nordic genius" (ignoring the fact that the pro-imperialist Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was a Jew). But the feeling wasn't mutual, and in fact the history of Anglo-Germanic relations is laden with conflict. Britain fought Germany in two World Wars, for example. As for the question of race, the similarities between the two empires are superficial. The Third Reich was racialism writ large, but race was only one dimension of British imperial policy. As historians like David Cannadine have pointed out, there was much more to the British Empire than just race. Class, for example -- a permanent domestic concern -- as Cannadine argues in his book Ornamentalism, mattered as well, as did business and economic interests, fear of other European powers, and yes, philanthropy (the British did after all spearhead the anti-slavery movement in the first half of the 19th century).

The consequences of the British Empire were accordingly mixed. In strict economic terms – costs vs. profits and taxes – for instance, the British state did not really benefit from its colonies, as economic historians Lance Davis and Robert Huttenback have shown. In the opposite direction, however, Britain brought useful technology, organization, and capital to many parts of the world; these yielded benefits to the native peoples even in the absence of goodwill on the part of the British. Therefore, it’s not self-evident that the British Empire "may have amplified the tsunami’s devastation decades later"; it’s not even clear whether a meaningful relationship exists between the Empire and the damage wrought by the disaster at all. Over fifty years have elapsed since Britain withdrew from India and Sri Lanka. Can the Empire really be blamed for their lack of emergency preparedness? (I dare say that were a similar tsunami to hit London, things would be much worse.)

Given the above, there seems little reason -- Harry’s Nazi costume being an exception -- to get upset at a fancy dress party with colonial trappings. Nonetheless, Ms. Bernstein claims that the choice of a "native and colonial" theme displayed "incredible insensitivity," especially at a time when "much of their former empire is in so much distress." In the first place, Britain, the royal family included, contributed substantially to disaster relief, and can hardly be called insensitive. Second, for insensitivity to be significant, some people must be deliberately insensitive and others must feel the insensitivity keenly. But I’m pretty certain that all the partygoers wanted was to have a good time, and I’m very sure that most of Britain’s former colonial subjects in India and Sri Lanka have better things to do with their lives than to get upset over the social lives of British royals.

Monday, January 10, 2005
The Classics in the Slums

Jonathan Rose, author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, has a superb piece in City Journal on the surprising receptiveness of the British masses -- at least historically -- to literary and philosophical classics. Read the whole thing, as they say.

Sunday, January 02, 2005
America's Oldest Enemy?

The American Conservative has a review of John J. Miller and Mark Molesky's Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship With France, which has been hailed in some conservative circles as a Really Good Book. Well, apparently not, as Columbia's Robert Paxton points out. It isn't just that Miller and Molesky are obviously out to "furnish maximum negative spin and place most blame on the French" by "portray[ing] French malevolence toward Americans as so uniform and unchanging over the centuries as to seem virtually genetic." On a more fundamental level, it appears that they've even fallen for the undergraduate practice of taking their primary source quotations from secondary sources -- which happen to be by like-minded journalists. That won't do, especially when you consider that Molesky is a history professor with a Harvard PhD. I see that the authors have responded to Bernard-Henri Levy's hysteric review accusing them of fascism and racism. But he's an easy target. Let them take on a real history professor like Paxton.

An additional note: no one who writes about Rousseau and wants to be taken seriously should ever, ever accuse him, as Miller and Molesky do, of wanting "society razed to the ground before it could be built again." I'll point anyone who's interested in this topic to the Rousseau chapter in Jacques Barzun's Classic, Romantic, and Modern, which I re-read last week but don't have with me right now (I'll quote from it when I return home). Had the authors of Our Oldest Enemy bothered to read that little gem of a book, they might not have been so quick to accuse ol'Jean-Jacques of being directly responsible for the Terror. Given their general disregard for scholarly standards, probably not.