Friday, November 13, 2009, 8:00 AM
Shortly after my post “Where do ProgressiveEvangelicals Stand on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment?”, I got an blast email from the folks over at Sojourners calling attention to a Sojourners article by Brian McLaren that answers the question.
McLaren is not happy with the folks at the Daily Kos, in part because they have accused “progressive religious forces” for their stealthy support of the Stupak-Pitts amendment to health care reform. McLaren explicitly repudiates the charge:
That faulty diagnosis [that Evangelical progressives are a Fifth Column of sorts in the Democratic Party] seems to be shared in recent speculation that the Stupak amendment — which went beyond the abortion neutrality called for by all the Christian progressives I’m aware of — was added to the House health-care bill as part of a long-standing plan by progressive religious forces. Those speculations are undermined by the fact that the amendment was added to bring some hesitant conservative Democrats on board, but it took Christian progressives by surprise as much as anyone.
Stupak-Pitts took Christian progressives completely by surprise!
In any case, we now we know that McLaren’s “third way” between the religious right’s support of Stupak-Pitts and the secular left opposition is to side with the secular left. Don’t worry, McClaren is telling the Daily Kos folks, we also oppose Stupak-Pitts. Unless I’m missing something McLaren just threw pro-life Democrats under the bus. And he did it in Sojourners!
Now we need to hear explicitly from the likes of Jim Wallis and David Gushee and other “progressive evangelicals.” Is this their idea of a “third way,” too?
Thursday, November 12, 2009, 1:45 PM
From Salon: “A source close to the Faith Table, a gathering of ostensibly progressive Christians helmed by evangelical leader Jim Wallis, notes that the group has been agitating for Stupak-Pitts for months, with Wallis declaring Stupak-Pitts the most important vote of the year.” I’ve expressed a lot of skepticism of Jim Wallis’ and Sojourners commitment to pro-life issues in general and on health care reform in particular (here, here and here with a nice summary of the entire issue here).
Friends and acquaintances who are more inclined to give Brother Jim and other “progressive evangelicals” the benefit of the doubt would like to know whether this would rate him at least one cheer. Short answer: No.
While I’d be delighted to offer up a cheer or two for Wallis and Sojourners, I’m afraid I just can’t do it. For one thing, I simply can’t find any unambiguous support for Stupak-Pitts over at Sojourners from Brother Jim or anyone else. Nothing! I know where they stand on Afghanistan (unilateral military withdrawal) but on health care and abortion ambiguity (at best) seems to be the watchword. Nothing “prophetic” being offered up on that front.
However, maybe Brother Jim has been stealthily lobbying for Stupak-Pitts behind the scenes. Maybe he is, as the pro-abortion left would have it, really a stalking horse for the Catholic Bishops and the religious right. Maybe he did it without the knowledge of anyone in either Representative Stupak’s or Representative Pitts’ office. Stupak and Pitts’ staff has assured me that they know nothing of such lobbying efforts or support for the Stupak-Pitts amendment. Wallis has simply not been in the picture.
Some might think it would be uncharitable not to give Wallis, Brian McLaren, David Gushee and the rest of the progressive evangelicals the benefit of the doubt. But we’re way past the point where Wallis can continue to play this game. But lest I be accused of being uncharitable, here’s a chance for Wallis and the rest of the Sojourners crowd to clear the air. Jim (and Brian and David) do you support Stupak-Pitts or don’t you? Will you insist that the senate bill includes Stupak-Pitts language or not? Will you support health care legislation if Stupak-Pitts language is dropped from the final bill?
Absent such clear and unambiguous statement on the issue a lot of pro-life Christians might think Wallis, Sojourners and other progressive evangelicals are speaking out of both sides of their mouths on the question of health care and abortion. Time to fish or cut bait!
Friday, October 23, 2009, 8:00 AM
Over at Sojourners, Brian McLaren—the emerging church and religious left’s foremost authority on foreign affairs, grand strategy, and defense policy—has weighed in on Afghanistan. In “Dear President Obama: An Open Letter on Afghanistan,” McClaren writes:
I am a loyal supporter of your presidency. I worked hard in the campaign and have never been as proud of my country as I was when we elected you.
I’m writing to ask you to find another way ahead in Afghanistan. I wrote a similar letter to President Bush when he was preparing for war in Iraq.
I believe now, as you and I both did then, that war is not the answer. Violence breeds violence, and as Dr. King said, you can murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. As the apostle Paul said, evil must be overcome with good, which means that violence and hate must be overcome with justice and love, not more of the same.
Obviously, you know things the rest of us don’t know. And you have pressures and responsibilities the rest of us don’t have. But we have based our lives on the moral principles that guided leaders like Dr. King, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. We share a profound faith in a loving, non-violent God. We share a commitment to live in the way of Jesus the peacemaker. That’s why escalation is not a change we can believe in.
Given McClaren’s commitment to nonviolent pacifism one would expect him not only to oppose escalation but to favor a unilateral military withdrawal as well. If “war is not the answer” then it is not the answer with or without the 40,000 additional troops requested by General McChrystal, General Petraeus, and the JCS. McLaren, in other words, is calling for unilateral military withdrawal from Afghanistan. In the current debate over troop strength in Afghanistan, McLaren’s proposed number is zero!
Thursday, October 22, 2009, 11:52 AM
According to a Washington Post editorial, “Open to Vouchers?” Michelle Rhee, the head of the Washington, DC public education system recently testified before Congress that “she could not in good conscience tell a parent today to put his or her child in a traditional [Washington, D.C.] public school.” So, who could possibly criticize President and Mrs. Obama for choosing a prep school for their daughters? After all, implicit in Ms. Rhee’s statement is the suggestion that if you have the wherewithal to get your kids out of the D.C. public schools, you have a parental obligation to do it.
But don’t worry, David A. Catalina, the chairman of the D.C. Council Committee on Health, is on the job working to improve education in the District. According to the Post article, “D.C. Students say School’s Sex Education is Antiquated,” Mr. Catalina held a hearing yesterday as part of the Youth Sexual Habit Project.
D.C. public high school students who participated in focus groups on sexual health said they were unimpressed with the District’s sex education curriculum, do not trust the school nurses who are charged with counseling them about disease prevention and disdain the brand of condoms distributed by schools.
The students, particularly girls, said they were too suspicious or embarrassed to talk to school nurses about sex or ask about condoms. “It’s like talking to your mom,” one student said.
Those were some of the findings of a survey conducted by the Youth Sexual Health Project, funded by the D.C. Council Committee on Health, whose chairman, council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), had a hearing on the issue Wednesday.
“This has never been done by a committee,” but “it’s been an elephant in the room, an unaddressed issue for years: What are we doing with respect to the sexual health of our children? No one wanted to tackle it,” Catania said.
The article proceeds to spell out the complaints in more detail:
Health officials said frank discussions about sexual relationships are the foundation of sex education. But students surveyed said the instruction they get doesn’t address the real-life situations they encounter, such as how to talk to a partner who constantly pushes for unprotected sex.
Girls said they were unlikely to carry condoms for fear of being labeled promiscuous.
Students had another reason for passing up the free condoms available at school. Durex condoms, the brand widely distributed by the Health Department under a contract, are considered lame and more likely to pop or break, students said. They said they prefer Trojan or Magnum.
Youths “have very strong opinions about particular brands of condoms,” the researchers wrote. “These opinions . . . factually correct or not, play an important role in a youth’s decision to use a product.”
Students in the survey also said that school nurses were “judgmental and untrustworthy,” making it unlikely that teens would seek their advice.
One suspects that he nurses were accused of being “judgmental” because they might have hinted at the truth: that teenaged girls who carry around condoms really are “promiscuous,” although one also suspects that the children in the D.C. public schools have more colorful vernacular to describe the phenomenon.
Which makes you think that Ms. Rhee knows what she is talking about. And, that, when it comes to their daughters, the Obama’s know what they are doing. It’s another matter altogether for those lacking wherewithal to escape this insanity.
Update: As a guy who regularly gets mail addressed to Keith Paulishek, or Pavlicheck, or Palishak, or Pavilschek, or Pavlicik and every other misspelling you might imagine (not to mention the frequent misspelling of Keith—”I before E except after C” and all that), I should probably be particularly careful when it comes to making sure I correctly spell the names of others.
So, shame on me for incorrectly spelling the name of D.C. council member David A. Catania. The fellow who is working so diligently to determine the right brand of condoms to be distributed to Washington, D.C. public school children is not David A. Catalina, it is David A. Catania.
My apologies to Mr. Catania, but also to any David Catalina’s out there who might have been unfairly tarnished by my carelessness.
Monday, October 19, 2009, 10:29 AM
In a Washington Post article, “Colleges Speaking Up to Protect Shy ‘Sexiles‘”, we are informed that “In an era of coed dorms and slackening rules about “overnight guests,” a new constituency has emerged on college campuses: the roommate inconvenienced by sex.” The article reports on how the issue is being handled by colleges in the D.C. For the most part colleges “have mostly tiptoed around the issue of roommate sex, reminding students in general terms of the need for common civility.”
It seems as though “sexile rights” has become a hot issues on college campuses since Tufts University has banned sexual activity in dorm rooms when a roommate is present.
Tufts officials said the change was prompted by persistent complaints from students, numbering perhaps a dozen over the past two to three years.
In response, administrators helpfully added a new item to a list of host responsibilities for students with overnight guests: “You may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.” Dorm sex should never “deprive your roommate(s) of privacy, study, or sleep time.”
Here’s how the Post summarizes Tufts’ policy: “Tufts might be the first college in the nation to make explicit what other schools have only hinted at: It is not cool to have sex in front of your roommate.”
Not cool! Well, that’s one way to put it, although one might think that in an era of “nonjudgmentalness” what counts as “cool” might be in the eye of the beholder. Subjecting your roommate to the Jonas Brother through your dorm room’s stereo speakers is not cool. For that matter, it is a brute fact woven into the fabric of the universe (and not mere opinion) that even having the Jonas Brothers on your iPod is not “cool.” But I doubt that Tufts or any other college or university is going to ban the Jonas Brothers. So, it is not entirely clear to me why lack of coolness should be banned in the case of one instance (sex in front of roommates) and not the other (listening to the Jonas Brothers).
Of course, the mere suggestion that colleges reconsider all this co-ed dorms stuff would meet with howls of protest. That would most definitely not be cool.
Speaking for myself, I’m opposed to co-ed dorms and in favor of strictly enforced visitation procedures, and for a strictly enforced ban on the Jonas Brothers. Which, I suppose, raises my coolness quotient in one instance but lowers it in the other. So it’s a wash.
Oh, in case you were wondering, “Among local colleges, Georgetown University has come closest to positing a bill of rights for sexiles. The school advises students that “cohabitation, which is defined as overnight visits with a sexual partner, is incompatible both with the Catholic character of the University and with the rights of the roommates.”
Monday, October 12, 2009, 4:20 PM
In “One Cheer for Jim Wallis” I complimented the founder of Sojourners for his insistence—when pressed on the issue by a CBN reporter—that abortion funding be excluded from any health care reform. I ran into Wallis not long afterwards and he wanted to know why I was being so stingy with my applause. Why, he wanted to know, did he only get one cheer?
I told him I thought it was pretty clear from my article what it would take to earn greater applause. Here’s what I said:
Before we break out the Champaign, pop the corks, and celebrate the return of a prodigal to the pro-life fold someone needs to ask Wallis a follow-up question: What exactly is so morally objectionable about including abortion in health care reform? For example, Wallis has always claimed to be both pro-life and pro-women (whatever that means). Couldn’t his progressive friends argue that including abortion in health care reform is being pro-women? And if he opposed it, would that make him anti-women?
If Wallis’s opposition is truly principled (or “prophetic”) then we can expect Wallis and the Sojourners crowd to offer up a reasoned and articulate public argument for the moral wrongness of including this particular “health care procedure.” We would expect to hear from Wallis and the Sojourners crowd not merely the acknowledgment that other people have moral objections, but an explanation and articulation of Wallis own moral objections. We would expect an argument that informs his readers just exactly why his “progressive” friends are so wrong on this issue and the right wing “pro-life extremists” are right.
In addition, I told Wallis as bluntly as I could, that as far as I could tell his position and that of Sojourners was indistinguishable from the old Mario Cuomo position of being “personally opposed” to abortion while wanting to keep the procedure legal. I suggested that neither he nor Sojourners could honestly be labeled pro-life because, for that term to mean anything, it has to involve advocacy for the legal protection of the unborn. Wallis was equally frank in response. He simply rejected my suggestion that the “legal protection of the unborn” had anything to do with being pro-life. Both of us left that conversation with a clear understanding that Wallis was, quite simply, pro-choice on abortion.
Sunday, October 11, 2009, 3:21 AM
Back in the Reagan era the slogan was “Peace through Strength.” In the military ranks this was modified, with typical military humor as decidedly unofficial, politically incorrect, slogans such as “Peace through Fire-Superiority” or “Peace through Marksmanship” or “Peace through Close Combat,” and the like.
Hold that thought.
Last month the New York Times reported “U.S. Kills Top Qaeda Leader in Southern Somalia.” The target was Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed by American commandos in a daring daylight raid in southern Somalia. Here’s how the Times summarized the operation.
On Monday, around 1 p.m., villagers near the town of Baraawe said four military helicopters suddenly materialized over the horizon and shot at two trucks rumbling through the desert. . . .
The helicopters, with commandos firing .50-caliber machine guns and other automatic weapons, quickly disabled the trucks, according to villagers in the area, and several of the Shabab fighters tried to fire back. Shabab leaders said that six foreign fighters, including Mr. Nabhan, were quickly killed, along with three Somali Shabab. The helicopters landed, and the commandos inspected the wreckage and carried away the bodies of Mr. Nabhan and the other fighters for identification, a senior American military official said.
You won’t find it in the Times story, but Fox News made it a point to report that ten days prior to the raid President Obama signed the Execute Order that gave the go-ahead to assassinate Nabhan. President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a month later.
So, who says President Obama hasn’t done anything to earn the award?
“Peace through Targeted-Assassinations” anyone?
Friday, October 9, 2009, 11:20 AM
The Obama administration’s talking point on health with regard to abortion has been to insist that any legislation will be “abortion neutral.” So called progressive evangelicals such as Brian McLaren, David Gushee, Jim Wallis and the all the other “prophetic voices” at Sojourners, have dutifully parroted the message.
Gushee, for instance, recently took to the pages of USA Today complaining that even though he agrees that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided he has been “demonized,” for his attempt to find “common ground” on abortion:
The pattern remains most obvious whenever anything related to abortion is under consideration — as with health care reform, in which abortion has played a supporting role in the debate despite the efforts of most Democratic leaders to keep the legislation abortion-neutral. The entire health care reform effort has become an episode in demonization.
Well, perhaps we have been too hard on the Wallis-McLaren-Gushee crowd. Maybe we should not have been so hasty in suggesting they are simply carrying water for Obama and Congressional Democrats on the issue of abortion and health care. So let me suggest a little test. Let’s call it the “how-deep-are you-in-the-tank-for-Obama test.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have just released a letter to Congress authored by the three Catholic bishops leading the Church’s efforts on health care. They don’t seem to think that health care legislation is “abortion-neutral,” and have warned “we will have no choice but to oppose the bill” unless current bills are amended. George Stephanopoulos summarizes the objection:
The bishops simply don’t buy the argument that House Democrats found a way to block public funding for abortions with the Capps amendment, and they insist that the Hyde amendment doesn’t apply to the bills because they are not appropriations measures. A sizable bloc of House Democrats, led by Bart Stupak of Michigan, agree and are pressuring for a clear prohibition on public funding.
It sure would be nice to know what Wallis, McClaren, and Gushee think of all this. Would it be too much to ask for them to step up to the plate and tell us whether they agree or disagree with the stance taken by the Bishops? To use rhetoric to which they might be more accustomed, will they “raise their voices in solidarity with the Catholic bishops” on the issue of health care and abortion. Or will they continue to carry water for the Obama administration? Are they now, at long last willing to surrender the notion that current health care legislation is still “abortion neutral?”
That should be sufficient for a “how-deep-are-you-in-the-tank-for-Obama test, at least for now.”
Thursday, October 8, 2009, 8:56 AM
The front page Washington Post headline isn’t sensational; it merely reads “Civilian, Military Officials at Odds Over Resources Needed for Afghan Mission.” But one can hardly imagine a more damning indictment of President Obama and certain unnamed “senior administration officials” on his foreign policy team. The terms gross negligence, incompetence, and mind-boggling self-deception leap to mind.
The article reports on the President’s decision in March, after a review by his national security team, “to mount a comprehensive counterinsurgency mission to defeat the Taliban.” This decision was then set forth in an administration white paper outlining what Obama called “a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Preventing al-Qaeda’s return to Afghanistan, the document stated, would require “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy.”
So far so good. This is precisely the way it is supposed to work: civilian leadership sets forth the strategy and the military begins planning to determine what it will cost in terms of resources to execute that strategy. But evidently, for some senior administration officials, ”new” doesn’t mean new, “comprehensive” doesn’t mean comprehensive, and “strategy” doesn’t mean strategy:
Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 1:03 PM
On Saturday Bruce Ackerman, a notoriously liberal Yale Law School Professor, took to the editorial pages of the Washington Post to criticize General McChrystal. In ”A General’s Public Pressure” he writes:
In a speech in London on Thursday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal publicly intervened in the debate over Afghanistan. Vice President Biden has suggested that we focus on fighting al-Qaeda and refrain from using our troops to prop up the government of President Hamid Karzai. But when this strategic option was raised at his presentation, McChrystal said it was a formula for “Chaos-istan.” When asked whether he would support it, he said, “The short answer is: No.”
Ackerman says, “As commanding general in Afghanistan, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements.”
Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, writing in today’s Post argues that although his public statements were perhaps “too blunt and impolitic” and that if he had a “do-over” he might have “made different, more nuanced statements”, McChrystal is nonetheless “A General Within Bounds.” O’Hanlon, I think, has it just about right. The key is in his opening sentence:
Friday, October 2, 2009, 2:48 PM
We all know that President Obama held a three-hour meeting at the White House yesterday on the situation in Afghanistan. The spinning has begun inside the beltway.
The Washington Post leads with “White House Eyeing Narrower War Effort: Top Officials Challenge General’s Assessment.” Read the article carefully, however, and you learn that a more accurate title would be “Some White House Officials . . .”
According to White House officials involved in the meeting, Vice President Biden offered some of the more pointed challenges to McChrystal, who attended the session by video link from Kabul. One official said Biden played the role of “skeptic in chief,” while other top officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, were muted in their comments.
Clinton has given no public signals about whether she is inclined to side with Biden or with McChrystal. But Clinton often sees eye to eye with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who also has kept his views private. She met with Gates on Tuesday and has cleared her afternoon schedule for Friday to meet with her Afghanistan team.
Biden has argued against increasing the number of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan, currently scheduled to total 68,000 by the end of the year. He favors preserving the current force levels, stepping up Predator drone strikes on al-Qaeda leaders and increasing training for Afghan forces.
Nothing new on that. We already know that Biden has taken the point in opposition to General McChystal and General Petraeus. What is of interest is this:
Friday, October 2, 2009, 9:02 AM
On Wednesday, according to a Washington Post article, “Students, Supporters Rally to Save Vouchers“, former House Minority Leader John A Boehner (R—Ohio) joined D.C. council member Marion Barry and others at the Capitol in support of the D.C. school voucher program.
The federally funded voucher program provides scholarships to low-income District children to attend private schools. In the 2008-09 school year, it spent about $12 million on 1,716 students. This year the program will be slightly smaller because it was closed to new students in the spring, when its funding came in doubt.
According to the article, a Mr. Bruce Stewart attended the rally. Mr. Stewart, we are told, retired in June as head of Sidwell Friends School, a private prep school in the District.
“You shouldn’t consign these kids to mediocrity because of an accident of where they were born,” he said, pointing to poor-quality public schools in low-income neighborhoods.
No, you shouldn’t. But Mr. Stewart is being far too generous. Only in their wildest dreams could the parents in these “low-income neighborhoods” imagine that their neighborhood public schools would rise to the dizzying heights of mediocrity. Mediocrity would be a blessing. If they were mediocre, they would at least be on par with the public schools in the surrounding Washington suburbs. The simple fact is that these schools are far worse than mediocre which is why, given the opportunity, the vast majority of parents would opt out. You might say they would prefer a “private option.”
So, who is for giving them the opportunity? You might think that a program design to extend to the parents of those predominantly black kids in those “low-income neighborhoods” the same opportunity to opt out of the public schools available to President Obama would be the “progressive” thing to do, what with their concern for the poor, distributive justice, and all. You might think that those who want to preserve the present system in which only the relatively well-to-do can opt out (either through private education or by moving to the suburbs) would be the cold, mean-hearted, right-wing conservatives.
But this is America, folks. Here we have Boehner, the Republican Minority Leader, in in favor of empowering poor black parents. And we have the “progressives” telling them they can eat cake:
Democratic congressional leaders have said they want stricter oversight of participating schools if the program is to continue in any form. President Obama has expressed support for continuing the program for students already participating but gradually winding it down by closing it to new applicants.
The “progressive” view on these things, once again, seems to school choice for me, but not for thee.
President Obama’s daughters, it is worth noting, attend Sidwell Friends. I guess it would be too much to ask the President to explain why Mr. Stewart is wrong when he says, “You shouldn’t consign these kids to mediocrity [or worse] because of an accident of where they were born.”
Thursday, October 1, 2009, 9:10 AM
Here’s the latest fundraising letter from Jim Wallis and the folks at Sojourners:
The echoes are reverberating.
After a week of “Tell the Truth” e-mails to share the real stories of health-care reform with media shock jocks, we’re still hearing the echoes of the 100,000-plus letters sent to networks and advertisers. We’re hearing the effects in the media, in Congress, and in our congregations.
The bottom line: What our nation needs is a prophetic voice that delivers strong, resonant, spiritual insight on major social issues.
For many, that voice is Sojourners.
We are then offered “some examples of how our voice transforms”:
- As we shared last week, Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lauded Sojourners for its role in identifying how scripture emphasizes social justice.
- Last week Jim Wallis was a guest speaker on “The Stephanie Miller Show,” discussing the moral implications of health-care reform. We received this e-mail from a listener who’d never heard of Sojourners before: “We’ve longed to find an organization that walks the path of Christ.”
- A legislative assistant for a senior senator shared recently how she values Sojourners’ work on key political issues. Reading our God’s Politics blog helps her combine her faith and her work.
“Our prophetic advocacy,” they tell us, “is reaching new people every day.”
But some folks aren’t buying it. A few weeks ago, A Lutheran youth pastor named Matt Cleaver wrote “Sojourners Has Lost All Credibility“, a blog post that seems to be making the rounds in the evangelical sub-culture. He’s had enough:
A few years ago I was searching for an alternative to the Religious Right style of Christian politics and came across Jim Wallis as he was doing a media tour promoting his new book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. It seemed like every website I went to and every news station I watched had a feature on Jim and his form of politics. It was a breath of fresh air to find an alternative way to be a Christian in America other than being in the tank for the Republican Party.
I never read God’s Politics, but I did sign up for regular emails from Sojourners, the organization that Wallis founded that is committed to “articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.” At the onset, I appreciated reading regular alternatives and perspectives on the political topics of the day.
I can say that no longer.
Sojourners has lost all creditability in my view. They are obviously in the tank for the Democratic Party and have lost any and all “prophetic distance” with which to be able to critique our culture, church, and politics.
Nothing surprising in all this, of course. I wish I had a nickel for how many times I heard that storyline with regard to Sojourners over the past thirty years or so. But still, one can’t help wondering if Pastor Cleaver might have come to this conclusion a bit sooner had he actually read God’s Politics, or perhaps thought a bit harder about the hubris reflected in the title. But, once again, better late than never!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 11:20 AM
The Washington Post has treated us to three op-eds by four authors in two days each advocating that the U.S. make concerted effort to pressure Iran on the issue of human rights. Today, Robert Kagan argues in “Forget the Nukes: The Most Fruitful Target is Iran’s Weakening Regime”:
In Iran, the regime’s violent crackdown, its mass arrests of opposition figures—including the children of high-ranking clerics—and all the farcical show trials have been signs of weakness and anxiety, not confidence.
In such situations, an autocratic regime’s biggest fear, well-grounded in history, is that domestic opponents may gain the support of powerful foreign patrons.
Kagan argues, “It is obvious from the show trials in Iran, where the accused have “admitted” being part of various American plots to overthrow the regime in a ‘velvet revolution,’ that this is the clerics’ principal fixation.”
The regime’s overriding goal since the election, therefore, has been to buy time and try to reestablish and consolidate control without any foreign interference in its internal affairs. In this Tehran has succeeded admirably.
But it has also had help. The Obama administration has, perhaps unwittingly, been a most cooperative partner. It has refused to make the question of regime survival part of its strategy. Indeed, it doesn’t even treat Iran as if it were in the throes of a political crisis. President Obama seems to regard the ongoing turmoil as a distraction from the main business of stopping Iran’s nuclear program. And this is exactly what the rulers in Tehran want him to do: focus on the nukes and ignore the regime’s instability.
While more sympathetic to President Obama, Andrew Albertson and Ali G. Scotten also argue for putting to work “A Human Rights Lever for Iran”: (more…)
Monday, September 28, 2009, 9:20 AM
The incivility and name-calling by the talking heads and others on the right has to stop.
In a short six paragraph article of 442 words, they managed to call President Obama and his White House aides liars and cowards, and the American Civil Liberties Union others in the “civil liberties community” of being hypocrites.
This rant has to do with an Obama administration announcement last week that it does not need and would not seek new legislation to govern the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. President Obama now claims that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force gives him the right to hold terrorists indefinitely without trial. “The White House and its allies,” we are told, “knowingly engage in a distortion,” and lack the courage to engage the Congress on what processes should be available to those subject to such detention.
Meanwhile, the response of the ACLU, which has consistently opposed any indefinite detention regime and pushed for detainees either to be charged in courts or released, has been “breathtakingly hypocritical.” They find it odd, “that the same policy which, when pursued by the Bush administration, constituted “thumbing its nose at the Constitution” and putting a “stain on America’s name at home and abroad” now elicits nothing but a few measured tsk-tsks.”
Well, alright, they didn’t exactly call President Obama a liar (he is merely “knowingly engaging in distortion”), they didn’t say he was a coward (merely that he “lacks the courage to engage”) and they didn’t call the ACLU and their allies “hypocrites” (merely that they are being “breathtakingly hypocritical”).
Oh, they aren’t really right-wing extremists, either. The authors of “Mr. Obama Punts…” just happen to be the editors of the Washington Post.
Sunday, September 27, 2009, 9:00 AM
Howard L. Berman is a Democratic Congressman and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In an editorial,”Dealing With Iran’s Deception“, Berman informs us that Congress has to get moving to impose, should negotiations fail, what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called “crippling sanctions.” He intends to lead the way. Here’s Berman:
The best conduit for such sanctions would be a mandatory U.N. Security Council resolution. That would require the difficult-to-obtain acquiescence of Russia and China. Failing that, multilateral agreement by the Europeans, Japan, Australia and Canada to impose coordinated financial, trade and investment sanctions would be a serious alternative. If even that proves impossible, I believe the threat posed to our national security by the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran obligates the United States to impose sanctions unilaterally.
Alright, better late than never, I suppose. But why must sanctions be imposed “unilaterally.” Why can’t they be imposed by a few members of a “coalition of the willing?” In that case, nobody in their right mind could accuse the Americans of acting unilaterally. And if those sanctions fail nobody could ever accuse the Americans of acting unilaterally if it all comes to a military confrontation.
I suspect that the anti-war crowd that makes up President Obama’s base in the democratic wing of the Democratic Party will shortly be hoisted on their own petard.
Thursday, September 24, 2009, 3:36 PM
The headline from the front page of yesterday’s Washington Post reads “Less Peril for Civilians, but More for Troops.” The opening paragraphs summarize the issue:
Concern is rising in Congress and among military families over a sharp increase in U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan at a time when senior military officials acknowledge that American service members are facing greater risks under a new strategy that emphasizes protecting Afghan civilians.
On July 2, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, issued a directive restricting the military’s use of airstrikes and artillery bombardments. In July and August, the number of Afghan civilians killed by coalition forces was 19, compared with 151 for the same two months last year.
The article goes on to discuss the more restrictive “rules of engagement” (ROEs) imposed by General McChrystal, which are consciously designed to decrease the number of civilian casualties caused by collateral damage. Tragically, there is a cost to be paid for this concern to reduce the harm done to innocent Afghan civilians: America’s warfighters will be put at greater risk because they are required to employ more discriminate force when engaging the enemy.
I’m going to have more to say about all this in due course, but for now it might be worth calling attention to a certain irony in this situation.
It is no secret that the most vocal advocates for General McChrystal’s new counterinsurgency strategy are those often herded together, inexplicably at times, under the label “neoconservative.” Neoconservatives, of course, are variously described as warmongers, imperialists, liberals with teenaged daughters, and a few less complimentary names as well. I suspect that your average blue state liberal, if queried on the matter, would tend to associate the neocons with the “kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” understanding of the jus in bello principle of discrimination and noncombatant immunity.
But, quite to the contrary, here we find them advocating a policy in which the rules of engagement are considerably more restrictive than they were prior to General McChrystal’s implementation of a counterinsurgency strategy and certainly more restrictive than they would be under the kind of proposed light-footprint counterterrorism, the kill-the-Taliban-from-afar-with-Predator-strikes strategy popularized by George Will and advocated by Vice President Joe Biden. Moreover, it should be noted that the ROE’s are certainly more restrictive than required by either law or morality. This seems to suggest that the advocates of the General McChrystal’s comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy—including the neocons—are considerably more concerned about the lives of innocent Afghan civilians than the advocates of a counterterrorism strategy.
I don’t mean to suggest that Vice President Biden and other advocates of a counterterrorism strategy are imperialist warmongers or anything like that. For now, I just thought I’d call attention to the irony of it all.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 10:45 AM
Over at National Review, Nina Shea notes that Yale University is scheduled to host Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who drew the iconic caricature of Muhammad wearing a turban-bomb. “The invitation to Westergaard” comments Shea, “is no doubt a response to the backlash that Yale and Yale University Press (YUP) have suffered for dropping the Danish cartoons from YUP’s new scholarly book The Cartoons That Shook the World.”
As Michael Burleigh amply documents in his historical tome Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, one simply cannot understate the fecklessness of Western intellectuals when it comes to issues related to terror or terrorism. From the Russian anarchists to the Red Brigades to the Baider-Meinhoff gang, to various terror campaigns in support of “wars of national liberation,” a wide swath of Western intelligentsia were offering apologies for terrorists, when they weren’t actually giving intellectual and moral warrant for terror.
Now, in one sense, things are not so bad today with regard to Western academics and Islamic terrorism. As I suggested in a review of Burleigh’s book, you will find far less overt support today for Islamic terrorism even among the blame-America-first left than you did, say for the terrorism of the Red Brigades or the Baider Meinhoff gang among New Left academics in the 1960s and 1970s. Even Burleigh acknowledges “no significant section of Western elite opinion is sympathetic to contemporary Islamist terrorism, as many were to Marxist-Leninism in the 1930s.”
But old habits and reflexes linger. Add to the mix a religious-type devotion to “multiculturalism,” sprinkle in a dash of guilt over colonialism and imperialism (real or perceived), and no one should be surprised that that Yale University Press would have capitulated so easily and quickly on the cartoon controversy. As Burleigh also notes, “throughout Europe there are left-liberals (and a few pro-Arab ‘Camel Corps’ right wingers) whose hatred of the United States, and Israel, is so pathologically ingrained that they have become apologists for the most reactionary elements within Islam.” Given all this it is little surpise that YUP capitulate so easily on the cartoon controversy. Moral courage is not exactly the virtue that leaps to mind when you think of institutions like YUP.
So, we might be tempted to laugh this whole thing off and simply chalk it up to the moral cowardice that comes with being an “administrator” in the elite world of academic publishing these days. But Shea calls our attention to an aspect of this little dust-up that should give us further pause.
Shea calls our attention to an article in the Yale Daily News which reports that when “Yale University Press was faced with the decision of whether to reprint the caricatures of the prophet Muhammad that are at the center of its forthcoming book, The Cartoons that Shook the World, it turned to the University proper for advice.” Normally that wouldn’t be a particularly comforting thought, but we are told that these included “numerous counterterrorism and diplomatic officials,” who “for the most part,” “cautioned the University and the Press not to republish the cartoons.
While the university has not revealed the identity of most of the “experts,” we now know that they consulted with a senior fellow at Yale’s renowned Grand Strategy program, John Negroponte, Yale Class of 1960. Here’s Negroponte’s interview with the Yale Daily News:
Q: What advice did you give Yale about publishing the cartoons?
A: I agreed with the decision by Yale, and I certainly think that publishing the cartoons and the likenesses of Muhammad in the way they appeared in those cartoons would have been a gratuitous act.
Q: Do you think there would have been violence in reaction to the republication of the cartoons?
A: Certainly the experience has been that up to now the republication of some of these cartoons has caused an even more violent reaction than the initial publication.
Q: Would that violence have taken place on Yale’s campus or elsewhere?
A: I think it was a more generic threat. The violence in the case of the Danish cartoons mainly happened abroad in places like Kabul, Afghanistan. But it’s violence nonetheless.
Q: When would the concern about possible violence be outweighed by the obligation to protect free speech?
A : It’s a judgment call, of course. The question is: on balance, how much of the academic purpose of this book is stymied by the fact of not publishing the cartoons? I don’t think it’s stymied at all since the images are accessible elsewhere, especially online.
Q: What else influenced your recommendation to the University?
A: What was kind of decisive for me in a way as I looked through the background and some of the material was that the American newspapers took the decision not to publish the images back in 2005. I think one did, but the Washington Post and New York Times and Boston Globe did not.
So, what’s the big deal? Again, you weren’t expecting a profile in courage from the Yale faculty lounge, were you? You weren’t expecting a senior fellow at Yale’s grand strategy program to articulate a robust defense of free speech and freedom of the press in the face of threats from Islamic terrorists, were you? You weren’t expecting a full-throated defense of the way civilized people deal with intellectual disagreement and dissent, were you?
Of course not. But the problem is that Negroponte isn’t your typical academic. He was a career diplomat, who just prior to his retirement served as Deputy Secretary of State, the second highest official in the State Department. Before that he served from 2001-2004 as the ambassador to the United Nations, then as ambassador to Iraq, and then in 2005 inexplicably was appointed by President Bush to be the first Director of National Intelligence where he served before moving back to Foggy Bottom in 2007.
As Nina Shea puts it:
When asked in an interview to describe the circumstances in which “concern about possible violence” should “be outweighed by the obligation to protect free speech,” even John Negroponte . . . could give no real response beyond saying that it is a “judgment call.” Here is an insight into why the West is losing the contest of ideas with Islamic extremism.
I think Nina has understated the problem—to great effect.
Thursday, September 17, 2009, 8:00 AM
Before everyone gets tired of “playing the race card” game with Jimmy Carter, it might be worth noting that even though over fifty-four percent of the population of Washington, D.C. is African American, the white minority is not all that anxious to let the black folks vote on a referendum on one particular issue. Guess which issue?
A coalition of gay marriage opponents asked the D.C. elections board Tuesday to authorize a ballot initiative that if approved by a majority of voters would define marriage in the District as the union of a man and a woman.
Stand4MarriageDC, led by Bishop Harry Jackson of Beltsville’s Hope Christian Church, filed papers with the Board of Elections and Ethics seeking authority to collect petition signatures for a November 2010 referendum on the definition of marriage. The filing, backed by the Archdiocese of Washington, comes ahead of an anticipated D.C. Council effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the District.
Over at the Stand4MarriageDC website, we hear further from Bishop Jackson:
“The D.C. City Council has stated that their intention is to redefine marriage by going beyond recognizing homosexual marriage performed outside the District to advocating for them to be performed in the District,” said Bp. Jackson. “This redefinition of marriage will permanently impact D.C. businesses, schools, social activities, and the family unit without the voice of the residents being heard. The initiative filed today would allow the people of the District to decide this important issue, not a 13-person panel.”
And from the Rev. Dale Wafer:
“The City Council has had no consultation with community leaders, no public debate and no consideration of the views of the majority of D.C. residents,” says Pastor Wafer. “Their actions have not only been disrespectful to citizens of the District, but outright undemocratic. This issue is too big to be decided in such an exclusive, haphazard and thoughtless way.”
Bishop Harry Jackson and Pastor Dale Wafer, it is worth noting, are African Americans.
Of course, such a ballot measure is radically opposed by the gay lobby. Why? “’Philosophically many people are opposed to having a ballot initiative that subjects a particular group’s rights to an up or down majority vote,’ said Rick Rosendall, vice president of political affairs for the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.”
It would be a waste of breath to point out to Rick Rosendall and his allies the fallacy of petitio principii. Behind all the bluster we all know the real reason the white folks tend to think the black folks in Washington, DC shouldn’t get a vote on this particular issue. The simple fact is that a far greater percentage of African Americans still hold to crazy ideas like, say, the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman (despite and perhaps because of the fallout from the tragic breakdown of the institution of marriage in the black community), oppose the legalization of gay marriage, and deeply resent the common assertion from the gay lobby that opposition to “gay marriage” is morally equivalent to racism.
Not that this has anything to do with racism, mind you. Although, I would love to hear President Obama’s answer to a well-timed question as to whether or not he agrees with Bishop Jackson that “The people of the District of Columbia should decide the issue of the definition of marriage, not 13 members of the D.C. Council,” or with Rev. Wafer’s claim that the actions of the city council “have not only been disrespectful to citizens of the District, but outright undemocratic.” Let’s hear the great “community organizer” parse that one! Jimmy Carter might take a stab at it as well.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 4:59 PM
I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American.
That of course, is former President Jimmy Carter playing the race card-—bigtime! Not just an extreme fringe mind you, but an overwhelming portion of the critics of Obama are motivated by racisim.
Carter, for our overseas readers and those who need a refresher on recent American history, is a white guy from way down south in Dixie. From Georgia, to be precise.
Then there’s this:
President Carter is flat out wrong. This isn’t about race. It is about policy . . . This is a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president’s wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose.
Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn’t create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. It only divides Americans rather than uniting us to find solutions to challenges facing our nation.
That is from Michael Steele, the Chairman of the Republic National Committee (RNC). Steele is a black man, the first African-American chairman of the RNC.
Is this a great country, or what?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 12:36 PM
It was my privilege to meet Rev. Dr. Mark Durie yesterday. Durie, a noted linguist and Australian Anglican Priest gave a lecture at The Hudson Institute titled “Hate Speech Laws, Islamic Blasphemy Strictures, and Freedom of Speech: The Case of Australia.” A brief description of Dr. Durie’s outstanding lecture as well as an audio of the lecture and subsequent discussion can be found here.
I first became aware of Dr. Durie when doing some background reading in preparation for a short piece “Why I Would Not Sign the Yale Response to ‘A Common Word’“, which I had been asked to write for the journal The Review of Faith and International Affairs.
I had a lot of problems with the Yale response, formally titled, “A Common Word Between Us and You”, but I intended to focus my remarks on the issue of religious liberty. It seemed to me that these so-called Muslim scholars were selling a bit of theological snake oil on the issue of religious liberty in particular and that the Yale response failed to call them out on it. Durie helped me prove the point. Here’s what I said:
Had the authors and signatories to the Yale statement taken time to reflect more carefully about this obvious contradiction [between public statements about religious liberty and the lack of it in the Islamic world], they might have avoided the embarrassing revelation brought to light by Mark Durie, a noted Australian Anglican scholar of comparative theology and linguistics. Durie, suspicious of the Muslim claim that “justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbor,” decided to take a little closer look. And what he found was quite telling.
The “Common Word” letter from 138 Muslims was the product of Jordan’s Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. Durie discovered that at the time “A Common Word” was issued (October 13, 2007), the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute had several disturbing fatwas—Islamic legal verdicts or edicts—posted on a website that it sponsors (altafsir.com, which provides free online access to a large collection of primary Islamic texts). These fatwas condemned people to death who have left Islam, including Muslim-background Christians. If these Christians are not killed, then these so-called apostates are to be treated as legal non-persons, having no rights before the law.
These fatwas, complete with justifying citations from the Qur’an and hadiths of Mohammad, were written by none other than Shaykh Sa’id Hijjawi. Shaykh Hijjawi is not only a prominent signatory of “A Common Word”; he is the chief scholar of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute and was the Grand Mufti of Jordan (the highest religious authority in a Sunni Muslim nation) from 1992-2007. Durie notes that given his status, it is quite reasonable to suppose that Shaykh Hijjawi played a considerable role in writing “A Common Word”.
As far as I can tell, none of the “yes-I-signed” people deny that these “Muslim scholars” really aren’t all that hot on things like religious liberty or that they are being just a tad disingenuous when, for Western consumption, they tell us that “freedom of religion” is a crucial part of “love of neighbor.” The typical rejoinder from the “interreligious dialogue” folks is that while this may be the case, you just shouldn’t call them out on it in public. Its “bad taste” or doesn’t align with rules some people seem to have for things like “inter-religious dialogue.”
Durie’s lecture was the first of a Fall series on “Lifting the Theocratic Iron Curtain: Examining the Application of Muslim Blasphemy and Apostasy Rules in the Contemporary World,” sponsored by Hudson’s Center for Religious Freedom under the fine leadership of Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, who to their credit think these matters should be spoken about in public.
Saturday, September 12, 2009, 3:06 AM
Last week Jimmy Carter wrote another breathtakingly silly op-ed titled “The Elder’s View of the Middle East.” As Elliot Abrams summarized it in an response titled, “What Carter Missed in the Middle East.” The former President “described a rapacious Israel facing long-suffering, blameless Palestinians, who are contemplating a ‘nonviolent civil rights struggle’ in which ‘their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.’” Here’s how Carter put it:
A majority of the Palestinian leaders with whom we met are seriously considering acceptance of one state, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. By renouncing the dream of an independent Palestine, they would become fellow citizens with their Jewish neighbors and then demand equal rights within a democracy. In this nonviolent civil rights struggle, their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
Which brings to mind the British historian Michael Burleigh’s warning on the first page of his massive new book Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism (my review of which you can find here). Beware, says Burleigh, of clichés such as “yesterday’s terrorist is tomorrow’s statesman. . . . If you imagine that Osama bin Laden is going to evolve into Nelson Mandela, you need a psychiatrist rather than a historian.”
To which I would simply add, “If you imagine that the leaders of Hamas are going to evolve into Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Nelson Mandela, you need a psychiatrist rather than a historian.”
Friday, September 11, 2009, 1:43 PM
In “No Way to Treat a President” Eugene Robinson has taken to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post to denounce the incivility of President Obama’s congressional opposition, especially Representative Joseph Wilson’s now infamous “you lie,” outburst the other night. One might be inclined to sympathize with Mr. Robinson’s appeal to greater civility and decorum were it not for his own self-evident incivility.
In this very same article Robinson repeats the infantile “Bush lied, soldiers died” mantra. Congress, he says, “didn’t even show that kind of bitterness and aggression toward George W. Bush, who did lie—specifically, about the intelligence that his administration relied on to justify an unnecessary war that has cost 4,300 American lives and enough money to fund Obama’s health-care proposals for a decade.”
Mr. Robinson is quite right to suggest that President Bush’s congressional opponents didn’t heckle the President on the issue of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. But that has little to do with Democratic “civility,” and more to do with the simple fact that they happened to agree with President Bush. Indeed, overwhelmingly voted for twenty-three writs authorizing the war for Iraq. And they didn’t simply take President Bush’s word for it. To wit: (more…)
Thursday, September 10, 2009, 9:00 AM
The German Marshall Fund has just released Transatlantic Trends, their annual survey of European and American public opinion. The survey collects data on issues ranging from the popularity of the American President (Europeans really like President Obama and they really hated G. W. Bush) to opinions on NATO, the European Union, climate change, economic policy, the war in Afghanistan and so forth. You can find their “Key Findings” here and the detailed “Topline Data” here.
The most striking difference between Americans and Europeans is reflected in answers to the following rather cautiously worded statement:
Please tell me to what extend you agree with the following: Under some conditions, war is necessary to obtain justice.
The American response:
Strongly agree: 37 percent
Somewhat agree: 34 percent
Somewhat disagree: 11 percent
Strongly disagree: 14 percent
For those who are counting, that’s 71 percent who agree to 25 percent who disagree.
By contrast, the Europeans answer:
Strongly agree: 8 percent
Somewhat agree: 17 percent
Somewhat disagree: 22 percent
Strongly disagree: 49 percent
That’s 25 percent who agree to 71 percent who disagree.
The UK is the only European nation that could muster a majority who agree that under some conditions war is necessary to obtain justice, but only barely at 55-40 percent, coming in at percentages of: 20, 35, 15, and 25 respectively.
On the Continent one finds a rather dismal picture. Worth mentioning is the high percentage of Europeans who strongly disagree, suggesting that they believe that under no conditions can war ever be necessary to obtain justice: 57 percent of the French (5, 13, 24, 57), 55 percent of the Germans (6, 13, 25, 55), 64 percent of the Italians (4, 12, 20, 64), 55 percent of the Spanish (4, 10, 30, 55), and 60 percent of the Belgians (3, 14, 18, 60). Only 47 percent of the Dutch strongly disagree (10, 19, 22, 47), which makes them, I suppose, the warmongers of the Continent.
Pretty bleak, but then again, let’s look on the bright side. Who wouldn’t prefer having a nation of German pacifists than a nation of goose-stepping Nazi’s traipsing through Europe? Certainly, the German pacifism of the first part of the twenty-first century is to be preferred to the German militarism of the first half of the twentieth.
But militarism and pacifism, of course, don’t exhaust the range of moral options (and I would argue that they tend to go together like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but that is for another day.) If they thought real, real hard, and reached deep into their heritage, Europeans just might be able to come up with a few conditions under which war should be waged for the sake of justice. Or maybe not so deep, maybe just as far back as, say, Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald. A visit to the American cemetery at, say, Normady, for example, might also serve to jar their collective conscience. But I doubt it.
In any case, let’s hope the Germans, French, Dutch, Spanish, Belgians and the rest figure it all out before some decidedly less-pacifist, more militaristically inclined predators, see fit to take advantage of their pacifistic naiveté. I suspect, however, that it might take a few twenty-first century storm-troopers goose-stepping down the streets of Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, and Madrid to get their attention. By then, it will be too late—but maybe not too late to call on the Americans. Maybe.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 12:16 PM
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Farouk Hasni is an Egyptian artist, an abstract painter with exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and institutions in Europe and the Middle East. For a while, he looked like a shoo-in to become the next director general of UNESCO (U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). His candidacy was pushed hard by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who thought that it was high time for an Arab to get the job.
But many are asking if he is the “Wrong Man for Top Job at UNESCO?” What’s the beef?
Over his career, Hosni has accumulated a long record of opposing exchanges with Israel, repeatedly saying normalization must await resolution of the Palestinian issue and warning that opening up to Jewish culture would be dangerous for Egypt. But his most notorious sally came in May last year, when he told an Islamist member of the Egyptian parliament that he would personally burn any Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries.
Generally speaking, you might think that book burners wouldn’t be at the top of the list to head an educational, scientific, and cultural organization—even if it is the UN’s educational, scientific, and cultural organization. So a few months ago, as his campaign for the post gathered steam, Hosni was forced to issue an apology. “In a statement published in Paris, he attributed it to a hot temper and an Arabic-language metaphor that sounded worse than it was.” Right! Hosni, right on cue, set out to prove he was really a “moderate Muslim” not at all like those Islamists he tried to appease.
But his opponents, particularly Jewish activists and intellectuals, weren’t willing to let bygones be bygones: (more…)