Sunday, July 31, 2016

Russia Scholar Stephen Cohen: Trump Wants to Stop the New Cold War.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN: When looking to blame someone for the cyberattack [against Hillary Clinton and the DNC], Russia was more than convenient. Is this a new cold war or political pot-stirring? Does this accusation have any basis in fact, and if not, could it cause real harm? Here to discuss is Stephen F. Cohen, American scholar of Russian studies at both Princeton and New York Universities. Professor Cohen, does Vladimir Putin indeed have a dog in our U.S. [election]?

STEPHEN F. COHEN: Vladimir Putin wants to end the “New Cold War” – and so do I.

Let me say, I have no ties to the Trump campaign or the Clinton campaign. But if I were to write your headline for you today, I tried on the way down here, I couldn't fit it on the front page, but it would go like this:

“We’re in a new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia.”

We’re approaching a Cuban Missile Crisis nuclear confrontation with Russia, both along Russia’s borders and possibly over Syria. There is absolutely no discussion, no debate, about this in the American media – including, forgive me, on CNN.

Then along comes (unexpectedly) Donald Trump, who says something that suggests he wants to end the new Cold War, cooperate with Russia in various places. What we used to call detente, and now –astonishingly—the media is full of what only can be called neo-McCarthyite charges that he is a Russian agent, that he is a Manchurian candidate, and that he is Putin’s client.

So the real danger is what’s being done to our own political process.

This is a moment when there should be, in a presidential year, a debate.

Because Mrs. Clinton’s position on Russia seems to be very different [than Mr. Trump’s], has been for a long time.

Trump speaks elliptically. You’ve got to piece together what he says. But he seems to want a new American policy toward Russia. And considering the danger, I think we as American citizens, deserve that debate, and not what we are given in the media today, including on the front page of the New York Times.

I end by saying, that this reckless branding of Trump as a Russian agent, most of it is coming from the Clinton campaign and they really need to stop.

SMERICONISH: Okay. I don’t know where to begin in unpacking all that you just offered to us. But I guess I’ll start as follows. As one who can’t match your credentials, here’s what I see from the outside looking in. I see Donald Trump having said to the New York Times, just within the last ten days, that he’s not so sure he would stand with NATO allies, and I’m paraphrasing, he would want to know whether they would be pulling their own weight. The import of his comments seems to suggest he could provide Putin with unfettered, undeterred access to the Baltic states –whose independence he resents. So it all seems to fit, therefore, that Putin would have a dog in this fight, would want to see Donald Trump win this election so that he, Putin, could do as he pleases, in that part of the world. CNN is covering that. I have to defend the network in that regard. But why does that not all fit, and why does it not all fit in the headline in today’s New York Times, which says Russian spies said to have hacked Clinton’s bid.

COHEN: “Said to have.” Said to have. That’s not news, that’s an allegation. James Clapper. I don’t know who hacked. Everybody hacks everybody. I mean, we hacked into Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone. We learned that from Snowden. The Israelis hack, the Americans hack, the Chinese hack. Everybody hacks. The point is, and I know you said it, not to defend it, but as a provocation, that let’s take the position you just set out. That Putin wants to end the independence in Baltic states. There is no evidence for that. None whatsoever.

The point is, is that on the networks – and I’m not blaming CNN, and there’s none on any network. There is none in the New York Times.

I am old enough to remember that during the last Cold War, all these issues were debated in that you had a proponent to each point of view. But you have now got accusations, both against Putin, both against Trump, which needed to be debated.

The most – let’s go back to what you said – Trump said about NATO. Trump said early on, he wanted to know, 60 years after its foundation, what was NATO's mission today.

100 policy wonks in Washington since the end of the Soviet Union, 25 years ago, have asked the same question. Is NATO an organization in search of a mission? For example, it’s a mission for the last 20 years was to expand ever closer to Russia. So people have now asked why isn't it fighting international terrorism? That's a legitimate question --but we don’t debate it. We don't ask it.

We just say, oh, Trump wants to abandon NATO.

I don’t defend Trump. Trump raises questions. And instead of giving answer to the substance of the question, we denounce him as some kind of Kremlin agent. That’s bad for our politics, but still worse, given the danger we’re not addressing it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Neanderthals in Germany Went Extinct Right After Their Population Peak.

A reconstructed Neanderthal with a modern human girl.

Neanderthals in Germany Went Extinct Right After Their Population Peak. By Ginger Perales. New Historian, July 25, 2016.

Neanderthals in Germany: First population peak, then sudden extinction. ScienceDaily, July 21, 2016.

Leave at the height of the party: A critical review of the Middle Paleolithic in Western Central Europe from itsbeginnings to its rapid decline. By Jürgen Richter. Quaternary International, available online, April 12, 2016.


Approximately 45,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis was the dominant human species in Europe, populating the whole of the continent. Although archaeologists have discovered numerous settlements in Germany, they have also uncovered evidence which shows that Neanderthal populations there came to an unexplained, sudden end.

Based on the analysis of several archaeological sites, Jürgen Richter (Collaborative Research Center 806 — Our Way to Europe), has concluded that shortly after Neanderthals reached their peak population in Germany, their numbers rapidly declined, leading to their extinction.

Neanderthals lived during the Middle Paleolithic, the time between 200,000 and 40,000 years ago. Richter’s research suggests that over 50 percent of the identified Neanderthal settlements in Germany specifically date back to between 60,000 and 43,000 years ago. Therefore, the peak Neanderthal population lies within this period.

Neanderthals were an ancient human species, part of the genus Homo, that became extinct approximately 40,000 years ago. With 99.5% of the same DNA, they’re closely related to modern humans. Bone and stone tools left by Neanderthals have been found throughout Eurasia, in western to central Europe, and northern and western Asia. Their species is generally classified as Homo neanderthalensis, believed to have separated from Homo sapiens around 600,000 years ago. Some experts however, believe Neanderthals were a subspecies of Homo sapiens and therefore should be classified as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis.

The number of Neanderthal sites, as well as the analysis of artifacts discovered in them, indicate the Neanderthal population in Germany were subjected to extreme demographic changes. For example, during the Middle Paleolithic there seem to have been numerous migrations, increases and declines in population, even extinctions in certain locations followed by a return of settlers.

During the time period between 110,000 and 70,000 years ago there were only four identified Neanderthal settlement sites in Germany, however, during the following period between 70,000 and 43,000 years ago there were ninety-four. Less than 1,000 years later, after this peak in population, there was a rapid decrease and the Neanderthals disappeared. Why the species went extinct is still unknown. It may have been the result of decreased genetic diversity; another possibility is competition for resources with the growing number of Homo sapiens.

Around 55,000 years ago, the climate began to fluctuate back and forth from extremely cold to milder cold conditions in the span of a few decades. Neanderthals had bodies that were well suited for surviving in cold climates, with stocky limbs and barrel chests that stored body heat much better than Cro-Magnons (the first early modern humans). However, these rapid climate fluctuations also caused ecological changes that the Neanderthals could not easily adapt to; familiar animals and plants would have been replaced by completely new ones within the space of a lifetime, and the Neanderthals’ ambush hunting technique wouldn’t have worked as trees replaced the grasslands. Neanderthals eventually went extinct in Europe between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago, coinciding with a period of extreme cold.

Nancy Pelosi: Hillary Clinton Struggles with White Men Because of “Guns, Gays, and God.”

Nancy Pelosi: Hillary Clinton Struggles with White Men Because of “Guns, Gays, and God.” Video and transcript. Real Clear Politics, July 27, 2016. YouTube.

Nancy Pelosi blames “God, guns and gays ”for Clinton’s struggles with white bros. By Sarah K. Burris. Raw Story, July 28, 2016.

Nancy Pelosi on her own glass ceiling and Hillary Clinton’s. Interviewed by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Video and transcript. PBS NewsHour, July 26, 2016. YouTube.

RCP Transcript:

JUDY WOODRUFF: You know that place very well. Right now, Donald Trump is doing much better than Hillary Clinton among white men, and particularly white men who have not attended college. How does Hillary Clinton counter that?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: With an economic agenda to create jobs, good-paying jobs, increasing paychecks.

The economic agenda is what is really — it’s about the economy. You know that statement. It’s not a cliche. It’s a fact. And I think that, so many times, white — non-college-education — educated white males have voted Republican. They voted against their own economic interests because of guns, because of gays, and because of God, the three G’s, God being the woman’s right to choose.

That is softening. Some of those people were never going to be voting Democratic anyway. But I believe that, with the turnout that we expect to have, we will draw some of them in with our message, and enough other people to win the election.

Hillary Clinton Accepts the Democratic Nomination for President.

Katy Perry Opens for Hillary at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Katy Perry: Rise. Video. KatyPerryVEVO, August 4, 2016. YouTube.

Katy Perry: Rise. NBC Olympics video. KatyPerryVEVO, July 15, 2016. YouTube.

Katy Perry: Roar. NJBR, September 21, 2013.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Is America Heading Toward a Clash of Civilizations? By Michael Laitman.

Police officers conduct a manhunt after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California December 2, 2015. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Is America heading toward a clash of civilizations? By Michael Laitman. Jerusalem Post, July 7, 2016.


The San Bernardino and Orlando massacres are not isolated incidents; they are the beginning of a new, bloody era in America.

This week, America celebrated 240 years of independence. Much has changed in America since the original thirteen states agreed to unite under the premise that all men are created equal, and are endowed with the unalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now, it seems, America is about to face a final, lethal blow to these truths, which are apparently no longer self-evident.

In recent years, the Muslim “occupation by immigration” of Europe has crossed the Atlantic and introduced itself to the US. If successful, it will transform America from a democracy into a fundamentalist tyranny whose law is the Sharia, and the First Amendment will become a distant memory.

While this doom and gloom scenario is not inevitable, the situation requires resolve, and an understanding that while all faiths are welcome in America, Islam included, they must also respect the freedom of practice and belief (or lack thereof) of all other people. Without this fundamental understanding among all the forces shaping American society, a clash of civilizations will be unavoidable, with horrific consequences to the American society and to the rest of the world.

The Boon after the Bust

America emerged from the despair of The Great Depression and the ashes of World War II as a superpower that dominated the international political arena. The necessity to rebuild its economy, and the need to manufacture weapons and produce food for the war effort, turned America into a factory that created exemplary goods such as cars, planes, tanks and home appliances. America was progress; America was the future. The hard work of the 1930s and 40s paid off, and by the 1950s, America had become the symbol of success and power. The American Dream, it seemed, was within reach for every American.

Economic success and military might lead to dominance on the international arena. The American values of free speech, capitalism, and democracy dominated the West, and the US became the undisputed leader of The Free World.

Taking Success for Granted

However, as it often happens, when something we do works well, we assume that the next generation will naturally take after us. Yet, America’s strength came not from its wealth and power, but from hard work, the commitment of many people to help themselves and their country, and the sense of shared, just social values. Hard work and sound ethics are not hereditary; they must be infused and cultivated. As Americans grew affluent, they became condescending, spoiled, and gradually abandoned the values that had given their country its strength. Discipline at school grew lax, and JFK’s aphorism, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” gradually became devoid of substance. This was the beginning of America’s decline.

The Melting Pot

Another important aspect of America’s success is its diversity of cultures, faiths, and ethnicities. The more these different elements strove to blend into the American society, the more robust the society became, creating jobs and growing markets for American goods and services.

But perhaps the most important ingredient in the American melting pot is that all strata of society aspire for the goal described in the Declaration of Independence: Everyone is equal and endowed with the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for African Americans, he did not advocate separating them from America. On the contrary, he fought for their unalienable rights to become a legitimate, equal part of American society. Around the same time, the classic musical, West Side Story, portrayed the clash of ethnicities and raised a cry against ethnic hatred. In those days, it seemed as though America was a leader in acculturation and assimilation.

But all this has changed in recent years.

A Clash of Civilizations

After decades of cultivating excessive consumerism and self-indulgence, Americans have become too self-absorbed, overworked, and socially indifferent to notice what is happening around them. This has made the country susceptible to the aspirations of foreign elements to rise to power. When a new kind of Islam began to pour into America, there was no one to stop it. This is not the Islam that America had known—the inclusive, tolerant Islam that Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. adopted when he converted and became Muhammad Ali.

Just as it is currently doing in Europe, the newly imported Islam has come to take over, not to become part of America’s melting pot or even to coexist. The San Bernardino and Orlando massacres are not isolated incidents; they are the beginning of a new, bloody era in America: an era of a clash of civilizations where the more determined will win.

This war of cultures is just beginning. If America wakes up now, it will still be able to cope with the invasion. But if it stays asleep and lets the stealth infiltration continue uninterrupted, then America can look at Europe to see where it will be a few short years from now.

The Weapon: Education

To win the battle for its values and traditions, America must return to its original tenets. There is nothing wrong with healthy nationalism when it represents a country that believes that all men are born equal and therefore have the right to choose their faith freely. There is also nothing wrong with securing the future of these cornerstones of society by requiring that newcomers uphold them, too.

King Solomon said that “love covers all crimes” (Proverbs, 10:12). A successful education for cohesion must not only accept, but embrace differences, and use them to enrich and fortify society. Accordingly, America need not ban the entrance of Muslims, or of any other group of people. Instead, it must introduce its foundational values to all aspiring newcomers before they immigrate.

Indoctrination to American values, which are actually Western values, must begin abroad, in the immigrants’ native countries. Upon evaluation of their sincere desire to become part of American society and culture, they can be admitted for a trial stay. After several years, when it is evident that they have adopted their hosts’ values, they can be granted full citizenship and be accepted as integral members of the American society. In this way, social integrity will be maintained, while diversity, which cultivates its beauty and vitality, will be enhanced.

The principle of love and cohesion that covers all differences must be the leading factor in determining who may enter “the land of the free.” If America adopts this principle, its diversity of ethnicities and faiths will enrich the people and empower the country. If America wants to be great again, as one candidate for presidency has put it, this is the way to go. If not, it will stop being America.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Trumpen Proletariat. By Daniel Henninger.

The Trumpen Proletariat. By Daniel Henninger. Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2016.


Barack Obama’s presidency of moral condescension has produced an electoral backlash.

Karl Marx, in a particularly dyspeptic moment, offered this description of what he dismissed as the lumpen proletariat:

“Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, pimps, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars—in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème.”

Even Donald Trump’s critics would not go so far as to suggest that his voter base consists of vagabonds, pickpockets or even, ugh, “literati.” But for the longest time, the American media saw the Trump base as an “indefinite, disintegrated mass” of mostly angry, lower-middle-class white males. The early Trump adopters often looked like bikers, with or without jobs. The Trumpen proletariat.

This was the original Trump bedrock, the proles who could look past him saying that John McCain, though tortured for years by the Vietnamese, wasn’t a hero. Even now they’ll blink right by Mr. Trump’s remark this week that Saddam Hussein was “good” at killing terrorists (“they didn’t read them their rights”), despite the unhappy fact that Saddam was a psychopathic, blood-soaked torturer responsible for the deaths of perhaps a half million non-terrorist Iraqi citizens.

(Still, one may ask: When the day after her Comey pardon, Hillary Clinton proposes “free” tuition at public colleges for families earning up to $85,000 a year, and $125,000 by 2021, how come her campaign isn’t universally laughed and mocked off the map?)

The media originally looked upon the emerging Trump base with suspicion and distrust, regarding it as a volatile and possibly dangerous political faction but one that would slip back to the shadows as the Trump candidacy faded.

We are 10 days from the party conventions, and Mr. Trump sits, uneasily as always, close to the polling margin of error against the former Secretary of State, former U.S. senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton. The Trumpen proletariat turns out to be bigger than imagined.

In the nonstop conversation about the 2016 election, the question at the center of everything is whether one is a “Trump supporter.” But if it is true that in this election all the rules have been broken, couldn’t it also be true that Donald Trump has himself become a bystander to the forces set in motion this year?

Mr. Trump has raised very little money, is still pouring the foundation for a campaign organization and faces a determined, billion-dollar Democratic Party machine. Once a month, he slanders reality with backhanded admiration for mass murderers such as Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un.

And yet he stands. This election must be about something else.

It is a reckoning, a final settling of accounts and grievances going way back. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s the gunfight at the OK Corral, between the Earps and the Clantons. It’s a street fight about what have become irreconcilable views of America.

Undeniably, economic anxiety over flatlined incomes and the sense of economic loss, blamed variously on globalization or immigrants, explains a lot in this election. But not all of it. A Trump doesn’t rise without stronger forces in play.

That force has been described, including by me, as the revolt of the politically incorrect. PC, though, is just the symptom of a more virulent social disease.

The U.S. has been through culture wars before, as with the religious right in the 1980s and ’90s. Or the smart set in the 1920s. The country, ever resilient, eventually adjusts and moves on.

Political correctness added something new to the cultural divide: moral condescension.

What has really “angered” so many more millions who now feel drawn into the Trump camp isn’t just PC itself but that its proponents show such relentless moral contempt and superiority toward everyone else. People in America can take a lot, but not that. Marx would have a field day with how progressivism’s cultural elites have reordered social classes between the right-minded and everyone else.

Despite years of winning Supreme Court assent to their views, the left insists that the other side must remain on the moral hook. On race, sex or the environment the moralistic left seems to think it can keep the population incarcerated forever on vague, unproven charges of cultural guilt. For what?

In nearly eight years of presidential speeches, Barack Obama, by explicit choice, has come to embody the holier-than-thou idea of showing secular moral contempt for those who disagree with him.

As his inheritor, Hillary Clinton will bear the brunt of an energized Trumpen proletariat that suddenly finds moral demotion as something they no longer have to bear. That the mercurial Donald Trump has occupied both sides of this conflict and then some is, after all these years, beside the point.

The End of Palestinian Nationalism. By Liel Leibovitz.

Israeli Rina Yaffa Ariel, mourns over the body of her daughter Hallel, a 13-year-old girl who was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian attacker in her home, during her funeral in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside the Israeli occupied city of Hebron on June 30, 2016. The Israeli army said that a young Palestinian killed Hallel in her bed after breaking into her home in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside the flashpoint city of Hebron. Security personnel rushed to the house and fired on the attacker, who wounded a guard before being shot dead, the army said. The girl was taken to hospital in Jerusalem in critical condition and died of her wounds. Getty Images / AFP / GIL COHEN-MAGEN.

The End of Palestinian Nationalism. By Liel Leibovitz. Tablet, July 5, 2016.


When a movement devolves into a death cult, it’s time to rethink our assumptions.

With the Israelis murdered this week by Palestinian terrorists—13-year-old Hallel Ariel, stabbed in her sleep, or Michael Mark, father of 10, shot in his car with his wife and children by his side—it’s also time to bury the bloated corpse of the Palestinian national movement. A cause that had once attracted the sympathies of just and compassionate people everywhere is increasingly devolving into a call heard only by the wild and the deranged.

How did that happen? Like all questions of its scope, this one, too, contains multitudes. You could argue pragmatism and say that it was Israel’s fault, that the Jewish state’s stringent policies and its penchant for settlements drove the fragile Palestinians to despair. You could argue essentialism and say that it will always be in the Arabs’ nature to hate the Jews. There’s no shortage of good stories to tell, and all likely contain some dusting of the truth. But none explain 17-year-old Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah taking a smiling selfie and then leaving his luxurious two-story house in Bani Naim, ambling over to Ariel’s home in Kiryat Arba, watching her as she slept peacefully in her bed, exhausted from a dance recital the evening before, and slaughtering her with a kitchen knife. None explain Tarayrah’s mother and sister hailing the murderer as a hero who has made them proud. This is not nationalism. It is madness.

And yet, don’t expect the arbiters of global rectitude to pay much attention. The world, moved both by moral rightness and political necessity, has gotten used to holding two opposing narratives about the Palestinian national movement in its head at the same time. The first of these—some versions of which are inclusive of Israeli rights and aspirations, and some of which are entirely hostile to the existence of Israel itself—is about the right of the Palestinian people to their own state. The second is about the wrongs committed by both Palestinians and Israelis, and which tend in the minds of most reasonable people who are not deeply staked in the tangled history of the conflict to drown each other out: Oppression leads to terror attacks which lead to more oppression.

This clash between narrative A (the Palestinians deserve a state) and narrative B (bad deeds on both sides make a Palestinian state more and more unlikely) is frequently referred to by Western reporters and diplomats, usually with a schoolmarmish clicking of the tongue, as the “cycle of violence.” If only both sides could get along, the common wisdom among the global elites still runs, it would be easy enough to find some sort of solution, and the world would be at least a moderately better place.

But what if both narratives of rights and wrongs are in fact inseparable? That’s what the leaders of the BDS movement believe. In their view, the deeds of the occupation they decry are hardly an accident, because all of the land of Mandate Palestine properly belongs—by transcendent right, if not by international law and treaty—to the Arabs of Palestine. Compromise with Zionism is a compromise with inherent oppression and injustice, which by its very nature will only inflame further conflict. The only morally right, and politically stable long-term solution, therefore, is to eliminate the Zionist State of Israel, once and for all, even if both Zionists and devotees of international law might read the historical record and the facts on the ground very differently. The great virtue of the BDS position is that it replaces contradictions with clarity: Zionism is occupation, always and forever, plain and simple.

It is worth considering whether the leaders of the BDS movement have stumbled on something profound about the conflict, a premise that people in the West who oppose the elimination of the State of Israel might also want to consider. Maybe it isn’t true that both sides are right. Maybe the easy nostrum that both national movements have justice on their side and that both sides do bad things is a false appeal to complexity of the kind that comforts people who would really rather not deal with hard real-world questions of right versus wrong. Maybe the failure of decades of painstaking but fruitless efforts by the most sophisticated diplomats and map-makers and negotiators on the planet, backed by unending rivers of cash, is telling us something important: that there isn’t room for two full-fledged national movements in the same tiny sliver of land, even if, in a perfect world, it would be better if there was. What if what you see on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is what you get? Then what?

It is in fact impossible to separate the Zionist dream of creating a Jewish nation-state in the Biblical land of Israel from the abridgment of the national aspirations of those Arabs who were previously living in that land under the Turks, or who were drawn there in growing numbers in the early 20th century by the economic activity of Jewish colonists. In that sense, while Zionism doesn’t have to—and should never—imply that non-Jewish citizens of Israel do not have absolutely the same rights as Jewish citizens to live, work, think, and speak freely, the BDS movement is certainly right that Zionism absolutely does imply the abrogation of the national dream of the Palestinian people to enjoy the whole of historical Palestine as their national homeland. It is perfectly fine for some Palestinians to see that abrogation as a burning injustice, and to reject Zionism as a cruel, unjust imposition on their own experience, just as Zionists are free to celebrate the return of the Jewish people to its historic homeland, and wish that all the Arabs would pack up and leave. Whether settled in courtrooms or on battlefields, it is an argument that, really, only one side can win.

By the same token, it is also time to see the Palestinian national movement as a unified whole, rather than picking and choosing among its parts in order to construct a Western-friendly creature that can then be positioned as a likely partner for negotiations that—for reasons that should now seem obvious to every thinking person—go absolutely nowhere, because they are premised on a fantasy of a thing that doesn’t actually exist. Is there actually any meaningful difference in the aspirations of the leaders of Hamas and the leaders of Fatah, both of whom compete to incite and lionize the unending stream of zombie-like killers who murder Jews wherever they can find them, whether in settlements or on the beaches of Haifa and Tel Aviv? These killers, and the leaders who incentivize them, are not something separate from the Palestinian national movement. They are, as the wall posters and the television broadcasts in their honor claim, the front-line soldiers of the movement, and its purest representatives.

And that’s the real catastrophe facing the Palestinian people these days. There are plenty of other nations created by colonists on occupied land—America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all of Latin America come immediately to mind, even if none of the Europeans who forged new nations in those places had even the slightest historical connection to the lands they seized. And there are some examples of national movements pushing off their oppressors and winning back their ancestral homelands. There are, however, no examples of nations, even failed ones, created by death cults. And a death cult is just what the Palestinian national movement has now become.

To understand how that is possible, we’ve few better guides than Leo Strauss. Lecturing in 1941, the philosopher was tasked with trying to explain what the hell had happened in his native Germany, and how so many seemingly normal people slid past reasonable reservations about logical geopolitical considerations and into the Hitlerian dance of death. The answer Strauss gives is chilling: The young Nazis weren’t so much ardent anti-Semites or staunch nationalists as they were nihilists repulsed by seeing their closed society threatened by the promise of progress and change. “Their Yes,” Strauss wrote as his subjects were still very much on the rise, “was inarticulate—they were unable to say more than: No! This No proved however sufficient as the preface to action, to the action of destruction.”

The Palestinian genius for nay-saying is well-documented, but what’s at play here is something new, something that transcends the dull boundaries of international negotiations and seeps into the hearts and minds of the young. Once the essential No that has guided Palestinian policy for decades has been turned inward, it could find no other outlet but destruction and no better target than the Jews next door. Anti-Semitism has something to do with fanning this derangement, but it is not its essence; neither are pure yearnings for an independent Palestinian homeland. The revolt we’re seeing now is more profound, more ontological in nature: It’s the revolt of an educated and relatively well-off generation—note how many of the stabbers have come, like Tarayrah, from comfortable and stable families—that looks for meaning and honor and sacrifice and can find it nowhere in the vastly compromised world outside, succumbing instead to the all-consuming fire of utter annihilation. We’ve seen this tide rise before under similar circumstances, and we’ll see it rise again.

It’s easy to argue that Tarayrah and his fellow pogromists are merely youth pushed into murder by the constant torrent of incitement prevalent in every corner of Palestinian culture; this is true, but it eerily assumes, like the looniest moralists do when they argue that violent video games or gangster rap will inevitably lead to shootouts in the streets of suburban Connecticut, that adolescents are spongy creatures incapable of doing much more than soaking violence and spurting out violence in kind. It’s even easier to continue to blame that mythical horned beast, the Occupation, as if there was no other reason for young Palestinians to feel hopeless—like, say, the fact that their own government is one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt—and as if hopelessness necessarily translated into taking knives to the throats of slumbering children. If we abandon these simplicities, and acknowledge instead that what bedevils Palestinian society is a much more wicked problem, we’re left to make some uneasy decisions of our own.

First, we should realize that we must approach a death cult differently than we would a healthy national movement. The latter calls out for compromise. It rewards negotiations, and it reassures its foes by offering indications, real and symbolic, that future reconciliation is likely and at hand. This is why we often forgive it its missteps, and are willing to look away even when it occasionally unleashes bloody hell, as even the most well-tempered and responsible national movements sometimes do. The former, however, has no appetite for anything but destruction, and measures its triumphs with the crude arithmetic of body counts and death tolls. It cannot be reasoned with. It can only be forcefully stopped. Until it is, any attempt to pretend that Palestinian nationalism is still viable is simply grotesque.

This should come as little surprise to any serious student of national movements throughout history. Reread Herder’s remark that, in a certain sense, every form of human perfection is first and foremost national in spirit, and reflect again on the Treaty of Westphalia, which sliced Europe into nation-states erected on the basis of self-determination and committed to diplomatic congress as a means of resolving disputes. Then go forth and observe the myriad national movements that failed miserably to live up to this new spirit of creative nationalism. Ask the Moravians or the Transnistrians about their efforts at self-determination, and that’s just one small corner in Europe. The world is thick with failed national movements that, for one reason or another, saw their dreams disintegrate into violence, or irrelevance, or both. Sadly, the Palestinians now join them. This will have many implications, for Palestinians and Israelis alike, but if history is any guide, the only way to counter a No is with an equal or greater Yes, a spirit that meets death by loudly and enthusiastically affirming life.

Why So Many Missed the Nationalist Surge. By William A. Galston.

Why So Many Missed the Nationalist Surge. By William A. Galston. Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2016.


Politicians and young, educated urbanites live in an economic and cultural bubble.

In this year of Brexit and Donald Trump and ethno-nationalism rising across Europe, it is time to take stock of what we have learned.

Even in an era when globalization is thought to be an inexorable force, national sovereignty still matters. It was national political decisions that created the European Union and may end up dismantling it. Political leaders reached the trade treaties that allow goods and services and capital to flow more freely. Many countries welcome these flows yet seek control over the movement of people across their borders. It was the EU’s unwillingness to decouple population movement from other liberties that crystallized the U.K.’s pro-Brexit majority.

Population flows matter in part because they affect national economies, but even more because they challenge national cultures. Some native-born citizens welcome increased variety; others resent it. “Diversity” is a divisive norm, especially imported diversity, and promoting it can stir resistance.

It is one thing when immigrants remain in ports of entry and capital cities, quite another when they spread out into smaller communities that have been demographically stable for generations if not centuries.

Education shapes attitudes toward diversity. In most Western democracies, people with college and professional degrees tend to be comfortable with immigrants. From their standpoint, what’s not to like? The local cuisine improves; declining neighborhoods spring back to life; walking their city’s streets is more interesting.

Educated professionals’ easy acceptance of demographic diversity is part of a larger reality: They don’t fear change. Experience has taught them that they can adjust and even turn change to their advantage.

Not so for people with less education, many of whom see change as threatening. In their local stores, they encounter shoppers and soon counter clerks who are not fluent in their language. The immigrants’ manner is unfamiliar, and often their dress is too. These surface differences suggest deeper cultural disjunctions. “I feel like a stranger in my own country” is a familiar refrain among people who want things to stay the way they have been for ages.

National demography increasingly reflects these divisions between more-educated and less-educated classes. People with education—especially young people—have been drawn to urban centers as hubs of innovation as well as diversity. Meanwhile, older and less-educated people have remained in small towns and rural areas. The clash between the city and the countryside has been a staple of politics since classical antiquity, but now it has resurfaced full-force.

Perhaps cultural change wouldn’t be threatening for less-educated people if the economic changes of recent decades hadn’t been so devastating. There is a difference, alas, between statistics and the lived reality they represent. Many in my line of work have been writing for years about wage stagnation, income decline and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs. Too few of us have spent much time with the victims of these trends. If we had, their revolt against politics-as-usual wouldn’t have come as such a surprise.

At a recent foreign-policy conference, I heard Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish prime minister, discussing the Brexit vote, when she blurted out: “I feel so guilty.” I didn’t have a chance to ask her what she meant, but I think I know: As her country’s leader, she had been as insulated from discontented citizens as Britain’s leaders had been, unaware of what these voters were thinking and, more important, feeling. Educated professionals—including most politicians—live in an economic and cultural bubble, and they all too easily assume that what they see and hear around them represents the entire country.

This matters more than ever because globalization has turned out to be a divisive force within rather than between nations. In the decades after World War II, most groups and classes gained ground. Manufacturing generated stable employment with decent pay and working conditions that were achieved and defended through powerful labor unions. Sustained economic growth enabled governments to expand the welfare state without straining public budgets.

Since then, the emerging economy—more global and less local, increasingly focused on services and information, rewarding innovation more and standardization less—has divided populations in advanced democracies into winners and losers.

As economist Branko Milanović’s pioneering work has shown, the new economy has brought enormous benefits to populations in less-developed nations and to wealthy and upper-middle-class individuals in advanced democracies—but not to the working and lower-middle classes in these democracies. These people wonder: If globalization isn’t helping us economically but is undermining our way of life, why shouldn’t we embrace nationalism instead?

A fair question, and those of us who fear that resurgent nationalism could trigger a rerun of the 1930s must come up with better answers than we have so far. If we don’t, Brexit and Donald Trump are just the beginning.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Andrew Solomon: An Eyewitness to History. Interviewed by Fareed Zakaria.

Andrew Solomon: an eyewitness to history. Interviewed by Fareed Zakaria. Video. Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN, June 26, 2016. Also at Transcript.


ZAKARIA: Andrew Solomon is one of the most acute observers of our time. He's traveled the world, writing beautifully for the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and many other places; won the National Book Award for his penetrating look at depression; and won a National Book Critic Circle award for his look at the challenges facing the disabled and other disadvantaged groups.

His latest offering, Far and Away, is a collection of essays from his decades of witnessing historic change – the twilight of the Soviet Union, the turmoil of post-9/11 Afghanistan, the tyranny of Gadhafi in Libya.

Andrew Solomon, pleasure to have you on.

ANDREW SOLOMON, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: What a pleasure to be here.

ZAKARIA: You’ve been reporting for 25 years, traveling for 25 years. You talk about travel as a kind of moral imperative.

SOLOMON: It’s really drawn from the uprise of xenophobia in the country at large right now. I think that people have a very difficult time making sense of countries they've never visited. People have a very difficult time conceptualizing places that they don’t know.

I feel like, if every young person in the world were required to spend two weeks in a foreign country before they reached full adulthood – doesn’t matter what country; doesn’t matter what they did there – half the world’s diplomatic problems would be gone. So many of them arise out of the fact that people don’t understand what is specific to my culture, what is universal.

ZAKARIA: You’ve traveled to places that we think of as very scary, like the Middle East, and you approach it really as an author and an intellectual, not as an expert in the Middle East. So what I’m interested in is how do you react to, you know, the general feeling, “Oh, my god, that place is just full of chaos and violence, bloodshed and despair?”

SOLOMON: I think that, in every one of these societies, there is a large body of people, who are probably the people who watch this program, who are intelligent, thinking people, interested in and engaged with the situation of their own country and the world, and that those people are often neglected.

I started off writing about artists and going to various countries and meeting artists. Partly, I was writing about art, but more I was writing about these engaged people. And it’s been my mission ever since then to go to places we find scary and to find the human stories of people, articulate people, with a point of view, and say, this is what it is. Afghanistan is not, contrary to what people had heard, a country of corrupt bureaucrats and warlike peasants. There are a lot of other people there.

ZAKARIA: For you, Libya was in some ways the – heartbreaking, to watch that country descend? Explain why.

SOLOMON: I was in Libya in the late Gadhafi period. And life under Gadhafi was worse than you can possibly imagine. It was a ridiculous place. It was unbelievably stressful. There was nothing to be said for the system that existed. But I made the mistake of thinking that, if they got rid of that system, which was so awful, that something better would have to rise in its place.

And what happened instead is that it went into a state of complete chaos, so that even the patriotic Libyans I met when I was there have mostly tried to flee if they possibly can.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that democracy and justice are the natural default state, and if you remove all of the impediments to those qualities, that is what will rise up. And what I learned, sort of, as a personal lesson in dealing with Libya, having argued that we should support the attacks against Gadhafi, is that the natural state to which people default is not democracy and is not order but is a terrifying, violent, brutal chaos.

ZAKARIA: It’s a very difficult thing for Americans to understand because America has always had order, inheriting it from, I think, the British colonies, you know. You look at Brazil. Brazil is a country that was, when you were looking at it, struggling to create a functioning democracy. In fact, even now the struggle continues with these recent proceedings, the impeachment of the president.

What did you learn from that experience?

SOLOMON: I was fascinated in Brazil by the relationships between the classes. You know, in many places, in most places really, the wealthy live in an enclosed area, and the poor live in outlying areas. And the points of contact are relatively minimal.

Rio de Janeiro has a physical structure in which the wealthy live in the flat areas, and the poor have accumulated in the favelas, in the hills that rise above those areas. I was interested in what happens when everyone is put together. I was interested that so many of the Brazilians I met, of privilege, wanted to take on characteristics they associated with the favelas, the intensity, the music, the relationship to football that so many models have come out of there.

And I loved what Regina Case, who is, sort of, the Oprah Winfrey of Brazil, said to me. She said, “I’ve been in North America. You have a pine grove here; you have oak trees there.” She said, “In Brazil” – she said, “Have you been to our tropical rainforest? Everything is growing on top of everything else; the sunlight is being choked out, and there's still more happening than anywhere else. And just as our rainforest is making the oxygen the world needs to breathe, so this social structure creates a social oxygen of intimacy from which the rest of the world could profit.”

ZAKARIA: What are the places that – that haunt you, that remain in your memory now?

SOLOMON: I’m certainly haunted by Afghanistan. I went there thinking it would be a punishing assignment, and when I got there, I fell in love with the place. I’ll always remember walking with my translator one day. I had bought one of those little fur hats like the ones Karzai always wore. And we were walking back through a crowded market at a time when most foreigners were either U.N. or military and weren’t allowed to walk in those areas.

And Faruk (ph), my translator, said, “Why don’t you put on your hat?”

And I said, “Oh, I think, you know, going native always looks a little bit silly.”

And he said, “No, come on. Put on your hat.”

So, I said, “All right.”

And I put on the hat and suddenly everyone around us burst into applause. And I didn’t know what was happening. And one of the people stepped forward and he said, “You’re an American; you’re a foreigner, but you’re in the market with us. You are wearing a true Afghan hat. We all want you to know that you’re welcome here.” It was difficult not to fall in love with that.

ZAKARIA: What do you think of Putin’s Russia? Or is it even fair, from the way you look at a country, to call it Putin’s Russia?

SOLOMON: Oh, I think it is fair to call it Putin’s Russia. I wish it weren’t fair. I think that it’s been a terrible tragedy to see Russia revert to the kind of autocracy that it was in its much darker days. There are some freedoms that exist now that didn't exist when I first went there at the end of the Soviet Union, but there was a kind of blissful idealistic notion of where everyone was headed, and none of it has come to pass.

ZAKARIA: Do you look at America differently? Have these travels made you look at your own country differently?

SOLOMON: Travel is always both a window and a mirror. So part of what you do is to discover the other place and part of what you do is to see yourself and your own country differently.

I’ve come to understand that, while we have a great many freedoms in the United States, there are freedoms that exist elsewhere that don’t exist here. And I’ve come to understand that we take for granted many things that give people much greater joy when they’ve had to fight for them. And I’ve come to understand that American policy around the world has an enormous effect on the minutia of people’s day-to-day lives and that what we think of as sweeping decisions that are made on a broad scale in economic or military or even citizen-to-citizen terms have much more grave consequences than we often realize.

ZAKARIA: Andrew Solomon, pleasure to have you on.

SOLOMON: Pleasure to be here. Thank you.