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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: June 2009

With the Obama administration promising to close Guantanamo, it has become apparent that the President and his advisors have suddenly realized that they have left themselves no wiggle room when it comes to figuring out what to do with dangerous terrorists who previously would have been confined there.

Hence, The Washington Post reports that the administration is preparing an executive order that would give it the authority to incarcerate suspects indefinitely. If this sounds to readers somewhat similar to the policy candidate Obama fiercely attacked as repressive Bush administration policy,  that is because it is. As the Post column explains, “Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war.”  The article also claims that the administration has the approval of civil liberties group for the new strategy: ” ‘Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order,’ the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be prosecuted or released.”

The reason why the administration has moved in this direction is clear. It turns out that after reviewing the cases of those currently held at Guantanamo, authorities realized that half of the cases cannot be tried in either military commissions or prosecuted in federal court, because the evidence against them is highly classified and has been provided by foreign intelligence services. As the news report notes: “Three months into the Justice Department’s reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released.” In other words, the Bush administration had good reason to adopt its policy on dangerous detainees.  And the Obama administration is evidently worried that pending Congressional legislation could take control away from the White House, and result in putting the rights of suspected terrorists ahead of protecting national security.

This report, appearing in yesterday’s paper, enraged Obama supporters on the Left. Josh Marshall’s “Talking Points Memo” (TPM) accused the administration of “a tendency to mimic the Bushies on war on terror tactics.” And the website contradicted the administration claim that they have been encouraged by civil liberties groups. Reporter Zachary Roth went to find out what they thought to a group called The Center for Constitutional Rights. He was told by a CCR staff member that “prolonged imprisonment without trial is exactly the Guantanamo system that the President promised to shut down. Whatever form it takes – from Congress or the President’s pen – it is anathema to the basic principles of American law and the courts will find it unconstitutional.”

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We have read a lot in the past few weeks about the arrest of Kendall and Gwendolyn Meyers, the American couple who began spying for Cuba in 1978—and were only caught after an FBI sting operation a short time ago. Kendall Meyers used his position as a State Department analyst in State’s intelligence division, it seems, to steal top secret classified material and give it to Cuban intelligence, something he had, in cooperation with his wife, been doing for three decades.

The report in The New York Times summarizes it well: “The strongest argument in support of the government’s case may have been made by the Myerses themselves. In the 40-page complaint they are quoted telling an undercover F.B.I. agent how much they admired Fidel Castro, how they sent secret dispatches to Havana over short-wave radio, dropped packages to handlers in shopping carts at local grocery stores, traveled across Latin America to meet with Cuban agents and used false documents to travel to Havana for an evening with Mr. Castro.”

Like the old time Communists from the espionage cases of the 40′s and 50′s, the Meyerses were ideologically motivated spies, carrying out their work without remuneration, engaging in espionage all for the love of Cuban communism and Fidel Castro. They were, from all accounts, just like other late generation New Leftists, who carried out their enthusiasm one step further than many other activists were willing to do. One colleague of Gwendolyn Meyers put it well: “She was not remarkably different than dozens and dozens of other people that you ran across in the 1970s who were McGovernites that got into politics for reasons other than to make a lot of money.”

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In today’s New York Post , TNR Assistant Editor James Kirchick has written a truly brilliant article on how Barack Obama is betraying Israel. This is a harsh assessment, and Kirchick backs up his analysis with an array of facts. Obama’s policies, he points out, are distinctly different from those he promised during the campaign. Kirchick writes:

Just six months into the new administration…it is becoming increasingly clear that those who harbored suspicions about Obama’s approach to the Middle East had good reason to be worried. A confluence of factors- including his administration’s undue pressure on Israel, a conciliatory approach to authoritarian Muslim regimes, and the baseless linkage of the failed ‘peace process’ to the curtailment of the Iranian nuclear program- point to what could become ‘the greatest disagreement between the two countries in the history of their relationship,’ as Middle East expert Robert Satloff recently told Newsweek.

 The key to the new tilt against Israel is, Kirchick rightfully argues, the decision to make an end to Israeli settlement activity, even normal growth of existing settlements that would after a final peace remain in Israeli territory, the centerpiece of administration policy. He notes that in Obama’s Cairo speech, Israel was the sole country that Obama singled out for direct criticism. Ignored totally were various of what he calls the “degradations and injustices in the Middle East” from various Arab nations. Instead, Obama mentioned only America’s key democratic ally in the region, and only to rebuke it.

Kirchick continues to destroy the argument on behalf of “linkage” between a Palestinian-Israeli agreement and the satisfactory conclusion of other disputed questions in the Middle East. Even after Benjamin Netanyahu uttered the magic words on behalf of a two-state solution in his recent speech, “moderate” Arab leaders including a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas attacked his speech for destroying the chance for any peace initiative. The truth is that the peace process itself is fraudulent and a waste of time, and that it will remain so as long as Hamas and other Arab terrorist groups remain committed to destruction of Israel and to the murder of Jews.

Secondly, “linkage” is irrelevant because the problems in the Middle East do not exist because of the lack of a Palestinian state. Unless the demonstrations in Iran are successful and the result is a transformation of the theocratic state, it is the current Iranian regime’s move to become a nuclear power that remains the region’s outstanding danger. It would be so even if a real Palestinian state existed and was recognized by Israel.

So Kirchick concludes that “Obama is turning America against Israel,” all on behalf of “false hopes of improved relations with Arab nations and a nuclear-equipped Iran.”

Kirchick also makes a side argument about the decline of support for Israel among American Jews; noting that at the same time most Israelis have told pollsters that they do not find Obama to be pro-Israel. As if to confirm Kirchik, the polar opposite argument about Obama and Israel comes from another influential Jewish journalist, Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief and chairman of The Slate Group.

Indeed, instead of complaining about Obama’s criticisms of Israel and the various policy steps opposed by Kirchick, Weisberg praises the President for being “a friend in need,” as his column is titled in Newsweek, and for being “tough on Bibi.” As he claims: “those presidents regarded as the least friendly to the Jewish state have done it the most good. Its strong allies have proved much less helpful.”

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Vacation with a Kindle

June 12th, 2009 - 11:54 am

It’s that time of year. At least it is for me. I’m leaving on a week and a half vacation, along with my Kindle—and yes, my wife. So I won’t be blogging for that time. The only internet access I’ll have is very slow band and limited, enough, hopefully, to retrieve e-mail.  So I will resume sometime around June 27th, or possibly once or twice before.

For those of you in the Los Angeles area, Allis and I will be speaking on June 24th at the David Horowitz Freedom Center evening reception. The details may be found here . I hope some of you can. We will be talking about our new book, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. I trust there will be a good discussion, and I’m certain those of you who read my blog and are around L.A. will add to it.

Some thoughts on the Kindle, a relatively new purchase for me. The pros: no packing of heavy books when on vacation! I have bought four books I want to read. I already started one of them, and find that it is as easy to find oneself fully immersed in the book content as it is when reading an actual hardcover book. You can mark passages you wish to return to, and makes notes. Some people have complained that you never know how far along you are in the book.  Because you can vary typeface, there are no page numbers. But you can find a line on the bottom indicating the percentage of the book you have gone through. The other big pro, of course, is that if your book storage situation at home is at the time of no more room for growth, as is mine, this is a saving grace. I no longer have to worry about trying to fit in more bookcases.

When we moved two years ago, I got rid of 600 books- yes 600- and now have almost that many more that I have bought in those two years.  Now the cons: It is potentially bad for authors. We are now in the process of a book tour that will extend over the summer and fall months. If everyone buys books on the Kindle, it means that there will be no more book signings, and even worse, no more bookstores! Even though most of us probably buy our books online, it is nice to see what’s out there and look at the books in a store before deciding what to purchase. Most indie bookstores are already disappearing; soon the chains will be gone. If you have recently gone into a Borders, you know immediately that they are on the verge of bankruptcy. There iare hardly any books in the store, especially when you compare what they have in stock to B and N, which somehow seems to be packed every time I enter one.

I don’t know what the answer is, and I hope the book industry figures out a way to adjust. Anyway, adieu for now. I look forward to some good r and r, and some good Kindling.

It’s Up to Bibi

June 11th, 2009 - 3:26 pm

As the world awaits the forthcoming speech on Sunday by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, it becomes clear that what he says will have a great effect on relations with the United States. As George Mitchell and the other representatives of the Obama administration continue to demand that Israel both recognize the two-state solution and agree in advance to curb expansion of existing settlements, as well as to dismantle others completely, any failure to do just that by Netanyahu will be made to appear that it is he and Israel that stand in the way of peace in the Middle East.

Some have speculated that it is the Obama administration’s actual goal to bring down the Netanyahu government, and force its replacement by a new one headed by opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the head of Kadima. How Netanyahu decides to handle things will either defuse the growing conflict between Israel and the United States, or lead precisely to the collapse of his government. The latter could occur should he appear to be willing to capitulate and harm Israel’s national security, and agree with the demands set forth by Mitchell and others.

Thus, the suggestions discussed by Ari Shavit in today’s Haaretz, Israel’s left-of-center daily newspapers, bares careful reading. Shavit wisely notes that Netanyahu cannot utter a simple “no.” Were he to do this, “he would be playing into the hands of those who want Obama to deal with the settlements rather than with the [Iranian] centrifuges.” But he cannot say “yes” either, Shavit writes.  A yes means permission for the United States to begin a push for even more Israeli “concessions,” including perhaps a demand that Israel retreat to its June 4, 1967 borders. Next an armed Palestinian state would be established on its borders, with the threat that would create to Israel’s very existence.

Shavit also notes that “the American left, European left and Israeli left would push Israel into a hopeless, risky undertaking that would undermine its stability.” (my emphasis) These wise words, remember, appear in a left-wing paper. Never underestimate the advice that will be given by would-be friends of Israel whose own programs guarantee only extreme danger for the Jewish state.

Thus, Shavit suggests that Netanyahu appear to go along with the proposed “road map” to peace, although we all know that the past attempts have ended completely in failure. Nevertheless, he argues that Netanyahu should offer his support to a two-state solution, but in a manner that makes it very clear that it means only “a demilitarized Palestine alongside a Jewish Israel.” No more and no less. Israel cannot afford what happened in Gaza after Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal, and Hamas made the area into an armed camp aimed against Israel.

But a word from Israel’s PM that the nation will accept an actually demilitarized state, as Havit writes, “would transfer the onus [for the lack of peace] from Israel to the Palestinians.” It would be an announcement to the world that Israel will agree to a responsible end to the conflict; one that will not mean new dangers for Israel. If the Palestinians reject this overture, it will be clear to the world what side is not committed to peace and the existence of a secure Israel.

Kadima, he argues, made a major error when they said they would recognize a Palestinian state without “qualifying their consent.” True enough. But Havit ignores asking why this is even necessary? Doesn’t the world realize that given Israel’s experience with Palestinian promises, they could not accept a state that could immediately use its existence to try and bring an end to Israel— as many of its leaders claim they actually want?  Havit responds that in diplomacy, nothing can be taken for granted. It has to be spelled out in detail, leaving no loopholes.

Netanyahu is a shrewd, smart and experienced leader. He knows from past experience as Prime Minister that he has to tread a careful balance between defending Israel’s interests and not doing anything to harm its alliance with the United States. What makes his position rather difficult this time is the growing demands from the Obama administration to put the blame for progress solely on Israel’s shoulders, and to continually imply that they alone have to take the first step.

So those of us who want to preserve a strong and democratic Israel need to increase our pressure on the Obama administration, letting it know that it is time to tell Abbas and the Palestinian Authority that they too have to make it clear by words and deeds that they really will accept Israel’s existence, side by side with their own state.  Up to now, sadly, there is little evidence that Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell are doing this.

Am I deceiving myself, or has the American press and editorial pundits begun to dispense with what was once obligatory Bush bashing and Bush hatred?  Here we are, half a year after the inauguration of Barack Obama, and suddenly, some commentators can no longer refrain to give George W. Bush some credit for  doing something good, other than saying over and over that he was the worst President in American history.

First was Times reporter Dexter Filkins, writing in a recent issue of The New Republic on the history of the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, explained that “Whatever one’s view of the war, it is impossible to deny that in the eleventh hour Bush was right.” (my emphasis)  By giving his support to the new strategy of the surge, despite major opposition from within and without his own administration, the former President helped turn the situation around and created the conditions that might lead to a democratic Iraq.

Now, writing in today’s New York Times, the most influential commentator in our country on foreign policy, Thomas L. Friedman, devotes his column to the victory for the democratic forces in Lebanon, where he went to observe the election. Friedman sees the electoral success of Saad Hariri’s March 14th coalition as a major rebuke to the Islamists and to Hezbollah, who no longer can push Lebanon into a war against Israel and who have made clear by their vote that they want a nation run by Lebanese, not by Syria or Iran.

Then Friedman observes:

While the Lebanese deserve 95 percent of the credit for this election, 5 percent goes to two U.S. presidents. As more than one Lebanese whispered to me: Without George Bush standing up to the Syrians in 2005 – and forcing them to get out of Lebanon after the Hariri killing – this free election would not have happened. Mr. Bush helped create the space. Power matters. Mr. Obama helped stir the hope. Words also matter.

 I had to re-read his sentence twice. Imagine. Not only giving George W. Bush major credit for “standing up to the Syrians,” but equating him with having a positive influence akin to that of Barack Obama.

What wonders will we see in the future?

When Allen Weinstein wrote Perjury:The Hiss Chambers Case, which was published in 1978, and when the late Joyce Milton and I wrote The Rosenberg File which was published in 1983, the response of both the academic and the political Left was the same: these books were a parody of real history, were written to justify the witch-hunt of the FBI and the McCarthyites in the 1950′s, as well as to give ammunition to the attempt of Ronald Reagan to start a new Cold War. Both Weinstein and I were assaulted with major attacks on our scholarship, our integrity, our politics, and our personal honor.

We were told that we wrote on behalf of Right-wing foundations that sponsored our research;  that we tailored our conclusions to fit the assumptions of our Right-wing sponsors that Hiss and the Rosenbergs were guilty, and to retroactively justify the climate of suspicion and paranoia that existed in the McCarthy years. We were told, over and over, that we were the new McCarthyites, doing our best to dishonor those heroes who stood up for civil liberties in terrible times, and to defame the memory of those who were truly innocent and sought only to carry on both the legacy of the New Deal and to fight for peace at a time of a phony war scare against the Soviets.

Now we are living in the 21st Century, and these fights about Hiss and the Rosenbergs have all but ended. When Morton Sobell, the Rosenberg’s co-defendant confessed in 2008, and when Venona and other documents from the former Soviet Union proved Alger Hiss’s guilt, most reasonable people accepted the verdict. They were indeed, as we argued back then, Soviet spies. As if to make this point clear, the June 8th Daily Beast website links to an op-ed I had about this very argument a while back.

So the question arises. What accounts for the uproar and clamor about the new magisterial book co-authored by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America.?  To read about this essential book, the best thing to do is go to this review by Anne Applebaum, the Washington Post columnist who won a Pulitzer for her book on the Gulag. Applebaum captures its essence  and summarizes the author’s great accomplishments. Applebaum understands the irrationality of both the true believers on the Left, like the Nation magazine former editor Victory Navasky- who she writes shows “a pathological inability to believe that there really were Soviet spies in America,” and far Right columnist Ann Coulter, who shows a similar inability “to make distinctions between liberal Democrats and paid foreign agents,” and who implies all liberals are guilty of “treason”.

The Klehr-Haynes-Vassiliev volume, then, provides the final word on the extent and nature of Soviet espionage during the KGB’s heyday in America, during the 1930′s and 40′s, to the collapse of its American network after the defection of Elizabeth Bentley in 1945. But strangely, despite the fact that their 703 page book contains only seven pages on the case of journalist I.F. Stone, a plethora of so-called “reviews” have appeared that discuss only those few pages, and concentrate the reviewers’ fire only on their attempts to prove the opposite of the conclusion reached by Haynes and Klehr, that I.F. Stone was, from 1936 to 1938, a Soviet agent who did work for the KGB. Yet, as John Haynes writes in a soon to be published manuscript, “those associated with The Nation have denounced Spies with the combination of rage and maliciousness that marked past assaults on Weinstein and Radosh. To our surprise, however, the defense of Hiss and Rosenberg, while not disappearing, has taken a back seat to the defense of I.F.Stone.”

I would suggest that the reason for this is that the Left has finally come to abandon their forlorn effort to prove the innocence of Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Rather than publicly acknowledge this, however, they skirt around the subject and have shifted their firepower to defend the honor of their one remaining hero— I.F. (“Izzy”) Stone. After all, by the 1950′s and 60′s, especially in the latter years, Stone had become something of a non-Communist man of the Left; who at times departed radically from the CP line and who made the kind of hostile comments about the Soviet Union that once came only from dedicated anti-Communists.  Now,  in their eyes, if it turned out that Stone was at one time not only rabidly pro-Soviet but a man who was willing to use his journalistic endeavors to help them on a formal basis, they believed the integrity and honor of Stone as an independent thinker would be forever soiled.

Why Stone might have done that, however, is nailed by Applebaum. She writes: “Stone…still had a faith in the essential goodness of communism. Mistakes had been made, but between 1936 and 1938 he still believed that only Stalin could save Europe from fascism. He would hardly object if the agents of Stalin asked him to pass on some messages or to recommend a few friends. In fact, it is hard to think of a good reason why he would not do so, given what he was writing and saying at the time.”

The journalist who has gone all out in an assault is Eric Alterman, columnist for The Nation He is, as anyone who has read his columns know to expect, a man who combines ad hominem smears with self-righteous defenses of the indefensible. He has written two different versions of his defense of Stone for his magazine, the first in the June 22 issue; the second on the magazine’s website. Alterman redresses all the old familiar smears: the work was funded  by Right-wing foundations-”the campaign to smear Stone bears the hallmarks of a foundation-funded campaign of right-wing media manipulation.” The authors were given “generous funding from the ultra-right-wing Smith-Richardson Foundation,” etc.  Of course, he does not mention that their grant was simply to pay translators of the documents all of which were written in Russian. And Alterman includes the reputable mainstream Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and the Cold War International History Project as part of the Right-wing cabal. The latter is too silly to even attempt to answer.

In his second web essay, Alterman takes after yours truly in particular, and with his usual venom. First is his identification of me as a “one-time historian turned right-wing polemicist;” and not content with that, later he says I was “once a respected historian.” [I assume he has not checked the blurbs for the recent book I co-authored with my wife from the likes of the well known neo-cons Sean Wilentz, Michael Oren, Ron Rosenbaum and Cokie Roberts.]And he puts me in what is actually quite a distinguished list, when he calls me “just another Neocon ranter in the style of…Horowitz [and] also Martin Peretz, Norman and John Podhoretz and their acolytes on the blogs of The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Commentary and National Review.”

I wonder first when it was that Alterman thought I was a respected historian; I assume it was for the brief time half a century ago when I was called a “New Left historian,” never an accurate term, but nevertheless one that was often used when someone discussed me. What he accuses me of this time is “misreading” what he wrote. To satisfy readers, here is the exact citation made by Alterman that I wrote about. It appeared in a posting on The Daily Beast. He wrote:

I would not argue that what the authors have found-assuming it is both accurate and authentic-does not affect the historical record at all. Stone and I were close friends during the final decade or so of his life and he never mentioned anything of this to me. He knew I was a strong anti-Communist and I assume he would have expected me to disapprove. What’s more, he kept it secret from everyone, insofar as we are aware (and again, assuming it is accurate). I can understand and forgive this.

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The other day, I used my blog to comment critically on what I considered too favorable reactions to President Obama’s Cairo speech. One of the people I felt  who had a far too optimistic interpretation of his remarks was David Horowitz.

Now, Horowitz has answered my assessment of his comments. Here is his response:

A Reply to Some Comments

Many of the judgments passed on Obama’s Cairo speech from the right have seized on particulars — distorted historical references and false moral equivalences designed to position Obama as a mediator — which have become an all too familiar feature of Obama’s speeches. In doing so they have missed the forest for the trees. My friend Ron Radosh has written a blog which mischaracterizes what I wrote as an uncritical reading and a completely favorable response which is most certainly not. I began by warning that Obama rewrites history to ignore the rapacity bigotry of the Islamic record. Notwithstanding that his defense of America and of the American bond with Israel was refreshing, and somewhat unexpected given his previous statements. Many people fail to distinguish between new policy and what is only a new speech. The worst aspect of the speech, the remarks about settlements is a bad policy the Obama Administration has been pushing for weeks. If settlements are unacceptable then the 1.2 million Arab Muslims settled in Israel should be removed to the West Bank or Jordan or Gaza. The only reason Jewish settlements are regarded as unacceptable is because the Muslim Arab states are bigoted racist regimes that can’t tolerate non-Arabs and non-Muslims. Obama’s blindness to this is bad; his call for religious tolerance on the other hand, if taken seriously, would undermine the entire Arab case. In my analysis of Obama’s speech I didn’t make a big deal out of the settlement issue because it wasn’t an innovation of the speech. What the speech did was say, the American way of tolerance, democracy, equality of women and religious freedom is the way of the future. Embrace it and we will support you. That was the Bush line that the Democrats hated before their man entered the White House. Michael Ledeen looking at the speech drew pretty much the same conclusion in PJ Media. For an insightful critique of Obama’s delusions, which concludes by being over the top take a look at this piece in the Ottawa Citizen

 

David is, as PJM readers know, one of the most astute and intelligent of conservative commentators. Our readers therefore should have the opportunity to read his own take on my criticism.

I will be blogging later, and am preparing a major blog article on Klehr and Haynes’ book
Spies
, and the response to it by panicked leftists. This may take the whole day to prepare, and I might not post it until tomorrow.

But, I did want to call attention to two very divergent views of Obama’s Cairo speech. The first, surprisingly, is by David Horowitz, at Frontpagemag.com. As you can see, Horowitz gives Obama an uncritical reading and has a completely favorable response. For a man who is usually as tough-minded as they come, this time David fails to read between the lines, and responds to the power of Obama’s rhetoric. It is hard not to, if one watched the speech on TV and succumbed to his charisma and delivery. I am glad that David understands that if and when an American President with whom conservatives often disagree makes a powerful statement in defense of our nation, he should be supported. But I think that this time, a careful look at Obama’s speech reveals many examples of both moral equivalence and an approach that actually surrenders a great deal to America’s real enemies.

The contrary view, whose author took much time to reflect on the speech before setting down to write, is by Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Contrary to David, Satloff separates what he thinks is positive from what he believes is in fact quite dangerous. Not only does Satloff think that Obama offered an “implicit acceptance of political Islam,” he writes the following about Obama’s ideas on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

This parallelism was perhaps most artificial in the president’s discussion of the contours of the Arab-Israeli conflict. While no impartial observer can dispute the hardship of Palestinian life, it runs counter to history to suggest that Palestinians have “suffered in pursuit of a homeland,” when, since 1937, Palestinian leaders have rejected no fewer than six proposals to achieve just that goal. Similarly, the president’s statement about Palestinians who “wait in refugee camps . . . for a life of peace and security” says as much about Arab governments’ indifference to their fate as the inability to reach a diplomatic solution with Israel. And the president’s drawing of a connection from the Palestinian conflict with Israel to the fight for civil rights in America or the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa will be interpreted by many as an endorsement of the moral righteousness of the Palestinian cause, not — as he apparently intended — a call for strict nonviolence.  

Contrast Satloff’s last sentence with that written by Horowitz, who argues that Obama “drew a parallel between the struggles of American blacks for civil rights and Palestinians. But unlike Condoleeza Rice who not too long ago drew the same parallel to aggrandize the PLO terrorists as civil rights activists, Obama drew a sharp and revealing line of distinction between them: “Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.’ And that was really the core of Obama’s speech. It was a defense of America’s founding and America’s mission.”

I urge readers to read both Horowitz and Satloff in their entirety, and then decide who is right for themselves. As they say on Fox News, we report, you decide.

Update: Cathy Young blogs today  on the same subject, and as usual, strikes her own original position.  Her article can be found here: http://cathyyoung.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/parsing-obama/

NOTICE TO MY BLOG READERS:  The book talk my wife and I gave two weeks ago  in NYC  is on Book TV- C-Span2- tonight at 7 pm EST. We talk about our new book, “A Safe Haven: Harry S.  Truman and the Founding of Israel.”  Posted on Sunday, June 7.

The question of whether or not America is heading towards some form of “socialism” keeps popping up. This is not surprising, given the decision to push Chrysler into bankruptcy and to create in effect a government take-over of General Motors.  Writing in USA Today, Jonah Goldberg mocks those same liberals who hope that America is moving towards some form of European social-democracy and who at the same time yell and scream when the Republicans accuse them of favoring socialism. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with believing in and hoping that America becomes a social-democracy.  It is a legitimate point of view that, as Goldberg notes, many commentators believe in strongly, among them writers like Harold Meyerson, E.J. Dionne and Matthew Yglesias. They should, however, be honest and not have fits when others who favor a different path for our country respond critically.

Goldberg also notes that the reality is that most conservatives, liberals and centrists all believe in a mixed economy, only disagreeing on “where to draw the line.” Most liberals don’t want old style collectivism a la the Bolsheviks; nor do most mainstream conservatives disavow any regulation or social insurance.

Months ago, on this blog, I talked about the theoretical analysis of  historian Martin J. Sklar.  In his book, The United States as a Developing Country, Sklar argued that at the turn of the century, the United States saw the emergence of a new “corporate capitalism” that mixed together elements of both populism, capitalism and socialism. The modern American state evolved into a system that mixed public and private, socialism and capitalism- “A Mix,” Sklar calls it, that has made the United States not only stable and dynamic, but the most progressive of any nation in the world.

And the above passage led me to the essay appearing in the May-June issue of Foreign Policy , written by TNR senior editor John B. Judis.  He begins by quoting a contribution he made to a forum back in 1995, where he argued that once Soviet communism was laid to rest,  “politicians and intellectuals of the next century will once again draw openly upon the legacy of socialism.” Now Judis believes that he was prophetic.  After our economic collapse, he notes that the “specter of socialism” has reappeared.  Socialism, he proclaims, “has made a startling comeback.” Is it a remedy, he asks, for today’s crisis?

His answer, as if he is writing to prove Goldberg correct, is that what he calls “liberal socialism,” – as distinct from the Cuban or Soviet totalitarian version, “has a lot to offer.” And he writes: “As the historian Martin J. Sklar has argued, these [Western European] economies represent a mix of socialism and capitalism; that mix has increasingly titled toward socialism.” ( my emphasis )

This is not the first time Judis has cited Sklar as a mentor and inspiration; a man whose scholarly work has informed his own concept of how our economic  and political system works. He also wrote a few columns for TNR on line elaborating about this. In one of these, he writes: “A decade ago, I might have been embarrassed to admit that I was raised on Marx and Marxism, but I am convinced that the left is coming back.” And he recommends to his readers a list of books that informed his outlook, including Marx’s Das Kapital,  and books by the late sectarian Marxist -Maoist economist Paul M. Sweezy, his colleague the late Paul M. Baran, and others in his old collective at the journal Socialist Revolution.  And he writes, “I got my introduction to economic history from the historian Marty Sklar, who was also a member of that collective.”

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