On October 19 of last year, the op-ed page of The New York Times contained a bombshell: a piece by Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chairman of Human Rights Watch (HRW), attacking his own organization. HRW, Bernstein wrote, was “helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.” The allegation was certainly not new: HRW had been under assault for years by American Jews and other supporters of Israel, who argued that it was biased against the Jewish state. And these attacks had intensified in recent months, with a number of unflattering revelations about the organization.
In 1981, Andrei Sakharov wrote an essay titled “The Responsibility of Scientists.” His argument was that scientists, who “form the one real worldwide community which exists today,” had a special obligation to speak out in defense of human rights. In part, his essay was directed to fellow Soviet scientists, whom he implored to take risks on behalf of principle—to “muster sufficient courage and integrity to resist the temptation and the habit of conformity.” Yet Sakharov did not let his colleagues in the free world off the hook.
I'm out of the country for the next few days. In the meantime, here's an important speech delivered by Elena Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov. Read the whole thing. It's wonderful.
In this TNR debate, Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation and New Republic deputy editor Richard Just discuss the appropriate response to the Beijing Olympics. In light of China's manifold human rights problems, what is the right response from fans, Olympic athletes, presidential candidates, and the U.S. government itself? Click here for the first, second, and third parts of the exchange, and here for a slideshow story about meaningful Olympic protests. From: Richard Just To: Steven Clemons Click here for the previous entry in the conversation. Let me take Steve's points one by one.
Politics is the art of achieving political goals — of achieving what is possible in a given situation, that is, in a situation that has its conditions and its limits. In this respect, the ethical point of view, the consideration of what is good and what is bad, what is fair and what is unfair, what is honest and what is dishonest, is external to politics. An ethical action, like an unethical action, is usually analyzed by politicians purely in pragmatic terms. Does it lead toward the goal or does it lead away from it? Montaigne observed, in his famous polemic against Machiavelli, that if a pol
Orwell said it about saints, but Nobel peace laureates also should always be judged guilty until they are proven innocent. No doubt it would have appeared more seemly had the authorities in Oslo waited to bestow their decorations till a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt actually had been signed. In any case it is evident, at least in the cases of Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, that the Nobel Peace Prize is not awarded on the basis of either character or personal history. The two have been honored for their last act, and an uncompleted one at that.
East-West detente has had a chilling consequence in Moscow. The long war between repression and dissent has escalated as the Kremlin tried to show the Soviet people that rapprochement abroad does not mean ideological relaxation at home —and Westerners have begun to ask if detente has any meaning when it has such side effects.