On Language
December 15, 2006

I thought this NYT article about Fadwa Hamdan--a Muslim woman originally from Jordan who, at the age of 39, enlisted in the U.S. Army to become an Arabic translator--was fascinating, as it showed how the military gave Hamdan the self-confidence to overcome some of the handicaps she experienced as a woman due to her faith and her family. But the end of the piece is pretty unexpected--and disturbing.

No Sense In Trying
December 15, 2006

From the looks of things, printouts of the Baker Commission are being used as toilet paper in the White House, and the Bush administration plans more-or-less to stay the current, too-marvelous-for-words course in Iraq: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday rejected a bipartisan panel's recommendation that the United States seek the help of Syria and Iran in Iraq, saying the "compensation" required by any deal might be too high. She argued that neither country should need incentives to foster stability in Iraq. Well, who knows?

Equal Opportunity Terror
December 12, 2006

Don't think only men are suicide bombers. So Paula Broadwell breathlessly assures her Boston Globe readers in an article this morning titled, "The growing role of women in terror." Now that women are Ivy League presidents, they have also conquered the mountain in Islam to be able to be real "martyrs," not just wailers who follow the martyrs' funerals from behind. We are back to the proximate female terrorist, the 70 year old Gaza grandmother with 43 grandchildren.

Refugees Everywhere
December 11, 2006

A few weeks ago, George Packer argued that if and when the United States finally pulls out of Iraq, the country should offer visas to those Iraqis who collaborated with us during the occupation, seeing as how they'll all be in grave danger when we leave. As an aside, he noted that last year the United States accepted fewer than 200 Iraqi refugees (and looking around, it seems that most of those had applied for admission before the current war).

Is History Useless?
December 10, 2006

by Stanley I. Kutler The only thing we learn from history is we forget it. A Cornell University poll found 44 percent of Americans believe the government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslims. Nearly 30 percent favored requiring Muslims to register with the federal government, and that the government utilize racial profiling. The poll numbers reflected more substantial support for restriction from Republicans and from those who consider themselves "highly religious." Republican voters supported restriction and surveillance efforts two-to-one over Democrats.

Who Can Beat Hillary In '08?
December 10, 2006

Probably you don't read the newspapers that carry the political column of Dick Morris and Eileen McGann. But I do read the New York Post, because I grew up with it when Max Lerner, Murray Kempton, Rose Franzblau, and James Wechsler were its very brainy columnists. (Now I also read the New York Daily News, because my friend Mort Zuckerman owns it.) But back to Dick Morris and Eileen McGann.

Ancient War
December 08, 2006

A post-script thought: The Shia and Sunnis of Iraq are slaughtering each other daily in bombings, suicide bombings, shootouts, executions, mutilations, decapitations. Now, Thursday's New York Times had no report of such incidents the day before. But please don't believe that these killings have passed into history. It's just that the Times and other elite media were so giddy about James Baker's 79 ideas for how to end the war that maybe they forgot that the combatants and their clerical commanders really don't care a fig what the commissioners think.

What's New In The Baker-hamilton Report?
December 06, 2006

by Richard Stern The long-awaited Baker-Hamilton report is out, all 160 pages of it. It was introduced by a news conference presided over by James Baker with his familiar mix of witty condescension ("we has-beens") and aristo impatience (telling a reporter he could answer his question but "as it's answered in the Report it would be a waste of time"). Baker's co-chair, Lee Hamilton, the icon of gravitas, came close to the brink of pompous, if not senile garrulity.

Bad Analogies
December 05, 2006

It's fun, if predictable, when pundits make bad analogies between current political trends and historical circumstances. But White House stenographer Fred Barnes's book review in the new Weekly Standard sets a high (low?) water mark. The book under discussion is Jennifer Weber's history of slavery-friendly Northern Democrats who opposed Lincoln's war policy, known as Copperheads. Here's Barnes:   They undermined the war wherever they could. ... More broadly, the antiwar faction's vituperative opposition hurt the ability of the Union army to carry out the war effectively. ...

The Wisdom Of Robert Gates
December 05, 2006

During his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing today, one of Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates' most telling exchanges was with Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. In it, Gates came very close to endorsing the view of Iraq war critics that the Bush administration should have focused on Osama Bin Laden rather than Saddam Hussein. He also expressed extreme reluctance about going to war with Iran, or for that matter, Syria.