Interview with one of "the evil ones."
November 21, 2001 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Interview with one of "the evil ones." A conservative group founded by first lady Lynne Cheney recently released a report (pdf) that accuses numerous college professors of being enemies of civilization, for not "transmit[ing] our history and heritage to the next generation." Curiously, the report originally looked like this (pdf), which quoted professors by name to create a modern-day blacklist, but was removed and reformated to the one currently on thier site. This interview sheds light on one professor's view of being in the report and on the current state of debate and dissent among academics. [via RRE]
posted by mathowie (43 comments total)
Academic freedom is part of the history Lynn Cheney is eager to emphasize. Once I took a class from a professor who was blacklisted in the 50's, he was a polish immigrant who came here to escape facsism in the first place.
posted by chrismc at 10:17 PM on November 21, 2001

Seems to be part of a previous trend against academic freedom, also a backlask against multiculturalism and post-modernism. This guy, Tracinski couldn't even get his facts together about Kant and Rousseau, whilst attacking the anti-enlightenment project.

You can see the extent to which the quotes in the Cheney PDF have been doctored by the [] brackets littered all over the place. If freedom of speech is lost, the terrorists have won... (Urgh.. can't believe I just said that..)
posted by laukf at 10:57 PM on November 21, 2001

Kudos on catching the distinction in the revised version of removing the actual names (presumably, as you imply, so as not to be too transparent a blacklist). It's a good interview as well, although an odd situation for the subject to be in since he's asked for both his personal reaction and his interpretation as an anthropologist of this behavior by Cheney et al.

I'm always fearful of that pseudopopulist attack of 'the media' and 'the academic elitists in their ivory towers' as not being rah-rah enough behind the status quo, as if the proper function of these institutions in a democratic society is to serve as a willing and subservient mouthpiece for those holding the reins of power. It's a trick Nixon used with pretty good effectiveness, and has been used by his many acolytes consistently since the late 70's. For Godwinian reasons, I won't mention others who've used this trick to even greater effectiveness.

His comments at the end regarding the way pushers of propaganda often project their own sins to the other side are so spot on. It's an interesting phenomenon, one that can be seen all over the place, from frigid housewives noticing satanic sex imagery in their kid's textbooks to of course David Horowitz and Ann Coulter railing against the alleged oppresiveness of academia (a subject well-covered in MeFi's archives) as if there were this great Stalinist uprising of Lefties seeking to quell all discussion and debate. I've long felt this charge is made so fervently because the opposite is true, and making this charge will help divert attention from that elephant in the room.
posted by hincandenza at 11:09 PM on November 21, 2001

Lynne Cheney is an old hand at this. Here is an excerpt from her 1995 book Telling the Truth: Why our culture and our country have stopped making sense--and what we can do about it.

"In what may be the most irresponsible section of the World History Standards, fifth- and sixth-graders are asked to read a book about a Japanese girl of their age who died a painful death as a result of radiation from the atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. No mention is made of why American leaders decided to use atomic weapons, about the casualties they believed an invasion of Japan would have entailed, for example. No mention is made of death and suffering caused by the Japanese...What fifth- and sixth-graders would be likely to conclude is that their country was guilty of a horrible -- and completely unjustified -- act of cruelty against innocents."

I can't believe she once headed the National Endowment for the Humanities.
posted by swift at 11:12 PM on November 21, 2001

swift: please explain what is unreasonable about the statement you quote?

it's not like it was arguing that the girl deserved to die. it merely asked why no background was given on why the the U.S. would feel compelled to bomb Japan.
posted by nobody_knose at 11:25 PM on November 21, 2001

Maybe it goes with the Job? See: Tipper Gore, enemy of freedom...The deeper question is who defines the 'American Way'; All factions will jockey for position and poison their detractors standing in the arena of stature and influence; in the end we must depend on ourselves and our COMMUNITY to enable our decoder rings.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:31 PM on November 21, 2001

It is unreasonable to expect a book about a "Japanese girl of their age who died a painful death as a result of radiation" to delve into the politics that went into the dropping of the bomb. What does the Japanese girl care? She's just dying. I would be surprised if the students' actual textbook didn't mention the "casualties they believed an invasion of Japan would have entailed", the difficult decision the president had to make, the name of the plane that delivered the bomb, etc. It's all pretty much standard fare, we all know the story. What gets me is that Cheney opposes students learning some other viewpoint that is not explicitly pro-American. I think it's imortant for students to learn what it feels like on the other side.
posted by swift at 11:40 PM on November 21, 2001

nobody_knose: How many complex historical issues are covered fully from all angles in an elementary school classroom? None that I know of. I think teaching kids the horrors of nuclear weapons is a good thing, and clouding their mind with justification for murder is not. (And, what swift said.)

The scariest thing to me, is that this report's definition of "our culture" seems to be the culture of rich, white Americans who never question the governments activities...
posted by Neb at 11:47 PM on November 21, 2001

I certainly don't condone blacklisting, but doesn't the frustration felt by both Cheney and those with an opposing position have at its root the fact that these things are often discussed as all or nothing?

As in:

A. America has done bad things, we had something like this coming


B. Those people are totally nutters, America has been a paragon of goody-goodness and all of the people who disagree with us want to destroy us

and it seems that

C. America has done some really crappy things in the past, and a lot of the world has a viable gripe against us BUT the people who did this specific act are off of their nutter

is never discussed.
posted by owillis at 12:09 AM on November 22, 2001

America has done some really crappy things in the past, and a lot of the world has a viable gripe against us AND the people who did this specific act are off of their nutter, but that doesn't mean that someone saying "America has done some really crappy things in the past, and a lot of the world has a viable gripe against us" is off their nutter. If we silence, or even threaten to silence, those that would try to define and understand terror, or who talk about why it is that we were attacked, we can't very well justify attacking others. When the word "war" is invoked, however, it is unfortunately all or nothing. "You're either for us or against us" applies not only to foreign governments but to American citizens as well. Maybe I'm off my nutter, but America is doing plenty of crappy things right now.

Then again, can Lynne Cheney actually do anything besides write a report? How powerful is a Second Lady?
posted by swift at 12:24 AM on November 22, 2001

Boy, that put a swivel in my neck there, swift, but I get the point. I am totally with Ollie on this one:

All extremist statements should be eliminated!

er, scratch that... no, wait...oh, crap.

Say, if her group is trying to do away with all but the pro-government policy rah-rahs, how long's it gonna be before MeFi membership is cut in half (more)?

And what's that ol' bat doing with a name like Lynne, anyway? I thought it was one of those names reserved exclusively for cute chicks. I vote we rename her Rufus von Goofus-Cheney or something.
posted by Bixby23 at 2:46 AM on November 22, 2001

Important to note the groupd she represents:

Have you spoken to anyone at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni about the accusations in the report and about your words being taken out of context?

a powerful voice in academic affairs that has much influence upon many campus things---money controls, control with academic leadership, to whom many owe their jobs.
During McCarthy days, there was aq prof at the college I had gone to. Accused of being member of commie party, he refused to testify. The school suspended him. He went to Washington, testified he had never been member of party, and then when school said he couyld have his job back,he told them toshove it for not defending his rights.
posted by Postroad at 4:32 AM on November 22, 2001

"Whoops, the names got out by mistake! We didn't intend to publish any names."
posted by mmarcos at 4:58 AM on November 22, 2001

nobody_knose: If schoolchildren read "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," must they also read "Mein Kampf" for background on Nazism?

Hugh Gusterson said: "This is not about debate. It's about blacklisting people. It's one thing to do a detailed analysis of someone's written or spoken opinions, and suggest why you think they're wrong. That's not what this report is about. This report is about compiling a list of people who they think are deviants as an attempt to intimidate those people."

I'm a red diaper baby (my parents were members of the Communist Party of the USA, in the 40s and early 50s) and a lesbian (a "double deviant," if you will). Lynne Cheney's latest attack on academe is blacklisting for the Internet Age. That there are two editions of the report doesn't surprise me: an annotated list for the "in crowd," a milder press release for the rest.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:18 AM on November 22, 2001

There's much in this report which is inflammatory and one-sided -- for instance, from reading this report one might conclude that only anti-war, anti-imperialist voices are heard on campus, and that not only are pro-war voices shouted down, thoughtful, balanced discussions have not taken place. Particularly note the passage about the Oxford Student Union debate, whose wording is almost identical to the Scott Simon speech/column which went around:

We learn from history what happens when a nation?s intellectuals are unwilling to sustain its civilization. In 1933, the Oxford Student Union held a famous debate over
whether it was moral for Britons to fight for king and country. After a wide-ranging discussion in which the leading intellectuals could find no distinction between British
colonialism and world fascism, the Union resolved that England would ?in no circumstances fight for king and country.? As the Wall Street Journal reported: ?Von
Ribbentrop sent back the good news to Germany?s new chancellor, Hitler: The West will not fight for its own survival.?

Now, Simon's column ran in the WSJ, and it's excellent in its own right (though unabashedly biased), but by no means did the WSJ "report" those words of Ribbentrop, because they were Simon's words, which are neither sourced nor quoted. (For starters, I seriously doubt that von Ribbentrop, or anyone in Germany, had a vision of "the West" that did not include themselves; so I'm curious if anyone knows a more accurate source.) It's also worth pointing out that in nineteen-thirty-three there was not only much conservative sympathy for Germany based on the punitive post-war situation, but much isolationism in both Britain and America, led not necessarily by the left. Some of the strongest anti-war sentiment in American, for instance, came from Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. Many outside of Germany, after all, doubted Hitler's danger until September, 1939. Finally, it's dishonest of both Simon (who may have simply erred rhetorically) and more so of ACTA to say that England "would not fight for King or country"; the resolution was this House will not. More on the controversial motion and its sponsor, David Graham, with a note that it carried by a 2/3 vote.

In other words, the emblematic analogy they posit of a 1933 pre-Hitler pacifist echo -- which has some validity, if they would only present it honestly -- is itself inaccurate, and they certainly give little quarter on the presentation of the modern-day discussion. ACTA certainly should have had access to more accurate sources than Simon's column in the WSJ, if they truly believe in their devotion to history and intellectual honesty.

That said, there are two extremely important points here, which are worthy of a more subtle and balanced raising. If the West truly has values worth defending, among them freedom and democracy, what is the role of the academy in doing so? The points that I think are important, which are buried among their political swathe-cutting, are that modern universities no longer have core curricula that require history or government studies. Honestly, I think more college students get their history from Zinn (and secondary sources) than from the tradition of thought in those areas. That ignorance leads to lack of understanding, and more important to inability to participate in the discourse at the effective levels. Almost all of our National Security Advisors come from a central academic trunk, flowing back through Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago, and this applies whether they're Republican or Democrat.

Carol Anne and nobody_knose: while an individual work may stand on its own, an academic presentation of that work ought to include context. Not "opposing viewpoints", not "balance", but background material and historical as well as contemporary interpretations of same.
posted by dhartung at 5:25 AM on November 22, 2001

One of the professors mentioned by name is Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas. By looking at his homepage, one can get a broader sense of his point of view on a variety of topics. The article from which the quote in the report by Cheney, et al was taken can be found here.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 5:27 AM on November 22, 2001

What's wrong with a blacklist so long as it's not the government telling us who we can associate with? "Freedom of speech" is not being lost by anyone, as it doesn't include the right to make other people listen. Lileks, as usual, has a great piece on this.
posted by mw at 5:36 AM on November 22, 2001

dhartung: Carol Anne and nobody_knose: while an individual work may stand on its own, an academic presentation of that work ought to include context. Not "opposing viewpoints", not "balance", but background material and historical as well as contemporary interpretations of same.

Isn't it unrealistic to expect that every political offered to 11 and 12 year olds in school be put into proper context? I think it's idealistic to assume that 5th graders should have a balanced view of histroy to include the motivations behind the use of atomic bombs in the second world war. I think it is useful to tell grade school students that bombs have terrible concequences no matter who uses them.

It's also foolish to assume that the students' education on any one subject is complete at the end of grade school. A critique of the school system should include a review material presented later on in high school history classes as well, when students are better able to participate in discussions about the political and moral motives behind bombing.
posted by astirling at 6:39 AM on November 22, 2001

I say we criticize Lynne, her husband, and his boss!

I named names of people...I created my own blacklist...I myself must now be blacklisted.
posted by Mick at 6:43 AM on November 22, 2001

Sorry, no, Lileks' light treatment of this issue does it a disservice. He's for persecution of heretics, dissenters and non-mainstream thinkers. He commits the bad logic so prevalent today, in believing that the terrorist attacks were spurious, unrelated to anything that came before. He also assumes, like so many other guffawing word jerks, that if you disagree with the majority, you must be wrong.

While I can't say whether I agree with any of these scholars quoted on the blacklist, not having read their collective writings, I can say that my very first thought which I put in print less than two hours after attack on the World Trade Center was that our chickens had come home to roost. The point of nearly all of those academics seems to be the same: We are not innocent. The crimes that have been committed in our names are legion. We should have expected retribution, revenge, counter attacks. We have treated others unfairly. We have not behaved like an enlightened nation. This time of national introspection should not be one of justifying our deeds, but discovering why we behave as we do, and why we are loathed. This introspection should be serious; unlike the president said, it's not just because we have television.

Lileks makes the assumption that in the Fifties, the accused were Stalinists, that it was the right of any part of the government to make that accusation, and that a person's politics were something to be discussed before Congress. Once accused, you were as good as guilty. This, however, was bad politics, bad government, and bad logic: some of the accused had never been Communist, much les Stalinist. Some had already renounced those politics. None of them were a threat to the government. There was no crime being committed, none at all: being a Communist was legal, though not popular.

Like the list of doctors who perform abortions, this list knowingly, consciously, provides the scum elements of the right wing with a checklist of targets.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:45 AM on November 22, 2001

Oh, and to regard the Oxford Union (which is not, and has never been, the "Oxford Student Union", given that it's a private, fee-charging society) as the cradle of British intellectual debate, misrepresents the nature of the place, even in 1933. And yes, the "King and Country" vote was 275-153.

What's wrong with a blacklist so long as it's not the government telling us who we can associate with?

If you have to ask that question, I'm not sure that it's worth answering. But, wearily: it's the concept known by the idiomatic phrase "give a dog a bad name"; the name in this case being the historically insidious "un-American".
posted by holgate at 6:46 AM on November 22, 2001

Let me correct a misimpression some have: Lynne Cheney is not the author of this report, although it quotes her twice. (She is co-founder of ACTA ... with Joe Lieberman, and there are other Democrats involved.) In any case, the authors of the report are the current president and VP of ACTA, not the Second Lady. (And no, she has no statutory authority for anything.)

It may be calculated to offset the report in some way, but they've defended a professor who made a flip comment about the attack on the Pentagon.

astirling: no, it is not unrealistic; if kids are ready to learn "that bombs have terrible concequences no matter who uses them", isn't that already presenting a political or moral motive? If they're ready for that, aren't they ready to discuss it, albeit at a 5th grade level? I recently had a very in-depth discussion with my 12-year-old niece about the September 11th attacks. I didn't feel it necessary to leave it at "a lot of people died and that was a bad thing". Of course, it would be just as dishonest, and disturbing to have a history unit on the Hiroshima bombing that had the kids only read an account of "Col. Paul Tibbets, American Hero". Would you accept that kids reading that would have to wait 5 or 6 years to get a broader picture?
posted by dhartung at 6:58 AM on November 22, 2001

"Like the list of doctors who perform abortions, this list knowingly, consciously, provides the scum elements of the right wing with a checklist of targets." "Lists"?....nixons enemies list was not released until after his fall. The left have their lists. I saw a clash, perhaps even a purge on the academic horizon , ohhh...4 years ago. It will get worse. Cheney has done nothing wrong. I have not heard any cases here as to why this is bad?( other then if it is used to hurt people) anyone care to explain matts point? ( i highly distrust RRE. P.A. is a traitor in my book.)
posted by clavdivs at 7:17 AM on November 22, 2001

Grant: I understand it now. I feel so guilty for making Saudi Arabia rich.
posted by dhartung at 7:19 AM on November 22, 2001

unfair about phil. please delete my thread. this thread is supposition and apologies for a response.
posted by clavdivs at 7:36 AM on November 22, 2001

Grant: I understand it now. I feel so guilty for making Saudi Arabia rich.

Well, isn't that terribly flippant of you, Dan. Just for the record, are you also sorry for the civilian deaths in Iraq due to US bombing and sanctions, or for the carpet bombing of Cambodia, Laos, and south Vietnam, or for all the people murdered or tortured during the US-sanctioned reigns of dictators such as Pinochet (just to name a few international incidents that non-Americans could feel angry about)? Obviously I'm not implying in any way, shape, or form that people deserved to die on September 11, but I'm amazed at the popular coping strategy of metaphorically sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, "America is perfect!"
posted by jess at 8:56 AM on November 22, 2001

Jess, you're right, it was flippant, and Grant should know that he did provoke a deep bout of thought this morning as I went about my errands. His post sketches out the ways to question our foreign policy on moral grounds, though I would contend they're just that, questions without obvious or easily agreed-on answers. My deeper philosophical question is whether it is indeed possible to have a moral foreign policy, or whether such a policy would be at core isolationist, pacifist, or a failure. I'd love it if we could be like Sweden, or Canada (bows to Jess) but I believe that what Zinn called "more modest nations" on which he implicitly thought we should model our behavior are likely able to follow that path only because of the broader superpower and multi-lateral actions of the US and Europe.

When I look at the broad array of weapons being used in Afghanistan, I suppose I could think it's terrible we're using them against such an ostensibly poor nation, but as 9/11 showed they were not without offensive capability. And asymmetric warfare in the coming century will look much more like what al-Qaeda and the Taliban accomplished than anything in the past. If we accept that a small gang of people from a country we've made rich can take it on themselves to speak for people in another country -- assuming that's what they are really doing, which I don't believe -- who have arguably been hurt factorially less by us than by their own ruler, and we accept that we must be "introspective" and change our foreign policy as a result, we give terrorism such as September 11th politicial legitimacy it does not deserve, and political efficacy it should never have. I look instead at the array of weaponry we're using in Afghanistan and thank God and a long historical line of government leaders for giving it to us instead of to somebody with a different political system: say, the Taliban.

Up until 9/11 I would have firmly believed that all we need do is patiently open up other societies until they became happy fun democracies playing in the world park. That belief has been badly shaken and I'm much less optimistic about the prospects for democracy, especially in the face of Islamism/Islamofascism. (Which puts us back in 1933 again, I know.) I wouldn't want to have been an anti-interventionist in the thirties, looking back. And today, if the alternative to the existing policy is anti-interventionist, I don't see how we can continue to be economically engaged where we are not politically engaged; and where we are not economically engaged we have no leverage at all for the ideals we hold dear. Which brings me to the American Enterprise Institute and ACTA and their Harold Bloom - William Bennett thesis of defending Western civilization. If you do believe that there's anything special about what we have here in America (or your own Western-style democracy), it has to be worth defending. We may not agree on the threats, but I don't see isolationism as a viable alternative: we may as well be Japan in the 1840s. That makes us economically engaged, around the world as well as specifically in the Middle East, who instead of being angry at our political influence might just as easily be ecstatic at their economic windfall.

The issues for which bin Laden seems to stand are our military role in Saudi Arabia, but we are invited guests of the legitimate government; we might as well be bombed for the sin of being militarily involved with Britain or Japan. Since they have not bombed us we must question whether they are of different character from the people (individuals) who have. The secondary issue is the American presence in the Middle East, and while almost every American would agree that we need "a solution" for peace in Palestine, there's simply no question that we will ever simply leave, and our presence and involvement in the "Middle East peace process" has brought greater stability and hope to the region than if we had not been present (unless you accept that the Arab states ought to have been able to crush and occupy Israel in return). Without our involvement Arafat would still be renting office space in Tunis. No, in the end in that conflict there are no good choices, we can only make the best of bad choices and live with it -- which I'm willing to do. So I accept that we have created for ourselves a role in the world which includes intervention and engagement, however wrong those involvements may look to someone who ends up, historically, on the wrong end of the gun barrel. My ideals about happy fun peace agreements are, as I indicated, shattered.

So at heart I am considering the question of whether a moral foreign policy is possible. I'm almost certain, now, that in the long run it is not.
posted by dhartung at 10:33 AM on November 22, 2001

But, wearily: it's the concept known by the idiomatic phrase "give a dog a bad name"; the name in this case being the historically insidious "un-American".

If someone put me on a blacklist, I would immediately print up a new batch of business cards incorporating the endorsement.
posted by kindall at 10:57 AM on November 22, 2001

I am considering the question of whether a moral foreign policy is possible. I'm almost certain, now, that in the long run it is not.

dhartung, I've struggled with this question as well. The more I study the philosophies which undergird U.S. foreign policy, the more I'm convinced that it's never really been tried.

The main thrust of U.S. foreign policy, and of the policies of most modern government, have primarily been economic: aimed at opening up new markets and protecting old ones. The USSR, while I believe it was a threat, provided convenient pretext for the US to steamroll over popularly elected governments which were unfriendly to US industry under the guise of anti-communism. Of course that's not to say that the US has only ever done evil, but when it's done good it's usually because those goodwill efforts coordinate with our larger self-interest.

Sooner or later, U.S. policymakers will have to realize that we need to start supporting political modernization consistently, even if it negatively affects the US economically in the short run, understanding that a stable democratic world is better for everyone in the long run, strategically and economically. I'm not sure what effects this might have on the US economy, or if the effects will be severe enough that policymakers won't risk the negative voter response.

One thing I'm sure of: things cannot continue the way they have been going.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:08 AM on November 22, 2001

If someone put me on a blacklist, I would immediately print up a new batch of business cards incorporating the endorsement.

When Nixon's "Enemies List" was unveiled, Hunter S. Thompson and several other journalists were extremely disappointed that their names weren't on it.

I wonder how much longer it will be before we have a new HUAC (House Unamerican Activities Committees?)?
posted by drezdn at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2001

Someone else kept popping into my mind as I thought of Lynne Cheney's involvment in this ludicrous report (the "eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" quote from Ghandi is in there twice, and not attributed to Ghandi?)

So, let's step back a second and ask "What Would Betty Do?"
posted by CosmicSlop at 11:25 AM on November 22, 2001

Dan, that was beautfiful, and I can't argue with any of it. Thanks for keeping the level of discourse so high.

As a side note, I'd like to mention a bit of history that may provide lessons. Last night I finished the book "In An Antique Land" (1992) by Amitav Ghosh, an Indian anthropologist. The book concerns two histories: his as a scholar in rural Egypt, and the history of a slave belonging to a man named Ben Yiju, a well-traveled Arabic-speaking Jewish trader. The part of the book that interests me here is the explanation of how Europeans extinguished the thriving multicultural trade on the Malabar coast of India. I offer this not as an allegory nor an example of how Europeans have wronged other cultures, but as insight into religion and money as similar motivators, as an illustration of how war-like and pacifist cultures interact, and as an example of how severe action is seen as necessary by those with extreme goals.

This is a long quote (beginning at page 286), but I think it bears reading.

"A bare two years after Vasco da Gama's voyage [of 17 May 1498] a Portuguese fleet led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral arrived on the Malabar coast. Cabral delivered a letter from the king of Portugal to the Samudri (Samudra-raja or Sea-king), the Hindu ruler of the city-state of Calicut, demanding that he expel all Muslims from his kingdom as they were enemies of the 'Holy Faith'. He met with a blank refusal; then as afterwards the Samudri steadfastly maintained that Calicut had always been open to everyone who wished to trade there—the Portugese were welcome to as much pepper as they liked, so long as they bought it at cost price. The Portugese fleet sailed away, but not befor Calicut had been subjected to a two-day bombardment. A year or so later Vasco da Gama returned with another, much more powerful Portugese fleet and demanded once again that all Muslim traders be expelled from Calicut.

"During those early years the peoples who had traditionally participated in the Indian Ocean trade were taken completely by surprise. In all the centuries in which it had flourished and grown, no state or king or ruling power had ever before tried to gain control of the Indian Ocean trade by force of arms. The terroritorial and dynastic ambitions that were purshued with such determination on land were generally not allowed to spill over into the sea.

"Within the Western historiographical record the unarmed character of the Indian Ocean trade is often represented as a lack, or failure, one that invited the intervention of Europe, with its increasing proficiency in war. When a defeat is as complete as was that of the trading cultures of the Indian Ocean, it is hard to allow the vanquished the dignity of nuances of choice and preference. Yet it is worth allowing for the possibility that the peaceful traditions of the oceanic trade may have been, in a quiet and inarticulate way, the product of a rare cultural choice—one that may have owed a great deal to the pacifist customs and beliefs of the Gujarati Jains and Vanias who played such an important part in it. At the time, at least one European was moved to bewilderment by the unfamiliar mores of the region; a response more honest perhaps than the trust in historical inevitability that has supplanted it since. 'The heathen [of Gujarat],' wrote Tomé Pires, early in the sixteenth century, 'held that they must never kill anyone, nor must they have armed men in their company. If they were captured, and [their captors] wanted to kill them all, they did not resist. This is the Gujarat law among the heathen.'

"It was because of those singular traditions, perhaps, that the rulers of the Indian Ocean ports were utterly confounded by the demands and actions of the Portugese. Having long been accustomed to the tradesman's rules of bargaining and compromise they tried time and time again to reach an understanding with the Europeans—only to discover, as one historian has put it, that the choice was 'between resistance and submission; cooperation was not offered.' Unable to compete in the Indian Ocean trade by purely commercial means, the Europeans were bent on taking control of it by aggression, pure and distilled, by unleashing violence on a scale unprecedented on those shores."

posted by Mo Nickels at 11:41 AM on November 22, 2001

That belief has been badly shaken and I'm much less optimistic about the prospects for democracy, especially in the face of Islamism/Islamofascism.

Interestingly, isn't it that which is espoused by our Cheneys and other right wing powerbrokers as "Americanism" nothing more than a variety of an antithetical fascism? In order to quell this threat, isn't it in the interest of this country's conservative leadership to invoke a dumbed down us vs. them mentality to insure a less costly response to a potential insurrection? Like our military is using the Northern Alliance to do our dirty hand to hand combat work, the populace (counted on to be largely ignorant in the intellectual quandary that is war) can do the dirty work of disparraging those who, now relatively small in number, criticize the pro current power structure of our government. Be it crimes "lone citizens" commit on leftist intellectuals and those who favor them, so be it. Allow it all to happen by not shaming or even paying lipservice that the crimes go on. It beats giving the "elite" left a suitable and vouchsafe soapbox by way of this great ideal of personal liberty.

Redefine liberty. Redefine freethought. Redefine America before our very eyes while keeping the magical appearance nothing's really changing at all. Let the motherfuckers believe bearing arms IS in and of itself liberty, and slowly inculcate them to turn them on their "iffy" countrymen who hold critical views and espouse overall uncertainty about the contexts we should be reading the news in.

Okay. Time for turkey.
posted by crasspastor at 12:13 PM on November 22, 2001

crasspastor: you almost made a point there till you had to MUTHERFUCK it up AGAIN.Your points get lost in your profanity.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2001

Pretend I didn't write it then motherfucker. I don't understand why you gotz ta always be a playa hatah. Furthermore, fuck the schoolmarm shit. Don't read me. Ignore the profanity you can't seem to concenrate past. Or maybe quit looking at it as profanity at all and simply just the colorful superlative I intend it as.
posted by crasspastor at 4:48 PM on November 22, 2001

dhartung, I disagree with your pessimism about a moral foreign policy, partly because as Ty said, it has never yet been tried.

We should not change our foreign policy as a result of being attacked. If it is wrong we should change it anyway, and we should always introspect about right and wrong.

It is not our leaders who gave our weapons to us, it is we (speaking broadly) who gave the weapons to them -- those of us who invented, built and paid for them. It is no accident that it was the US that produced the atomic bomb rather than Germany -- they sent us many of their best scientists. We need to defend our freedom, true, but our freedom also defends us. Similarly, the dramatic military weakness of the Taliban is due to their oppressive policies against the Afghan people, most of whom seem glad to see their backs.

Think twice before calling the Saudi government legitimate. The house of Saud was installed IIRC by the victors at Versailles when they partitioned the Ottoman Empire. And except for a few years after the six-day war, they have stayed bought, and been richly rewarded for it. It's been good for us and good for them, but not good for the Arabian people. Call it necessary, call it practical, but don't call it moral. And it is the direct cause of bin Laden's opposition. While promoting democracy in the Middle East would not satisfy bin Laden, it would give opponents of the Saudi monarchy another outlet for their frustration, an outlet more favorable to us and to them. In this case a moral foreign policy would be better for us than the one we have now -- if we weaned ourselves from Saudi oil, which is a good idea anyway, it being finite and all.
posted by anewc2 at 7:04 PM on November 22, 2001

Ty...I think it's important to note that the US *has* been fighting *against* our economic interests recently. Yugoslavia is the best example I can think of. We would have been far better off the support Belgrade, economically. In World War II, our economic interests were with Japan, but we still imposed sanctions against them for their actions in Manchuria. There are countless examples of this.

As Dan said...there is only one way to keep people from hating you, and that's isolationism. Some hate that we're involved in middle east politics, others say we should have been *more* involved in Rwanda.

I'm certainly not on the right, but I can't see what's wrong with the essay at the link. Balance is very important. Just because it's American doesn't mean we should forget it. We *did* create new systems and processes which changed the world here in America. It's ridiculous to suggest that we didn't.
posted by Kevs at 7:41 PM on November 22, 2001

"they sent us many of their best scientists." sorry, we. ah...oh, convinced them to come over.."It is no accident" in some ways it was built upon mistakes. "the dramatic military weakness of the Taliban" this is due to bombing and about half a dozen different armies bearing down on those who stayed behind. "We should not change our foreign policy as a result of being attacked" we did not change our policy towards cambodia, not even after the carnage was stopped by Vietnam.(and they attacked us) we supported the coalition that included the old KR primarily because we opposed vietnam. No, time to clean out the state department."there is only one way to keep people from hating you, and that's isolationism." did Dhart say that? Japan tried that and still wound up hated (im thinking Tokugawa and before) you cannot stop people from hating you (country) but you can stop (or try too) how they act out that hatred.
posted by clavdivs at 8:15 PM on November 22, 2001


You may be right about U.S. gov't intervening against its interest in Yugoslavia, which may explain why we allowed the slaughter to go on for so long before taking a hand.

Using the example of Japan in WWII is questionable, as we were already an established power in the Pacific (Philippines) and Japanese expansion and control over the region certainly would have been against our interests.

Just because it's American doesn't mean we should forget it. We *did* create new systems and processes which changed the world here in America.

I fully agree with this statement. The U.S. has developed, for all of its obvious flaws, one of the best systems of government in world history. However, one of the main problems with U.S. foreign policy, as I see it, is that we have often exported free enterprise at the expense of free association.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:35 PM on November 22, 2001

APOLOGIES for using WE when referring to the U.S. in the above post. It's late.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:36 PM on November 22, 2001

One minor note in response to Grant: Various Western sources describe Vasco da Gama's trip around Cape Horn to India to have been harassed by Arab traders at various points, and during his first visit to Calicut, things went well until the local leader demanded he leave all his trade goods as a "tax", even though they had been rejected by the same for trade. On his second trip he returned with warships, and was ruthless. This was when he demanded the Arabs be expelled and bombarded the city when it would not comply.
posted by dhartung at 6:18 AM on November 23, 2001

An excerpt from the NY Times piece An Organization on the Lookout for Patriotic Incorrectness." Todd Gitlin, a professor of communications at New York University, called the [ACTA] report "a record-breaking event in the annals of shoddy scholarship," adding, "it's a hodgepodge of erratically gathered quotations, few of which are declarations of heartfelt opposition to American foreign policy." Mr. Gitlin a longtime leftist who said he has draped an American flag across the balcony of his Manhattan apartment and published an essay denouncing anti-American sentiment abroad, was surprised to learn he was on the list. His disloyal act? Telling a journalist who asked him to describe the mood on his campus that "there is a lot of skepticism about the administration's policy of going to war."
posted by Carol Anne at 10:12 AM on November 24, 2001

carol anne: If schoolchildren read "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," must they also read "Mein Kampf" for background on Nazism??

uh, if I get yr cute little analogy here, the Japanese during WW2 (who bombed and killed thousands of Americans w/o warning not to mention their handiwork in China) were to victimized Jews in Germany as the US was (who were the innocent victims of said attack and then rose up to save Europe d the world from fascism) to a racist demagogue?

damn girl, you got some real issues with the way you hate America...maybe your folks shoulda loosend the fit on those red diapaers - i think they cut off the circulation to yr brain.
posted by nobody_knose at 7:08 AM on November 26, 2001

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