Jena: Law Versus Mob Rule
By Thomas Sowell
It is painful -- and dangerous -- how little we learn from history, even when it is recent history. Just a year ago, "rape" charges spread lynch-mob hysteria on the campus of Duke University and in much of the liberal media, while professional race hustlers descended on the town of Durham, North Carolina, and mindless tribalism was stirred up by extremists in the local black community. This year, we have all learned what a total fraud that case was, from beginning to end. Yet now we see a similar outburst of mindless tribalism and another attempt at mob rule, promoted by such veterans of last year's hysteria as Jesse Jackson.
This time the scene is in Jena, Louisiana. The issue is the prosecution of a black high school student accused of stomping on an unconscious white student -- and the lack of criminal prosecution of white students who hung a noose on a tree, who were disciplined by the school. Liberals' skills at moral equivalence have been so finely honed during the long years of the Cold War that they have turned this into a case of "unequal treatment," based on race -- as if putting a noose on a tree is equivalent to stomping somebody who is unconscious.
The black student was found guilty but the verdict was overturned on appeal -- not on grounds that he was not guilty, but on grounds that the appellate court did not think he should have been tried as an adult. The usual legal procedure would be to try the student again, but this time not as an adult. However, the usual legal procedures are not good enough for those who have once again seized the opportunity to hype race -- and to hell with questions of guilt or innocence or legal procedures. The immediate demand of the mobs that have been mobilized around the country to descend on the small town of Jena is that the young man found guilty of a serious crime of violence should be free on bail pending a second trial.
The legal question is whether letting someone accused of such a crime go free on bail is likely to mean that he will not be around long enough for a second trial. But no one is seriously debating that. Racial hype has replaced all rational discussion. Moreover, the Jena episode has shown that two can play the racial hype game. Neo-Nazis have published the names and home addresses of all the young blacks involved in the school incident. The slogan "No justice, no peace" has been used to justify settling legal issues in the streets, instead of in courts of law. Neo-Nazis have now helped demonstrate what a dangerous slogan that is, since different people have opposite ideas of what "justice" is in a given situation.
Long after the imported demonstrators have left, and the national media have lost interest, the families of the black youngsters involved in the school altercation will have to live with the knowledge that their privacy and security have both been lost in a racially polarized community, with vengeful elements. The last thing the South needs is a return to lynch-mob justice, whatever the color of whoever is promoting it.
Back in the 1950s, when the federal courts began striking down the Jim Crow laws in the South, one of the rising demands across the country was that the discriminators and segregationists obey "the law of the land." But, somewhere along the way, the idea also arose and spread that not everybody was supposed to obey "the law of the land." Violations of law by people with approved victim status like minorities, or self-righteous crusaders like environmentalists, were to be met with minimal resistance -- if any resistance at all -- and any punishment of them beyond a wrist-slap was "over-reacting."
College campuses became bastions of the new and sanctified mob rule, provided that the mobs are from the list of groups approved as politically correct. Otherwise, even an injudicious remark could bring swift and certain punishment under "speech codes."
The politics of condoned law-breaking is part of the moral dry rot of our times. So is settling issues in the streets on the basis of race, instead of in courts on the basis of law.
Orwell lives: 'Rewrite British history to reflect other cultures'
Parts of British history need to be rewritten to emphasise the roles played by other races and religions like Muslims, a prominent race relations campaigner has said. Trevor Philips, the chairman of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, said the history of Britain did not properly reflect the contribution of other cultures. Rewriting the country's history would demonstrate to Britons in the 21st century how other groups apart from Anglo Saxons shaped the nation.
He told a fringe meeting at the Labour conference: "We may need to revisit our national story - we want to rewrite that story to tell the whole story." The rewriting should start with the story of how the English fleet led by Sir Francis Drake fought off the Spanish Armada in 1588, he said. The important role played by the Muslim Turks, who delayed the sailing of the Spanish fleet so that the English ships were better prepared, had been airbrushed out of the story however. Mr Phillips said: "When we talk about the Armada, it was the Turks who saved us because they held up the Armada after a request from Elizabeth I. "Let's rewrite that, so we have an ideal that brings us together so that it can bind us together in stormy times ahead in the next century." [There is in fact no evidence that the Turks took any action to trouble Spain at the time concerned]
Mr Phillips, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, declined to offer any other examples of parts of British history that should be rewritten. He also said that he supported a campaign by the musician Billy Bragg for a new written constitution to define what it means to be British in the 21st century. "We have to have an expression that is native and right for us," he said. "We have to have a more explicit set of understandings under which we can all live together."
Mr Phillips, who was educated at Queen's College Boys School in Guyana, also suggested that there should be a set celebration for when people were given British nationality. Nationality lessons were necessary because people were moving around the country more than ever before, providing less opportunities to integrate. Last year 6.5 million people moved house, he said. Earlier this week Mr Phillips said that economic migrants could be forced to make a bigger contribution to the cost of public services. Mr Phillips said that some migrants who stay in the UK only for a short time should pay more for the use of schools and hospitals.
The Islamist Trojan Horse
"We're fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here" has become a hymn for the American right and an abominable lie to the left. But drowned out by all the noise is the fact that "they" are here already, having landed a long time ago and gotten very busy indeed constructing the American wing of jihad.
Have you watched the Arabic Channel, also known as TAC, which serves the New York region? Probably not, as most New Yorkers neither understand nor speak Arabic. But if you are among the estimated 1 million viewers - legal and illegal, new and old Arabic-speaking immigrants to the tri-state area - who tune in daily to Channel 507 on Time Warner Cable, this is what you can get:
* A daily dose of Islamic jurisprudence from an Egyptian sheik, Amr Khaled, who comes direct from Cairo as TAC's prime advocate of "peaceful jihad," on how the duty of every Arab-American is to become first, second, and only a member of the Muslim Ummah.
* A nightly helping of Syria's CNN-style digest of the world, sent fresh from a Damascus studio where the Iraq war is nothing but an American butchery of Arabs, and the Zionist regime in Jerusalem is just biding its time until it gets what it deserves.
* A sprinkling of Egyptian and Syrian soap operas (though TAC completely avoids footage of "Oriental" dancing and other "infidel" joys of life).
On its Web site, TAC says it is now 14 years old and serves the "Greater New York City Metropolitan area, including Jersey City, Bergen County, N.J., and Mt. Vernon, N.Y." through cable and satellite transmission.
TAC's ownership and funding are, to put it mildly, ambiguous. What is clear is that someone is funding this Islamist Trojan Horse already anchored inside the American fortress.
A careful dissection of the Mearsheimer and Walt claims
They claim that the Jews have too much influence on American policy. All the 40-odd Jews in Congress are OK of course -- because they are nearly all Democrats
Mearsheimer and Walt live in the same foreign policy world I inhabit, and no one familiar with their extensive scholarship or their lives ever accused them of harboring anti-Semitic sentiments ... until the appearance of their article last year. And such charges are not unusual in this little world. But as my mother often said, "They asked for trouble" - by the way they make their arguments, by their puzzlingly shoddy scholarship, by what they emphasize and de-emphasize, by what they leave out and by writing on this sensitive topic without doing extensive interviews with the lobbyists and the lobbied.
Early on, they write that the Jewish lobby is "certainly not a cabal or conspiracy that `controls' U.S. foreign policy." They go on: "It is simply a powerful interest group, made up of both Jews and gentiles, whose acknowledged purpose is to press Israel's case within the United States. ... Like the efforts of other ethnic lobbies and interest groups, the activities of the Israel lobby's various elements are legitimate forms of democratic political participation, and they are for the most part consistent with America's long tradition of interest-group activity." No problem here.
But then they heat things up, declaring that no lobby has ever been more powerful. They start quoting others, like former Representative Lee Hamilton, who said in 1991 that "there's no lobby group that matches it." And they cite a number of staff members for the lobby bragging about their power. One said: "In 24 hours, we could have the signatures of 70 senators on this napkin." Publishing these one-liners as some kind of evidence is not the stuff of good scholarship.
Most tellingly, and contrary to their careful opening definitions, Mearsheimer and Walt move on to one story after another, premised on the lobby's domination of United States policy toward the Middle East. But they rarely back that premise up.
It's true, for instance, that the lobby has made America's longstanding $3 billion annual aid program to Israel untouchable and indiscussible. By the same token, there isn't much discussion about the $2 billion yearly aid package for Egypt. The United States regards this $5 billion as insurance against an Egyptian-Israeli war, and it's cheap at double the price.
The lobby also gives hives and hesitation to any administration thinking about criticizing Israel publicly. But instinctively and without being lobbied, American presidents don't want to gang up on Israel, since virtually every other state does so. While most countries hammer Israel for crackdowns on the Palestinians, they hardly ever criticize Palestinian terrorists or other Arab terrorists and say little about the misdeeds of Arab and Muslim dictators. As for the American government, the record clearly shows that when Israel crosses certain important lines, as when it expanded Jewish settlements into Palestinian areas like the West Bank and Gaza, Washington usually expresses its displeasure in public and, even more so, in private. Mearsheimer and Walt just don't mention that.
More troublingly, they don't seriously review the facts of the two most critical issues to Israel and the lobby - arms sales to Arab states and the question of a Palestinian state - matters on which the American position has consistently run counter to the so-called all-powerful Jewish lobby.
For several decades, administration after administration has sold Saudi Arabia and other Arab states first-rate modern weapons, against the all-out opposition of Israel and the lobby. And make no mistake, these arms have represented genuine security risks to Israel. (Interestingly, Israel does not oppose the new $20 billion proposed arms sale to the Saudis, on the grounds that the weapons are needed against Iran, the bigger threat; and not surprisingly, Israel is reportedly receiving substantial additional military aid as well.)
And on the policy issue that has counted most to Israel and the lobby - preventing the United States from accepting a Palestinian state prior to a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinians - it's fair to say Washington has quietly sided with the Palestinians for a long time. Every administration since 1967, when Israel won a war and occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has privately favored returning almost all of that territory to the Palestinians for the purposes of creating a separate Palestinian state. President George W. Bush finally said this publicly in 2001, but Israeli leaders and lobbyists who weren't in total denial knew the unspoken reality all along. If the lobby and Israel called the shots the way Mearsheimer and Walt and so many other Middle East experts insist, the United States would not have sold all those arms to the Arabs and never would have leaned in private toward a Palestinian state.
Most unbiased students of the matter would probably agree that the lobby is the single most influential force on American policy toward Israel. But among lobbies in Washington, it is one among many strong players. It is almost certainly less powerful than the pro-Taiwan China lobby, which successfully blocked American contacts with China, or even talk of it, throughout most of the cold war. It doesn't touch the power of the gun lobby, or AARP when it presses for the interests of senior citizens. In fact, just to set all of this in a perspective that should be known to Mearsheimer and Walt, lobbying is how American democracy works. We have a democracy of "minorities rule," as the great Yale political scientist Robert Dahl once explained, writing of the endless array of special-interest groups that control their issues almost totally.
As part of their incomplete picture, the two authors also minimize the lobbying influence of the Saudis and the oil companies, the other major forces on Middle East policy. The Saudis, along with the Egyptians, have been significant voices in Washington, arguing for a Palestinian state. Moreover, if Mearsheimer and Walt had asked policy participants over the years, they would have been told that the Saudis are the single most potent regional voice in American policy toward the gulf. And Riyadh, at least as much as Jerusalem, has been urging Washington to confront Iran. As for the oil companies, Mearsheimer and Walt say it's obvious the firms want peace because peace is good for business. But it's hard to ignore the fact that the Iraq war has added tens of billions to their coffers.
In any event, the real issue is not whether the Israel lobby controls policy toward Israel and the Middle East. All strong lobbies aspire to exercise control. The real issue is whether the Jewish lobby's power seriously undermines or damages American interests.
Where Israel should stand in the hierarchy of American national interests has been one of the hot-button issues of American foreign policy since Israel's founding in 1948. The first big question was whether the United States should recognize Israel at the United Nations. The most memorable battle over this issue took place in front of President Harry Truman. The contenders were his young but formidable counsel, Clark Clifford, and Secretary of State George Marshall, the single most respected American foreign policy figure of his era.
Clifford argued for recognition on moral and historical grounds. The United States and the world had a moral obligation to support a Jewish state because everyone had stood by and done nothing during the Holocaust. Marshall retorted that recognition would distort America's true interests in the Arab world, mainly securing oil, to gain Jewish political backing at home. To Marshall, a few million Jews in their own state amid a sea of tens of millions of Arabs would cause nothing but grief for America, and in the end, the Arabs would drive the Jews into the sea anyway. Truman backed Clifford, but the battle never ended.
Israel and the lobby made, and for good reasons won, the case during the cold war that Israel was a strategic asset for the United States. During this period, many Arab leaders played games with Moscow and were not reliable allies. By contrast, Washington could count fully on Israel for intelligence and joint weapons development and as a base of military operations, if need be. But with the Soviet Union's demise and the rise of new threats, the argument reopened about how vital Israel really was to the United States.
And here we arrive at the heart of the thesis of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy":
"Many policies pursued on Israel's behalf now jeopardize U.S. national security. The combination of unstinting U.S. support for Israel and Israel's prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory has fueled anti-Americanism throughout the Arab and Islamic world, thereby increasing the threat from international terrorism and making it harder for Washington to deal with other problems, such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program. Because the United States is now so unpopular within the broader region, Arab leaders who might otherwise share U.S. goals are reluctant to help us openly, a predicament that cripples U.S. efforts to deal with a host of regional challenges."
At one level, this argument is obviously correct. Of course, America's close ties with Israel compound its problems with Arabs and Muslims. But at a deeper level, one ignored by Mearsheimer and Walt, these problems would not disappear or seriously lessen if Washington abandoned Israel. The main source of anti-Americanism and anti-American terrorism is America's deep ties with highly unpopular regimes in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not to mention the war in Iraq.
Similarly, Mearsheimer and Walt mostly dodge the question of how to fix this problem. They don't want to abandon Israel, they say, but they do want the United States to distance itself from Israeli policies. Does that mean talking to the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists? These groups are relentlessly committed to violence and to the total destruction of Israel. What is there to talk about? As for pressing Israel to turn over the territories and accept Palestinian statehood now, there is the slight problem of which Palestinians to bargain with - the Hamas leaders, who genuinely have broad support, or the far less popular and far more corrupt Fatah party. Besides, what concessions do Mearsheimer and Walt want Israel to make beyond what it has made? In the closing days of the Clinton administration, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met almost all Palestinian demands for a negotiated solution and was effectively turned down.
To be sure, Washington's ties with Israel make things harder for United States policy, but historically, the prime effect of the relationship has been to provide Arab leaders and discontented Arabs with an excuse for not putting their own houses in order. I doubt Mearsheimer and Walt believe that if Washington stiff-armed Israel, this would induce Arab leaders to address their real problems or produce peace in the Middle East.
Then there is the issue of nuclear weapons and taming the proliferation genie. Yes, Israel's nuclear ability adds to the hurdles Washington faces. But Mearsheimer and Walt should know that the driving force behind Saddam Hussein's quest for these arms had much less to do with Israel's nuclear weapons than with the threats he saw from Iran and the United States. The same is true for Iran today. Like Hussein, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows that only the United States can topple him and the regime of the mullahs he represents, and he wants the bomb principally for deterrence.
America's central strategic problem in the region - the main reason to worry about future terrorists, nuclear proliferation and energy supplies - is that we need our corrupt, inept and unpopular Arab allies because the likely alternative to them is far worse. There is no reliable and strong Arab moderate force in the Middle East at present. Washington's long-term goal must be to help build one. Yet Mearsheimer and Walt offer us no counsel on how to do this.
It's important to remember that the shah of Iran was overthrown not because he enjoyed good relations with Israel, which he did, but because a majority of his own people came to hate his regime and also his ties to the United States. There was no sustainable moderate center between the shah and the fanatical mullahs. And the lack of such a center is precisely what Washington needs to worry about now in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
As it happens, America's commitment to Israel rests far more on moral and historical grounds than on strict strategic ones. Israel does not harm American security interests to anywhere near the degree that Mearsheimer and Walt claim it does. And the major reality is that despite whatever difficulties the Israeli-American relationship might cause, the United States is helping to protect one of the few nations in the world that share American values and interests, a true democracy. This is the greatest strategic bond between the two countries. (And not to be overlooked is the fact that when push has come to shove, Israel has always defended itself.)
The inevitable last question is this: Why have two such serious students of United States foreign policy written so weak a book and added fuel, inadvertently, to the fires of anti-Semitism? The answer lies in their treatment of the Iraq war.
Mearsheimer and Walt should feel very proud, indeed, for their foresight in opposing the Iraq war. Their writings were more on target than anyone's, and they are justifiably mystified about how the United States could have been so stupid and self-destructive. They appear to have reasoned that a mistake of this magnitude could have been fostered only by some irresistible force. And the only such force they can conjure from the landscape of the powerful is the Israel lobby, as embodied by neoconservative gladiators like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. In the authors' words, "the lobby did not cause the war by itself. ... But absent the lobby's influence, there almost certainly would not have been a war. The lobby was a necessary but not sufficient condition for a war that is a strategic disaster for the United States and a boon for Iran, Israel's most serious regional adversary."
Their vitriol about the Iraq war - about being so right while others were so wrong - is so overwhelming that they minimize two key facts. First, America's foreign policy community, including many Democrats as well as Republicans, supported the war for the very same reasons that Wolfowitz and the lobby did - namely, the fact that Hussein seemed to pose a present or future threat to American national interests. Second, the real play-callers behind the war were President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. They hardly have a history of being in the pockets of the Jewish lobby (more like the oil lobby's), and they aren't remotely neoconservatives. The more we know, the clearer it is that the White House went to war primarily to erase the "blunder" of the elder Bush in not finishing off Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf war of 1991.
Now, Mearsheimer and Walt fear that Israel and the lobby will shove the United States into a new war with Iran: "They are the central forces today behind all the talk ... about using military force to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. Unfortunately, such rhetoric makes it harder, not easier, to stop Iran from going nuclear."
They are right again about why the United States should not be making counterproductive threats about war against Iran, let alone fighting another war. But they are wrong again about the prime movers behind the bombast. Wolfowitz and Perle and company surely favor another nice little war, but they are temporarily discredited. Meanwhile, plenty of foreign policy experts and politicians now call for "getting Iran." And by the way, so do the two most powerful men in America, who neither need nor heed lobbying - George Bush and Dick Cheney.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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