Friday, September 27, 2002

If you've come here from NRO's Corner, the post being referred to is here.
Don't spend today here. Spend it instead considering all of the serious and thoughtful commentary on war at Slate (especially Weisberg and O'Hanlon), at TNR (especially Walzer, Lizza, and this editorial that answers the question "What happens to TNR when its foundational commitments to Middle East hawkishness and to Al Gore come into conflict?), at NRO (this editorial, Hanson, Volokh), at Dan Drezner's and Virginia Postrel's blogs, at this Hitchens piece, and in the realists' antiwar ad in yesterday's NYT (not online that I can find). The quality and seriousness of arguments on both sides has taken a significant upturn this week (online and in the intellectual press, not in the political sphere). Minds now seem to be sufficiently concentrated on the most important of the questions.
Campus Watch yet again: this New York Times article commits two substantial mistakes. The first is that it makes it sound as though the only people who have problems with Campus Watch are those who share the politics of John Esposito or Judith Butler. The second is that (egged on by the Butler petition, I suppose) it perpetuates the idea that Campus Watch is simply monitoring the published views of professors, with no mention of either CW's anonymously-sourced monitoring of teaching or its "dossiers" on nonviolent student speech. The article offers the strange statement that CW is "citing... professors and... universities for their views on Palestinian rights or political Islam." Most universities don't have views as such. The insidiousness of the "university dossiers" is masked by that anthropomorphification of universities; it's the views of students and faculty that are being monitored. On the other hand, that phrasing in the leadoff paragraph is a significant rhetorical victory for Butler et. al., since it doesn't mention anti-Semitism, personal links to terrorist groups, or suppression of classroom dissent, all of which CW alleges about some of the cited professors.

The Judith Butler quotation utterly grates on me, and I want to be clear that by criticizing Campus Watch I am not aligning myself with her political viewpoint. I'm arguing that there could be a legitimate role for someone to do some of what Campus Watch does, but that CW is doing it in disreputable, shoddy, and dangerous ways. That sloppiness is in evidence in Pipes' comment that the associations with the word "dossier" just never occured to him. This is either disingenuous or a sign of (politely) a tin ear or (less politely) stupidity.

Martin Kramer's careful comment on CW discussed below is starting to strike me as Kramer distancing himself, as much as politeness to his colleagues and friends allows, from CW's lack of careful judgment. (For my initial commentaries on CW, see here and here. For another problem with the NYT article, see yourish, link courtesy of Instapundit.)

Thursday, September 26, 2002

More on Campus Watch: See Martin Kramer's careful commentary (scroll down). Kramer, who stirred up a storm last year with his provocative Ivory Towers On Sand, seems to me to get things right-- though he ends up sympathetic to Campus Watch and I don't. He notes "just for the record, I'm proud to be associated with the Middle East Forum [Campus Watch's parent organization] as editor of its print journal, but I am not involved in the selection of emphases over at Campus Watch." He draws at least some of the sorts of distinctions that I've been complaining Campus Watch doesn't.
Instapundit links to an old piece of his about academics commenting on current events-- well worth a look.

One more bit about the University of Chicago. This week I was involved in a freshman orientation event-- a sort-of moot court on the hypothetical question of whether Nathan Hale, the vicious racist founder of the World Church of the Creator and a proponent of "racial holy war"-- would be allowed to speak on campus if invited by a student group. In the first place, I love that this is Chicago's approach to an orientation event about campus diversity: have an argument, and talk about free speech a lot. The contrast with freshman orientation at my dearly-beloved alma mater, Brown, couldn't have been starker. While I've long argued that Brown's reputation for orthodox political correctness is basically undeserved, orientation week was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the most orthodox sect of the race-gender-class church, and argument was not welcome. (Let me emphasize: this was only true of orientation week.) Second, the trial was introduced by an address by a senior university administrator telling the students, more or less, "This is a place for argument, not a place for your feelings to be protected. Get used to it." Third, the post-trial vote by the freshmen was 56%-44% in favor of letting the speaker speak. This is the place singled out by Campus Watch as a hotbed of political correctness-- though I guess that by CW's bizarre standards, allowing the white supremacist onto campus might count as proof that we'd been captured by the postcolonialist Islamist left, since after all Hale doesn't like Jews either.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

NRO's Corner is all a-twitter today about this story that an Islamic court in the UK has issued a fatwa of death against Terence McNally. [Note on September 24: The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Webhas now picked this up, presumably from NRO though they don't say so.] This sounded somewhat familiar, so I dug out a copy of a book called The Multiculturalism of Fear, published in 2000. I found the following (p. 48:)

"A British Islamic court has issued a sentence of death against the playwright Terrence McNally, on the grounds that his play Corpus Christi portrays Jesus (an honored prophet in Islam, though not the Messiah) as homosexual. It happens that, unlike the decade-long fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, this sentence is explicitly not to be carried out by individual Muslims, but only by any Islamic State McNally enters. But the more interesting difference, from our current perspective, is that McNally has never been Muslim. Unlike in the Rushdie case, there is not even a pretense of a community judging one of its own. Leaving the community alone to manage its own affairs is not an option; a conflict has arisen between the laws of the state and the (presumably authoritatively-interpreted) legal tradition of a minority culture. The customs, rules, and legal traditions of neighboring communities interact and conflict in all sorts of ways. The communities must have some framework for managing those interactions, and some frameworks are better than others. In this case, a framework that allowed British Muslims to attack McNally (if such had been the terms of the fatwa) would be much worse than the existing one, in which the state insists that the protections of the criminal law against violence take absolute priority over the rules of any minority community."

I found there a footnote to James Lyons, "Islamic Court Condemns Author Who Depicts Jesus as a Homosexual," The Independent, Saturday 30 October 1999, p. 3.

I'm unable to find any material change between that three-year old news and what's being reported as if it were new by the BBC. There was a particular protest, but doesn't the BBC article make it sound as if the sentence itself is new?

UPDATE: Indeed, there's nothing new about the BBC article because the BBC article is itself three years old. This fatwa was issued in October 1999. The same group ("Shariah Court of the UK," by the way, being a self-given title, not an official one; the radically decentralized ability to issue ostensibly-binding fatwas is a frequent source of confusion) has since issued a fatwa of death against all members of a gay Muslim organization in Britain and recruited British Muslims as jihadic fighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This is a particularly nasty group of British Islamist extremists who have publicly expressed their hope that Britain will be made an Islamic state ruled by sharia; it's not the official voice of Islam in the UK. But now a question for Rod Dreher in The Corner: why did you link to this three-year-old article as if it were new news? UPDATE AGAIN: Asked and gracefully answered. Dreher says "My bad; it was presented to me as new news, and I should have checked the date on the story."

UPDATE AGAIN: The apparently much-larger and more mainstream Muslim Council of Britain seems to have made a habit of criticizing that small, nasty group of interlocking Islamist charities. I quote here from an August 17 letter to the editor of the Express from Inayat Bunglawala, Media Committee Secretary of the MCB:

"THE disgraceful recent antics of Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza al-Masri together with their veiled threats of violence against our country in the event of a war against Iraq have caused widespread dismay and anger among ordinary British Muslims. It seems they are determined to help the cause of the racist British National Party in their goal of portraying Muslims as disloyal and potential 'fifthcolumnists'. I doubt whether the BNP have two better recruiting sergeants than Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza. The real victims of their hateful and inflammatory rhetoric have been British Muslims who are left facing a racist backlash. In the wake of September 11 and the shameful response of Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza to that tragedy, the Muslim Council of Britain began to receive report after report of mosques being despoiled; one Bolton mosque was even firebombed while there were still children inside. British Muslims are certainly opposed to a new war against Iraq but this is not because of any illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a vile dictator who has in the past invaded Iran and Kuwait, killing hundreds of thousands of Muslims. He has also inflicted tremendous suffering on his own people and was responsible for using poison gas to kill Kurds in 1988. Our opposition to a new war will be expressed only through democratic channels. There is certainly no room for making veiled threats against our country. Indeed, this only betrays a fascist mentality in those that make them. It is important to understand that of the 800 mosques in the UK, Omar Bakri does not run a single one, while Abu Hamza has recently been ordered to stop using Finsbury Park mosque by the Charities Commission. Whenever he is asked about the true extent of his organisation al-Muhajiroun's membership, Bakri seems to become very coy. Al-Muhajiroun's aim is to establish a worldwide Islamic state by any means. Its membership is less than 1,000. When you compare this to a total Muslim population in the UK of around two million it becomes clear that the massive press coverage these individuals have attracted has caused enormous damage to the image of mainstream British Muslims. If the media stops talking about them they may even perhaps both leave and go to live somewhere else. "

The MCB's website is filled with some material I find distasteful and more that I simply disagree with. But it's not filled with fatwas against gays, calls for violence, calls for the taking up of arms against the west, celebration of September 11, or any of the rest of the vile output of Bakri and his groups. Good for the BCM for taking on the extremists. I wonder when CAIR will do the same?

FINAL UPDATE: On the one hand, the fact that this story could resurface three years later and make the web rounds without its age being noticed indicates that the McNally fatwa a) hasn't been Rushdie-level news because b) there's been no sign of anyone doing anything to carry it out. The Shariah Court carefully protected its members against incitement-to-murder charges by saying that the sentence could only be lawfully carried out by an Islamic state; and McNally doesn't seem to have had travel plans to Iran or Saudi Arabia in the first place. That's the good news, such as it is. On the other hand, the awful fact that we're not really surprised by the fatwa also helps to explain the lack of public memory that it was issued three years ago. That's the very bad news.

And of course the worse news is that, unlike the U.S. reconstructionist Christian movement that wants to execute all sorts of people (gays, adulterers, blasphemers, etc), Bakri and his associates have had an international network of well-funded, violent, and until-recently-running-a-state like-minded friends. (The Reconstructionists only have the U.S. Taxpayers' Party.) Bakri's network seems to be at the center of every dreadul thing one hears about extremist Islam in Britain. That means that we shouldn't generalize from the frequency of such stories into thinking that all of British Islam is like this. But it also means that Bakri's network is quite dreadful, and it reminds us of the tight relationship between the internal-religious face of Islamism (seeking the deaths of gay Muslims, for instance) and its international face (al-Qaeda).

It also reminds us to read The Multiculturalism of Fear, in which much of this was discussed long before September 11...
Tapped ("petty slights and insults") and Marc Fisher ("expects nations to abide by the same rules of friendship that govern prep-school boys") both suggest that the Bush administration's post-election coolness to the German government is a fit of petty personal presidential pique. Someone who understands diplomacy better than I do (paging Dan Drezner!) should feel free to correct me, but this seems like a bizarre misreading to me. Subtly nuanced, finely calibrated compliments and slights are the stuff diplomacy is made of. Who sits where at dinner, who gets invited to what dinner, who travels to what country when and meets with which officials, and, yes, who places or accepts which phone calls are the typical ways that states signal pleasure and displeasure to each other without actually changing policy (withdrawing from alliances or entering new ones, slapping on sanctions or lowering trade barriers, etc). For Bush to skip the customary call to Schroeder while Powell accepts the customary call from Fischer seems to me like a carefully-planned response to the question "How do we express official unhappiness here without worsening the damage to the alliance?" I'm willing to bet that there was a very deliberate discussion, involving protocol experts from State, that preceded Bush's refusal to place the call. That is, the administration's not violating diplomatic rules and niceties out of personal annoyance; it's following them quite carefully. The President has been known to personalize foreign policy too much (i.e. the "Why are you attacking my brother?" whine to Europeans who slapped retaliatory tariffs on Florida oranges) but I'm pretty sure that this isn't a case of that. UPDATE: Dan Drezner responds.
New today: Jay Nordlinger's reflections on Australia, and on the Oz-US alliance. He promises that "In a future Impromptus, I’m going to reprint a statement by an Australian politician — in support of America and its current efforts— that’ll knock your socks off." The remarkable thing is that I don't know which of many such he has in mind. For how many U.S. allies can one say that? Even for Britain, today it would be clear that the quote would be from Blair, even if we didn't know which particular quote was being referred to.

I've posted my own considerations on Australia and the alliance here, here, and here. One quick addition to the "give those people what they want" story from one of Nordlinger's correspondents: in addition to not having chipped in much on East Timor, the U.S. does badly by Australia in other important ways, notably trade-related. Australia is the rare rich country that has a basically free market in agriculture-- no massive distorting export subsidies, price supports, and all the rest. ("Basically" free because there-- as I recall-- are some implicit subsidies in the supply of water, and until recent decades there was a large implicit subsidy in the supply of formerly-Aboriginal land. But the U.S., f'r'instance, has those plus a whole lot more, and Europe is worse still, and Japan worse again.) Australia has from time to time requested that the U.S. lay off some particular subsidy, and to the best of my recollection the request has never been granted-- even when the U.S. was subsidizing exports to some market in which Australian (unsubsidized) products were the only competitor, and so the old "Europe does it too!" excuse was utterly irrelevant. Freeing trade is the right thing to do in general, and is in the interest of the country freeing trade as Brink Lindsey never fails to point out. It shouldn't be understood as a favor that the freeing country does for the other one. But since the public all over the world does understand freeing trade as that sort of favor, it might be nice if occasionally we did such a favor for our single most reliable ally.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

With regard to Todd Zywicki's calls to repeal the 17th Amendment (an idea I've certainly entertained) I note that most places with bicameral legislatures try to get them elected or selected in different ways, in order to get "ambition to check ambition." Germany relies on something like the pre-17th Amendment system; the upper house represents the state governments directly (so that when a state government changes party hands, the state's representation in the upper house changes immediately--unlike the pre-17th US Constitution, in which Senators were elected for a stable seven years.) The House of Lords has now become almost-entirely an appointed body without any real organizing principle. The Canadian Senate (as I underwstand it, which is not well) is similar. The Australian Senate is elected on a proportional basis, unlike the single-transferrable vote rules for the lower house, which translates into small parties often being able to pick up one or two of a state's six senators despite being shut out of the House. In high school they taught us, more or less, that it was an inevitable result of "democracy" that eventually Senators came to be elected as if they were running for particularly large (and unequally-populated) House seats. This appears not to be so. On the other hand, many of the upper houses I mentioned have gradually become much less powerful than the Senate, and much less powerful than their lower counterparts. (The Canadian Senate matters even less than the House of Lords does, these days.) Without the 17th, the Senate might have gone the same way-- resulting in the loss of real bicameralism instead of the salvation of real federalism. As Tocqueville knew, the pressure for democracy in a democratic age is powerful. We shouldn't assume that its consequences can be treated as mere intellectual mistakes, even when they are intellectual mistakes. It's a real surprise that the United States has managed to hold onto as much federalism as it has, onto two-Senators-per-state, onto a very powerful independent judiciary appointed for life (at least at the federal level), and onto pretty genuine bicameralism and separation of executive from legislature. Even if the original 1787 apparatus were clearly better as a matter of constitutional engineering than the current mechanism, it might have been too politically fragile. If it had not bent with the 17th amendment, it might have broken later say, during the Terrible Twenties and Thirties when constitutional democracies were swept away by populist-authoritarianism in much of the world, and we had Longs, Coughlins, and Roosevelts of our own. A defense of the 17th along these lines is kind of like a defense of the 1937 "switch in time that saved nine" by the Supreme Court, not because the switch was constitutionally correct, but because it did manage to "save nine"-- that is, to save substantial judicial independence from a court packing precedent that would have left us with New Deal constitutional revisionism and with a cowed, subservient judiciary and with a precedent for presidents changing the constitutional rules whenever they weren't getting their way. But the defense of the 17th isn't quite that bad, because the old Senate wasn't abolished in the heat of some particular political argument about what it was doing, and so accepting the 17th wasn't quite as shamelessly opportunistic. CORRECTION: D'oh! Senators were, of course, elected for six years-- typing "17" so many times put "seven" onto my brain. Thanks to the readers who pointed this out.

Monday, September 23, 2002

New and important today: Michael Walzer's article in TNR arguing against going to war in Iraq. I'll be reading his essay more carefully than I have yet, and perhaps responding to it. But Walzer's is a voice to be taken very seriously; he is a friend of Israel, a supporter of the United States, and an opponent of the anti-American and Islamist sympathies on the radical left. He is also our leading scholar of justice and morality in wartime. He may be wrong, but he can't be dismissed. Kudos to TNR for publishing such a prominent criticism of its editorial line.
Also new: this remarkable front-page NYT article from Saturday on the end of varsity possibilitities for unrecruited male college athletes. The article even mentions the connection to the current mal-interpretation of Title IX, though not so prominently as it deserves. Unmentioned is the Bowen and Shulman study showing a dramatic increase in the scale of collegiate athletic recruitment and the in the magnitude of the admissions preference for recruited athletes. Title IX is the rock, stepped-up recruitment and dumbed-down admissions standards are the hard place, and caught in the middle are male college students who just want to play. I favor a radical reduction in the importance of sports on college campuses (and especially in admissions). The changes reported in this article seem to me to undermine one of the remaining defenses given of college sports. They no longer provide an opportunity for those students who would be at the college anyways and who have interest in playing. They provide opportunities only for preprofessional recruits, and for women, who continue not to show interest comparable to men's. If this large pool of eager students admitted without athletic preferences is being squeezed out, despite their interest in playing, then collegiate sports is not serving the purpose of providing an outlet for interested, qualified students. One coach is quoted as saying that these students should go off and join the debate team. I'm fine with that, of course; a debate team has a much closer link to collegiate purposes than does a preprofessional football team. But if there's no room for academically qualified students on the football team, then there shouldn't be any room for the football team on campus. Otherwise the team is justifiable only in circular terms: it exists for the benefit of players who would have no business being on campus if the team didn't exist.

FOLLOW-UP: See Richard Just's argument about what the much- (and mostly-correctly-) maligned U.S. News rankings have to do with the dominance of sports on most campuses. (Just notes that the only university administrators brag about three easily-quantifiable results: athletic victories, U.S. News rankings, and the number of Nobel Prize-winners. Chicago has slipped in the U.S. News poll, and I'm delighted to say that sports are a non-issue on this campus. We brag about the third...)
I've been Instapunditted! Thanks, Glenn. Welcome, new readers. The post Instapundit mentioned is here. The short version: Campus Watch, in its "dossiers" on professors and universities, mixes different categories of events in very disturbing ways. There is a real need to keep track of wickedness such as the student suppression of Netanyahu's talk at Concordia, and Concordia's subsequent shutting down of all Middle East-related events; the San Fancisco State University attacks on pro-Israeli demonstrators; and other instances of shutting down pro-Israeli or pro-Jewish speech, whether by violent students or by administrators. There is also a legitimate purpose in keeping track of the biases of Middle East Studies as a discipline, and in publicly engaging that discipline's practitioners. (Martin Kramer, of course, has been the leader in this enterprise.) And institutional attacks on Israel or on the United States-- the proposed divestment from companies that do business with Israel, the vicious boycott of Israeli academics-- should be publicly engaged, denounced, and shamed.

The monitoring of classroom activity is much more problematic. Except when the problem lies in the announced description of the course (as in the case of the Berkeley writing class on Palestinian issues that initially instructed conservative students to look elsewhere for a class), the accuracy of information gathered is impossible to gauge. That problem is worsened by Campus Watch's reliance on anonymous, unchecked student reports. "Bias in the classroom" isn't intrinsically a problem; it depends on whether the professor offers readings and/or guest lecturers to balance his or her own views, and on whether the professor encourages students to argue, question, and discuss. An outside monitor with a clear agenda relying on one student's anonymous report is not well-positioned to evaluate whether professors are taking these appropriate steps.

Finally, the mere expression of anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic sentiment by students, student groups, panelists, non-class lecturers, and so on, when this is not accompanied by violence, threats, or attempts to suppress rival opinions, is different in kind from the rest. Stanley Kurtz's snide defense of Campus Watch in NRO today misses this point entirely. It supposes that safely tenured radical scholars are the only ones who have anything to worry about from Campus Watch, and they obviously don't have many worries. Freedom of student speech goes unmentioned. But Campus Watch lists, alongside genuine institutional abuses, "offensive articles" published in student newspapers (offensive because they question campus Jewish institutions), the showing of an anti-Zionist film in a Palestinian film festival, the presence of offensive materials in a library, and the fact that a student told an anti-Semitic joke. The dossiers are not at all restricted to the writings of professors, or to instances of the suppression of pro-Israeli viewpoints. The failure to suppress speech one does not like is not equivalent to suppressing speech one does like. This is a basic premise of a free society, and an absolutely fundamental premise of universities. But Campus Watch mixes the two. The need to monitor events such as that at Concordia does not translate into it being appropriate to monitor and publicly censure every student expression of an anti-Israeli viewpoint, much less into a need to install tests of Zionistic-correctness on the content of libraries.

Kurtz again: "It is important that Campus Watch exercise caution in vetting students complaints." This it has manifestly failed to do. And again:

"No, it is not ideal to have to create an organization like Campus Watch. Far better to have the kind of intellectually diverse faculty that would make honest and substantive intellectual debate possible on campus. Far better to have professors with sufficiently diverse views that students could find and work with like-minded mentors, while also challenging themselves by taking classes with professors with whom they disagree. Far better to have a college or university that functions the way an educational institution was meant to, instead of as a training camp for leftist activists. But that is not the world we live in. And until it is, projects like Campus Watch must be welcomed and nurtured... And the very folks now screaming about Pipes are the ones who have prosecuted the most vicious and successful campaign of blacklisting in the history of the American academy." To which I'll say: 1) the University of Chicago as an overall institution clearly has a faculty with such diverse views; students who don't like the viewpoints they find in Middle East Studies can easily cross the quadrangle to work with a very different faculty in Political Science. Indeed, I venture to say that Chicago has one of the most ideologically diverse faculties of any major university in North America. 2) Chicago has not suppressed Jewish or Zionist speech, and has not even entertained the possibility of divesting from Israel. (Indeed, we have an institutional precommitment to prevent the university from taking political stands of that sort, found in the Kalven Report of 1967-- in my view a wise precommitment that other universities would do well to make.) 3) Nonetheless, the University of Chicago has been singled out for attack by Campus Watch, alongside such places as Berkeley and SFSU. 4) And so I'm complaining (not, I suppose, "screaming") about it, though I'm not a Saidian post-colonialist Middle East scholar, I have no part in the "blacklist" Kurtz alleges, and I support Israel in general and oppose the tyrannical Arab states... because 5) I also care about protecting universities in general and the University of Chicago in particular from ideological, political-correctness-style attacks on free speech and intellectual freedom, and because Campus Watch has adopted shoddy procedures and standards that discredit its cause and will make it actively harder for those of us inside the academy to oppose what really needs to be opposed. Their "dossiers" lack all of the care and caution that one sees, for instance, in the work of FIRE to consistently protect free speech on campus.