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Opinion | The Secrets of Jewish Genius - The New York Times
By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist

Dec. 27, 2019

** “Genius & Anxiety," by Norman Lebrecht.
An erudite and delightful study of the intellectual achievements and nerve-wracked lives of Jewish thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs between 1847 and 1947. Sarah Bernhardt and Franz Kafka; Albert Einstein and Rosalind Franklin; Benjamin Disraeli and (sigh) Karl Marx — how is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?.....The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart. When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true. “Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average I.Q. of any ethnic group for which there are reliable data,”.....the “Jews are smart” explanation obscures more than it illuminates. Aside from the perennial nature-or-nurture question of why so many Ashkenazi Jews have higher I.Q.s, there is the more difficult question of why that intelligence was so often matched by such bracing originality and high-minded purpose. One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship. One can also apply brilliance in the service of a mistake or a crime, like managing a planned economy or robbing a bank.........But...Jewish genius operates differently. It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different.
Where do these habits of mind come from?

There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, “incarnate in the Jewish people” according to Einstein, that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”

And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.
These explanations for Jewish brilliance aren’t necessarily definitive. Nor are they exclusive to the Jews......At its best, the American university can still be a place of relentless intellectual challenge rather than ideological conformity and social groupthink. At its best, the United States can still be the country that respects, and sometimes rewards, all manner of heresies that outrage polite society and contradict established belief. At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t.

They are representational

The West, however, is not at its best. It’s no surprise that Jew hatred has made a comeback, albeit under new guises. Anti-Zionism has taken the place of anti-Semitism as a political program directed against Jews. Globalists have taken the place of rootless cosmopolitans as the shadowy agents of economic iniquity. Jews have been murdered by white nationalists and black “Hebrews.” Hate crimes against Orthodox Jews have become an almost daily fact of life in New York City. Jews of the late 19th century would have been familiar with the hatreds. Jews of the early 21st century should recognize where they could lead. What’s not secret about Jewish genius is that it’s a terribly fragile flower.
19th_century  20th_century  Albert_Einstein  anti-Semitism  books  Bret_Stephens  capitalization  genius  heresies  high-minded  human_capital  human_intelligence  IQ  Jewish  mental_dexterity  originality  outsiders  purpose  smart_people  talent  think_differently 
december 2019 by jerryking
Opinion | Useless Knowledge Begets New Horizons
Jan. 3, 2019 | The New York Times | By Bret Stephens, Opinion Columnist.

Fundamental discoveries don’t always have practical uses, but they have soul-saving applications......In October 1939, as Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were plunging the world into war, an American educational reformer named Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper’s magazine under the marvelous title, “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.”

Noting the way in which the concerns of modern education increasingly turned toward worldly problems and practical vocations, Flexner made a plea for “the cultivation of curiosity” for its own sake.....The marriage of disinterested science and technological wizardry on the farthest-flung adventures of the human race is what John Adams had in mind when he wrote that he had to “study Politicks and War that my sons may have the liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy.” It is among the greatest fulfillments of the American dream.....Typically, we think of the American dream in materialistic terms — a well-paid job; a half-acre lot; children with better opportunities than our own. Or we think of it in political terms, as an ever-expanding domain of ever-greater freedom and equality.

But prosperity, freedom, equality for what? The deep critique of the liberal society is that it refuses on principle to supply an answer: Each of us lives in pursuit of a notion of happiness that is utterly subjective, generally acquisitive and almost inevitably out of reach — what psychologists call the “hedonic treadmill.” Religious cults and authoritarian systems work differently: Purposes are given, answers supplied, questions discouraged or forbidden, and the burdens of individual choice and moral agency are largely lifted. They are dictatorships of meaning.....Flexner’s case for such untrammeled freedom isn’t that it’s a good unto itself. Freedom also produces a lot of garbage. His case is that freedom is the license the roving mind requires to go down any path it chooses and go as far as the paths may lead. This is how fundamental discoveries — a.k.a., “useless knowledge” — are usually made: not so much by hunting for something specific, but by wandering with an interested eye amid the unknown. It’s also how countries attract and cultivate genius — by protecting a space of unlimited intellectual permission, regardless of outcome....All of this, of course, has its ultimate uses — hence the “usefulness” of Flexner’s title. Newton’s third law of motion begets, after 250 years, the age of the rocket; the discovery of the double helix delivers, several decades later, Crispr. It’s also how nations gain or lose greatness. The “reorganized” universities of fascist Italy and Germany had no place for Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi or Albert Einstein. They became the Allies’ ultimate weapon in World War II.

Which brings us back to New Horizons, Osiris-Rex, InSight and every other piece of gear flying through the heavens at taxpayer expense and piling up data atop our already vast stores of useless knowledge. What are they doing to reduce poverty? Nothing. Environmental degradation? Zippo. The opioid crisis? Still less.

And yet, in being the kind of society that does this kind of thing — that is, the kind that sends probes to the edge of the solar system; underwrites the scientific establishment that knows how to design and deploy these probes; believes in the value of knowledge for its own sake; cultivates habits of truthfulness, openness, collaboration and risk-taking; enlists the public in the experience, and shares the findings with the rest of the world — we also discover the highest use for useless knowledge: Not that it may someday have some life-saving application on earth, though it might, but that it has a soul-saving application in the here and now, reminding us that the human race is not a slave to questions of utility alone.
breakthroughs  Bret_Stephens  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  Colleges_&_Universities  Crispr  curiosity  exploration  expeditions  free_speech  free_will  freedom  fundamental_discoveries  human_race  Joseph_Stalin  knowledge  op-ed  serendipity  soul-enriching  space_exploration  the_American_dream 
january 2019 by jerryking
Opinion | An Antidote to Idiocy in ‘Churchill’ - The New York Times
By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist

Dec. 14, 2018

historian Andrew Roberts’s “Churchill: Walking With Destiny.” A review last month in The Times called it “the best single-volume biography of Churchill yet written,” but it’s more than that. It’s an antidote to the reigning conceits, self-deceptions, half-truths and clichés of our day...We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. Think of Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and the hard-core Brexiteers. Or of what used to be called the Republican establishment and Donald Trump.

We also live in an era in which the counterexamples are few and far between. “In defeat, defiance” is another great Churchillian maxim, and it’s hard to name a single political figure today who embodies it — as opposed to, say, “in defeat, early retirement to avoid a difficult primary.”
biographies  books  Bret_Stephens  gift_ideas  Winston_Churchill 
december 2018 by jerryking
Opinion | The Real China Challenge: Managing Its Decline - The New York Times
By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist

Nov. 29, 2018

.Bret Stephens read a deeply reported and thought-provoking series in The Times about another country of the future: China. The phrase “rise of China” has now become so commonplace that we treat it more as a fact of nature than as a prediction of a very familiar sort — one made erroneously about the Soviet Union in the 1950s and ’60s; about Japan in the ’70s and ’80s; and about the European Union in the ’90s and ’00s.....Beijing has ignored orthodox economic nostrums about the need for ever-greater market liberalization and fewer state controls while still managing to thrive. ....cruelty.... forced laborers....Tyrannies do not work in the long flight.... 46 % of wealthy Chinese wish to emigrate, most of them to the U.S.....individual rights, democratic choices, rule of law, competitive markets, high levels of transparency, low levels of government corruption, independent news sources, and freedoms of thought, conscience and speech are assets beyond price.....If you define power as the power to attract and not simply compel [jk: that is, soft power], then Beijing — with its dystopian vision to fully surveil and rate all citizens by 2020 — isn’t a rising power at all. It’s a collapsing one.......What about the skyscrapers of Guangzhou? What about the world-beating test scores of students in Shanghai?.....China’s rise is not some kind of mirage. But what matters is the future, not the past, and whether a nation built on constraining the freedoms granted to ordinary people can outpace, outsmart, and outlast another nation built on defending and broadening those freedoms....American policymakers and pundits often talk about the challenge of managing China’s rise. They had better start thinking instead of the challenge of managing its decline, beginning at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires this weekend. Japan and Europe went gently into eclipse, and the Soviet Union surrendered without a fight (at least until its current revanchist phase).

Will China’s current leadership accept the possibility of their own decline so philosophically, after having convinced themselves of their rapid rise to primacy? Nobody should bet on it. A wounded tiger is rarely a placid one.
Bret_Stephens  capital_flight  China  China_rising  clichés  counterintuitive  decline  institutional_integrity  op-ed  rule_of_law  soft_power  thought-provoking  U.S.-China_relations 
november 2018 by jerryking
Opinion | How Plato Foresaw Facebook’s Folly
Nov. 16, 2018 The New York Times | By Bret Stephens, Opinion Columnist

Technology promises to make easy things that, by their intrinsic nature, have to be hard......The story of the wildly exaggerated promises and damaging unintended consequences of technology isn’t exactly a new one. The real marvel is that it constantly seems to surprise us. Why?......Part of the reason is that we tend to forget that technology is only as good as the people who use it. .....It’s also true that Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants have sold themselves not so much as profit-seeking companies but as ideal-pursuing movements.....But the deeper reason that technology so often disappoints and betrays us is that it promises to make easy things that, by their intrinsic nature, have to be hard......Tweeting and trolling are easy. Mastering the arts of conversation and measured debate is hard. Texting is easy. Writing a proper letter is hard. Looking stuff up on Google is easy. Knowing what to search for in the first place is hard. Having a thousand friends on Facebook is easy. Maintaining six or seven close adult friendships over the space of many years is hard. Swiping right on Tinder is easy. Finding love — and staying in it — is hard.

That’s what Socrates (or Thamus) means when he deprecates the written word: It gives us an out. It creates the illusion that we can remain informed, and connected, even as we are spared the burdens of attentiveness, presence of mind and memory. That may seem quaint today. But how many of our personal, professional or national problems might be solved if we desisted from depending on shortcuts?... struck by how desperately Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg sought to massage and finesse — with consultants, lobbyists and technological patches — what amounted to a daunting if simple crisis of trust. As with love and grammar, acquiring and maintaining trust is hard. There are no workarounds.
arduous  Bret_Stephens  Facebook  Greek  op-ed  pretense_of_knowledge  Socrates  technology  unintended_consequences  shortcuts  fallacies_follies  philosophy 
november 2018 by jerryking
The Happy Hooker Conservatives
OCT. 26, 2017 | The New York Times | Bret Stephens.

So where are Benda’s conservative disciples today, the ones I remember from panel discussions on the importance of moral character, the dangers of relativism, or the post-modern assault on the concept of truth?.It’s instructive to read the high-minded defenses of Trump offered by writers in Breitbart, The Washington Times, The Federalist, and the rest of the pro-Trump press..Their chief argument for Trump is that he won and is therefore a winner. Their argument against Never Trumpers is that we failed and are therefore losers. What about Trump’s character? It doesn’t matter so long as the Supreme Court remains conservative. Legislative failures are always and only the fault of “establishment Republicans.” Boorish habits are merely a matter of taste and something of a virtue in the era of snowflakes. As for the criticisms from Flake, Bush, Corker and McCain, who needs moral instruction from those sore losers and political has-beens?...Most telling is the Trumpians’ inability ever to utter a whisper of criticism of their man. Even Never Trumpers will occasionally find themselves agreeing with the administration over one issue or another. Not so the Trumpians. With instincts that recall the Stalinist intelligentsia of the 1940s, they mix the logical elasticity of the sophist with the unflinching loyalty of the toady. They are never anything except always all in.

All this suggests that what the media now trumpets as a looming G.O.P. civil war isn’t going to happen. Corker and Flake aren’t stepping up; they’re bowing out. Political retirees are good for leading charities, not movements.
Bret_Stephens  Donald_Trump  GOP  conservatism  character_traits  values  debased  high-minded 
october 2017 by jerryking
The Dying Art of Disagreement
SEPT. 24, 2017 | The New York Times | Bret Stephens.

The title of my talk tonight is “The Dying Art of Disagreement.”.......But to say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong; etiam si omnes — ego non — these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. Galileo and Darwin; Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky — such are the ranks of those who disagree......The polarization is geographic.......The polarization is personal........Finally the polarization is electronic and digital, .......What we did was read books that raised serious questions about the human condition, and which invited us to attempt to ask serious questions of our own. Education, in this sense, wasn’t a “teaching” with any fixed lesson. It was an exercise in interrogation.

To listen and understand; to question and disagree; to treat no proposition as sacred and no objection as impious; to be willing to entertain unpopular ideas and cultivate the habits of an open mind ....uChicago showed us something else: that every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say........there’s such a thing as private ownership in the public interest, and of fiduciary duties not only to shareholders but also to citizens. Journalism is not just any other business, like trucking or food services. .....But no country can have good government, or a healthy public square, without high-quality journalism — journalism that can distinguish a fact from a belief and again from an opinion; that understands that the purpose of opinion isn’t to depart from facts but to use them as a bridge to a larger idea called “truth”; and that appreciates that truth is a large enough destination that, like Manhattan, it can be reached by many bridges of radically different designs. In other words, journalism that is grounded in facts while abounding in disagreements.

I believe it is still possible — and all the more necessary — for journalism to perform these functions, especially as the other institutions that were meant to do so have fallen short. But that requires proprietors and publishers who understand that their role ought not to be to push a party line, or be a slave to Google hits and Facebook ads, or provide a titillating kind of news entertainment, or help out a president or prime minister who they favor or who’s in trouble.

Their role is to clarify the terms of debate by championing aggressive and objective news reporting, and improve the quality of debate with commentary that opens minds and challenges assumptions rather than merely confirming them.

This is journalism in defense of liberalism, not liberal in the left-wing American or right-wing Australian sense, but liberal in its belief that the individual is more than just an identity, and that free men and women do not need to be protected from discomfiting ideas and unpopular arguments. More than ever, they need to be exposed to them, so that we may revive the arts of disagreement that are the best foundation of intelligent democratic life.
assumptions  Bret_Stephens  civics  Colleges_&_Universities  courage  critical_thinking  dangerous_ideas  demagoguery  difficult_conversations  disagreements  discomforts  dissension  dual-consciousness  free_speech  good_governance  high-quality  identity_politics  journalism  liberalism  open_mind  polarization  the_human_condition  uChicago 
september 2017 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: The Marvel of American Resilience - WSJ
Dec. 22, 2014

Innovation depends less on developing specific ideas than it does on creating broad spaces. Autocracies can always cultivate their chess champions, piano prodigies and nuclear engineers; they can always mobilize their top 1% to accomplish some task. The autocrats’ quandary is what to do with the remaining 99%. They have no real answer, other than to administer, dictate and repress.

A free society that is willing to place millions of small bets on persons unknown and things unseen doesn’t have this problem. Flexibility, not hardness, is its true test of strength. Success is a result of experiment not design. Failure is tolerable to the extent that adaptation is possible.
resilience  Bret_Stephens  hydraulic_fracturing  flexibility  experimentation  failure  adaptability  autocracies  strengths  innovation  risk-taking  Cambrian_explosion 
december 2014 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: What Samuel Huntington Knew -
By BRET STEPHENS |April 21, 2014

Maybe it's something in the water. Or the culture. Or the religion. Or the educational system. Or the level of economic development. Or the underhanded ways in which authoritarian leaders manipulate media and suppress dissent. The West rarely runs out of explanations for why institutions of freedom—presumably fit for all people for all time—seem to fit only some people, sometimes.

But maybe there's something else at work. Maybe the West mistook the collapse of communism—just one variant of dictatorship—as a vindication of liberal democracy. Maybe the West forgot that it needed to justify its legitimacy not only in the language of higher democratic morality. It needed to show that the morality yields benefits: higher growth, lower unemployment, better living...."Sustained inability to provide welfare, prosperity, equity, justice, domestic order, or external security could over time undermine the legitimacy of even democratic governments," Huntington warned. "As the memories of authoritarian failures fade, irritation with democratic failures is likely to increase."
Bret_Stephens  Samuel_Huntington  dictators  dictatorships  autocrats  legitimacy 
april 2014 by jerryking
Stephens: A Church, If You Can Keep It -
March 4, 2013, 7:15 p.m. ET

A Church, If You Can Keep It
To require the unnatural means, too often, to reap the despicable.

Bret_Stephens  religion 
march 2013 by jerryking
Stephens: Failing Up With Susan Rice -
December 3, 2012, 7:23 p.m. ET

Stephens: Failing Up With Susan Rice
Benghazi was not her first African fiasco.

Susan_Rice  Bret_Stephens  appointments  APNSA 
december 2012 by jerryking
Stephens: The Hillary Myth -
July 16, 2012 | WSJ | By BRET STEPHENS

Can anyone name an achievement to justify the adulation of our secretary of state?

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Hillary_Clinton  Bret_Stephens 
july 2012 by jerryking
Stephens: Who Lost Egypt? -
June 25, 2012 |WSJ| By BRET STEPHENS

Who Lost Egypt?
Egyptians, obviously. Obama and Bush, too. And a superficial idea of 'freedom.'
Egypt  Bret_Stephens 
june 2012 by jerryking
A First Draft of History? -
March 12, 2005 | WSJ | By BRET STEPHENS

The cliché is that journalism is the first draft of history. Yet a historian searching for clues about the origins of many of the great stories of recent decades--the collapse of the Soviet empire; the rise of Osama bin Laden; the declining American crime rate; the economic eclipse of Japan and Germany--would find most contemporary journalism useless. Perhaps a story here or there might, in retrospect, seem illuminating. But chances are it would have been nearly invisible at the time of publication: eight column inches, page A12.

The problem is not that journalists can't get their facts straight: They can and usually do. Nor is it that the facts are obscure: Often, the most essential facts are also the most obvious ones. The problem is that journalists have a difficult time distinguishing significant facts--facts with consequences--from insignificant ones. That, in turn, comes from not thinking very hard about just which stories are most worth telling....As for the media, it shouldn't be too difficult to do better. Look for the countervailing data. Broaden your list of sources. Beware of exoticizing your subject:
Bret_Stephens  journalism  journalists  critical_thinking  history  signals  noise  frictions  pain_points  worthiness  countervailing  storytelling  seminal_moments  wide-framing  discernment  origin_story  historians  consequential  clichés  worthwhile_problems 
may 2012 by jerryking
Stephens: To the Class of 2012 -
May 7, 2012, 7:31 p.m. ET

Stephens: To the Class of 2012
Attention graduates: Tone down your egos, shape up your minds.

Bret_Stephens  commencement  public_speaking  speeches 
may 2012 by jerryking
Stephens: A Lesson Before Dying -
December 13, 2011 | WSJ | By BRET STEPHENS.

A Lesson Before Dying
To bemoan illness after a good life seemed ungrateful.

"The good death has increasingly become a myth," wrote the Yale surgeon and bioethicist Sherwin Nuland in his 1993 prize-winning book "How We Die." Dying, in Dr. Nuland's eloquent telling, amounts to "a series of destructive events that involve by their very nature the disintegration of the dying person's humanity." Who can—who would dare—judge a man's worth when his mind and body are being picked bare by disease?...Cancer is a heist culminating in murder....To grow up is to understand that the confidence a parent radiates around his children is rarely the confidence the parent feels. I knew my father well enough to know his various fears and insecurities...All this meant that the diagnosis should have been devastating to him. Yet he never betrayed the slightest sign of fear...Yet my father maintained his usual sangfroid even when it became clear that there would be no getting well. There were no five stages of grief, no bouts of denial, anger, bargaining and depression....Throughout his life my father taught me many lessons: about language, history and philosophy; about ethics, loyalty and love. In the end, he taught me that death cannot destroy the dignity of a dignified man.

Charles J. Stephens, 1937-2011. May his memory be for a blessing.
dying  deaths  hospice  lessons_learned  cancers  Bret_Stephens  fatherhood  grief  palliative_care  end-of-life  books  dignity 
april 2012 by jerryking
Stephens: (How) Should Israel Bomb Iran? -
FEBRUARY 7, 2012

(How) Should Israel Bomb Iran?
Diplomacy has run its course, sanctions are too late, and Israel can't cry wolf again.

Bret_Stephens  Iran  Israel  nuclear 
february 2012 by jerryking
Stephens: Is Obama Smart? -
AUGUST 9, 2011

Is Obama Smart?
A case study in stupid is as stupid does.

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Bret_Stephens  obama 
august 2011 by jerryking
Book Review: On China -
MAY 12, 2011
A Diplomat Looks East
Will Beijing continue to pursue a policy of 'peaceful rise' or become a more belligerent player on the world stage?
china  Bret_Stephens  Henry_Kissinger  book_reviews  diplomacy  APNSA  world_stage 
may 2011 by jerryking
Stephens: From Chomsky to bin Laden -
MAY 10, 2011

From Chomsky to bin Laden
The professor dons the militant's cap: It fits.

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Noam_Chomsky  Bret_Stephens  OBL  Pakistan  anti-Americanism 
may 2011 by jerryking
Stephens: Obama's Finest Hour -
MAY 3, 2011 WSJ By BRET STEPHENS vengeance stirs a wounded nation.
Bret_Stephens  Obama  OBL  vengeance 
may 2011 by jerryking
Being Hassan Nasrallah -
JULY 18, 2006 | | By BRET STEPHENS. Nasrallah is the
secretary general of Hezb Allah, or Party of God, which holds 14 of
parliament's 128 seats, including a seat in the cabinet. He provoked the
2006 war with Israel....Hezbollah's political future. Here's a fact
about Lebanon that many people would rather forget: The birth rate among
Shiites averages between eight and nine per household. By contrast,
Sunni households produce about five children, while Christians and Druze
average two. Yet Lebanon's antiquated "confessional" political system,
based in part on a 1932 census, gives Christians half the seats in
parliament (as well as the presidency), while Shiites, who may already
be a majority, are allotted only 27 seats. Is this "democratic"?
Nasrallah thinks not. For years, his political strategy has been to
consolidate Hezbollah's position among Shiites and co-opt the
ever-weakening Christians in a common alliance against the Sunnis.
Lebanon  Israel  2006  Hezbollah  Hassan_Nasrallah  Bret_Stephens  demographic_changes  Shiites 
april 2011 by jerryking
Stephens: Egypt—The Hangover -
MARCH 29, 2011 WSJ By BRET STEPHENS. Cairo's liberals tell a different story than Team Obama.
Egypt  Bret_Stephens  intolerance  religious_freedom  religious_intolerance 
april 2011 by jerryking
Stephens: China and the Next American Century -
* DECEMBER 21, 2010

China and the Next American Century
Beijing's Politburo has nothing on Mark Zuckerberg.

Bret_Stephens  China  China_rising  America_in_Decline?  U.S.-China_relations 
december 2010 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: Obama's Air Guitar -
NOV. 16, 2010 /WSJ / By BRET STEPHENS.The danger of America's
will to weakness.Whether a U.S. president ought to get his way on a
matter of policy is one thing.That a president can't get his way is
another.That's a recipe for the global disorder as we see encroaching
from Central America to the Middle & Far East..What does it mean for
global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is
someone who's willing to take no for an answer?The U.S. becomes
Europe.Except on a handful of topics, e.g. trade & foreign aid, the
foreign policy of the EU, & that of most of its constituent states,
amounts to diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable
imagination, but neither sound nor effect.When a EU leader issues a
stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices--or cares.
If the U.S. were to become another Europe—not out of diminished power,
but out of a diminished will to assert its power—the small & distant
abuses of power, would grow bolder & more frequent.
Bret_Stephens  obama  multipolarity  globalization  ineffectual  abuses  America_in_Decline?  impotence  political_will  disorder 
november 2010 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: What Ahmadinejad Knows -
SEPTEMBER 28, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By BRET STEPHENS.
What Ahmadinejad Knows
Iran's president appeals to 9/11 Truthers. What Ahmadinejad knows is
that there will always be a political place for what Michel Foucault
called "the sovereign enterprise of Unreason." This is an enterprise
whose domain encompasses the politics of identity, of religious zeal, of
race or class or national resentment, of victimization, of cheek and
self-assertion. It is the politics that uses conspiracy theory not just
because it sells, which it surely does, or because it manipulates and
controls, which it does also, but because it offends. It is politics as a
revolt against empiricism, logic, utility, pragmatism. It is the
proverbial rage against the machine.
Bret_Stephens  Ahmadinejad  conspiracies  anti-Americanism  empiricism  grievances  resentment  victimization  identity_politics 
september 2010 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: Is Afghanistan Worth It? -
AUGUST 3, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By BRET STEPHENS.
The U.S. cannot remain a superpower if the suspicion takes root that we
are a feckless nation that can be stampeded into surrender by a domestic
caucus of defeatists. Allies or would-be allies will make their own
calculations and hedge their bets.
Bret_Stephens  Afghanistan  realism  conservatism 
august 2010 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: The Fog Over Katyn Forest -
APRIL 13, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By BRET STEPHENS. The
Fog Over Katyn Forest. Poland's struggle of memory against forgetting..

'The struggle of people against power," Milan Kundera famously observed, "is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Is there any place that better captures that truth than the Katyn Forest, or any metaphor more apt for Katyn's place in our historical memory than fog?

It was, of course, a very mundane kind of fog that (along with some apparently reckless piloting) brought down the plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and an entourage of political notables as they attempted to land for Saturday's commemoration of the Katyn Forest massacre's 70th anniversary. Still, one can be forgiven for wondering whether the physical and metaphysical worlds didn't conspire in this latest cycle of Polish tragedy. Fog makes the known world unseen; cutting through it is what Poland's long quest for freedom—itself so often dashed to pieces—has always been about.

Today, the facts about Katyn are not in doubt. In the spring of 1940, 22,000 Polish prisoners of war—most of them army officers, but also thousands of leading members of the Polish intelligentsia—were systematically murdered by the Soviet secret police on direct orders from Joseph Stalin. Comrade Stalin, who was then carving up central Europe as an ally of Adolf Hitler, worried that some future Polish state might someday oppose him. "Under those circumstances," observes historian Gerhard Weinberg, "depriving [Poland] of a large proportion of its military and technical elite would make it weaker."

In one of history's richer ironies, the massacre was first discovered and publicized by the Nazis in 1943. That made it that much easier for the Soviets to dismiss the revelation as German propaganda to cover up a German crime, a line the U.S. and Britain were only too happy to adopt to propitiate their wartime ally. The behavior of the Roosevelt administration was particularly disgraceful: As Rutgers Professor Adam Scrupski has noted, the U.S. Office of War Information "implicitly threatened to remove licensure from the Polish language radio stations in Detroit and Buffalo if they did not cease broadcasting the details of executions."

Thus was the cause of a free Poland—the very reason the West had gone to war against Germany in the first place—sold out on the altar of realpolitik. It would not be the only sellout.
Bret_Stephens  Poland  tragedies  history  historical_amnesia  WWII  Soviet_Union  denials  revisionism  realpolitik  massacres  Joseph_Stalin  deprivations  Nazis 
april 2010 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: Seven Myths About Iran -
FEBRUARY 1, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | by BRET STEPHENS
Bret_Stephens  Iran  myths 
february 2010 by jerryking
Bret Stephens: The Carter Ricochet Effect -
NOVEMBER 23, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by BRET STEPHENS.
Takeaway message? Even the purest of motives can lead to the most
disastrous results.
Bret_Stephens  Obama  U.S.foreign_policy  Islam  takeaways  Arab-Muslim_world  anti-Americanism  Saudis 
november 2009 by jerryking
When No Means No -
NOVEMBER 4, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | op-ed by Bret Stephens on Iranian intransigence.
Iran  Obama  nuclear  negotiations  diplomacy  Bret_Stephens 
november 2009 by jerryking
From McNamara to Obama -
JULY 8, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | Bret Stephens. "But no
Nobel was required to understand that rationalism isn't a synonym for
reason, much less common sense,"
Bret_Stephens  hubris  Vietnam_War  elitism  rationalism  retrospectives  Robert_McNamara  SecDef 
july 2009 by jerryking
Religion of Peace -
* JUNE 23, 2009

Religion of Peace
In Iran, a theological state is challenged on theological grounds.

Iran  Bret_Stephens  politics  reform  rule_of_law 
june 2009 by jerryking
Putinism's Piranha Stage -
* JUNE 9, 2009

Putinism's Piranha Stage
Russia's prime minister turns on his loyal friends.

Vladimir_Putin  Russia  Bret_Stephens 
june 2009 by jerryking
Pakistan's Existential Challenge -
MAY 12, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by BRET STEPHENS

The trouble for a country defined mostly by what it is not. About Iran,
Henry Kissinger once asked whether the Islamic Republic was a country or
a cause. About Pakistan, the question is whether it's a country or
merely a space.
Pakistan  Bret_Stephens  existential  challenges  threats  Henry_Kissinger 
may 2009 by jerryking
The Stages of Anti-Semitism
MARCH 30, 2009, 11:30 P.M. ET| The Wall Street Journal | by BRET STEPHENS
anti-Israel  Bret_Stephens  culture  anti-Semitism 
april 2009 by jerryking
Farewell, Tranquil Mind -
FEBRUARY 23, 2009| Wall Street Journal| by BRET STEPHENS. A
book review of 7 Deadly Scenarios By Andrew F. Krepinevich (Bantam, 334
pages, $27). Worst case scenarios that can plausibly happen to the
U.S., geopolitically speaking, within the next decade.
book_reviews  security_&_intelligence  terrorism  geopolitics  Bret_Stephens  worst-case  thinking_tragically 
march 2009 by jerryking
Farewell, Tranquil Mind -
FEBRUARY 23, 2009, 1:08 P.M. ET book review by BRET STEPHENS of '7 Deadly Scenarios'
By Andrew F. Krepinevich
(Bantam, 334 pages, $27)
book_reviews  Bret_Stephens  21st._century  warfare  scenario-planning 
february 2009 by jerryking
Israel's 60-Year Test
May 6, 2008 WSJ op-ed by Bret Stephens contrast the perception of Israel's reputation abroad with the reality.
Israel  Bret_Stephens  UN  anti-Israel  anti-Semitism  op_ed 
january 2009 by jerryking
"Hamas Knows One Big Thing"
December 30, 2008 WSJ op-ed by Bret Stephens, looks at the
switch in positioning of Israel and the Palestinians over the past 30
years or so.
Hamas  Israel  Palestinian  Bret_Stephens 
january 2009 by jerryking
From King to Mugabe - Global View -
Bret Stephens' piece comparing Robert Mugabe to MLK and questions why progressivism sometimes gives way to nihilism.
racism  MLK  race  Bret_Stephens  Zimbabwe  Robert_Mugabe 
january 2009 by jerryking

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