A confluence of events is pointing to the intellectual and political flabbiness at the upper reaches of American government and academics, and suggesting that there isn't much left to the American generation. If we thought of ourselves as dependent on American leadership, we're pretty much left to ourselves in a tough world.
The week of the attack on Paris, with little doubt as to its source, President Obama has spoken out against a severe monitoring of Syrian immigrants, and has reaffirmed his intention of accepting some ten thousand. It's not the American way, he says, in response to demands to be more concerned about the political and religious intensities they may be bringing with them. When speaking as Commander in Chief, he has shown more concern for casualties than accomplishments.
And about the same time, the American Anthropological Association is advancing toward endorsing an academic boycott of Israel, with Palestinian and other excited folks assembling with their signs and chants condemning Israel and its universities.
The French are.moving toward constitutional changes, the monitoring of mosques and Muslim schools.
Imagine any parallel efforts in the United States, against constitutional language, civil rights activists, and a President who can't bring himself to recognize serious problems in Islam as currently practiced by large numbers of Muslims.
It may be the time to recognize that democratic values have to bend in order to defend themselves. Abraham Lincoln did it during the Civil War, using his administrative powers to suspend the right of habeus corpus, then ignoring decisions of a Federal Court and a Supreme Court Justice who ruled against him.
That ain't the spirit of Barack Obama, whose legal training, electoral success, and personal beliefs may have blinded him to those other responsibilities inherent in his office.
The White House and State Department have had good words for greater cooperation in combating the Islamic State, but affirmi that there will be no American boots on the ground.
Air attacks do some damage, and produce enough civilian deaths to provide further excuses for the Islamic State and its wannabes to attack western civilians. Bombing alone does not approach the capacity of a prolonged ground campaign to eliminate the evil that prides itself in beheadings and mass executions of unbelievers.
Academic boycotts directed at Israeli universities reflect the intellectual vacuity that has swept over a number of American and European campuses. The ignorance and submission to Palestinian and other leftist clamor seeks to punish the only Middle Eastern universities worthy of designation as such. No other country anywhere has had virtually all of its universities listed in reputable indices of the best universities in the world. The Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Technion and the Weizmann Institute often appear in the top hundred or so institutions. Such indices derive from faculty members' authorship of articles in recognized journals and the number of academics who cite the articles, rather than the chants by political activists.
The boycotters also reveal their ignorance of Israeli academics. Like colleagues elsewhere, they are likely to be critics of their government. Especially those in the humanities and social sciences, i.e., the colleagues of those overseas most likely to be enthusiastic about boycotts, are likely to vote and speak to the left of center, on issues of Palestine along with just about everything else. Israeli universities have Arab/Palestinian students and faculty members, with some 35 percent of the students at the University of Haifa coming from the Arab neighborhoods of Haifa or the nearby towns of the Galilee. Some 10-15 percent of the Hebrew University students come from Arab neighborhoods of the city or travel each week for a day or two from their homes in the Negev or Galilee. Ben Gurion University of Beer Sheva has programs to develop the academic potential of Bedouin from the Negev. One of my PhDs is a Palestinian teaching in a Palestinian institution, but was denied permission by his dean to accept an invitation to participate in a conference at the University that granted him three degrees.
Barack Obama is not getting a free pass on his mindless reversion to something like American isolationism, rejection of any accusation against Islam, and a primary concern for casualties expressed as Commander-in-Chief. The tip of opposition appears in the announcement by more than half of governors that they oppose the settlement of Syrian immigrants in their states..One doubts that they have the legal capacity to act as they wish, but the criticism is also showing itself in powerful locales of Congress. The increased weight of right wing parties in Europe is not likely to skip over American politics.
American friends and critics, and those of us who are a bit of both, will be watching how Paris impacts on France, other European capital, Washington and its hinterland. We'll also hope that further attacks promised do not occur, but that, too, may affect what we'll be seeing.
One shouldn't bet a great deal that Europe and the US will do what is necessary to clean the Middle East. George W. Bush's adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Barack Obama's speech in Cairo and his later endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood did more harm than good. It's up to Middle Easterners to clean their own homes, before they burn around them. But the Middle East being what it is, one shouldn't bet too much on that happening. Countries with big armies or lots of money are not on the same page. Russian and American rivalries are in the middle of things, with good words spoken by leading diplomats and John Kerry's optimism not doing much to deal with underlying disputes. Syria and Iraq have dissolved into chaos, where it is difficult to know who is fighting for the sake of which patron or what cause.
France has now surpassed the Former Soviet Union in supplying immigrants to Israel, spurred by attacks against a Jewish school, a Kosher market, and individuals. An estimate of 7,500 for this year was made before the Paris attack; 7,000 came in 2014, and 3,400 in 2013. I remember being impressed by the incidence of Russian in the corridors of the Hebrew University in the late 1980s. Now people say it's French on the sidewalks of Netanya.
Monday night, Israeli security forces swept in a coordinated move against a number of offices and institutions maintained by a radical Islamic Movement noted for the intensity of their incitement against the Jewish State. After months of undercover investigations and much discussion, the government declared members of the movement to be outlaws. Personnel seized computers, files, bank accounts, financial and legal records that re likely to produce further inquiries and indictments. By Tuesday morning there were claims of harassment and injustice. Some will say that this nighttime action came under the prodding or protection of the Paris attack. We can expect American and European academics on law faculties spurred to greater boycott efforts. Yet some may applaud the capacity of the Middle East's lone democracy to know how to defend itself against those who scorn democracy, and how to ignore naive westerners who fear to defend what they claim as their values.
Those who worry about Israel's timidity should worry about something else.
Israel's universities offer a more sane alternative than prestigious American campuses, even if they come to appear on the black lists of the politically correct. Associating with intelligent and highly motivated fellow students is the prime selling point of the better ranked American colleges, and on this dimension the Israeli universities are superior. Studying with young men and women who are academic undergraduates, but also alumni of the IDF, as well as Arabs who have adopted to their own culture and Jewish classmates, provides an education not obtained alongside children who have come from American high schools. Non-Jews are also welcome, but Hebrew is a prerequisite for the better programs.