Dershowitz-Chomsky Showdown

I watched the debate between Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky on “ISRAEL & PALESTINE AFTER DISENGAGEMENT: Where Do We Go From Here?”, held tonight at Harvard’s Kennedy School. The streaming video should soon be archived here. The upshot is that the event lived up to its billing, as Dershowitz, armed with maps, pulled no punches in challenging Chomsky. What came across in the debate was the contrast between Dershowitz, who is optimistic for the prospects of a peaceful two-state solution, as outlined in his new book The Case For Peace, and Chomsky, who doesn’t think Israel is capable of agreeing to any plan that would be realistic for Palestinians.

It’s inconceivable to me how anybody can watch this debate and take anything Chomsky says seriously. Any source that contradicts his viewpoint he dismisses as suspect, and as Dershowitz pointed out, whoever he quotes in support of his theories he identifies as a “?leading scholar.” The average member of the audience isn’t going to take the time to track down every obscure source Chomsky cites, and when asked why his theories were not more widely reported, he talks of a media cover-up.

One good example of this related to the collapse of the 2000 peace process. Dershowitz laid the blame squarely on Arafat for the rejection of a two-state solution, but Chomsky blamed Israel. Dershowitz cited statements by U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia as well as private conversations with Bill Clinton to back up his claim. Chomsky said anything coming from Dennis Ross should be disregarded, and cited Ron Pundak, the director of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace as the “?leading scholar” on the issue.

When Dershowitz said that Dennis Ross should be considered reliable, because he was at Camp David in 2000, Chomsky said that Pundak was there too. Chomsky held his ground on this point, even after a questioner from the audience challenged him. Chomsky’s assertion that Pundak was at Camp David is contradicted by this biography of Pundak, from the official Website of the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. As the questioner rightly told Chomsky, Pundak was involved in the Oslo process in 1993, but, at least according to this official bio, he was not at Camp David. If anybody else out there has contrary evidence, I’d love to hear it.

Another great point came when Dershowitz asked what country facing a similar terrorist threat to Israel had used preemptive action with better discretion. Chomsky cited Nicaragua and Cuba, for showing so much restraint in the face of terrorism carried out by the U.S. Chomsky then had the nerve to cite Iran, because Israel and the U.S. are threatening Iran with destruction. Hello Noam! It was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who recently called for Israel to be “?wiped off the map.” As my evidence, I cite this story from Al Jazeera. Even Chomsky would have a tough time dismissing Al Jazeera as American/Zionist propaganda.

It would be great if we could just laugh at Chomsky. But unfortunately, he is more responsible than any living intellectual for brainwashing college students against Israel (and America). I have often wondered what the appeal of Chomsky is, and have concluded that it comes down to the fact that he makes impressionable people think that he’s letting them in on secrets. To his followers, Chomsky is like Morpheus in “?The Matrix,” offering people a red pill that will allow them to see beyond the world surrounding them and uncover hidden truths.

Or, as Dershowitz put it, “?In order to get the truth, you have to go to Planet Chomsky.” (This is not an exact quote since a transcript is not available at this time).

Gov. Warner rejects Iraq withdrawal date

Via Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States needs to set milestones for progress, not a firm withdrawal date, before it can leave Iraq, Virginia governor and prospective Democratic presidential candidate Mark Warner said on Monday.

“This Democrat doesn’t think we need to re-fight how we got into (the Iraq war). I think we need to focus more on how to finish it,” Warner said.

“To set an arbitrary deadline or specific date is not appropriate,” he said. “… It is incumbent on the president to set milestones for what he believes will be the conclusion.”

Warner, whose profile was bolstered earlier this month when he helped elect Timothy Kaine as his successor in Virginia, is sounding like the type of Democrat who could defeat Hillary Clinton in a presidential primary.

Bolton Succeeds Again

From the Jerusalem Post:

Following intense US pressure, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday issued an unprecedented condemnation of Monday’s Hizbullah attacks on northern Israel.

This condemnation – slamming Hizbullah by name for “acts of hatred” – marked the first time the Security Council has ever reprimanded Hizbullah for cross-border attacks on Israel. The condemnation followed by two days a failed attempt to get a condemnation issued on Monday, the day of the attack, when Algeria came out against any mention of Hizbullah in the statement.

When asked what changed from Monday to Wednesday, one diplomatic official replied: “John Bolton,” a reference to the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton lobbied vigorously for the passage of the statement.

Are Liberal Cities More Dangerous?

My friend Rich cites a report by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research that ranks the most liberal and most conservative cities in the United States.

When gazing at the list of the Top 25 Most Liberal Cities, I noticed a strong correlation with this list of the 25 Most Dangerous Cities. In fact, 11 cities were listed as being both among the most liberal and among the most dangerous: Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; Washington, DC; Oakland, California; Newark, New Jersey; Flint, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Baltimore, Maryland; Birmingham, Alabama; St. Louis, Missouri.

None of the Top 25 Most Conservative Cities appeared on the list of dangerous cities.

And I always thought liberals were supposed to be kinder and gentler than conservatives.

The more things change…

The more they remain the same:

Nov 27, 1:42 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Sen. John Kerry initially voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored resolution calling on President Bush to explain his strategy for success in Iraq. Minutes later, the Democrat changed his vote.

Rocky IV Turns 20

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Rocky IV, the greatest Cold War movie ever made. While others may prefer such films as Dr. Strangelove or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, I cast my lot with the Italian Stallion.

Rocky IV hit theaters on November 27, 1985, a week after President Ronald Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva. In the film, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character confronts the Soviet menace in the form of the towering Russian boxer, Ivan Drago. Drago was portrayed by a former Fulbright scholar at MIT, Dolph Lundgren, who gave the pithiest performance in cinematic history.

Upon its release, the overtly pro-American film was mocked by the same media that ridiculed Reagan for referring to the Soviet Union as the “evil empire.”

Nina Darton of the New York Times may as well have been referring to Reagan when she lamented, “Outside the boxing arena, the greatest victory is compromise, a message Rocky refuses to learn, and a lesson his fans will never accept.”

But just as Reagan’s contribution to ending the Cold War was widely recognized after his death, so too should we give Rocky IV the credit it deserves. In a tight 91 minutes, the film summarizes the major events and themes of the Cold War, and foreshadows the fall of communism that was to occur just a few years after the film’s release.

Early in the action of the movie, Americans suffer a very Sputnik-like moment, when Drago brutally kills the charismatic American ex-champion, Apollo Creed, in an exhibition match in Las Vegas .

Different schools of thought emerge on how to respond to this crushing defeat. A skeptical media and Rocky’s concerned wife believe that fighting Drago would be “suicide” and therefore advocate a policy of “peaceful coexistence.” But Rocky adopts the Reaganite philosophy of “peace through strength” when he agrees to fight Drago in Moscow.

Drago is the machine-made byproduct of the Soviet state, training with a team of scientists and sophisticated computers, and achieving freakish size and strength with the help of steroids. “Drago is a look at the future,” a boastful Soviet official tells American reporters. He declares that Drago’s impending defeat of Rocky, “will be a perfect example of how pathetically weak your society has become.” This was consistent with Soviet braggadocio that was common even as its economic system was collapsing.

While Drago is the best that central planning has to offer, Rocky is the ultimate individualist. He is the man who rose from the streets of Philadelphia to become heavyweight champion, deriving inner strength from his faith and family.

When Rocky enters the ring for the climactic battle, the hostile Russian crowd boos him as the politburo (and a Gorby look-alike) look on. But just as those living beyond the Iron Curtain became obsessed with American popular culture once exposed to it, Rocky’s heroic performance against Drago wins over the crowd, which starts to chant, “Rocky!” during the bout.

Hearing this, a Soviet official scolds Drago for his performance. In a defining moment that would anticipate the fall of communism, Drago lifts his government handler by the throat, and declares, “I fight to win for me! For me!”

Rocky’s victory over Drago is a victory of individualism over collectivism and a vindication of the policy of “peace through strength.” It demonstrates the universal appeal of American ideals. At the end of the film Rocky says to the Russian crowd, “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.” Is it any wonder that the Berlin Wall fell four years later?

Rocky IV became one of the highest grossing movies of 1985, along with the year’s other jingoistic Stallone film, Rambo II. Together, the films “brought the mythic American hero downstage center again, standing tall after years in hiding, ready to take on the world with guns, knives, gloves or bare knuckles,” Newsweek wrote that December.

Last month, Stallone announced plans to make Rocky VI. By all accounts, the story does not involve Rocky fighting a boxer who is a member of Al Qaeda. I guess we’ll have to wait for Rocky VII.

Dershowitz vs. Chomsky: It’s On!

This Tuesday at 7pm, Harvard’s Kennedy School will host a debate between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz that has been years in the making. The topic will be: “Israel and Palestine after disengagement: Where do we go from here?” The streaming video will be broadcast live here and archived here. I’m sure the debate will generate a lot of discussion, so it’s well worth watching if you’re interested in the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Sounds of New York

As soon as I saw three high schoolers walking down my subway car with drumsticks this evening, I knew I was in for it. “Sorry for disturbing you folks,” the band leader said, prior to disturbing everybody. He said his group was seeking donations to buy drums, and would give us a demonstration. The three of them proceeded to bang on the floor with their drumsticks for three minutes–and then they went around the subway asking for contributions. From a pure business standpoint, I wondered whether they would have done better had they collected money first, in exchange for NOT playing. Then I was reminded of this Marx Brothers bit:

Ravelli: Now, for rehearsing we make special rate. Thatsa fifteen dollars an hour.

Spaulding: That’s for rehearsing?

Ravelli: Thatsa for rehearsing.

Spaulding: And what do you get for not rehearsing?

Ravelli: You couldn’t afford it…