Home Columns Books Papers Biography Contact

"Tradition?? The only good traditions are food traditions. The rest are repressive."

"There are two ways to think. The first is to trust to your ancestors, your religious leaders, or your charismatic professors. The second is to question, to challenge, to explore history for meanings, and to analyze issues. This latter is called Critical Thinking, and it is this that is the mission of my web site. "

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman  

September 2017

Freedom Is a Tricky Concept.

"Freedom" is an interesting idea, one that is much used in ways that are often contradictory. Freedom is understood to mean: "Doing what one wants to do without restraint." Freedom is absolute if the person is a hermit, living entirely alone. However, the definition that is generally accepted in modern societies is that one can generally do what one wishes, unless it deprives another of the same freedom. A more common definition is: ?My freedom stops at your nose."

In theory, a p more...

Print

April 2016

Genocide extends back 7,000 years.

Archaeologists have just found a 7,000-year-old Stone Age mass gravesite outside of Frankfurt, Germany! This horrifying find erases what we had always thought about human behavior at the beginnings of agriculture and village life. Genocide has a long human history, but we didn?t know that it was that early in the agricultural revolution when population density could not have been large enough to provide for organized warfare.

This is just one of a number of similar mass graves. T more...

Print

December 2015

Are We At War? And With Whom?


Leaders both here and in Europe are reluctant to identify those with whom we are at war. They are not fools, and I do understand their reluctance to say that the West is at war with one billion Muslims. Some demagogues might say that, but that is just as foolish as saying we are at war with Terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.

We had no problem being at war with Nazism or Communism, without saying that all Germans and all Russians are bad people. But plenty were more...

Print

August 2014

Can Wars Be Proportional?

If columnist Amy Goodman had covered the carpet-bombing of Germany in World War II, she would have indignantly defended the Nazis. Fortunately for the outcome of that war, the public did not get a play-by-play description from observers who want war to be proportional.

Throughout 10,000 years of human history, wars were never proportional. Winners won. Chivalry plays no role in warfare.

In history, total conquest was used when repeated conflicts between warring par more...

Print

November 2013

The “World Community” Has Double Standards.


The response to Bashar Assad’s use of poison gas lobbed into rebel-held suburbs of Damascus has been fascinating. Finally, somebody is remembering that a treaty was signed by almost every country in the world banning poison gas at the end of World War I. The use of mustard gas in trench warfare decimated a whole generation of young men fighting on both sides of the war. This was the first time that any weapon had been declared unacceptable to human values. Poison gas is an effective ge more...

Print

September 2013

Is the US the World's Policeman?

The question comes up in public discussions all the time: Why should we be the world's policemen? Of course we are not the world's policemen, but we do play an enormous role in serving as a de facto government in a world that, without us, would have no governance at all. The opposite of governance is anarchy, a non-system that makes life like that of the European Dark Ages after the fall of Rome. Rome, like the United States, did far more good than harm to the world it governed.

more...

Print

Syria: International Norms Have No Teeth without the US


We are starting to learn from our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya that we can remove a bad leader but cannot replace him with good governance. We run into trouble when we do not temper our idealism with pragmatism, knowing when and how much to act in the face of evil. But perhaps we are beginning to be a bit more practical.

Because we love democracy and hate autocracy, we had hoped that the public clamor that got rid of autocrats in Egypt (and before that in Iran) wo more...

Print

Time for the “Democracy Project” to go!


It is very painful to retire a foreign policy initiative that has been with us since Woodrow Wilson in 1918. Americans have long believed that democracy is exactly what benighted cultures around the world want. We assume that if tyranny could be removed, long suffering people would want to vote for good people to govern them. We assume, wrongly, that everybody wants freedom.

President Wilson promoted World War I as a crusade to make the world safe for democracy. By the end more...

Print

Foreign Policy: When Is Humanitarian Intervention in our Interest?

Most American voters don’t care about American foreign policy until something comes to bite them. But every so often, specific groups get involved in seeking intervention for their particular ethnic interests: Armenians wanting condemnation for Turkey who committed a genocide about which, for almost a century now, Turks have refuse to recognize or apologize.

Sometimes groups want to affect American law, such as those with hysterical fear of Chinese immigration, based on a notio more...

Print

Sex Crimes Are Part of the War Against Women and Modernity.

Violating women and girls is as old as human existence. Incest taboos in so many cultures is testimony to the problem that even within the family, little girls are preyed upon by fathers, uncles, and brothers.

Even in religions without the familial incest taboo (such as Islam), the pious are told that it is a sin to permit your daughter to have her first menstruation under your roof. She must be married before she becomes a “temptation” to the menfolk.

• Rape more...

Print

November 2012

Morphing to Murder


It is a mystery how decent, ordinary people can become murdering savages. Most human beings on a daily level just struggle to keep their families fed and are usually benign to their neighbors. But throughout history, perfectly ordinary people have been turned into rampaging mobs. Furthermore, clearly psychotic leaders can enchant otherwise rational people into following them. I have never understood the appeal of psychotics (such as Hitler) or fanatics (such as Osama bin Laden); but then more...

Print

August 2012

Why Do We Give a Pass to Evil?

I recently wrote an editorial about Genocide, with its long trek through history—but one of my colleagues noted that I had not mentioned the USSR, one of the worst human rights offenders ever. My friend, Swedish human rights attorney Bertil Haggman, compiled the violent death statistics of the USSR from 1917 to 1982: The Communist Genocide (in Swedish), ten years before the demise of the Soviet Union. Haggman estimated about 104 million dead in his 1982 book; now the numbers are known to be cl more...

Print

How Do We Stop a Genocide?


In Syria, armed thugs (with tanks) went house-to-house in a village and murdered all inhabitants, down to babies with pacifiers in their mouths. In history, this sort of pogrom happened (minus the tanks) in many wars of antiquity (revisit The Trojan War), in which the victors killed every male down to babies and hauled all females into slavery.

During the Middle Ages, a Crusade was declared against two dissident religious groups in southern France, the Albigensians and Cat more...

Print

There Are No Easy Answers for US Policy in Syria

It is distressing to see Syrian people-ordinary civilians-hunkering down in bunkers without sufficient food, water, or medicine. Syrians look at us on screen and wonder why nobody is helping them. Why are we not?

Arab dictatorships have similarities. Syria has been run by a father and son, the Assads, for the past half century. Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt were others. They all began as secular dictatorships; Islam did not have the pride of place it enjoyed in the past.
more...

Print

September 2010

What “World Opinion” Are We Talking About?

Printed in Family Security Matters 9/24 and Santa Cruz Sentinel 9/25/10.

The UN’s opening session was September 21 this year and Iran’s president Ahmadinejad entertained us again at the opening. This is also a good time to review the UN’s concept of “world opinion.” The General Assembly seems only interested in Israel’s sins, while all other issues are neglected. There is malfeasance here.

Last summer in Lahor, Pakistan, gunmen stormed a hospital and sho more...

Print

When is Freedom of Speech Incitement to Kill?

We all know that freedom of speech has one commonly accepted exception: when someone falsely yells “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Obviously this action will result in injury or death.

But another issue that faces us today is the very fuzzy line between free speech and incitement to violence. Such a case is roiling the Canadians today with a case in Toronto, reported on by the Toronto National Post (May 1, 2010). This story illustrates the painful nature of what to do with incit more...

Print

What is a Circassian and Why Should We Care?

Register Pajaronian


Ask anybody about genocides—the deliberate attempt to wipe out—in whole or in part—an entire people, and they will come up with a depressing list. In the past century alone, we had an enormous part of the Armenian population of Ottoman Turkey, six million European Jews, and former Yugoslavian Bosnian Muslims murdered at the hands of the Turks, Nazis, and Serbs, respectively. Tutsis were murdered by Hutus in Rwanda and the people of Darfur province more...

Print