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  

January 2017

Russia?s Short-term and Long-term Prognosis


If the thugs in ISIS were not so busy decapitating people, we might have been paying more attention to a longer-term hostile force, Russia. Russia has been an important target of Western attention since the 19th century, when this once backward, frozen backwater came to life and proceeded to conquer and colonize all the countries across Central Asia (the old Silk Route), ending on China?s border and the Pacific Ocean. They controlled 11 time zones and warranted watching.

more...

Print

December 2016

Darwin Awards



My periodic "Darwin Awards" columns are to nominate those human beings whose existence lowers the global IQ.

Saudi Man Shoots Doctor Who Delivered His Wife?s Baby
This man was not only ungrateful, he was stupid. He was outraged to learn that a male gynecologist had been present at the birth of his wife?s baby. The doctor had seen his wife naked, he sputtered. The Saudi police tracked him down and arrested him, but will the Saudi "justice" system give him a more...

Print

Populism?s Unanticipated Consequences: Dictatorship


I learned in my college days that when somebody on campus yelled "Power to the People!" that it was time to take cover. I am allergic to mobs, which are what human beings become when they abandon thought.

The Populist movement is not new. Roman senators as early as 60 BC knew they could buy the favor of voters by putting on a great show: a circus, a great feast, and a big parade. What the senators wanted was their votes, after which they need never concern themselves with more...

Print

America?s History of Isolationism or Engagement.

November 11, 1918, was Armistice Day. On that date a century ago, World War I ended with a cease fire. The clear loser, Germany, collapsed in exhaustion after fighting on two fronts: France and Britain on one end and Russia on the other. The war was stalemated until the United States, very late in the war, entered on the side of France and Britain and won it. Although we do not make much of this holiday, it is still terribly important to the British and French, who lost a whole generation of yo more...

Print

August 2016

Culture Matters: International (Part 2 of 2)

In the 1990s, Samuel Huntington first wrote an essay, then a book, called The Clash of Civilizations. This influential historian threw down a gauntlet that most liberal and idealistic scholars did not want to pick up. But this work was so important that in history conferences across the country, the book was reviewed and critiqued. He said every border between Islamic countries and non-Islamic neighbors was bloody. This was obvious between the Israelis and Arabs, but we had not realized that it more...

Print

Beliefs that Kill

What people believe matters. There are some beliefs around the world that result in murder. So many of us are like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who said, when Alice noted "One can?t believe impossible things:" "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I?ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." Too many of us believe impossible things.

? Albinos. The people in Malawi, in Africa, believe that Albinos should be abd more...

Print

Iran and Saudi Arabia Mix It Up.

In January, active warfare almost erupted when the Saudis decapitated a Shiite cleric, enraging Iran. On the surface, this seemed to be the ongoing hostility between the two major sects of Islam, the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority. Most Arabs and most Muslims around the world are Sunni; most Iranians, with pockets in the Middle East, are Shiite.

This antipathy is often compared with the Protestant-Catholic religious wars---a theological dispute. However, there is little th more...

Print

November 2015

Do Refugees Have Responsibilities?


Nobody seems to be asking if refugees themselves have responsibilities to their host country. When people are running for their lives and are welcomed with open arms (as in Germany and Sweden), many are grateful and will eagerly integrate into their new homes. But there are many who will not.

Notice that reporters covering this stressful refugee flood pick and choose whom to interview. On 60 Minutes, I saw interviews with young men who spoke English, one of whom (a teen) h more...

Print

Afghan Problems


With so many urgent events around the world, Afghanistan is not one we wanted to see again. But its problems do not go away, nor can they with Pakistan next door. We are still there, 10,000 to remain, but with an essential task of trying to train a national defense force so that Afghanistan will not revert to its failed Muslim state position under the Taliban.

Training the Afghan army is much like rolling a rock up a hill. Not only are a majority of soldiers illiterate, b more...

Print

Whose Fault is the Immigrant Crisis?



Wouldn't you know that the moment any crisis occurs in the world that the usual commentators would blame the United States? Amy Goodman's recent column blamed the chaos in the Middle East on the US and Europeans sending arms to the region. Others, many on the political left, have blamed the crisis entirely on the disastrous aftermath of our Iraq invasion. However, I have not seen any of these critics pinning blame on the total failure of governance and religion in the Muslim Worl more...

Print

September 2015

Whose Fault is the Immigrant Crisis?


Wouldn't you know that the moment any crisis occurs in the world that the usual commentators would blame the United States? Amy Goodman's recent column blamed the chaos in the Middle East on the US and Europeans sending arms to the region. Others, many on the political left, have blamed the crisis entirely on the disastrous aftermath of our Iraq invasion. However, I have not seen any of these critics pinning blame on the total failure of governance and religion in the Muslim World itself more...

Print

Middle East is Running out of Water.

California knows how serious it is to have a water shortage. But we are a modern state and know perfectly well what to do about it. For us, it is just a matter of spending money and having the will to do what is obvious: desalinate the ocean water immediately to our west.

But when the entire Middle East is running out of water, it is another thing altogether. This is a region with a minority of scientifically educated people and a majority of ignorant, religious villagers and rec more...

Print

Defunding Israel but Blind to Islamophobia Ripoffs?

Only in the free Western world can such asymmetrical nonsense take place. Israel, the one western country unfortunately located in the middle of the Muslim world is the focus of accusations of Islamophobia and targeted with boycotts of its industries and products. How ironic. Israel is the one country where Arab citizens can vote, have the highest standard of living, and have any kind of future. Yet young stupid liberals in Europe and the US vent their spleen on Israel and turn a blind eye to th more...

Print

Defunding Israel but Blind to Islamophobia Ripoffs?


Only in the free Western world can such asymmetrical nonsense take place. Israel, the one western country unfortunately located in the middle of the Muslim world is the focus of accusations of Islamophobia and targeted with boycotts of its industries and products. How ironic. Israel is the one country where Arab citizens can vote, have the highest standard of living, and have any kind of future. Yet young stupid liberals in Europe and the US vent their spleen on Israel and turn a blind e more...

Print

The Nation-State Idea is Not Cast in Stone.


I remember trying to explain to my small children what a "country" is. They understood neighborhood because we could walk around those streets. They even understood city because we could drive around such a recognizable entity. It was a little more difficult to understand state and really difficult to understand country. When they were a little older, they played with geography puzzles and learned to recognize the states that made up "the United States" and later "the world" and eventual more...

Print

The Iran Deal Puts Our Foot in the Door!


For fifty years, we did not talk to the Chinese. We mistrusted them. They mistrusted us. We hated each other and were blind to each other?s internal workings. Then, suddenly, because of some youngsters playing ping pong together (not an accident), followed by some very secret diplomatic visits, the United States and Communist China opened relations.

This opening upset a lot of people: the Soviets, hardline Republicans (members of President Nixon?s own party), and hardline more...

Print

What's New: Destroying One's Own Religious Treasures


The Pagan world had no problem with incorporating other people's gods. They managed to see comparable qualities and forms of foreign deities (love and war, for example) and never found it necessary to destroy these symbols, with only one exception: the gods of the Phoenicians, who demanded the sacrifice of first-born babies. That was more than Greeks or Romans could tolerate and they wiped out that worship and their worshippers (who were their economic rivals also).

Monoth more...

Print

While Europe Slept: Denial of the Islamist Threat


Winston Churchill wrote a book in 1938 called While Europe Slept that impressed young John F. Kennedy so much that he made it his senior thesis in school in England while his father was US Ambassador there. His thesis was published as his own book in 1940. Both books were intended to rouse both countries to the threat of Nazi Germany that pacifists were determined to resist.

Europe lost an entire generation of young men in a meaningless fratricidal war between 1914 and 191 more...

Print

Understanding Foreign Policy is like Triple-Decker Chess

We are accustomed to thinking of relations with an ally, an enemy, or an interest when we consider a foreign policy relationship. This is part of our assumption that a nation has an independent identity that is like ours, "one nation, indivisible?" This is a convenient fiction, of course, as if a nation is a person, which it is not.

o Pakistan, India, Afghanistan. Some of our most troubling relationships are with countries with not only complex internal identities, but also equall more...

Print

November 2014

The Women?s Revolution Threatens The Old Guard


Laina Farhat-Holzman
Pajaronian
November 29, 2014

Of all the modernizing "revolutions" (Industrial, Religious, Political, Scientific, and even Nuclear), the most destabilizing has been the emancipation of women. Opponents of the female revolution are engaging in a last ditch effort to put that particular genie back in the bottle, but they are losing.

Women have only been emancipated in liberal democracies. In the Western world (and only there), more...

Print

Russia's Short-term and Long-term Prognosis

If the thugs in ISIS were not so busy decapitating people, we might have been paying more attention to a longer-term hostile force, Russia. Russia has been an important target of Western attention since the 19th century, when this once backward, frozen backwater came to life and proceeded to conquer and colonize all the countries across Central Asia (the old Silk Route), ending on China's border on the Pacific Ocean. They controlled 11 time zones and warranted watching.

Russia wa more...

Print

We Must Put the "Crises of the Moment" in Context.


Critics of President Obama have an easy job. They do not have to make the decisions that will impact long-term American wellbeing. That is his job, and like making sausage, it is not a pretty process. It involves heavy lifting and complex issues.

Two principles have governed American foreign policy for the past two centuries: first, make certain that no one power controls all of Europe or all of Asia. We would be standing alone if such a powerful enemy controlled all other more...

Print

March 2014

The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost in Pakistan.


Muslim governments always blame “foreign meddling” for all their ills The once great Muslim world has been on the skids since 1200, when it encountered three disasters: the Bubonic Plague, the Mongol attacks cutting off old trade routes and killing as many as half the population in Persia and Byzantium, and Muslim clergy blaming lax religious adherence for these disasters. From that time, Muslim intellectual life went dark.

These disasters also opened the door to a ne more...

Print

Let's Give them a Big Hand: Current Darwin Awards

Periodically, I round up all the most stupid human behaviors that manage to reach the press worldwide. My view is that these individuals are so stupid that they should not contribute to the human gene pool. The fact that they do contribute provides the ongoing fodder for this review.

o Women Driving. The Saudis are notorious for keeping their women from driving automobiles. Their reasons cannot be Koranic, since the Prophet Mohammad did not have automobiles and couldn't forbid more...

Print

Turkey: How to Lose a Democracy

Once more, supporters of “democracy” in the Muslim world do not understand the issue. Majority rule, when there are no institutions to temper it (such as the courts or free press), does not provide a “liberal democracy.” Rather, it offers abuse of power or anarchy.

Turkey, the one seemingly genuine participatory republic, is teetering on the edge of losing it. The European Union, which rides herd on Turkey's evolution toward a European-style democracy, mistakenly regards more...

Print

August 2013

How Do We Know that Domestic Violence is an “Epidemic?”


The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released a report on an”epidemic” of domestic violence around the world. They say that at least one-third of women are assaulted by a partner at some point in their lives. When I see numbers like this, I wonder how they know this.

According to this report, 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women.
more...

Print

The Global Gender Gap


Every year, the World Economic Forum presents a report detailing and ranking global progress toward equality under the law for women. They rank countries from the best to the worst, showing progress (or lack of it) over the prior five years. Needless to say, there is still an enormous gender gap around the world, but there is some movement.

The 2012 report had three authors: Ricardo Hausman, Harvard Center for International Development; Laura Tyson, an economist with Berk 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

The Latest Global Population Numbers Produce Surprises.

Some modern historians have added geography and demography to their historic research, and not a moment too soon. We really cannot understand the psychology and future trajectories of our allies and enemies without considering why they behave as they do and whether they have too many or too few people to thrive, be offensive, or decline.

• Geography. Robert Kaplan tells us in his new book: The Revenge of Geography, that the one given in a country’s history is its geography more...

Print

October 2012

The President and Challenger Tangle on Foreign Policy


We have just had a debate between President Obama and Governor Romney on Foreign Policy. Since only about 10 percent of the public understands or even cares about foreign policy, it is difficult to assess how this will affect the election. But since I am a foreign policy wonk, I do care.

When President Obama had his first security briefing when he was sworn into office, his hair began to turn to gray. Presidents learn things then that they really couldn’t know while they more...

Print

August 2012

Can There Be A World Without History? Militant Islamists Think So.


Since the end of World War II, we have not seen deliberate assaults on historic landmarks that we see today. Both sides wantonly destroyed cities with their great historic architecture, but history was not their real target.

History is the target today. The Afghan's Taliban government deliberately blew up statues of the Buddha in Bamiyan because “they weren't Muslim.” In the Middle East, Africa, and Pakistan, Islamists are targeting churches for destruction, something more...

Print

Birds Are Spies, at Least in the Middle East.


Critical thinking is not a natural attribute of human beings. Most of us are more inclined to believing anything in print or that we hear, or believe those things that support our already existing prejudices. It takes hard work to question statements that seem reasonable on their face. Too many of us are ready to believe anything, even when ridiculous.

One recent example is a trend of Middle East countries that so fear Israel’s capabilities that they are ready to believe more...

Print

The “War Against Women” Rages On


Modern social values for women had a brief, uneven life in the Middle East, and are now in meltdown as Islamist parliaments take power.

Countries that have revolted against dictatorships (with a modicum of modern law) are now seeing the results of their “democratic” elections. When largely ignorant populations vote, they vote for what they know: in this case, Islam. Traditional Islam would not be the problem, but its radical versions are. The first issue to come under more...

Print

Fear and Loathing or Analysis and Perspective?

There are two ways to analyze the violent eruption of global terrorist attacks that have marked the past three decades: analyze the nature of the threat and the culture supporting it, or blame it all on the evils of Western colonialism and American militarism. The latter analysis is the choice of the “politically correct,” who say that terrorism is as rampant in the West as it is in the Muslim world. A truth check, however, will tell us that for every Western terrorist (such as Timothy McVei more...

Print

Democracy Can Have a Dark Underbelly


As much as I love democracy, Western Liberal Democracy, this institution has a dark side. There are problems with our own American democracy; even more troubling are democracies such as that of Russia, and worse, democracy in the Muslim world. Why is democracy so under assault?

Liberal Democracy is a system in which people do have choices, but there are also rules that keep the “people’s will” from becoming tyranny. Voting is the last step of building a democracy, w more...

Print

December 2011

TV Humor and Soaps Are Potent Tools For Democracy.


One of the most devastating tools against tyranny is humor. Dictators cannot stand being laughed at; they work hard at being feared. On a bitter cold New Year’s Eve of 1989, the long-time dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, summoned his people to the square below his palace to deliver a speech. The crowd shuffled and seethed with anger over their short rations, lack of fuel, and daily insults while Ceausescu and his nasty wife lived in an obscenely lavish palace. As he continued to more...

Print

Global Violence Declines---Except in the Middle East--Part 2.

As mentioned in Part 1 of our two-part look at the decline of violence in the world, daily violence has been on the increase in one region of the world, the Muslim Middle East. But even here, the numbers are terrible when compared with the rest of the world, but not when compared with the history of the region itself.

Violence in the daily life of people in the Middle East, once dictators are removed, is no different than the violence of daily life in Europe from the fall of more...

Print

June 2011

Is Turkey Still A Secular Muslim Model?

Until now, Turkey has modeled how an Islamic state can modernize and democratize. When the Ottoman Empire crumbled after World War I, the Turks retreated to what they considered their original homeland in Anatolia, once the homeland of the Byzantine Christian Roman Empire until the Ottomans conquered it in 1453. Constantinople was renamed Istanbul.

Under cover of World War I, the Turkish military carried out the century’s first ethnic cleansing, a deliberate massacre of the Chr more...

Print

How Goes Terrorism Around the World?


Every year, I revisit such issues as “How Goes Democracy Around the World,” “Status of Women,” and “Terrorism Inc.” This column surveys the condition of Militant Islam (Islamism) for the past year.

The term “Islamist” does not refer to ordinary Muslims. It has a specific definition. Islamism is a political ideology that uses a particular interpretation of Islam as its theology—with lessons from Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia as its political methodology. more...

Print

October 2010

Is Turkey "Mildly Islmist?"

As much as I admire The Economist, I am continually annoyed by their insistance that Turkey's ruling party and president are "mildly Islamist." I have sent the following letter to them:

Editor:

Why do you insist on promoting the notion that there is something "mildly Islamist" about Mr. Erdogan in Turkey?  Yes, his Islamic credentials are clear.  But even you note that his democratic ones are less clear. "He once called democracy a train from which to disembark more...

Print

June 2010

Let’s Have Another Look at the “Humanitarian” Flotilla

A supposedly humanitarian flotilla that set out in June to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas in Gaza can be looked at a number of ways. The event was not what it seemed in the first 24 hours, when the world press was treated to conflicting video tapes from both sides. What really went on?

The Players.
• The Israelis have grown increasingly sour over events in Gaza, a region once occupied by Egypt and later by the PLO. When the Israelis, under world (and domestic) pre more...

Print

Annual Darwin Awards?


Darwin Awards usually refer to those whose decisions are so stupid that they remove themselves from the gene pool by dying. My annual survey uses a slightly different definition: those whose decisions are so flawed that the consequences of their actions reduce the global IQ.

Religious Wisdom. A senior Iranian cleric, the ever dazzling Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who leads Friday prayers at Tehran University, knows whom to blame when Tehran has a huge earthquake. This cit more...

Print

Whose Ally is Turkey Today?

Register Pajaronian

In my college Sociology text (decades ago), was a surprising survey asking who would American fathers most object to their daughters marrying. At the top of the list came Turks—yet few of these fathers had ever met one. This reflected a fear so old that it was buried deeply in the western memory bank.

In 1452, the Ottoman Turks conquered the old Byzantine Empire, that eastern part of the Roman Empire that had been a great power for a thousand more...

Print