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Trump's Saudi Speech: Pretty Good

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 21, 2017  •  National Review Online

In Riyadh, on the first stop of his tri-monotheism tour that will take him to Jerusalem and Rome (sorry, Mecca was not available), Donald Trump gave a major speech on a wide range of topics – the Middle East, jihadi violence, Iran, an "Arab NATO," and Islam. It's a mixed performance, but overall positive.

First, what's wrong with the 34-minute speech: It's incoherent, jumping from topic to topic and then back again. It's neither eloquent nor insightful (as in, "Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death"). In places, it consists of Obama-like euphemisms, such as the statement that history's great test stands before us, one goal that transcends every other consideration: "to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism."

And it's farcical to announce the opening in Riyadh, the headquarters of Wahhabism, of a "Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology." I bristled at Trump calling Saudi Arabia "sacred land." I gagged on the warm praise for King Salman, someone implicated in contributing tens of millions of U.S. dollars during the 1990s to finance jihadi violence in Bosnia and Pakistan.

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Palestinian Statehood Is Acceptable … Eventually

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 21, 2017  •  Israel National News

Martin Sherman, executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, has devoted a new column, "Why Palestinian Statehood Obviates Israeli Victory," to hashing out his and my differences over something we fundamentally agree on, the goal of Israel victory.

This is the idea that the "peace process" has turned into a "war process" and that the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation lies not in more painful concessions by Israel but, to the contrary, in Israel imposing its will on its enemy and crushing the Palestinian dream to eliminate the Jewish state. Washington should encourage its Israeli ally in this. Ironically, losing is the best thing that could happen to the Palestinians, for it liberates from a destructive obsession and allows them to begin constructing their own polity, economy, society, and culture.

To advance this idea, the Middle East Forum, the organization I head, has worked with members of the U.S. House of Representatives to launch a Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC) to lobby the president. Sherman hails CIVC as "an initiative of critical importance with genuine paradigmatic game-changing potential."

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Achieving Israel Victory with Martin Sherman

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 14, 2017  •  Israel National News

My call for Israel victory has prompted Martin Sherman, executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, to write a trilogy of serious and constructive critiques (here, here, and here) for Israel National News. This is how an idea is improved, so I thank him.

In response, I shall first recapitulate my thesis, then answer his reservations.

My argument: Nearly thirty years of "peace process" has left Palestinian-Israeli relations worse than when they started; therefore, further attempts (such as those Donald Trump is now initiating) are a fool's errand. Compromise and "painful concessions" do not end conflicts; rather, history shows, one side giving up does so.

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Interview: I Expect Trump to Be Mildly Hostile to Israel

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 9, 2017  •  L'Informale (Italy)

Question: President Trump's very first stop abroad - before Israel and the Vatican – will be in Saudi Arabia. What do you make of this surprising decision?

Answer: Everything about Donald Trump surprises, from the day he announced for the presidency two years ago until now, so this trip fits into part of a much larger pattern. It's unprecedented for a president not to visit first a Central American, North American, or Western European country. Why does Trump bestow this honor on Saudi Arabia? I suppose he wants both to redeem his anti-Muslim reputation and galvanize governments against Tehran.

Q: Why do Americans see Riyadh as less dangerous than Tehran, given that the Saudi government has invested enormous funds to spread its Wahhabi version of Islam, thereby increasing Islamism and jihadism?

A: Easy: Tehran is simply antagonistic whereas Riyadh plays a complex game of cooperating with Washington on the political-military level while portraying Christian and Jews as the enemy on the educational-religious level.

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Introducing the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 2, 2017  •  Secure Freedom Radio

Bibliography – My Writings on Palestinian Defeat, Israel Victory

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 26, 2017

As the Oslo process unraveled, starting in 1997 I developed an alternative approach: Not more counterproductive negotiations but a return to the classic scenario of defeat and victory. I wrote often on this topic over two decades. I collect them here, a day ahead of the launch of the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus devoted to promoting these ideas:

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[Symposium] What Conservative Historians Are Saying about Trump's First 100 Days

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 23, 2017

History News Network introduction:

Donald Trump's first 100 days have seen the appointment and termination of decorated general Michael Flynn from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the eclipse of former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon, a steady decline in the relationship with Russia, the bombing of Syria, a failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, and two failed attempts to impose a ban on certain groups of immigrants. This wasn't exactly what Trump promised.  On the plus side he succeeded in appointing a religious conservative to the Supreme Court, fulfilling his commitment to evangelicals, while issuing executive orders that many conservatives approved.

We wondered what conservative historians make of Trump's debut.  Here's what they [Larry Schweikart, Daniel Pipes, Victor Davis Hanson, Paul Gottfried, Brad Birzer, and Robert Merry] told us.

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The Erdoğan Enigma

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 22, 2017  •  Australian

I nominate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey, as the most inconsistent, mysterious, and therefore most unpredictable major politician on the world stage. His victory in a referendum last Sunday formally bestows him with near-dictatorial powers that leave Turkey, the Middle East, and beyond in a greater state of uncertainty than ever.

Here are some of the puzzles:

Mystery #1: Holding the referendum. The Turkish electorate voted on April 16 in a remarkable national plebiscite that dealt not with the usual topic – floating a bond or recalling a politician – but with fundamental constitutional changes affecting the very nature of their government: Should the country continue with the flawed democracy of the past 65 years or centralize political power in the presidency? Under the new dispensation, the prime minister vaporizes and the president holds vast power over parliament, the cabinet, the judiciary, the budget, and the military.

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A Parent's Guide to College Visits

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 14, 2017

My youngest child is in 11th grade, so it's time to strap on the sandals again and tour some colleges. After immersing myself in several this week in the Boston area, I offer some impressions:

College visits are impressively organized and quite alike, with one each in the a.m. and p.m. On arrival, the family checks in, receives a brochure, then listens to a vivacious assistant director of admissions for an hour, mostly about the university (how many Nobel Prize winners, how many varsity sports, how many countries represented in the student body) and a bit about the application process (dates, emphases, tests required). As the talk ends, student guides glide into the room, the 100-200 family members find themselves randomly divided into about ten groups, and they go off for the second hour, escorted around campus by a chirpy student who shows off classrooms, restaurants, and dormitories.

The nearly identical format is both boring and useful, for it allows students and parents more easily to make direct apples-to-apples comparisons. Which chemistry labs or dormitory rooms appear superior? Which campus has the best security?

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Turkey's Vainglorious Referendum

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 14, 2017  •  Wall Street Journal

This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey's parliament. An opinion piece published by the German news agency Deutsche Welle explains that the "crucial" amendments "give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability," eliminating what is left of democracy in Turkey. Virtually all observers agree that if the referendum passes, Turkey will be transformed into an authoritarian state.

But I (along with a few others) disagree. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.

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Breaking the Palestinians' Will to Fight

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 10, 2017  •  Mosaic

Daniel Polisar of Shalem College in Jerusalem shook the debate over Palestinian-Israeli relations in November 2015 with his essay, "What Do Palestinians Want?" In it, having studied 330 polls to "understand the perspective of everyday Palestinians" toward Israel, Israelis, Jews, and the utility of violence against them, he found that Palestinian attackers are "venerated" by their society—with all that that implies.

He's done it again with "Do Palestinians Want a Two-State Solution?" This time, he pored over some 400 opinion polls of Palestinian views to find consistency among seemingly contradictory evidence on the topic of ways to resolve the conflict with Israel. From this confusing bulk, Polisar convincingly establishes that Palestinians collectively hold three related views of Israel: it has no historical or moral claim to exist, it is inherently rapacious and expansionist, and it is doomed to extinction. In combination, these attitudes explain and justify the widespread Palestinian demand for a state from "the river to the sea," the grand Palestine of their maps that erases Israel.

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No to Bombing Syria

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 6, 2017

The Obama Administration rightly stayed out of Syria through six painful, grisly years of civil war there. Yes, the fighting has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions. Yes, the uncontrolled migration of Syrians to Europe caused deep problems there. Yes, the Kurds are sympathetic. Yes, Barack Obama made a fool of himself when he declared the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons a "red line" and proceeded not to enforce it.

Despite all this, it was right not to intervene because Iranian- and Russian-backed Shi'ite pro-government jihadis are best kept busy fighting Saudi-, Qatar-, and Turkish-backed anti-government Sunni jihadis; because Kurds, however appealing, are not contenders for control of the whole of Syria; and because Americans have no stomach for another Middle Eastern war.

The direct American involvement that a few hours ago with nearly 60 cruise missiles in an hour attacking Shayrat Air Base implies siding with one side against the other, even though both of them are hideously repugnant. (While the regime has done the great preponderance of the killing, estimated at 94 percent, that's due only to its greater destructive power, not the humanitarianism of ISIS and its other enemies.)

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A Return to the Academy

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 5, 2017  •  Washington Times

I just attended a two-day academic conference at the University of Pennsylvania, in part out of interest in the topic ("American & Muslim Worlds ca. 1500-1900"), in part to get a first-hand sense of discourse in the humanities at the contemporary university. As the founder of Campus Watch, I wondered if it is as bad as our reports suggest, or whether we focus on outliers.

My first impression was one of intellectual coziness. A broad consensus on a common base of liberal assumptions crowds out dissenting opinions. A series of hierarchies exists:

  • Modern bests old
  • Non-American bests American
  • Female bests male
  • Dark skin bests white skin
  • Muslim bests non-Muslim

The word "Islamophobia" is used as though a normal English-language word rather than a propagandistic tool to shut down criticism. A prominent nineteenth century missionary, Henry Jessup, was anachronistically called a "preeminent Muslim-basher."

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Another Attempt at "Extreme Vetting"

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 4, 2017

Donald Trump first coined the phrase "extreme vetting" in July 2016, in the aftermath of the truck attack in Nice, France. For nine months, he and his advisors have been trying to figure out what this means in practice.

Their first iteration, announced on Jan. 27, just days after their coming to office, focused on countries, not individuals. This approach has twice been shot down by the courts; further, it inherently makes no sense: some Iranians are friends and some Canadians are enemies. Looking at countries is crude and ineffective.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reports on the second try at "Trump Administration Considers Far-Reaching Steps for 'Extreme Vetting'" by Laura Meckler.

It's good to hear that the authorities are taking this issue seriously. The new approach has two halves. The first is excellent, requiring that foreigners who wish to visit the United States "to answer probing questions about their ideology." In more detail: the "ideological test" will, according to a Department of Homeland Security official working on the review, include questions such as

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Historians Run Amok

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 4, 2017

The eminent historian Niall Ferguson has devastatingly skewered his (and my) field of study in a talk for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, subsequently published as "The Decline and Fall of History."

He starts with the empirical fact that undergraduates are running away from studying history: compared with 1971 (coincidentally, the year I got my A.B. degree), "the share of history and social sciences degrees has halved, from 18% in 1971 to 9%. And the decline seems likely to continue."

Why so? Data from the American Historical Association finds that the past 40 years have seen

a very big increase in the number of historians who specialize in women and gender, which has risen from 1% of the total to almost 10%. As a result, gender is now the single most important subfield in the academy. Cultural history (from under 4% to nearly 8%) is next. The history of race and ethnicity has also gone up by a factor of more than three. Environmental history is another big winner.

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