Thursday, July 2, 2015

Human Rights Widen In the West, Vanish Elsewhere.

July 4, 2015
Laina Farhat-Holzman

On June 26, the United States extended its freedoms to one more group of fellow citizens, homosexuals, who now have the equality in marriage. Over many centuries before this, homosexual males were jailed, beaten, tortured, and scorned. Female homosexuals were forced into marriage, institutionalized, or shunned.

In Muslim societies, even today, homosexuality is technically forbidden but socially rampant, particularly practiced against boys by those responsible for them (including having special bordellos) and boys among themselves. In harems, women practiced it, running the risk of execution if caught.

Today, in an amazingly short time, Europeans and Americans (even in macho Mexico), countries have extended to homosexuals the same rights that all adult citizens have: to marry, to have children, and to have the legal rights to live with the property rights and inheritance rights accorded to all in our civilization.

Marriage in the West has been a changing institution. Not too long ago, women were property and had no choice of spouse. Families would not permit children of different religions to marry. Not too long ago, it was illegal for marriage between people of different races to marry. All of this was challenged and changed under law. Now people of different genders may marry too. This is an extension of rights that is the hallmark of Western civilization: enlarging liberty.

This parallels all the other enlargement of liberty in America too, particularly in voting rights: from adult White men of property to all adult White men to all men (at least by law including Black men) and finally to all Women. This took several centuries and a bloody war and more bloodshed and grief, but it did happen.

As for the rest of the world, freedom is a work in progress, but is not doing as well as in the West. Unfortunately the Western model of expansion of freedoms has hit a dreadful roadblock, one which Samuel D. Huntington warned us of in 1993 in his Clash of Civilizations: the roadblock of Islam.

On June 26, when America showed its expansion of human rights with its Supreme Court Decision, the “Islamic State” showed its own values in three significant attacks.

Muslims worldwide are celebrating Ramadan, the month-long fast in which they are urged to meditate, pray, pity the hungry, show charity to the poor, and then break their fasts with kindness and good fellowship with family and neighbors. ISIS has a different idea: “To make Ramadan a month of calamities for the nonbelievers.” This was their “noble” goal, and indeed they did.

In Tunisia, they pulled a Kalishnikov from a beach umbrella at a resort for European tourists and killed 38 people (go after the tourist industry). In Kuwait, they killed at least 27 worshippers at midday prayers at a Shiite mosque (wrong kind of believers). And in southeastern France, they car-bombed a gas factory and left the severed head of the driver's employer hanging at the entrance, the assassin taking a “selfie” of the deed.

Somalia doesn't have enough trouble. An al-Qaeda group attacked an African Union base and killed 25 soldiers there. They do not want any kind of law and order in Somalia.

Is it any surprise that Europe is dealing with 40,000 recent migrants fleeing the Muslim world? Why should anyone want to stay there? What does it offer other than death? Which freedoms do ISIS support?

Ken Burns' wonderful special on the Roosevelts has been rerunning this summer. Eleanor Roosevelt has been justly remembered for her stellar work in the United Nations as the author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that spelled out in the 1950s the best values of Western Civilization, that all human beings should enjoy. Every member of the General Assembly of that day, signed that document, including the Saudis!  I watched with disbelief, knowing full well that the majority of signers had laws that forbade granting human rights to women, political opposition, religious diversity, legal independence, yet they signed.

Today, the General Assembly is a Cave of Winds with one agenda: Defund Israel, the only democracy among them. Human Rights is a Grand Canyon.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

Laina At the Movies

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
June 2015

San Andreas

Because I live practically on the San Andreas Fault, I had to see the movie! The turnoff from the freeway to our street is the San Andreas exit, and our very townhouse has gone through several heavy earthquakes (such as the '89 one) with only minor damage, but one never knows. Our nearest cities, Santa Cruz and Watsonville, both suffered plenty of damage to older structures, trailer-park housing, and some roads, but not much else. No loss of life that I know of.

The movie, however, was a grand disaster film in the Hollywood mode of summer movies. The entire San Andreas fault moved, San Francisco not only fell down like dominoes, but there was fire and tsunami! And, to make the story personal, we were treated to Dwayne Johnson having to rescue his ex-wife, whom he not only still loved but who was just about to marry a very bad billionaire; he also had to rescue his college girl daughter; and his vehicles of rescue included a helicopter, plane, car, and speedboat!  What more could you want?

I went home after seeing this film, still not frightened by my very own San Andreas Fault.  Better that than the Texas floods, thank you.


I am generally not fond of silly spy movies (I take my spy movies seriously), but this one did make me laugh, and the laughter was fun and not embarrassing. A desk-bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper (played by Melissa McCarthy) tasked with guiding her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law) on a mission to Bulgaria sees him run into trouble. He accidentally kills his target without finding the suitcase nuke bomb he is supposed to bring back. The CIA learns that the target's daughter, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) might know where the suitcase is and they send Fine to infiltrate her home. Boyanov encounters him and apparently shoots him dead. She claims to know the identities of all the main CIA agents too.

There is no other choice now: Susan Cooper must become a field agent; she is unknown to Boyanov. Cooper, fat, frumpy, and with unlikely disguises, romps her way through all the garden spots of Europe in pursuit of gorgeous Rayna Boyanov, followed by outraged former CIA agent Rick Ford (Jason Stratham) and an Italian contact Aldo (hilariously played by Peter Serafinowicz). The rest of the film is sheer mayhem.  Very funny indeed. Worth seeing. It makes fun of every Bond Film made.

About Elly

This is a Persian movie that I was very happy to see, and that will puzzle the casual viewer who might wonder what this was all about. It even took me a while to figure out the purpose of this film after leaving the theater, but for what it is worth, here is my take on it. (And note, I understood the dialogue!)

A group of friends travel to the shores of the Caspian Sea for a three day vacation. (I would not know their backgrounds from the film, but learned this from the blurb.) They are three married couples, former classmates at the law faculty at the university: Sepideh and her husband Amir, with a young daughter in kindergarten; Shohreh and her husband Peyman with two young children, including a son, Arash: Nazy, and her husband, Manuchehr; Ahmad, a divorced friend visiting from Germany; and Elly, Sepideh's daughter's kindergarten teacher. Sepideh has invited her to meet Ahmad who is looking for a new wife.

Some background for Americans: The Caspian Sea area in Iran is the favorite vacation region in the country. It gets 80 inches of rainfall and is flanked by mountains separating it from Tehran and Iran's interior dry interior plateaus. It was rainy and overcast throughout this movie. When I was last there, it was the playground of the rich. It is now run down and shabby, like the “villa” (vacation rental) where the party stayed.

Sepideh was the organizer of the weekend. She loves making things happen. She rented the villa, played matchmaker for her friend the teacher and former schoolmate Ahmad, and just wanted to make everything work. Her only problem was that like probably everyone in Iran has, in order to survive, truth is a luxury. We follow the little lies through to the big lies throughout this film.

First lie: The party arrives and the landlady tells them that the villa they rented is only available for one night. She told Sepideh that the owners were coming for the rest of the holiday. But Sepideh denies knowledge of this. The landlady offers the rundown beach villa and the group takes a vote and takes it. They clean it up  and merrily set about organizing themselves. Second lie: they tell the landlady that Ahmad and Elly are honeymooners. (Iran's Islamic law forbids unmarried couples from being together). Elly is obviously uncomfortable about something throughout the first day. The party, however, are enjoying themselves. They organize getting food, playing charades (even having the children take part), having a very jolly competitive game of volleyball (the women are just as athletic), and they are exactly like the Iranians that I remembered before the Revolution. Then Elly goes off to higher ground to make a phone call to her mother (she says) and does not tell her mother that she is at the Caspian (third lie) and tells Sepideh that she must go home. Sepideh objects and wants her to stay. They quarre and Sepideh hides her bag.

During the day, the party goes to get more food and supplies and one of the mothers asks Elly to watch the children. Elly helps one child launch a kite, and while she does, the littlest boy falls into the sea, a father rescues the child and Elly vanishes.  Nobody specifically saw her go into the water but this seems likely.

Now everything is falling apart. A sea search turns up nothing until much later, Elly's body is found. The police come. The group of friends see trouble ahead. The lies emerge. Sepideh confesses that Elly was engaged, wanted out of the engagement and was willing to meet Ahmad but had gotten cold feet. She had not seen fit to tell her friends everything. She had lied to them.. Now the group had to decide whether to back Sepideh and lie to the police, lie to the fiancĂ©, or what to do.  They instructed the children to lie. The children had to learn early.

The film ends with the whole group trying to free their car, which is stuck in the sand as the tide comes in. Stuck indeed. Iran is stuck. Is there no way to live in that country without lying?

Jurassic World

Twenty-two years have passed since the first disastrous attempt at creating a dinosaur reserve was created (Jurassic Park), and it is now already old-hat to have a Jurassic entertainment park stocked with dynosaurs (Jurassic World). Like all theme parks, the owners must continue to amuse increasingly jaded attendees---with increasingly scary “exhibits.” To this end, scientists and their financial backers have been tinkering even more with the genetic makeup of dynosaurs and, like their timeless predecessor, Dr. Frankenstein, they know not what they have let loose.

This is but one more movie of the genre of the mad scientist sort to provide summer thrills and warnings about  science gone amok, and to make it more up close and personal, it brings to us a family with a married couple contemplating divorce, to the distress of their two young boys whom they are trying to distract by a vacation to Jurassic World; the boys' aunt, a workahaulic who has not yet discovered that love is more important than the bottom line; a mad scientist who does not consider the consequences of his meddling with genes; investors who care only about money; and a hero who cares about animals, a  role model for young boys, a shrew who needs taming; and hapless tourists who need rescuing.

This is a summer movie, folks, and provides what you pay for.

Inside Out

Every single critic loved this movie, raved about how this was the best film of the summer, and provided the best, most accurate explanation of what goes on in an 11-year-old girl's mind. Having two 10-year-old granddaughters, I gave it a try.

Sorry to say, I was not overwhelmed. I have to confess that Pixar films do little for me; I am much more a fan of the beautiful Japanese cartoons, both the art and the stories, much more to my taste and more reflective of my values.

As for Inside Out, I really liked the reviews better than I liked the movie. I just  don't get the hype.

I'll See You In My Dreams

The only reason to see this film is to hear Blythe Danner's killer version of Cry Me a River.  Other than that, it is a very depressing little film about ageing that I could have done without, thank you.

Some TV Notes

Madame Secretary has been terrific! Catch up with that one if you can. Tyrant is becoming interesting and may continue to be worth watching. It was a little too soap operera-y last year but is better now. Deucheland 83 (on Sundance) is wonderful and well worth watching! Even with subtitles! The Brink, supposedly an “edgy” spy spoof about the CIA in Pakistan, is vulgar, stupid, and utterly insulting. Shame on HBO for this one!!!

On Netflix, look for Dancing on the Edge.  Very good indeed.

History Reveals Presidential Close Calls!

June 27, 2015
Laina Farhat-Holzman

As a historian, I can be pretty dispassionate about reading things that are past and gone. Knowing that President Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and that his wife Edith secretly kept him hidden from October 1919 to April 1920 is certainly alarming, but nothing disastrous seems to have happened. This could not happen today, I hope.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, a weekend when the actions of individuals both in the White House----the cool head of Bobby Kennedy who advised his brother President John Kennedy, whose bad health was not known to the public, overriding the not-cool heads of the US military advisers; the cool head of Russia's Khrushchev, the best among the USSR's rogues; the heroic actions of a Soviet nuclear submarine commander off the coast of Cuba who had no advice from anybody but his own conscience; all combined to save the world from what might have been a global nuclear catastrophe. Just reading about this gives me cold sweats.

But the latest historic revelations give me equally cold sweats. Two new books have just come out about President Richard Nixon, whom we thought we really knew pretty well by now. Well, no we didn't. Evan Thomas' book (Being Nixon) gives us a balanced picture of Nixon's entire life, his well-known flaws but his lesser know sympathetic side. He was a man who desperately wanted to be lovable, but just could not be. He did succeed in overcoming what for most politicians would have been total defeat, even after the disgrace of his leaving office before he would have been impeached---and even found guilty of crimes.

But the second book (One Man Against the World) is the one that has really frightened me after the fact. Tim Weiner, New York Times reporter, has had access to newly released Nixon tapes and other interviews, tapes inexplicably never destroyed. These tapes reflect what was going on during a very dangerous period during the Yom Kippur War, when Israel suffered a surprise attack by Egypt and came close to losing! In the Situation Room, the five-member military team, which included Alexander Haig and Henry Kissinger, learned that the Russians were sending nuclear warheads to the Egyptians. They tried to rouse the President, but he was, as he had been for some nights, drunk and unavailable.

Nixon was so distraught by the disintegration of his administration, the unraveling of all his actions and the impending doom of exposure, that he had become insomniac. Only alcohol enabled him to sleep. The country was facing a possible nuclear confrontation and unelected officials had to make decisions that, by sheer luck, turned out to save us from disaster. All praise to Kissinger and Haig. (And Israel was saved from an Egyptian win by Russian tanks in the Sinai with no air conditioning.)

Nixon had mused to Haig: “Maybe the country would be better off if I just left.” What did he mean by that? Step down? Commit suicide? And then what? There was no possible Vice President at the time. Spiro Agnew was under indictment for bribery. House Speaker Carl Albert was a Democrat and was under a cloud too. Kissinger was not native-born. Not good.

Historians like to look at the broad sweep of movements, of great trends, of issues that play out, creating historic eras. Marxists see everything in terms of economics and class struggle.  They see the ruling classes dominating and exploiting the working classes, aided and abetted by bureaucrats. The individual is not much of a factor here.

Others see geography as the major factor in determining much of the sweep of history: where countries are, what climate, natural resources they have, what sort of neighbors, all of these determining their history. These are the geopolitics that provide the luck (good or bad) of a country's history. I largely buy into this theory, but there is another great mystery that we cannot afford to ignore: the final mystery of individuals and their choices of good or evil, who can override all these other things.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Defunding Isreal but Blind to Islamophobia Ripoffs?

June 20, 2015
Laina Farhat-Holzman

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 the horrors of Islam. These are the monkeys who see no evil.

And in the United States and Europe, where Muslims have managed to find refuge, Islam's well-healed (Saudi money) legal arm (CAIR) brings lawsuits and carps about how badly Muslims are treated. They even take a ridiculous lawsuit to the American Supreme Court and win (!), permitting a woman to wear her headscarf in an upscale department store despite the store's standards. What a triumph for Islam.

How reciprocal is the Muslim world's liberality today around the world? Here are a few items from just one day's news (June 10).

     o     Sikhs. There used to be a thriving community of 100,000 Sikhs (non-Muslim) living in Afghanistan in 1990. There are now 2,500, and they are being pushed out. They cannot reclaim the houses and businesses and houses of worship that were seized by the Taliban. The same is true for Afghan Hindus. All are leaving and returning to India, which will be Afghanistan's loss. Tolerance is not Islam's strong suit.

     o     Women. While CAIR worries about a head-scarfed woman, Nigeria has more serious problems. A child forced to marry at just 13, who then poisoned her 35-year-old-husband and three of his friends (forced confession), was freed from execution but kept in juvenile detention. Her family wants her back so that they can force her into another marriage (if they don't kill her first). This is, after all, Islamic law. She was a second wife. Good old polygamy and child brides are favored by Nigerian Muslims. Another 13-year-old was recently executed for the same trumped-up crime.

     o     Karnak, Egypt. Islam's famous hatred of pre-Islamic history is illustrated again in an attack on one of Egypt's most important tourist attractions, the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. Visited by millions every year, touists will hesitate to come, which is of course the reason for the Islamic militants' attack. It is not enough to just hate rival religions.

     o     Christians in Pakistan. Christians are not doing well anywhere in the Muslim world. We hear more about Christian women, forced to convert, or kidnapped and raped (as in Iraq or Egypt or with the African schoolgirls), but this time it was a young man who was convicted of murder as a 15-year-old, whose confession was obtained under torture, although prosecution witnesses had since recanted. He was executed anyway despite international protests. The Pakistani death penalty was supposed to be reinstated only for terrorists----but so what. A Christian doesn't have a chance in Pakistan.

     o     Turkish Judge's Strange Standard. First, there were the beatings in their home in Ankara, her husband's fist crashing hard against her body. Then came the beatings at the shelter, where she'd found refuge with their child, when the husband came to visit. The judge imposed a fine: 3,000 liras (about $1,000) against the man for physical abuse, and 3,000 more against the wife, for the injury to her husband's hand when he'd beaten her too hard. At first I thought this had to be a joke, but it was not. Is this from some obscure passage in Sharia law, because it certainly is not in Turkish secular law! Kamal Ataturk must be turning over in his grave!

     o     Gaza.     Where are all those demonstraters who want to defund Israel?  Hamas spent all reconstruction money on tunnels and missiles and doesn't give a hoot about Gaza's civilians. Who is the bad guy here?

Where are all those feminists who are blind, deaf, and dumb to what Muslims are doing to women? Are they shopping in Abercrombie for headscarfs?

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or        

Dispatch from the Field: Influence of China, Russia and the United States in Today’s Mongolia

Harry Rhodes
June 2015, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

In June of 2015 I attended the Building Resilience of Mongolia Rangelands conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  It was primarily a trans-disciplinary scientific research conference addressing current problems facing the Mongolian steppe, its nomadic herder population, wild and domestic animal management and welfare, a changing environment (global warming), drought, and the loss of traditional rangelands and water sources to foreign mining interests with attendant environmental pollution.  I participated as both an attendee as well as a presenter (for work done by my wife, Lynn Rhodes).

The conference was sponsored by Colorado State University with assistance and support from the U.S. Embassy and the American Center for Mongolian Studies and was also supported by many other international academic, scientific, and environmental organizations.  Scientists from a wide variety of countries attended the conference, including scientists from Mongolia, the People’s Republic of China, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and Japan.

Mongolia is a country with a long and colorful history.  It is landlocked between two massive civilizational forces, Russia and China, and its history and culture have been significantly impacted by both of these neighboring cultures.

I had budgeted sufficient time both before and after the conference to see some of the country, and meet with local people.  I was surprised by some of the things I learned.  My interviews with Mongolians were frequently initiated by the Mongolians (I was obviously an American and my presence provided an opportunity for them to practice English with a native speaker).
My conversations with Mongolians included academics (primarily in the sciences), and young people residing in the capital city, but with both groups maintaining strong ties with nomadic relatives on the steppe.

The first thing apparent was a pride in the history of Mongolia and especially with its nomadic culture.  The second concern was about government corruption, especially corruption caused by the influx of foreign money, primarily related to Chinese mining interests and involvement in massive building projects in the capital city.  These operations were marked by the exclusion of Mongolian workers, with teams of Chinese workers being brought in to work on major construction projects.
A consistent theme with young people I interviewed was a desire for Mongolia to be independent from foreign influence.  Foreign influence was seen, by them, to be damaging to the culture of Mongolia.

The young people realized Mongolia existed within the primary spheres of influence of Russia and China.  When asked which influence they would choose if they had to choose between the two, they preferred Russian influence.  Answers to my inquiries as to why Russian over Chinese influence were consistent for historical reasons, hundreds of years in the past, but also for the corrupting influence associated with modern financial investment.  Russia, on the other hand, was seen more as a benefactor to Mongolia.  Russia was seen as a historical benefactor relative to activities in World War II, but also as a current benefactor providing trained educators and other less-exploitative involvement in the country.

The U.S. was seen as not significantly relevant to the political or economic situation.  As one Mongolian told me, the U.S. was liked but it was geographically too far away for its influence to be seen or felt.  They said “Russia and China were here”.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Asking the Wrong Question Can Lead to War

June 13, 2015
Laina Farhat-Holzman

The United States has gone to war twice by asking the wrong questions. Fortunately for us, even though we did not “win” either of those wars (in the conventional sense, such as the way we won World Wars I and II), we did not lose them either. No enemy came to our shores and conquered us. But in both of those wars, we made a terrible mess of two countries and suffered a terrible cost of young lives of our own, costs that we are still paying. Those two wars were the Vietnam War and the second Iraq War.

The reason for thinking about questions is the 40th anniversary of our withdrawal from the painful Vietnam War, with the searing image of the last helicopter taking off leaving behind many Vietnamese who helped us to the vengeance of the North Vietnamese shortly to arrive. It was shameful.

This was also the last war in which young Americans were drafted to fight-a system that was designed to be fair but had been badly corrupted by then. Too many of the well connected managed to get out of it, leaving the miseries of that war to the underclass, who returned from the war bitter, hooked on drugs, and alienated from an America hostile to them. A very bad war indeed, and even our political objective: to save Vietnam from being taken over by Communism, failed.

Why did we spend so much blood and money on such a war with so little benefit? What question had we failed to ask? We were fighting a cold war with the Soviet Union (rightly; they were monsters) but had wrongly cut off all communications with Communist China. We assumed, wrongly, that Communism was just one thing; that it was a monolith. Once we corrected that mistake, our Cold War was fought with much more finesse, and brought to a much better end.

We assumed that North Vietnam was a client of Communist China, never understanding that it was a client of the USSR, and that there was actually bad blood between China and Russia that we could have exploited.  We never understood from the start that we could have listened to our China experts who knew this. Instead, demagogue Joseph McCarthy and his friends in Congress persecuted the China Experts and all of them had their careers ruined.

We could have talked to Ho Chi Minh, who was a Vietnamese patriot first, and a Communist second, but never did. Our Congress was so blinded on monolithic anti-communism that only the wrong question was asked and the wrong war fought. It cost everyone big not having asked the right question.

In Iraq, the same problem happened. We never asked the right questions about Saddam Hussein. The question should have been: Why would he boast about having a two million-man army and weapons of mass destruction? Did he really want the US to take him on?  Was he really that stupid? Or was he really directing that boast to someone else?

Those who know the Middle East have to understand the role of lying. In a region of constant insecurity, nobody ever has the luxury of telling the truth. I would even question demographic information from the region. If one asks how many children a man has, he will tell you how many sons (and may even lie about that). When a family's religion can be a matter of life or death, one cannot expect truth either, hence the skewed Sunni-Shi'a demographics for so long. Saddam was aiming his boast at Iran, and assumed that the US would understand this. We did not, and launched a war that was a huge mistake.

It might not have been such a disaster if we had not compounded it by a second mistake: did Iraq just need a new and better dictator or did it need democracy? Good question, bad answer.

President Obama has asked the right question this time. “If the Ayatollas are suicidal enough to go nuclear, why is their money in Swiss banks?” Good question!

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Candidates Are Missing the Right Answer About the Iraq War!

Laina Farhat-Holzman
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Monterey Herald
June 6, 2015

Watching all the candidates for the 2016 election dancing on a tightrope trying to answer the question about why they voted to go into Iraq in 2003 (or what lesson they should have learned from this “mistake”) is painful and unnecessary. There is a simple answer to this dilemma that nobody seems to want to say. Yet this answer is being played out right under our noses.

It was not a mistake to remove a dangerous, murderous, unpredictable dictator such as Saddam Hussein! We could have saved ourselves the trouble if we had removed him in the first Gulf War. The mistake was trying to replace him with a democracy. We could have gone to Baghdad and handed over the government to a decent general. There were quite a few whom we had trained who could have kept the country together.

The same thing could have been done in the second invasion too.  We would not have had to disband the army.  The country would not have fallen apart. Iraq would still have been a single country, not an ethnic stew as it is now.

We are captive of our own misbegotten policy of “making the world safe for democracy,” one that we handed to the United Nations, that has made a terrible mess of the world. It was very well intentioned, but the road to hell has always been paved by good intentions.

Democracy is not the result of a free and fair election. It is a process dependent upon a number of elements:  a large and literate middle class; private property; independent press; independent judiciary; gender equality; separation of religion from governance; a regular and orderly election process; universal education system; and one other thing not considered: geographic luck----relative safety from predatory neighbors or the ability to defend oneself from such.

This list eliminates much of the world from the requirements needed to even have a democracy unless under the protective umbrella of the United States, and we are no longer in the business of policing the world.

The candidates should say frankly that knowing what we thought we knew at the time, it was right to go into Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein, even though the intelligence was wrong. But to Part 2 of the question, what did we learn, they should answer that we should never again try to plant a democracy where it does not belong! That is the lesson.

The proof of this is right under our noses in Egypt, the only country that survived the “Arab Spring” with the right conclusion. Egypt dumped a dictator who stayed too long; held an election that taught
them a lesson: that the educated city people were outvoted by the illiterate Islamist majority in the villages, who voted in the Muslim Brotherhood. A second rigged election gave them what they should have had in the first place: a modernizing general, General Sisi, who is doing what is necessary to keep the country from falling apart.

Democracy lovers are wringing their hands. Of course they are. But they still have not learned their lesson. Egypt is a country that is drastically overpopulated, the majority of its people ignorant, living in villages whose attitudes and customs have not changed in several thousand years. They are nominally Muslim, Islam barely overlying ancient Egyptian custom and mythology tied to the Nile and its annual risings upon which the agricultural cycle has depended. Democracy is not even on their radar!

The problem today is that there are too many Egyptians. The River cannot sustain all of them properly. It is asked to provide power, irrigation, fertility, and flow into the Mediterranean; however, it is not doing any of these things well. Egypt was once the breadbasket of the Roman world. Egypt is now on the verge of famine, and this breadbasket no longer feeds itself. Egypt needs neither an election nor Islam. It needs a firm hand, modernization, and contraception.

Don't replace dictators with elections! They need good generals and guided modernization.

Have we learned this yet?

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or