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"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  

October 2016

Israel?s Changing Neighborhood


When Israel first became a nation, a unified Muslim world (in particular, Arab world) invaded, hoping to destroy the nascent state. The Arabs did not prevail, but that did not stop them for trying 13 other times since 1947.

In the past 12 months alone, Israel faced 407 terror attacks, including 165 stabbings, 87 attempted stabbings, 107 shootings, 47 vehicular attacks, and one bus bombing. All this is in a country the size of New Jersey!

Today, however, the more...

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Immigrants vs Self-Radicalizing Jihadis



With the latest outrage of terror attacks by two US citizens in New York-New Jersey and Minnesota on September 17, the news media were reporting our leaders? very conflicting viewpoints. The attacks gave fuel to Donald Trump?s notion that terrorists are coming into this country with refugees. "Keep all Muslims out until we know what?s going on!"

The problem with this is that the two terrorists were not "refugees." They were citizens and had spent all their format more...

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May 2016

Saudi Arabia: Our Troubled and Troublesome Ally (Part 2 of 2)


A country as insignificant as Saudi Arabia before oil would have mattered little to the world. In the 1950s, as oil wealth began to pour in, the Saudi princes wanted the same sorts of conspicuous consumption enjoyed by other world millionaires. When they first brought in automobiles (for themselves), the Wahhabi clergy were outraged, considering camels good enough for pious Muslims. Cameras and, later, television, were also on their list of harmful items for Saudi culture.

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Saudi Arabia: Our Troubled and Troublesome Ally (Part 1 of 2)


Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of how complex our alliances can be. I have heard from quite a few people that we should dump them as an ally. In the past, even I have muttered that after 9-11, we invaded the wrong countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) and should have taken down Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Of course we could not do this in a world of complex issues and even more complex relationships. We have needed each other for certain things over the past 60 plus years more...

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1400 Years of Inbreeding


Worldwide Muslim marriage practices are now under fire for a spate of genetic problems now in the Western spotlight. The birth defects and anomalies are real and their incidence within Islam is undeniable. The problem is determining if these incidences are all caused by the Muslim preference for first-cousin marriages, a practice forbidden in Judaism and Christianity.

We do not know enough about genetics to determine if this consanguinity is totally to blame, or if there more...

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December 2015

Militant Islam has a Woman Problem.


In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack on America, there was a knee-jerk assumption that Muslims had reasons for hating us. Many left-wing chest-beaters blamed "western colonialism" for creating Muslim hatred; others blamed Israel for daring to occupy "Muslim lands." "What did we do wrong?" they asked.

Scholars revisited the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the godfather of all subsequent Islamist terror groups. This movement began in 1928 when other compar more...

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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...

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September 2015

Refugee Hordes Threaten Europe?s Future.


Europe has a long history of taking in refugees---and of creating them. During the French Revolution, England took in many fleeing the horrors in France. Germany took in Jews fleeing the Soviet Union---to make up for their Nazi period of creating refugees and then murder of Europe?s Jewish population. After World War II, millions of people became refugees, having been bombed out of their cities, including a remnant that survived the death camps.

The United States has a di more...

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Let's Take a Long View of the Iran Deal.


The exhausted negotiators had been at it for 20 months, the last many hours of which were nearly non-stop, with the possibility that this important deal might collapse. The United States, Iran, five members of the UN Security Council, and the EU had labored over this negotiation to convince Iran that it was in its best interest to reduce its nuclear program's potential of developing nuclear weapons. Iran had long (and unconvincingly) claimed its nuclear interests were peaceful only, but more...

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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...

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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...

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"Clash of Traditions" Offer Glimmers of Hope


Samuel D. Huntington warned in his landmark book Clash of Civilizations (1996) that we were headed for stormy times when the largest civilizations would not meet peacefully. His views were met with torrents of argument by most scholars who, upon the end of the Cold War, were convinced that the world had globalized; that the United States and its values had dominated all others, and that there was nothing really left to fight about. War was no longer really conceivable. We had every insti more...

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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...

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August 2014

Proxy Wars Have Unanticipated Consequences


Getting somebody else to fight while you watch is an old idea. ?Let me hold your coat,? says an onlooker in a bar fight. Even better is watching a prizefight in which poor, unfortunate idiots beat each other to a pulp for entertainment and prize money.

World War II was actually the last time that major powers were locked in deadly combat. Since that time, almost all wars have involved proxies: conflicts in which the actual beneficiaries are not doing the fighting. The enti more...

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Will Pakistan Become a Failed State or Change Its Direction?


Did the US go to war with the wrong countries when we took on Iraq and Afghanistan? Perhaps we should have gone after our ?good allies? Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who were really responsible for 9/11. This is, of course, wishful thinking considering the many ways that we need relations with these two countries, so we hold our noses and deal with them as ?frenemies,? not friends.

Pakistan grows more troubling by the day, with the Islamists increasingly violent and the secul more...

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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...

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Polio Returns to Countries Needing Regime Change


The world almost eradicated polio forever. The UN’s World Health Organization has struggled to reach every remote corner of the globe to provide babies with the few drops of medicine that could make the world free of what was once a frightening and crippling disease.

So, why hasn’t it been finished? Some very stupid and obviously evil Muslim clerics have ordered mothers to reject the polio campaign, which they claim is designed by the west to make Muslim girls sterile. more...

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International Marriages Are Risky.

One of the most important decisions in our lives is the choice of marriage partner. This trumps almost any other relationship we might have---because when good, it outlasts even our relationship with our children.

Marriage choices until our own time were the prerogative of parents (mostly fathers) or, in the still benighted parts of the world, clans and tribes. The children were rarely consulted because it was considered much more important than their whims or hormones. Love was more...

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May 2013

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...

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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...

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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...

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The Dilemma of Changing IQ outcomes


We used to think that IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was something that we were born with. Some of us were bright, some not so bright. Over the decades since IQ was first tested, we can no longer assume that IQ is a fixed genetic talent. IQ can be stimulated to increase or can be damaged into decline (or failure to develop), both the consequences of human behavior.

Although this finding gives us a heads up of what seems to be a evolutionary increase in brain functioning, accor more...

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April 2012

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...

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France Dropped the Ball with their Murderous Jihadi.

In a violent French shootout on March 22, Mohamed Merah, killer of four men and three children in Toulouse, was shot while shooting his way out of his hideout. The standoff riveted the world, which was precisely what Merah had intended. Now comes the exploration over how such a thing happened.

What we know.

Mohamed Merah was born in Toulouse France, to an Algerian mother. He became a petty criminal in his adolescence, rather common in the Muslim immigrant districts more...

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The UN Finally Identifies “Harmful Customs.”

Anthropologists have taught us not to judge other cultures, but to recognize that no matter how strange, the custom served a reasonable function. Until now, UN agencies appeared to buy in to that notion, but at last, even they see the folly of this position.

As the Karzai government in Afghanistan attempts to “dialogue” with the Taliban leadership, we are reminded that both the Taliban and the Afghan government stem from the largest Afghan tribe: the Pashtun. These fierce warr more...

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Koran Burning Spurs Obnoxious Protests.


I was appalled to hear an American general abjectly apologize for the burning of some “religious materials” at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. He apologized to President Karzai, and then to the “noble people of Afghanistan” (when do we ever say something like “noble people”), painfully in regret over the “unintended” offense.

If the general thought that this apology might protect American and NATO servicemen from attack, he was sadly misinformed. They a more...

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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...

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Do We Have an Epidemic of Sexual Abuse?

The modern world appears awash in sexual abuse and misbehavior. Over the past decade, we see grownup men (coaches and priests, both revered in society) who cannot resist sexually abusing children; those are the worst of the worst. But other misbehavers are lechers who cannot resist groping women, exchanging job promises for sex, or keeping young women captive for years to use them sexually. Are we losing our values, or is this not an epidemic at all, but the last flush of bad human behavior that more...

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What are the Best and Worst Countries for Women? (Part 2)


Last week, I addressed a major issue for most of the world’s women: marriage. This time, there are other issues equally important: women getting a fair justice system, access to health services, education, economics, and political participation. Newsweek (September 26, ) did an enormous service by providing in-depth articles (“The Global Women’s Progress Report”) and some very revealing charts show the best places to be a woman and the worst. There was also a searing article on more...

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September 2011

How Did the Media Cover 9/11?


Ten years after the most horrific foreign attack on America (the British in I812 and the Japanese in 1941), we are looking back to see how this attack affected our national character. Considering the horrific nature of 9/11, we responded with astonishing nobility and some expected missteps. We are a nation that habitually underestimates an enemy-and then overestimates this same enemy. It takes a while to get it right.

Watching how people in New York, especially the first r more...

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Do We Know What Makes People Evil?


What could make a nice Middle Class Norwegian murder 74 people because he hated his government? Or make an American Baptist college student convert to Islam and murder soldiers at an Arkansas recruitment center? Does human evil come from our genes (nature) or from our upbringing (nurture)? The debate is unresolved.

Genetic advocates can show that certain things in brain chemistry can create impulsiveness, hot temper, and sometimes inability to empathize with the pains of more...

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How Do We (and Afghanistan) Negotiate with the Taliban?


It is a matter of doctrine that if the conflicts in Afghanistan (and Pakistan?) are to be resolved, military force alone cannot do it. Our planners are trying to separate the Taliban from Al Qaeda, as though they are really different. I do not believe they have ever been different in philosophy or tactics.

On June 29, the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, was on fire, after being attacked by nine Taliban (or Haqqani Gang) suicide bombers. Only one was an actual more...

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How Goes It With Women Around the World?

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
Santa Cruz Sentinel
March 5, 2011

International Women's Day is coming up on March 8. Regarding women as human beings, equal in rights and dignity with men, is the boldest revolutionary change for mankind and is only a product of modern Western civilization. This view is not universal. Much of the world sees women as property to be disposed of as the men see fit. As my late mother-in-law once noted, it is better to be lucky than good.
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How Goes Democracy Around the World?

Democracy Project. The United States has long had a “democracy project.” After World War I, President Woodrow Wilson tried to establish an organization that would midwife newly freed colonies into democracies. He was instrumental in establishing the first “World Government,” the League of Nations, but a key Senator prevented the US from joining. That organization without us had even less teeth than today's United Nations.

At the end of World War II, the US has once more p more...

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A Few Surprises Are Happening in Afghanistan!


Although it seems like pushing a rock up a hill, our Afghan War may be coming to an end. We certainly want out of a war that seems to have no way of declaring victory—but we have been in that position in every war we have fought after World War II, the last war we definitively won. War is changing, just as social mores are changing.

Although Afghanistan seems to be the end of the world where civilization scarcely reaches, there are a few hopeful signs of change.
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December 2010

What Were They Thinking!


We are supposed to be Homo Sapiens (“thinking” or “wise” humans), aren’t we? Some of us are not, alas.

WikiLeaks.

It is astonishing that WikiLeaks and its founder, anarchist Julian Assange, have so many supporters. What kind of thinking can imagine that reading other people’s private messages and publishing them is “freedom of speech?” What kind of world do they think they will have if democratic nations cannot protect themselves from those more...

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Let’s Round Up The Usual Suspects


Norgrove Rescue.
A young British woman, Linda Norgrove, who was working in Afghanistan as an aid worker, was kidnapped in September. Her Afghan colleagues taken with her had been released by the Taliban, but she was still being held. An American special operations force tried to rescue her—but during their attack, there was an explosion and she (and her kidnappers) were killed.

How was this covered in the press? There were headlines saying “U.S. rescue force m more...

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Some People Have to Lie to Survive.


From the beginning of time, human beings have learned that telling the truth is not always the best policy. Courtiers learned not to tell truth to a king; workers had to lie to their bosses; women feared speaking the truth to a husband, as did children to their parents. Telling the truth, a value of modern Western life, is a luxury born of a society that punishes lies, not truth. And yes, our politicians are still learning this.

A recent movie, Easy A, tells the story of a more...

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Why Are We No Longer On The Same Page?

I remember when more Americans shared core values than had contentious differences. We have always had both Republicans and Democrats who valued fiscal prudence and self-reliance and both believed in the value of government. Both shared the values of a society of law and order, of vigorous but courteous debate, and of winning or losing an argument with grace. The losers in a national election still treated the president of the winning party with respect, and worked with him even while disagree more...

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September 2010

Is There Any Hope for Afghanistan?

Imagine a country where:
• Five minutes out of the capital you need armed guards to travel.
• Without a national army or police, where only tribes and warlords control each region or fight with each other.
• The vast majority are not only illiterate, but are locked in a dreadful marriage of vengeful tribal law and an unenlightened Islam.
• That cannot defend itself from any its neighbors or from any great power that wants something there.
• T more...

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When is IQ a Major Security Issue?

August 7, 2010

Katie Baker (August 2 Newsweek) cites a new study that theorizes that constant endemic diseases can stunt brain (and body) development in children. This explains the lowest IQ scores in the world in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, and Gabon. But these are not the only countries with bad numbers. The disease exposure for children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and village India are equally bad—and it is possible that not only disease, but other factors—incest more...

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Is Guatemala A Toxic Place for Women?


About 15 years ago, when I was running the UN Association in San Francisco, I was asked by women immigration lawyers to address their legal society to convince the male lawyers that women could qualify as a category suffering state persecution. This would make them eligible for US immigration—but there was fear that such eligibility would become a flood. The women lawyers were already on board, but their colleagues were not.

At that time, there was a notorious case in Ca more...

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What Are The Good Old Days?

In final exams given to my World History classes, the last question was: “If you had a time machine, which culture in the past would you choose to live in—and why would you choose it?” Then came part 2: “ If you had to gamble on being female rather than male, slave rather than upper class, would you still choose that culture?”

They all got it. The good old days were not good for everyone, and those cultures that had the largest number of unfortunate people were the ver more...

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Why is Sex Such a Global Problem?


For a biological system programmed for species survival, humans have manage to turn sex into a hideous institution for exercising power over others. This perversion of sex is used by some men to exert control over women, girls, and boys. What should be a partnership between mates, as in the rest of nature, is too often a bludgeon for abuse of power.

Of course, some men have grievances too, claiming that beautiful women (or any women) deliberately drive them wild with desir more...

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What Makes President Karzai Tick?



One of the most difficult issues for foreign policy is to understand the default nature of a culture. By this, I mean, what are the normal values that people in a particular culture have, values inculcated by parents, community, and history? Human beings are certainly capable of sometimes radical change under the right circumstances—but over the long haul, we all revert to what feels natural and right.

Americans are always taken aback when a person from another c more...

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October 2009

Is There Any Hope for Afghanistan?




Imagine a country where:
• Five minutes out of the capital you need armed guards to travel.
• Without a national army or police, where only tribes and warlords control each region or fight with each other.
• The vast majority are not only illiterate, but are locked in a dreadful marriage of vengeful tribal law and an unenlightened Islam.
• That cannot defend itself from any its neighbors or from any great power that wants somethi more...

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