Henry Kissinger by Naill Ferguson


September 30, 2016

Naill Ferguson’s Kissinger: Setting the Record Neat

by Andrew Roberts

It is very rare for an official biography to be also a revisionist biography, but this one is. Usually it’s the official life that the revisionists attempt to dissect and ­refute, but such is the historical reputation of Henry Kissinger, and the avalanche of books and treatises already written about him, that Niall Ferguson’s official biography is in part an effort to revise the revisionists. Though not without trenchant criticisms, “Kissinger. Volume I. 1923-1968: The Ideal­ist” — which takes its subject up to the age of 45, about to begin his first stint of full-time government service — constitutes the most comprehensive defense of Kissinger’s outlooks and actions since his own three-volume, 3,900-page autobiography, published between 1979 and 1999.

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Unlike the revisionists, Ferguson has had access to every part of Kissinger’s vast archive at the Library of Congress, which weighs several tons and comprises 8,380 documents covering 37,645 pages on the digitized database alone. These include a heartfelt essay on “The Eternal Jew” written by the 22-year-old German-born Sergeant Kissinger after witnessing the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp; some loving but uncompromising letters to his parents about his separation from their Orthodox faith; a jejune and somewhat cringe-making teenage note to a would-be girlfriend; and the minutes he took as secretary of a Jewish youth organization to which he belonged as the Nazis were seizing power in his homeland. Although this book is long at 986 pages, and Kissinger has only just joined the Nixon administration as national security adviser when it ends, the sheer quality of the material unearthed justifies the length and detail.

Ferguson gives the full story of the Kissinger family’s experience under the Third Reich before they emigrated in 1938, and Ferguson has identified at least 23 close family members who perished in the Holocaust. (Of the 1,990 Jews who lived in their hometown, Fürth, in 1933, fewer than 40 were left by the end of the war.) The first chapters covering the Kissingers’ life in the late 1930s and early 1940s in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York recapture the Jewish immigrant experience superbly and put into perspective the fact that Henry (born Heinz) became the first foreign-born United States citizen to serve as Secretary of State.

Whereas Kissinger has regularly underplayed his bravery during World War II, Ferguson shows that he saw action during the Battle of the Bulge, where he came under severe shelling. “His very presence” in the Meuse town of Marche “was hazardous in the extreme,” Ferguson writes, as German 88s, mortar shells and a V-1 rocket pulverized “the narrow streets of the town center where the divisional HQ was based.” After V-E Day, Kissinger became an extremely effective Nazi hunter with the Counter-­Intelligence Corps.

The subtitle of the book will surprise many for whom Kissinger’s name is almost synonymous with modern realpolitik and who are familiar with the revisionist accounts that equate him with Machiavelli, Bismarck and other such thinkers and statesmen normally thought far from idealists. Yet Ferguson’s investigation of Kissinger’s intellectual roots, especially through the influence of his Army mentor Fritz Kraemer and his Harvard supervisor William Yandell Elliott, shows Kissinger was indeed an idealist in the Kantian sense, rather than in its modern American political version. Kissinger’s unpublished senior thesis, “The Meaning of History,” was an investigation into Immanuel Kant’s philosophy of history, especially in contrast to the views of Arnold Toynbee and Oswald Spengler, although Ferguson slightly dismisses it as “an exercise in academic exhibitionism.”

In his thesis, Kissinger argued that “freedom is . . . an inner experience of life as a process of deciding meaningful alternatives” and that “whatever one’s conception about the necessity of events, at the moment of their performance their inevitability could offer no guide to action.” He also said, “However we may explain actions in retrospect, their accomplishment occurred with the inner conviction of choice.” The importance of choice led Kissinger to a belief in democracy. “Kissinger was never a Machiavellian,” Ferguson argues, but neither was he an idealist of the Woodrow Wilson variety. “It was an inherently moral act,” Ferguson says of Kissinger’s outlook, “to make a choice between lesser and greater evils.”

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Henry Kissinger and his Biographer, Naill Ferguson

What brought Kissinger to huge public prominence while still only an assistant professor was his radical prescription for how to deal with the perceived (though in fact chimerical) relative weakness of the United States vis-à-vis the Soviet Union at the time of the successful launch of the Sputnik space satellite in October 1957. As Ferguson puts it, “Sputnik launched Kissinger into a new orbit.” Kissinger had only months earlier published his widely reviewed and highly controversial best seller “Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy,” which argued that the threat of a limited nuclear war was a more effective deterrent to Soviet incursions in the third world than the Eisenhower administration’s strategy of mutually assured destruction. And as Kissinger wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine, “The best opportunity to compensate for our inferiority in manpower” is “to use our superiority in technology to best advantage” (although he did rule out using any bomb of more than 500 kilotons in a tactical situation). For Ferguson, Kissinger’s argument “fails to convince,” but it won Kissinger interviews on “Face the Nation” and with The New York Herald Tribune that — once his accent and acerbic wit came to be appreciated by the American public — put him on the trajectory to intellectual rock star status that he never lost.

Partly because he described himself as an independent, Kissinger could be called upon by both political parties for advice. After failing to make an impact as a consultant to the Kennedy administration — he didn’t like the men or the methods, and they didn’t see him fitting the Camelot image — he went to work for Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York. Ferguson is clearly fascinated by what he calls the “turbulent friendship” between the aristocrat and the immigrant, and is at pains to point out that “Henry Kissinger has often been portrayed as very ruthless and calculating in his pursuit of power. But in committing himself again and again to Rockefeller, he failed to see that he was backing a man who would never be president.” Kissinger’s loyalty was based on affection and genuine admiration, rather than mere miscalculation.

Ferguson’s access to the diaries Kissinger kept before, during and after his visits to Vietnam in 1965 and 1966 allows him to argue, totally convincingly, that on his missions for the Johnson administration, Kissinger realized very early on that the United States had little or no hope of winning the war and therefore needed to enter into direct negotiations with Hanoi sooner rather than later, albeit from a position of strength. This book contains the first full account of the abortive initiative to start talks with Hanoi in 1967; as Ferguson puts it, “to an extent never previously recognized by scholars,” Kissinger attempted “to broker some kind of peace agreement with the North Vietnamese, using a variety of indirect channels of communication to Hanoi that passed through not only Paris but also Moscow.”

Yet it is in Ferguson’s comprehensive demolition of the revisionist accounts of the 1968 election by Seymour Hersh, Christopher Hitchens and others that this book will be seen as controversial. For he totally rejects the conspiracy theory that blames Kissinger for leaking details of the Paris peace negotiations to the Nixon camp, details that enabled Nixon, it was said, to persuade the South Vietnamese that they would get better treatment if he and not Hubert Humphrey were in the White House. Ferguson goes into this theory in great detail, disproving it on several grounds, but especially for its lack of even the most basic actual or circumstantial evidence. (It turns out that one of the reasons Kissinger was in Paris in 1967 was that he was secretly going to the Sorbonne to woo the only great love of his life, Nancy Maginnes, whom he subsequently married.)

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Of course it will be in the second volume that Ferguson will come to grips with the revisionists’ attacks on Kissinger’s actions involving places like Chile, Argentina, Cyprus, East Timor (and Cambodia too) and Bangladesh. The book’s introduction strongly implies that he will be acquitting Kissinger of the monstrous charge of war criminality that the revisionists have made over the years.

Yet this is no hagiography. As well as being highly critical of Kissinger’s theory of limited nuclear war, Ferguson describes a letter of his as a “solipsistic screed”; says of one of Kissinger’s books that it “remained, at root, the work of a committee”; and states that Kissinger was “even more demanding to his own subordinates” than Rockefeller was to him: “He learned to rant and rage.” The criticisms — and there are many more waspish ones — absolve Ferguson from the charge of whitewashing Kissinger and make his praise all the more credible.

This is an admiring portrait rather than a particularly affectionate one. Ferguson acknowledges in his preface all of the “conversing with him, supping with him, even traveling with him” that he did over the many years he spent researching and writing this book. But if Kissinger’s official biographer cannot be accused of falling for his subject’s justifiably famed charm, he certainly gives the reader enough evidence to conclude that Henry Kissinger is one of the greatest Americans in the history of the Republic, someone who has been repulsively traduced over several decades and who deserved to have a defense of this comprehensiveness published years ago.

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Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger

Part of Kissinger’s charm of course derives from his highly developed sense of humor, which is given full rein here. “Nobody will ever win the battle of the ­sexes,” he once joked. “There’s just too much fraternizing with the enemy.” When someone came up to him at a reception and said, “Dr. Kissinger, I want to thank you for saving the world,” he replied, “You’re welcome.” All of this was delivered in the trademark voice that the journalist Oriana Fallaci described as like “that obsessive, hammering sound of rain falling on a roof.”

Niall Ferguson already has many important, scholarly and controversial books to his credit. But if the second volume of “Kissinger” is anywhere near as comprehensive, well written and riveting as the first, this will be his masterpiece.

 

Editors’ Note: October 2, 2015

After this review of the first volume of Niall Ferguson’s authorized biography of Henry Kissinger was published, editors learned that the reviewer, Andrew Roberts, had initially been approached by a publisher to write the biography himself; he says he turned the offer down for personal reasons, and Ferguson was eventually enlisted to undertake the task. In addition, Roberts and Ferguson were credited as co-authors of a chapter contributed to a book edited by Ferguson and first published in 1997 (Roberts describes their relationship as professional and friendly, but not close). Had editors been aware of these connections, they would have been disclosed in the review.

Andrew Roberts is the Lehrman ­Institute ­Distinguished Fellow at the New-York ­Historical Society.

A version of this review appears in print on October 4, 2015, on page BR12 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Kissinger the Idealist. Today’s Paper.

NY Times–Hillary Clinton for President


September 29, 2016

Wake Up Americans–Hillary Clinton is your choice as the next POTUS

The New York Times Endorsement

In any normal election year, we’d compare the two presidential candidates side by side on the issues. But this is not a normal election year. A comparison like that would be an empty exercise in a race where one candidate — our choice, Hillary Clinton — has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway. (We will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history.)

But this endorsement would also be an empty exercise if it merely affirmed the choice of Clinton supporters. We’re aiming instead to persuade those of you who are hesitating to vote for Mrs. Clinton — because you are reluctant to vote for a Democrat, or for another Clinton, or for a candidate who might appear, on the surface, not to offer change from an establishment that seems indifferent and a political system that seems broken.

Running down the other guy won’t suffice to make that argument. The best case for Hillary Clinton cannot be, and is not, that she isn’t Donald Trump.

The best case is, instead, about the challenges this country faces, and Mrs. Clinton’s capacity to rise to them.

The next President will take office with bigoted, tribalist movements and their leaders on the march. In the Middle East and across Asia, in Russia and Eastern Europe, even in Britain and the United States, war, terrorism and the pressures of globalization are eroding democratic values, fraying alliances and challenging the ideals of tolerance and charity.

The 2016 campaign has brought to the surface the despair and rage of poor and middle-class Americans who say their government has done little to ease the burdens that recession, technological change, foreign competition and war have heaped on their families.

Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena.

Mrs. Clinton’s work has been defined more by incremental successes than by moments of transformational change. As a candidate, she has struggled to step back from a pointillist collection of policy proposals to reveal the full pattern of her record. That is a weakness of her campaign, and a perplexing one, for the pattern is clear. It shows a determined leader intent on creating opportunity for struggling Americans at a time of economic upheaval and on ensuring that the United States remains a force for good in an often brutal world.

Similarly, Mrs. Clinton’s occasional missteps, combined with attacks on her trustworthiness, have distorted perceptions of her character. She is one of the most tenacious politicians of her generation, whose willingness to study and correct course is rare in an age of unyielding partisanship. As first lady, she rebounded from professional setbacks and personal trials with astounding resilience. Over eight years in the Senate and four as secretary of state, she built a reputation for grit and bipartisan collaboration. She displayed a command of policy and diplomatic nuance and an ability to listen to constituents and colleagues that are all too exceptional in Washington.

Mrs. Clinton’s record of service to children, women and families has spanned her adult life. One of her boldest acts as first lady was her 1995 speech in Beijing declaring that women’s rights are human rights. After a failed attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system, she threw her support behind legislation to establish the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which now covers more than eight million lower-income young people. This year, she rallied mothers of gun-violence victims to join her in demanding comprehensive background checks for gun buyers and tighter reins on gun sales.

After opposing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants during the 2008 campaign, she now vows to push for comprehensive immigration legislation as President and to use executive power to protect law-abiding undocumented people from deportation and cruel detention. Some may dismiss her shift as opportunistic, but we credit her for arriving at the right position.

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Mrs. Clinton and her team have produced detailed proposals on crime, policing and race relations, debt-free college and small-business incentives, climate change and affordable broadband. Most of these proposals would benefit from further elaboration on how to pay for them, beyond taxing the wealthiest Americans. They would also depend on passage by Congress.

That means that, to enact her agenda, Mrs. Clinton would need to find common ground with a destabilized Republican Party, whose unifying goal in Congress would be to discredit her. Despite her political scars, she has shown an unusual capacity to reach across the aisle.

When Mrs. Clinton was sworn in as a senator from New York in 2001, Republican leaders warned their caucus not to do anything that might make her look good. Yet as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she earned the respect of Republicans like Senator John McCain with her determination to master intricate military matters.

Her most lasting achievements as a senator include a federal fund for long-term health monitoring of 9/11 first responders, an expansion of military benefits to cover reservists and the National Guard, and a law requiring drug companies to improve the safety of their medications for children.

Below the radar, she fought for money for farmers, hospitals, small businesses and environmental projects. Her vote in favor of the Iraq war is a black mark, but to her credit, she has explained her thinking rather than trying to rewrite that history.

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As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton was charged with repairing American credibility after eight years of the Bush administration’s unilateralism. She bears a share of the responsibility for the Obama administration’s foreign-policy failings, notably in Libya. But her achievements are substantial. She led efforts to strengthen sanctions against Iran, which eventually pushed it to the table for talks over its nuclear program, and in 2012, she helped negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Mrs. Clinton led efforts to renew diplomatic relations with Myanmar, persuading its junta to adopt political reforms. She helped promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an important trade counterweight to China and a key component of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia. Her election-year reversal on that pact has confused some of her supporters, but her underlying commitment to bolstering trade along with workers’ rights is not in doubt. Mrs. Clinton’s attempt to reset relations with Russia, though far from successful, was a sensible effort to improve interactions with a rivalrous nuclear power.

Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a realist who believes America cannot simply withdraw behind oceans and walls, but must engage confidently in the world to protect its interests and be true to its values, which include helping others escape poverty and oppression.

Mrs. Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, governed during what now looks like an optimistic and even gentle era. The end of the Cold War and the advance of technology and trade appeared to be awakening the world’s possibilities rather than its demons. Many in the news media, and in the country, and in that administration, were distracted by the scandal du jour — Mr. Clinton’s impeachment — during the very period in which a terrorist threat was growing. We are now living in a world darkened by the realization of that threat and its many consequences.

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Mrs. Clinton’s service spans both eras, and she has learned hard lessons from the three presidents she has studied up close. She has also made her own share of mistakes. She has evinced a lamentable penchant for secrecy and made a poor decision to rely on a private email server while at the State Department. That decision deserved scrutiny, and it’s had it. Now, considered alongside the real challenges that will occupy the next president, that email server, which has consumed so much of this campaign, looks like a matter for the help desk. And, viewed against those challenges, Mr. Trump shrinks to his true small-screen, reality-show proportions, as we’ll argue in detail on Monday.

Through war and recession, Americans born since 9/11 have had to grow up fast, and they deserve a grown-up President. A lifetime’s commitment to solving problems in the real world qualifies Hillary Clinton for this job, and the country should put her to work.

 

A version of this editorial appears in print on September 25, 2016, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Hillary Clinton for President. Today’s Paper|

 

Elect Trump? How Could we?


by Thomas L. Friedman

My reaction to the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate can be summarised with one word: “How?”

How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the US landlord?

NATO is not a shopping mall; it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for US companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who does not know enough “beef” about key policies to finish a two-minute answer on any issue without the hamburger helper of bluster, insults and repetition?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who suggests that the recent spate of cyberattacks — which any senior US intelligence official will tell you came without question from Russia — might not have come from Russia but could have been done by “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who boasts that he tries to pay zero federal taxes but then complains that our airports and roads are falling apart and there is not enough money for our veterans?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who tries to prove he was against the Iraq War — even though he publicly stated his support for it when it began — by saying he said so privately to his pal Sean Hannity at Fox News? Trump is so caught up with his own infallibility that he didn’t think to respond in the debate: “Yes, I supported the Iraq War as a private citizen, but Hillary voted for it as a senator when she had all the intelligence and whose job it was to make the right judgment.”

How do we put in the Oval Office someone who says we should not have gone into Iraq, but since we did, “we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form … because the oil was their primary source of income.”

ISIS formed before it managed to pump any oil, and it sustained itself with millions of dollars that it stole from Iraq’s central bank in Mosul. Meanwhile, Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves — 140 billion barrels. Can you imagine how many years we’d have to stay there to pump it all and how much doing so would tarnish our moral standing around the world and energise every jihadi?

How do we put in the Oval Office someone whose campaign manager has to go on every morning show after the debate and lie to try to make up for the nonsense her boss spouted? Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Tuesday morning that when it comes to climate change, “We don’t know what Hillary Clinton believes, because nobody ever asks her.”

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Say what? As Secretary of State, Clinton backed every global climate negotiation and clean energy initiative. That’s like saying no one knows Hillary’s position on women’s rights.

Conway then went on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and argued that Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, had never created a job and was responsible for the lack of adequate “roads and bridges” in our country. When challenged on that by MGM Resorts’ CEO, James Murren — who argued that his business was up, that the economy was improving and that Clinton’s job as secretary of state was to create stability — Conway responded that Clinton had nothing to do with any improvements in the economy because “she’s never been president so she’s created no financial stability.”

I see: Everything wrong is Clinton’s fault and anything good is to the president’s credit alone. Silly.

The “Squawk Box” segment was devoted to the fact that while Trump claims that he will get the economy growing, very few CEOs of major US companies are supporting him. Also, interesting how positively the stock market reacted to Trump’s debate defeat. Maybe because CEOs and investors know that Trump and Conway are con artists and that recent statistics show income gaps are actually narrowing, wages are rising and poverty is easing.

The Trump-Conway shtick is to trash the country so they can make us great again. Fact: We have problems and not everyone is enjoying the fruits of our economy, but if you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head — the country looks so much better from the bottom up. What you see are towns and regions not waiting for Washington DC, but coming together themselves to fix infrastructure, education and governance. I see it everywhere I go.

I am not enamoured of Clinton’s stale, liberal, centralised view of politics, but she is sane and responsible; she’ll do her homework, can grow in the job, and might even work well with Republicans, as she did as a senator.

Trump promises change, but change that comes from someone who thinks people who pay taxes are suckers and who thinks he can show up before an audience of 100 million without preparation or real plans and talk about serious issues with no more sophistication than your crazy uncle — and expect to get away with it — is change the country can’t afford.

Electing such a man would be insanity. — The New York Times

Reassessing Mahathir


September 28, 2016

COMMENT: We Malaysians must be a bunch of sentimental fools and free riders. It speaks volumes of who we are that we have to depend on a 92-year old politician to bring about change. In the first place, he created this situation by removing all his rivals like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tun Musa Hitam and Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim in UMNO, and second by dismantling our system of checks and balances to create a powerful Executive Branch.

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It surprises me to read this piece from Mariam Mokhtar who I thought was a critic of everything Mahathir stood for. She is mistaken to think that the man will change our political landscape. He is not a Renaissance man. He is an old school politician through and through.

I hold him accountable for what he has done to our country during 22 years of his rule. Mariam mentions his Look East Policy. Well, that policy which was initiated by the LDP in Japan, and later rejected after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1988 by the Japanese people, is crony capitalism. UMNO run by Najib Razak today is a party of crony capitalists and kleptocrats.

Mahathir now advocates good governance and the Rule of Law, yet when he was in power, he destroyed our institutions including the Judiciary. The system sucks and there is no leader with the character and integrity to lead us out of the rut at this time. We are condemned to stay in a state of moral crisis for some time to come.–Din Merican

Reassessing Mahathir

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

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Everyone knows that former PM Mahathir Mohamad’s alignment with the opposition is the result of his failure to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak on his own steam. You may call it a desperate move, or you may call it daft. But does the rakyat have a choice?

With Malaysia in deep crisis, and the opposition’s failure to stand united, could Mahathir be our saviour?

At his recent talk in London, he said, “There is common interest between me and Anwar Ibrahim. He appreciates that the problem of the country is the PM, that he should be removed.”

He criticised Najib’s alleged lack of vision, saying, “This PM regards high income as a sign that we are developed. High income must be accompanied by high productivity. Or else we will price ourselves out of the market.

“He has revised the pay scale several times. The operating cost of the government is so big that there is not enough money left for development.

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For the economy to grow, you must have the rule of law. You must have good governance.–Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

“It is not about money alone. It is about the quality of life in Malaysia – better education, a higher standard of living and people doing research work. These are what would make a developed country. If we go by income alone, then Saudi Arabia would be a developed country.”

He called on concerned Malaysians to join the opposition “if you wish to help us overthrow this government.”

On encouraging foreign investment, he said Malaysia needed to create an environment conducive to business. “For the economy to grow, you must have the rule of law. You must have good governance.”

He reminded us that under his rule, the concept of Malaysia Incorporated was used to treat the whole nation as one big company, and added, “It is important not to abuse power” and to fight corruption.

When asked if he was untouchable, he said, “My coming here to talk is not something which the government likes. Every time I say the wrong thing, the police question me. Desperate people do desperate things.”

Not everyone is a fan of Mahathir, but Malaysians are hungry for change and many are prepared to listen to his message.

One man said, “I was sceptical at first. But I have noticed that over several months, he has given major concessions. For instance, although at first he only wanted to see Najib ousted, he said at a recent talk that Umno-Baru must be destroyed.”

Another Mahathir sceptic said, “I came with an open mind. I admit that I am not his fan but when he spoke, I thought he made a lot of sense. I found myself nodding in agreement to most of the things he said.”

Addressing the question of a candidate for PM, Mahathir said, “It is for the people to decide.” Referring to his son Mukhriz, he said, “If he can be popular enough to win elections and become PM, that is his right.”

The statement was met with applause. Was it for Mukhriz or was it for Mahathir’s magnanimity?

The Passing of Israel’s Man of Peace and Nobel Laureate, Shimon Peres


September 28, 2016

The Passing of Israel’s Man of Peace and Nobel Laureate, President Shimon Peres

2016 has so far not been a particularly great year for me. It is in fact a time of sadness and serious contemplation. Earlier I lost my childhood friend and Malaysia’s Iron Gate  Footballer, Dato’ Yusoff Bakar, followed by the death in San Francisco of  Dato’ Dr. Haron Din who is a model of a good Muslim (his politics aside), and then the passing of my golfing hero and legend,  Arnold D. Palmer. Today I learn  that my favourite Middle East statesman and a man of Peace, Nobel Laureate President Shimon Peres has died.

People in Syria and the Middle East, and elsewhere are dying daily because leaders of powerful countries  and their proxies cannot talk peace. The rest of us are content to watch the carnage on the sidelines. We seem to have forgotten what Shimon Peres had tried to accomplish in his life time.

To Prime Minister Bibi Nyatenyahu and the people of Israel,  and in particular  readers in Israel on my blog, I wish to express our sincere condolences (Dr. Kamsiah and I) on the passing of their former President. Let us all remember the deeds and celebrate the life of President Shimon Peres. –Din Merican and Dr. Kamsiah Haider.

Shimon Peres, the last of Israel’s founding fathers, was an effective orator, and over the decades was a fountain of seemingly effortless bons mots and poetic musings on war, peace and Israel’s future. Here are some of his best:

Life

I’ve been controversial for most of my life. Suddenly, I’ve become popular. I don’t know when I was wrong, then or now.

September 2007, Haaretz

Sometimes people ask me, ‘What is the greatest achievement you have reached in your lifetime or that you will reach in the future?’ So I reply that there was a great painter named Mordecai Ardon, who was asked which picture was the most beautiful he had ever painted. Ardon replied, ‘The picture I will paint tomorrow.’ That is also my answer.

May 2011, Maariv

At my age, after looking back, if I feel that I have to make a choice between being experienced and cynical or being curious and innocent, I prefer the second. It is much more appealing.

May 2000, The Jerusalem Post

Peace

For peace, one must remember: As a bird cannot fly with one wing, as a man cannot applaud with one hand, so a country cannot make peace just with one side, with itself. For peace, we need the two of us.

June 1996, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

He who has despaired from peace is the one hallucinating. Whoever gives in and stops seeking peace — he is naïve, he is the one who is not a patriot! In order to be practical and not hallucinate and not be naïve, there is a need to recognize several basic truths that are sharp, clear and eternal:

Israel will not have permanent security without peace. Israel will not have a stable thriving economy without peace. Israel will not have a healthy society free from poverty and discrimination without peace. Israel has no chance of preserving its Jewish democratic character without peace. Israel will be giving up its future if it sees the status quo as its desire.

November 2014 at Rabin Square

It took Zionism 25 years to overcome its great error — its attempt to ignore the existence of the Palestinians in this land — and Oslo was the true and correct beginning of such a solution. More than anything else, Oslo was proof that we can live in this land another way.

September 2003, Ma’ariv

Politics

I believe that in foreign policy, it is better to talk like a lion in a sheep’s skin rather than a sheep in a lion’s mane. It’s a matter of taste. I think it is more effective to understate.

April 2012, Ma’ariv

Nuclear Weapons

The nuclear option is that most of our neighbors, who want to destroy us, believe that Israel has the capability to destroy them. Their suspicion is our strength.”

November 2009, Yedioth Ahronoth

There is no doubt that an Iran with nuclear weapons is a mortal danger. I also have no doubt that Israel has to view this matter with all seriousness and gravity. Iran is a danger to the entire world. It is currently as dangerous to America as it is to Israel, and that is a good union. We have often been alone.

August 2012, Mako

Judaism

Jewish history is devoid of any desire to rule over another people. I think that what is happening now is a deviation. All the people who ruled over us have been erased from the stage of history. We are the only ones who never ruled over anyone else, and we prevailed.

February 1988, The Jerusalem Post

 

 Human Rights

I support the right of every human being to marriage, including gay marriage. Every human being has the right to breathe fresh air, to eat food, to fall in love with whoever they want. According to our tradition, we are all created equal.

December 2013, Facebook

Science and Technology

We know already that computers are mightier than guns. We know that the new opportunities reside in the campuses of the scientists, rather than in the camps of the army.

May 1994, at the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Accord

Resources

You know what our greatest lack is? It’s that we have nothing. This small piece of land is an arid land — swamp in the north, desert in the south, and no water. We have two lakes — one is dead, the other dying. We have one river — which has fame but no water. If you want to pray, you go to the Jordan River, but if you want to irrigate, go somewhere else.

November 2011, CNN