Entries from October 2000

Arafat’s War Of Clinton’s Making

David Frum October 15th, 2000 at 12:00 am Comments Off

It’s
Arafat’s war. Yasser Arafat started the fighting in the West Bank and, in the
opinion of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and UN Ambassador Richard
Holbrooke, it is Arafat and only Arafat who has the power to stop it.

Yet
when the United Nations Security Council injected itself into the fighting last
week, it approved a resolution that blamed the conflict entirely on Israel and
condemned Israel for defending its citizens from Palestinian attack while
keeping silent on the attacks themselves. And when the UN resolution came to a
final vote, that same Ambassador Holbrooke uttered some complaints about its
one-sidedness – and then abstained.

Only
two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was musing aloud about
surrendering control of the holy sites in Jerusalem to the Security Council.
Today, the idea that the UN could exercise any kind of even-handedness in the
Middle East is as dead as any of the human casualties of Arafat’s war. In a
crisis, the instincts of today’s UN are just as bad as they were 25 years ago,
when the UN secretary-general denounced Israel’s rescue of its hostages at
Entebbe Airport as a violation of Ugandan sovereignty.

The
impartiality of the UN is not the only illusion to be pierced this month. The
logic of the whole so-called Middle East peace process has disintegrated, too.

Stop
and think for a moment about the reasons why President Clinton grabbed the arms
of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat and pulled them together for a handshake for
the cameras seven years ago. From the creation of Arafat’s Palestine Liberation
Organization in 1964 until the Clinton administration, the United States
regarded the PLO as a terrorist organization. Not only was the PLO guilty of
the murder of thousands of Israeli civilians, but it had assassinated dozens of
Americans, including two American ambassadors (Cleo Noel, ambassador to the
Sudan, in 1973, and Francis Melroy, ambassador to Lebanon, in 1976).

The
Clinton administration, however, convinced itself that Arafat could be a force
for stability in the Middle East. It convinced itself that he no longer sought
the destruction of Israel – that he was willing to live in peace
alongside Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in
Gaza. On that theory, it pushed Israel toward unprecedented concessions. Over
the next seven years, Israel would concede virtually everything Arafat had told
the United States he wanted. Arafat, in turn, was asked for one thing and one
thing only: peace.

Israel
has more than upheld its end of the deal. Arafat now rules almost all of the
Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank. At Camp David in September, Barak
offered him almost everything else an Israeli prime minister could offer:
control of the residential sections of East Jerusalem, some form of shared
sovereignty over the city’s religious sites, water rights — even compensation
for Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948. (No countervailing compensation
for Jews forced to flee their homes in the Arab world was offered or demanded.)

If
Clinton’s theory of the Middle East had been true, Arabs and Jews should this
fall have been signing a final treaty of peace. Instead, having pocketed every
concession that Israel could offer — and having refused to accept a whole new
slew of concessions in September — Arafat has reneged on his one and only
promise and resumed his war.

Israelis
are entitled to feel abused and betrayed. They did everything — gave
everything — that the American president asked of them. They entered a
negotiating process he designed and that he supervised. They kept every
promise, followed every rule. And the one thing that Clinton promised them in return
– real peace — vanished the moment that Arafat had taken everything he
thought Israel would give. Then Clinton’s own ambassador folded his arms and
kept silent while the United Nations condemned them for the violence Arafat
unleashed.

Clinton’s
countrymen long ago learned from hard experience that this president simply
cannot be trusted. But Americans have comparatively little at risk. Israel
entrusted its very survival to this president. The heartbreak and bloodshed of
Arafat’s war is the consequence of that mistake.

Myth Of The Happy Single

David Frum October 8th, 2000 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Watch
daytime television long enough, and you are sure to hear the following
statistic: Married women, it will be said, are twice (or four times) as likely
to be depressed as their unmarried sisters. The implication of the statistic is
clear: Marriage is bad for women’s mental health.

The
claim that marriage is bad for women echoes throughout American popular
culture. But it all rests, amazingly enough, on one study published in one
journal 35 years ago. In a brilliant new book, journalist Maggie Gallagher and
sociologist Linda Waite pick that statistic up with their calipers and expose
it to the light of modern research. And guess what? It instantly disintegrates.

The
new book is The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier
and Better Off Financially. It is a trove
of carefully sifted evidence that shows just what the subtitle says.

The
most careful recent study of the mental health of the married and unmarried
looked at a nationwide sample of nearly 13,000 people. Married women were about
33 percent more likely than unmarried to rate their emotional health as
"excellent." Unmarried women were more than twice as likely to rate
their emotional health as "poor."

This
result is buttressed by three other major studies that found that (a) while
women are in general prone to be more depressed than men, marriage accounts for
none of the difference; (b) young women who get married become more happy than
while single, and (c) the mental health of single men and women can be shown to
deteriorate over time.

So,
where does the daytime television number come from? It turns out, as Gallager
and Waite show, to rest on a single book, published in 1972 by a feminist
sociologist named Jessie Bernard. She in turn got it from a single study
published in 1966. And that 1966 study got the results it did because many of
the married women in the sample were the mothers of very young children — a
group of women highly prone to depression whether they are married or not.

Normally,
a factoid as defective as this would wither under the light of later scrutiny.
But Bernard’s grim assessment of the impact of marriage on women is repeated
across the airwaves because it confirms a deeply held modern-day American
prejudice against marriage.

Now
obviously not all Americans are prejudiced against marriage. The vast majority
of American adults will get married sooner or later, and about 60 percent of
them will stay married for the rest of their lives. But elite American opinion
is deeply suspicious of marriage — and oddly, no segment of that elite is more
suspicious of marriage than the professionals who study and comment on it.

As
Gallagher and Waite note, "The subject guide for the 51st annual
conference of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in 1993
listed 277 topics and subtopics. Not once in all these subjects for
conversation did the word ‘marriage’ appear."

That
aversion to marriage may explain the querulous review that Gallagher and Waite
received in last weekend’s New York Times.
In it, Margaret Talbot — a journalist possibly best known for her 1997 article
"The Case Against the Case Against Divorce" — breezily dismissed
Waite’s expertise. Since Waite is a tenured professor in the University of
Chicago’s legendary department of sociology, who has conducted some of the most
exhaustive research into marriage ever published, Talbot’s nonchalance calls
her own intellectual seriousness rather sharply into question.

The
Case for Marriage will be for many a
discomfiting book. It shatters myths one after another: the myth that kids
benefit when quarreling parents divorce, the myth that couples can find
happiness by living together, the myth that individuals can find
self-fulfillment by living for themselves. Many people have relied on these
myths in making major life choices, and they understandably object to being
confronted with the truth.

But
those unafraid of truth will recognize The Case for Marriage > as what it is: the definitive defense of the most
fundamental of all social institutions – at a time when it
desperately needs defenders.