Hoover Institution Fall 2005 Retreat

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The Hoover Institution's Fall 2005 Retreat brought together Hoover fellows and guest speakers to address a wide-ranging set of public policy issues.

The program at the opening dinner on Sunday, October 30, featured the Honorable Alan Simpson, who served as U.S. senator from Wyoming from 1978 to 1997. Before addressing more serious issues in his talk titled "Politics as a Contact Sport" Simpson entertained guests with humorous remarks—"I wanted to get here in the worst way possible, and I did, left Wyoming this morning at 6:05 a.m." and "the answer is, yes, I did sleep in this suit." Simpson remarks touched on a variety of subjects, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, advising that "we can't turn tail and run now," the difficulty of confirming Supreme Court nominees, and the declining civility in Congress and the American public in general.

James Woolsey, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995, spoke of the overall aspects of the war on terrorism in his talk, "The Long War of the Twenty-first Century: How We Must Fight It."

"You can't impose democracy," Woolsey said, "but you also shouldn't assume that people want to live under dictators and autocratic kings. As distasteful as democratic movements may be to some current Middle-eastern leaders and elites, we need to let those leaders know that in the end, "We are on the side of those you most fear: your own people."

Speakers at the plenary sessions, coming from government, education, and the media, offered knowledgeable analyses of political, economic, and cultural issues.

In his remarks titled "Axes of Evil: Firsthand Reports from Iraq, Iran, and North Korea" Vanity Fair columnist and contributing editor Christopher Hitchens discussed the similarities of these countries. What these countries have, or in the case of Iraq had, in common, Hitchens said, are their totalitarian ideologies, worship of leaders, weapons of genocide, and "a hysterical, fanatical, obsessive hatred of the United States of America." He concluded that "they know their existence—as ideologies, as leaderships and as regimes—is incompatible with that the existence of the United States of America, and I propose here that we highly resolve to prove them right."

Legal scholar Robert Bork departed from his prepared speech to speak about President George W. Bush's recent Supreme Court nominees. "His last nomination [of Harriet Miers]," Bork said, "split his base." The nomination of Samuel Alito, Bork went on to say, will "get this base back behind him again." Bork, who served as solicitor general, acting attorney general of the United States, and U.S. court of appeals judge, is currently a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute. His most recent book is "A Country I Do Not Recognize": The Legal Assault on American Values (Hoover Institution Press, 2005).

The paradox of the United States being among the most modern of countries and yet at the same time among the most religious was the subject of Adrian Woodridge's remarks in "God's Country: The Riddle of American Religiosity—and What It Means for the Rest of the World." Wooldridge, a Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Economist, pointed out that the end of religion and even God has been predicted since the early 1800s but has not happened. He went on to say that "the notion that religion must die as a result of modernity has been exploded."

"Our government's strategy in this war has three elements: protect the homeland, disrupt terrorist networks, and counter ideological support for terrorism," said Hoover distinguished visiting fellow Douglas Feith. The strategy behind the U. S. response to terrorism was discussed in "Why We Fight" by Feith, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy from July 2001 to August 2005. President Bush, he said, decided that in dealing with the terrorists that we could change the way we live or change the way they live, which led to the strategy outlined above.

In addition to the plenary speakers, Hoover fellows presented conversations on a variety of topics. The first set of conversations included Bradley Bauer, Hoover curator, "Tour of 'Revolutionary Eye: The Political Poster Art of Wolfgang Janisch, 1979–1999'"; Peter Berkowitz, Hoover senior fellow, "The Judicial Nomination Process and the Future of the Supreme Court"; John Cogan and Daniel Kessler, Hoover senior fellows, "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care System"; and Abbas Milani, Hoover research fellow, "Iran's Nuclear Program: Past and Present".

The next set of conversations included David Davenport, Hoover research fellow, "International Law in American Courts and Americans in International Courts: The Underreported Expansion of International Law"; Edwin Meese III, Hoover distinguished visiting fellow, "Washington, D.C.: Judges and Congress"; Peter Schweizer, Hoover research fellow, "Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy"; and John Taylor, Hoover senior fellow, "International Monetary Policy and the Global Economic Expansion."

The final set of conversations included Michael Boskin, Hoover senior fellow, "The Economy and Economic Policy: Where Are They Headed"; Josef Joffe, Hoover research fellow, "Superpower Europe? Demographics, Economics, and Culture Say 'No'"; Kenneth Jowitt, Hoover senior fellow, and George P. Shultz, Hoover distinguished fellow, "A Conversation."

On Tuesday, November 1, Jack Goldsmith, international law expert and Harvard Law School professor, discussed the growth and direction of the internet in "Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World." The early predictions of the Internet being impossible to regulate appear to have been proven wrong, he said. "This 1990s vision of a borderless internet is fast being replaced," Goldsmith said, "with an Internet that is splitting apart and reflecting national borders."

David Brady, Hoover associate director, and Morris Fiorina, Hoover senior fellow, analyzed the findings of the Stanford University/Hoover Institution/Knowledge Networks (S/H/KN) Internet poll in "The 2005 California Special Election: What's Going to Happen and Why." The latest poll results show Proposition 74 (teacher tenure) slightly ahead, 53–47, but with a margin that is within the sampling error of the poll. The two most controversial propositions appear to be heading in opposite directions. Proposition 75 (public employee union dues) has a comfortable lead 64–36, but Proposition 76 (state budget process) trails by double digits, 45–55. Finally, Proposition 77 (redistricting), supported by most of the state's newspapers and an array of good government groups, leads 55–45.

Hoover visiting fellow Fouad Ajami discussed the role of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan as allies of the United States in his talk titled "The Chameleons: America's Problematic Arab Allies since September 11." Much about these countries remains unknown, said Ajami, and the U. S. government is still determining how best to deal with them.

In "Why Was the Twentieth Century so Violent and What Can We Learn from It," Niall Ferguson based his remarks on his forthcoming book War of the World. The book's purpose, said Ferguson, Hoover senior fellow and Harvard professor, was to answer the question of why there was so much lethal organized violence in the twentieth century when there was also unprecedented economic progress. In particular, he asked, why were war and civil war so heavily concentrated in certain places and at certain times? Ferguson then outlined what he saw as the three principal reasons for twentieth-century violence: ethnic disintegration, economic volatility, and the decline of empires. He concluded by suggesting that all these phenomena could easily recur in the twenty-first century.

The retreat concluded with a panel discussion titled "Perspectives on Iraq: Looking Backward and Forward" moderated by John Raisian, Hoover director. Panel participants included Fouad Ajami; Charles Hill, Hoover research fellow; Kenneth Jowitt, Hoover senior fellow; and Abraham Sofaer, Hoover senior fellow, who discussed their views on the war in Iraq.