Since last month when government officials at all levels began to direct Americans to practice social distancing, avoid events involving more than 10 people, stay at home, and shelter in place, public gatherings have been discontinued without much fuss or fanfare. Bars and restaurants, theaters and concerts halls, and even professional sports quickly and quietly closed their doors, turned off their lights, and sent employees home for the duration.
In his State of the Union speech in January 2002, President Bush promised to spend "whatever it costs to defend our country." That cost, according to Bush's proposed defense budget, would come to $378 billion in 2003, $48 billion more than in 2002 and the largest percent increase in defense spending since the Reagan era. Critics are saying that the proposed 2003 budget perpetuates the Pentagon's most inefficient weapons and spending habits, thereby delaying the true transformation of the military that is needed to protect America in the twenty-first century. Who's right—the Bush administration or its critics?
Journalist Christopher Hitchens discusses neoconservatives and the left, his break with The Nation magazine over his support of the war in Iraq, and his tour of the three members of the "axis of evil."
In recent years, a movement has been calling for the United States government to pay reparations for slavery in America. What does the federal government owe the descendants of slaves in this country? Should such reparations be viewed as a gesture of recognition for past wrongs or as an attempt to actually correct those past wrongs? Would payment of reparations erase the lingering economic problems in the African American community or would they do more harm than good? And if reparations are a good idea, who should receive them, all African Americans or just those descended from slaves?
Are hate crimes more serious than other crimes, requiring greater penalties, or are laws against them an unnecessary addition to the criminal code? Does hate crime legislation infringe on freedom of speech? Should congress extend hate crime statutes to cover more groups or should the federal government leave the issue up to the states?
In the United States, affirmative action policies, first implemented to address the historical grievances of black Americans, have long been controversial. But the debate over affirmative action has generally ignored such action as practiced by other countries around the world. Has affirmative action proven to be more or less effective in other countries? What common patterns do these programs share? How can the study of these programs help our understanding of affirmative action in America?
This past summer's big-budget disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow depicted a near-future in which human-caused global warming dramatically disrupted the earth's climate system, plunging the world into a new ice age. Although the scenario in the film is clearly an unrealistic fantasy, some scientists say that relatively sudden climate change is theoretically possible—but how likely it is depends on whether human activity really causes global warming. Does the evidence suggest that higher amounts of so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to fossil fuel consumption are, in fact, causing global warming? And if so, what should we do about it? Peter Robinson speaks with Carl Pope and Fred Smith Jr.
Should the United States build a national missile defense (NMD) or not? What are the technical challenges that NMD must overcome in order to be effective? Would a working missile defense system protect against large-scale attacks from a nation like Russia or China? Or would NMD only work against a limited strike by a smaller rogue nation or terrorist group? Is NMD worth the money it would cost or does it needlessly destablize our relationship with Russia?
Does Homer still matter? For more than 2000 years, the ancient Greeks and Romans have had a special place in the canon of western civilization and their writings have been studied by generation after generation of scholars and students. But are the classics still relevant in twenty-first century, multi-cultural America? Or are the ancient Greeks of no more importance to us than other ancient cultures such as the Aztecs, Egyptians, or Chinese?
Thou Shalt Not Kill—perhaps the most famous moral commandment in the western world. And yet Judeo-Christian religious leaders have also created a doctrine that can justify killing—commonly known as Just War Doctrine. What sort of military action does Just War Doctrine permit and what sort does it proscribe? Is America's campaign against terrorism a just war?
Admirers and critics have two diametrically opposed views of President George W. Bush. The admirers see a compassionate conservative at home and defender of the nation against terrorism and rogue states abroad. Critics see a radical conservative at home who led the nation into a destructive and unnecessary war abroad. Why do conservatives and liberals so often seem to be describing two different men when discussing President George W. Bush? Is it possible to find any common ground on which view of President Bush is closer to the truth?
In 1965, Congress voted to change the laws that had restricted immigration into the United States for more than four decades. The Immigration Act of 1965 resulted in a wave of increased immigration that continues today. How do recent immigrant groups compare with those of the last great wave of immigration a century ago? Are they successfully integrating into American culture or threatening America's cultural stability? Should immigration once again be restricted, or should we concern ourselves with helping immigrants assimilate when they arrive?
Iran—the same country that took American diplomats hostage twenty-five years ago and whose leaders often refer to the United States as the "Great Satan"—may be on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. How worried should we be? What can the United States do, if anything, to defuse the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran? Is a military response feasible? Or should the United States focus on strengthening the movement for democratic reform within Iran? Peter Robinson speaks with Larry Diamond and Abbas Milani.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, one principal plank of George W. Bush's domestic platform was reforming tort law, which includes class action lawsuits, asbestos liability, and medical malpractice liability. President Bush believes that tort law as it now stands permits trial lawyers to take advantage of good companies, driving up the costs of doing business for everyone. Others believe that existing tort law allows consumers to protect themselves against bad companies. Which is it? And should President Bush be given the tort reforms he wants? Peter Robinson speaks with David Davenport and Alan Morrison.
In June 1967, Israel defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, seizing control of the Sinai from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan. Why did the Six-Day War unfold as it did? What lessons did the Arabs on the one side, and the Israelis on the other, draw from the war? And what lessons do the war and its aftermath have for the United States as it tries to forge a lasting peace in the Middle East?
On July 1, the Coalition Provisional Authority—the body headed by U.S. ambassador Paul Bremer that has governed Iraq since the end of the Iraq war—will transfer sovereignty to a temporary Iraqi government. The transfer of power raises a number of hard questions. Will our attempts at nation building in this ethnically and religiously divided country succeed? Just what are our responsibilities in ensuring that success? And how long will or should the United States maintain a military presence in Iraq?
It's been nearly twenty-five years since the shah of Iran was overthrown in a popular revolution. The ensuing American hostage crisis marked the beginning of an era of mutual hostility between Iran and the United States—Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini often called the United States "the Great Satan"; more recently President Bush placed Iran on the so-called axis of evil. But an increasingly visible democratic reform movement supported by young Iranians born after the revolution suggests that Iran may be entering a new era of change. Just how powerful is the reform movement in Iran? And what should the United States do, if anything, to help bring about a new Iran?
In his new book, The Decadent Society, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat presents a theory: “Western society stopped advancing in the second half of the 20th century."
For forty-five years, the threat of conflict with the Soviet Union brought the United States and Western Europe into a tight partnership, most notably represented by the NATO military alliance. But with the Soviet Union gone and the European Union on the road to possible superpower status in its own right, does the transatlantic alliance have a future? Peter Robinson speaks with Niall Ferguson, Josef Joffe, and Coit Blacker.
Most people would agree that families and the institution of marriage are not what they were fifty years ago. Many couples are cohabiting without marriage, and many children are being raised in single-parent homes or other nontraditional family arrangements. Is the traditional model of marriage and family superior to these other arrangements, as some would argue? If so, why have marriage and family relationships changed so much over the past half-century? And what should the government do, if anything, to strengthen families and the institution of marriage? Peter Robinson speaks with Jennifer Roback Morse and Stephanie Coontz.