Calendar

May
24
Tue
Gary Gerstle @ Staff Restaurant
May 24 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

GerstleAmerican governance is burdened by a paradox. On the one hand, Americans don’t want “big government” meddling in their lives; on the other hand, they have repeatedly enlisted governmental help to impose their views regarding marriage, abortion, religion, and schooling on their neighbors. These contradictory stances on the role of public power have paralyzed policymaking and generated rancorous disputes about government’s legitimate scope. How did we reach this political impasse? Historian Gary Gerstle, looking at two hundred years of U.S. history, argues that the roots of the current crisis lie in two contrasting theories of power that the Framers inscribed in the Constitution.

One theory shaped the federal government, setting limits on its power in order to protect personal liberty. Another theory molded the states, authorizing them to go to extraordinary lengths, even to the point of violating individual rights, to advance the “good and welfare of the commonwealth.” The Framers believed these theories could coexist comfortably, but conflict between the two has largely defined American history. Gerstle shows how national political leaders improvised brilliantly to stretch the power of the federal government beyond where it was meant to go—but at the cost of giving private interests and state governments too much sway over public policy. The states could be innovative, too. More impressive was their staying power. Only in the 1960s did the federal government, impelled by the Cold War and civil rights movement, definitively assert its primacy. But as the power of the central state expanded, its constitutional authority did not keep pace. Conservatives rebelled, making the battle over government’s proper dominion the defining issue of our time.

From the Revolution to the Tea Party, and the Bill of Rights to the national security state, Liberty and Coercion is a revelatory account of the making and unmaking of government in America.

Jun
8
Wed
Fawaz Gerges @ NYU Program in International Relations
Jun 8 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

GergesThe Islamic State has stunned the world with its savagery, destructiveness, and military and recruiting successes. What explains the rise of ISIS and what does it portend for the future of the Middle East? In this book, one of the world’s leading authorities on political Islam and jihadism sheds new light on these questions as he provides a unique history of the rise and growth of ISIS. Moving beyond journalistic accounts, Fawaz Gerges provides a clear and compelling account of the deeper conditions that fuel ISIS.

The book describes how ISIS emerged in the chaos of Iraq following the 2003 U.S. invasion, how the group was strengthened by the suppression of the Arab Spring and by the war in Syria, and how ISIS seized leadership of the jihadist movement from Al Qaeda. Part of a militant Sunni revival, ISIS claims its goals are to resurrect a caliphate and rid “Islamic lands” of all Shia and other minorities. In contrast to Al Qaeda, ISIS initially focused on the “near enemy”—Shia, the Iraqi and Syrian regimes, and secular, pro-Western states in the Middle East. But in a tactical shift ISIS has now taken responsibility for spectacular attacks in Europe and other places beyond the Middle East, making it clear that the group is increasingly interested in targeting the “far enemy” as well. Ultimately, the book shows how decades of dictatorship, poverty, and rising sectarianism in the Middle East, exacerbated by foreign intervention, led to the rise of ISIS—and why addressing those problems is the only way to ensure its end.

An authoritative introduction to arguably the most important conflict in the world today, this is an essential book for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the social turmoil and political violence ravaging the Arab-Islamic world.

Fawaz A. Gerges is professor of international relations and Emirates Professor in Contemporary Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His many books include The New Middle East, Obama and the Middle East, and The Far Enemy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.

Jun
30
Thu
Dov Waxman @ London Jewish Cultural Center
Jun 30 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm

WaxmanTrouble in the Tribe explores the increasingly contentious place of Israel in the American Jewish community. In a fundamental shift, growing numbers of American Jews have become less willing to unquestioningly support Israel and more willing to publicly criticize its government. More than ever before, American Jews are arguing about Israeli policies, and many, especially younger ones, are becoming uncomfortable with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Dov Waxman argues that Israel is fast becoming a source of disunity for American Jewry, and that a new era of American Jewish conflict over Israel is replacing the old era of solidarity.

Drawing on a wealth of in-depth interviews with American Jewish leaders and activists, Waxman shows why Israel has become such a divisive issue among American Jews. He delves into the American Jewish debate about Israel, examining the impact that the conflict over Israel is having on Jewish communities, national Jewish organizations, and on the pro-Israel lobby. Waxman sets this conflict in the context of broader cultural, political, institutional, and demographic changes happening in the American Jewish community. He offers a nuanced and balanced account of how this conflict over Israel has developed and what it means for the future of American Jewish politics.

Israel used to bring American Jews together. Now it is driving them apart. Trouble in the Tribe explains why.