Jeffrey Goldberg

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

  • AIPAC's Uncertain Role in the Upcoming Hagel Nomination

    AIPAC tries -- sometimes imperfectly -- to both be, and appear to be, bipartisan. And the people who run it aren't stupid.

    I'll have more on the nomination of Chuck Hagel later, but just one note for the moment: There's an assumption out there that AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel group on Capitol Hill, will be supporting an all-fronts effort to block this nomination, for all of the reasons being discussed: He's unfriendly to Israel, he's soft on Iran, and so on. But I'm not so sure AIPAC will be throwing itself into this fight.

    AIPAC, unlike, say, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Bill Kristol Coalition, tries --  sometimes imperfectly -- to both be, and appear to be, bipartisan. The people who run AIPAC aren't stupid: They know that if they foment strong opposition to Hagel on the Hill, they will earn President Obama's enmity, whether or not they succeed or fail. Discussions inside the group -- and what the group is hearing from its friends on the Hill, and in the administration -- is that the president very much wants Hagel at Defense, and would be very upset if a group whose agenda he has more-or-less supported (a strong no to containment of Iran, maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge, siding with Israel at the United nations) tries to deny him the defense secretary he wants, and who is a personal friend.

    The administration is worried most about AIPAC -- it does not generally pay attention to the editorials of The Weekly Standard -- and its emissaries have been working overtime to ensure AIPAC's quiescence. I could obviously be wrong, and information may come out in confirmation hearings that makes it impossible for AIPAC to sideline itself, but my guess at this moment is that the AIPAC will not mount a significant campaign on the Hill.

  • Kant vs. Augustine on Concealed-Carry Handguns

    Fallows has weighed in on the discussion, in particular on my challenge to TNC, who stated that he was actively uninterested in owning a handgun for self-defense.

    The Obama Administration is floating, via the Washington Post, several fairly serious gun control measures that would, if adopted, most likely have little impact on the pace or devastation of gun massacres such as the one in Newtown, but could, over decades, make it somewhat more difficult for criminals, and the dangerously deranged, to get their hands on guns:

    A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said.

    All of these measures are reasonable. Strengthening mental health checks is obviously important, and a national database of gun sales could have some use, particularly for post-shooting investigations, and closing the so-called gun show loophole, as I've written before, would at least place a stumbling block before unqualified gun buyers. But unless and until the government comes up with a plan to radically reduce the number of guns in civilian hands (roughly 300 million, and that number is most likely growing at a torrid pace, because discussion of stringent gun control measures sends gun buyers flocking to stores and gun shows), then not too much will change. Which is why I believe law-abiding, screened and trained citizens should be allowed to carry handguns, if they so choose. It's an unfortunate, but realistic, response (not the only response, of course) to the tragic fact that criminals and the dangerously mentally ill have fairly easy access to weaponry.

    My colleagues Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Fallows have disagreed with me on this, and TNC and I had a back-and-forth on the subject, which you can read here. Fallows has weighed in on the discussion, in particular on my Augustinian challenge to TNC, who stated that he was actively uninterested in owning a handgun for self-defense. (I was arguing, in essence, the Augustinian perspective, that we have a responsibility to defend the lives of others, even if we choose not to use violence to defend ourselves.) Jim came in with this comment:

    Since we're rolling out the big-time thinkers, I'll say that the reason I prefer the Coates side of the argument (more guns are not the answer), over the Goldberg side (in the right circumstances they can be), is well expressed not by Augustine but by Immanuel Kant.

    The whole concept of Kant's "categorical imperative" -- testing an idea by what its consequences would be if everyone acted that way -- seems an ideal match for the "more guns" question. In Jeff Goldberg's hypothetical, I personally would feel better if I, uniquely, had a gun in hand to use against the perpetrator. But I would not prefer a situation in which everyone was carrying guns, all the time, and ready to open fire on anyone who looked threatening. Or even if a lot more people were doing so. Thus for me, a "more guns" policy fails the categorical imperative test. It's better for me if I do it, worse for us all if everyone does it. But read the exchange and see what you think.

    I'm not sure Jim is actually arguing with me here, because I don't believe that "everyone," or any number of people close to everyone, should be carrying guns. I believe that only vetted, licensed and trained citizens should be allowed by their states, or their local authorities, to possess weapons outside the house (and, actually, this sort of oversight for people who don't even want to bring their guns outside would be okay with me).

    The population of concealed-carry permit holders in the U.S. now exceeds 9 million, and this group is responsible for very little crime -- they commit crime at a rate lower than the general population, and lower than police officers, and they certainly, as a rule, don't open fire on anyone who looks threatening. They are not the problem, and concealed-carry generally is not the problem. It may even be part of a solution, until such time as a giant magnet appears over the continental U.S. and sucks into the sky America's civilian-owned weapons, or until the gun control movement convinces the majority of Americans who believe in private weapons ownership to open a debate about the 2nd Amendment.

    In the meantime, I can't get two Newtown numbers out of my head: 26, the number of people, mainly small children, who were murdered in the school; and 20, the number of minutes it took the police to arrive.

  • 'Women Who Own Assault Weapons Have Tiny Penises'

    A survey of the past few weeks' serious commentary (and dreck) on guns and gun control

    I've read a great deal of serious commentary about guns and gun control over the past few weeks. I've also read a lot of dreck. And also some funny dreck. Here is my favorite example, from Todd Hartley in the Aspen Times: "Women who own assault weapons have tiny penises, just like their male counterparts. That would explain why they're angry enough to buy a weapon whose sole purpose is to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible."

    I've also been attacked from every direction for my recent Atlantic piece, "The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control)." My favorite hostile tweet came from the anti-gun control Twitter commentator @Joescustomrods, who wrote, "Just read your article on gun control. You belong with the rest of the sheeple my freind. Almost 9000% ignorance."

    Almost 9000 percent ignorance? Why "almost"?

    From the opposite side of the gun control debate, the Washington Monthly, the august journal of progressive analysis and opinion, stated the following in a critique of my article: "(Goldberg) spouts libertarian gibberish and wanks off to macho fantasies about whipping out his penis substitute and blowing the bad guys away."

    I would like to answer the Washington Monthly's accusation by denying categorically that I wank off to macho fantasies about whipping out my penis substitute and blowing the bad guys away.

    I'll let actual libertarians answer the first charge. The Washington Monthly, by the way, falsely and repeatedly asserts that the headline on the Atlantic article is "The Case for More Guns," not, "The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control"). I don't have much hope that the editors will correct that bit about wankery, but they should at least correct the title of the piece.

  • So Many Myths About Guns and Gun Control

    Is Obama going to confiscate your legally owned weapons? Does allowing more concealed handguns make society more dangerous? There's a clear answer to both questions.

    From my Bloomberg View column:

    Myth No. 1: The extremism of the National Rifle Association and its chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, is hurting its cause.

    LaPierre's seemingly unhinged recent performances, first at his no-questions news conference and then on NBC's "Meet the Press," have convinced gun-control advocates and members of the news media that he is out of his mind. He isn't. His appearances were calibrated to appeal to the Second Amendment absolutists who make up the NRA's base, and to help sell weapons manufactured by companies that rely on the NRA to keep their market as unregulated as possible. The NRA's tactic is to gin up paranoia among gun owners that President Barack Obama is going to confiscate their legally owned weapons.

    Myth No. 2: President Barack Obama is going to confiscate your legally owned weapons.

    He isn't. He is so far from doing that it's comical to believe otherwise. There's no constitutional mechanism for him to do so. There's no practical way for him to do so. And he has no motivation to do so, because he's on record defending the rights of sportsmen, hunters and -- this is crucial -- people who believe in armed self-defense to own guns. As Vice President Joe Biden said during the 2008 campaign, "Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey."

    Myth No. 3: There is no proposed gun-control measure that would make the U.S. safer.

    True, there are as many as 300 million guns in the country, with more coming into circulation every day. But some new regulations would help. Closing the so-called gun-show loophole -- which allows many guns to be sold without benefit of a federal background check -- would make it at least marginally more difficult for unqualified buyers, such as felons and the mentally ill, to get weapons. Since 1994, about 1.9 million purchases have been stopped because of background checks. A semi-smart criminal, or a high-functioning deranged person, would still most likely find his way to a gun. But it would be beneficial to place more stumbling blocks in his path.

    Myth No. 4: Renewing the assault-weapons ban is the clear answer to making the U.S. safer.

    "Assault weapons" are defined as such mainly because they have the appearance of military-style rifles. In my definition, any device that can fire a metal projectile at a high rate of speed into a human body is assaultive in nature. How deadly a shooting is depends as much on the skill and preparation of the shooter as on what equipment he uses. Again, it may be beneficial to ban large-capacity magazines and other exceptionally deadly implements. But we shouldn't be under the illusion that this will stop mass killings.

    Myth No. 5: Only pro-gun extremists want to place police officers in schools.

    Before LaPierre took up the cause of armed security protecting students, President Bill Clinton advocated a similar program to assign police officers to schools across the country after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. "Already," Clinton said at the time, the program "has placed 2,200 officers in more than 1,000 communities across our nation, where they are heightening school safety as well as coaching sports and acting as mentors and mediators for kids in need."

    Myth No. 6: Columbine proved that police officers in schools can't stop massacres.

    It is true that a sheriff's deputy assigned to Columbine engaged in a shootout with the two killers but failed to stop them. It is also foolish to draw broad lessons from a single incident. In 2007, at the New Life Church in Colorado, an armed volunteer security officer named Jeanne Assam shot and wounded a gunman who had killed two people outside the church and two others the night before. Assam most likely saved many lives that day. Does this mean that all churches should have armed security officers in the pews? Again, it is difficult to extrapolate from a single incident. But licensed and trained civilians carrying arms do represent one solution to gun violence.

    Myth No. 7: Issuing more permits for carrying concealed handguns makes society more dangerous.

    There are more than 8 million concealed-carry permit holders in the U.S., and the number grows each year. These are people who are vetted by local law enforcement. They commit crime at a lower rate than the general population. And, by some estimates, they commit crime at a lower rate than police officers.

    Read here for the rest.

  • What the Likud's 14th-Ranked Knesset Candidate Thinks of Arabs

    A shocking quote from a fairly high-ranking Israeli politician.

    CORRECTION APPENDED


    Bradley Burston did me a favor today by resurrecting a quote from Moshe Feiglin, the hard-right Israeli who is number 14 on the joint Likud-Yisrael Beyteinu Knesset list (meaning that he will certainly be a member of the next Knesset). I had forgotten about my interview with Feiglin nine years ago, which was part of my reporting for a New Yorker story on the settlement movement. It's quite a shocking quote, and it's disturbing to see that Feiglin is now a part of the Likud leadership. Here's the quote, in context:
    Moshe Feiglin, a Likud activist who lives in a West Bank settlement and heads the Jewish Leadership bloc within the Party -- he controls nearly a hundred and fifty of the Likud central committee's three thousand members -- believes that the Bible, interpreted literally, should form the basis of Israel's legal system.

    "Why should non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state?" Feiglin said to me. "For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish state, not a democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the state, not destroy them." In any case, Feiglin said, "You can't teach a monkey to speak and you can't teach an Arab to be democratic. You're dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers. Muhammad, their prophet, was a robber and a killer and a liar. The Arab destroys everything he touches."

    CORRECTION: Feiglin was 14th on the Likud list. On the joint Likud-Yisrael Beyteinu list, he is 23rd.
  • Gun Owners Are More Complicated Than We Sometimes Think

    "One could say I own a small arsenal. No, I'm not a member of the NRA and never will be."

    This e-mail came in a few minutes ago, in reaction to my latest Bloomberg View piece on guns:

    Hi,
    Just read your article on gun control. I'm a gun owner and one could say I own a small arsenal . No, I'm not a member of the NRA and never will be. You see, I believe the gun debate needs to start with the 2nd Amendment and how it applies to us today. The NRA will never agree to it as Charles Heston said "over my dead body".  Our Constitution gives us the power to  amend it and we need to do it.Keep speaking up  on this issue as you have the pulpit to do it. In the mean time we need to ban Assault Rifles and high capacity Magazines.

  • The 2nd Amendment, First Among Equals for Many Conservatives

    A question for the conservative movement: Why is the Second Amendment valued more than any other part of the Bill of Rights?

    From Conor Friedersdorf, a question for the conservative movement: Why is the Second Amendment valued more than any other part of the Bill of Rights? The Fourth and Fifth Amendments seem like important amendments, too, after all:

    Even if we presume that the 2nd Amendment exists partly so that citizens can rise up if the government gets tyrannical, it is undeniable that the Framers built other safeguards into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to prevent things from ever getting so bad as to warrant an insurrection. Federalism was one such safeguard; the separation of powers into three branches was another; and the balance of the Bill of Rights was the last of the major safeguards.

    If a "2nd Amendment solution" is ever warranted, it'll mean our system already failed in numerous ways; that "solution" is also easily the most costly and dangerous of the safeguards we have.

    It would probably mean another Civil War.

    Yet the conservative movement is only reliable when it defends the 2nd Amendment. Otherwise, it is an inconsistent advocate for safeguarding liberty. Conservatives pay occasional lip service to federalism, but are generally hypocrites on the subject, voting for bills like No Child Left Behind, supporting a federally administered War on Drugs, and advocating for federal legislation on marriage. (Texas governor Rick Perry is the quintessential hypocrite on this subject).

    And on the Bill of Rights, the conservative movement is far worse. Throughout the War on Terrorism, organizations like the ACLU and the Center of Constitutional Rights have reliably objected to Bush/Cheney/Obama policies, including warrantless spying on innocent Americans, indefinite detention without charges or trial, and the extrajudicial assassination of Americans. The Nation and Mother Jones reliably admit that the executive power claims made by Bush/Yoo/Obama/Koh exceed Madisonian limits and prudence informed by common sense.

    Meanwhile, on the right, The Heritage Foundation, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and sundry others are more often than not active cheerleaders for those very same War on Terror policies. Due process? Warrants? Congressional oversight? You must have a pre-9/11 mindset.  
  • The Libertarian Impulse on Guns (and Most Everything Else)

    In which a writer discovers his political orientation, maybe

    Ta-Nehisi and I have been exchanging e-mails on the matter of gun control for the past few days, and he has posted our dialogue on his blog. You can read it here, but be warned: We don't insult each other, so you might be bored (on the other hand, some of his commenters hurl invective in my direction), and also, it's pretty long. But for me, at least, it was a revelatory and interesting conversation with a good friend I respect very much.

    I'm writing not only to highlight our dialogue, but to mention something that didn't make it in. At one point, in a side conversation, I told Ta-Nehisi that my feelings about gun ownership actually track with my feelings on a range of social and political issues. This is what I wrote to Ta-Nehisi after he said he would rather not own a gun for self-protection: "You don't want a gun to defend yourself, fine. That's your right. But denying someone else that right -- someone who is screened and vetted and trained and feels that he needs a gun to defend himself or his home -- is that right?"

    I went on to write that my feeling about gun-ownership tracked with my feelings about pot-smoking (people should do it if they want to do it and not be punished for it); gay marriage (pro); and abortion (I don't like it, but I'm not going to tell a woman what to do with her body). I suppose my loathing for privacy-invading airport security procedures tracks with these beliefs. On guns, I believe that that people who are screened and vetted should be allowed to participate in their own defense. I think people should be treated like adults, and be allowed, within reason, to make their choices about who they want to be with, how they want to organize their lives, what they ingest and how they protect themselves.

    After I wrote this, it struck me that I might be a libertarian. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with this feeling. I don't even know anyone at Reason magazine.

    P.S. Yes, I know that some libertarian purists believe that the government should not have any role to play in the regulation of gun-ownership, per their reading of the 2nd Amendment. I just can't go there, however.

  • An Update on Jordan's Plans to Counter Syrian WMD

    From Al Quds al-Arabi, via Haaretz, new information concerning a story I reported early this month, about an Israeli request to Jordan to preemptively bomb Syrian chemical weapons sites:

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting in Jordan with King Abdullah II, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Wednesday.

    According to the report, which has yet to be confirmed by Israeli officials, the meeting focused on possibility that Syrian President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons against rebels in the ongoing sectarian conflict raging in that country.

    Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reported in The Atlantic earlier this month that Israel has asked Jordan twice in the last two months for a green light to attack chemical weapons facilities in Syria.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent representatives of the Mossad intelligence agency to Amman twice already, to coordinate the matter with the Jordanians and receive their "permission" for the operation, Goldberg wrote.

    The Jordanians, however, responded negatively to the request and refused to grant their approval. American officials quoted in the article said the Jordanians told Israel the "time was not right" for such an action.

    Goldberg wrote further that while Israel could carry out an operation of the kind without Jordan's approval, they were worried about the repercussions it could spark.

    Arab media outlets recently reported that the Jordanian army has declared a state of emergency, and that its troops have been issued gas masks in anticipation of chemical weapons being employed by the Syrian regime near the border. Although this report remains unconfirmed, senior Jordanian officials emphasize that they warned the world that the Syrians might use such weapons last year, and that such an eventuality will require the swift intervention of Western powers, since, according to the Jordanians, no nation in the region, including Israel, can overcome Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.
  • The Verdict Is In: I'm an NRA-Hating, 2nd-Amendment Absolutist, Gun-Nut Gun Grabber

    My inbox is overflowing, obviously, with letters from partisans on all sides of the gun debate.

    My inbox is overflowing, obviously, with letters from partisans on all sides of the gun debate. (E-mails prompted mainly by this article.) The geographic split is huge, and troubling for those who would like to see America a more unified place: Those correspondents who identify the state of their residence and are opposed to gun control are mainly -- overwhelmingly, really -- from the South and West (and a bit of upper Midwest). Those who are opposed to concealed-carry are mainly Northeasterners. Much of the mail is entirely sane, and non-insulting, but a large proportion of it (large, even compared to what I get in my Middle East mailbag) is filled with invective. Although I have to admit, I do enjoy getting mail within the same hour accusing me of being a "gun-grabbing libtard" and a "NRA-ass-kisser."

    The argument from the Left frequently boils down to the accusation that my belief in the right of law-abiding and government-licensed individuals to be armed in order to participate in their own defense means that I want to recreate the Wild West in modern America. The argument from the Right comes down to this: Any regulation of guns (I support most of the proposed gun control regulations advanced by the Brady Campaign) means that I'm willing to see the Constitutional rights of my fellow Americans impinged in order to satiate the collectivist desires of liberals who so cowardly they don't want to even protect themselves.

    Here are two letters that are typical of my mail. The first is from someone who thinks that my call for more stringent gun control makes me something of a socialist wackjob:

    You are such a block head. The NRA has a valid point. The DVDs and violent films that have made mass killing 'fun', have a lot to do on why we see so many deranged young killers out there. This Newtown killer was immersed in that killing/game culture. If you cannot see that, you need to stand back and take an objective look. It would also help a lot, if you refrained from drinking that Obama, cool aid. Remember, most of the Hollywood elite, all of Congress, are protected by their personal bodyguards. Why should they feel threatened as I would if I did not have the ability to protect me and my loved ones.

    Give up my guns, and just call  911 and wait 20 minutes? Never.

    There's this, from the opposite side:

    Do you really think most Americans can be trusted with guns? You're out of your mind. Everyone walking around with guns is a nightmare. What about the rage that is inside people? If they have a chance to bring out their rage, what do you think would happen? We'd have blood in the streets everyday. How could you write an article that means more death all around?  Shame on you.

    There are plenty of letters like this one, however:

    Straight to the point here: Thank you for writing in support of a hybridized approach to gun control and gun ownership rights, rather than coming down in support of one of the standard, simplistic, for-or-against arguments that we usually see or hear. Thank you for seeing this grave and complicated issue as something more than an easy choice between two opposite, all or nothing positions.

    It is unfortunately rare that public discussions seriously address the challenging complexities of the issues faced by this country. Issues are typically presented to the public as though only two possible solutions could ever exist, one liberal and the other conservative.  Democrat versus Republican. Blue versus Red. It gets tiresome, diminishes the level of the discussion, and actually makes it more difficult to ever move to an effective solution because it prevents us from fully examining the issues and seeing them clearly.

    It is reassuring to read your opinion piece that recognizes valid points on both sides of the gun control issue, and that looks for a solution that blends support for both public safety and individual rights. Perhaps it may help some people to see that we need more than one-step thinking on this and other issues. I hope so.

    I'm going to keep addressing different issues surrounding this issue on Goldblog, but I wanted to take quick note of an argument I find particularly weak, the "Columbine-had-an-armed-guard-and-look-what-happened" line we've been hearing about so much lately. (I'll get to Wayne LaPierre's idiocies later, but everyone else seems to be dealing with those.) This is from The Atlantic Wire:

    It's kind of like the first time two days ago that LaPierre told the nation that we needed to put an armed guards in every American school to prevent more school shootings. This, despite the fact that there was an armed guard at Columbine High School in 1999, but 13 people died from gunshot wounds anyways.

    It is true that the armed guard at Columbine did not stop the two shooters. But deriving definitive lessons from a single incident seems unwise, and discarding the idea of armed security nationally because it failed at Columbine seems precipitous. The Secret Service failed to keep JFK alive. Did this mean that we should have discarded the idea that our presidents receive Secret Service protection? The CIA failed to stop the terrorist plot that resulted in the attacks of 9/11. Did we discard the idea of intelligence-gathering after 9/11, on grounds that it didn't work in advance of the attacks? Or did we try to make the CIA better at its job? More quotidian examples abound: The police in Chicago have failed to stop the murders of more than 400 people this year. Does this mean that the concept of policing is fundamentally flawed? Or does it mean that Chicago has to work harder to get this right, to devise policies that result in the most effective deployment of government resources? On occasion, the burglar alarms in private residences fail to sound. Does this mean that all burglar alarms are a bad idea?

    I tend to think that placing police officers in our country's schools would represent a waste of money, in large part because school shootings are exceedingly rare. (In point of fact, roughly a third of all schools already have armed security officers.)  But the fact that a cop in Columbine failed to stop the massacre there is not an argument that all cops will fail to stop all massacres.

    UPDATE: A fuller rendering of just what the armed officer at Columbine actually did, from Daniel Foster in National Review:

    (I)t isn't like the deputy was sitting around eating doughnuts during the Columbine massacre. He traded fire (that is, he drew fire) with Harris for an extended period of time, during which Harris's gun jammed. The deputy and the backup he immediately called for exchanged fire with the shooters a second time and helped begin the evacuation of students, all before the SWAT teams and the rest of the cavalry arrived, and before Harris and Klebold killed themselves in the library. Harris and Klebold had an assault plan -- a sloppy plan, but a plan nonetheless. They had dozens of IEDs, some of which detonated, others of which did not. And there were two of them. In this highly chaotic tactical environment, the deputy acted both bravely and prudently, and who knows how many lives he saved by engaging Harris.

    UPDATE: From one Goldblog reader, who thinks all talk about school security is diversionary:

    I'd like to comment on your poking holes in the the "Columbine-had-an-armed-guard-and-look-what-happened" argument. When you have failures of institutions like the Secret Service, the CIA or the Police you try to improve the institution. Fair enough. But how do you improve security at schools? More and better trained arm guards? This doesn't seem plausible (to me at least). Perhaps you have to have schools  as secure as Courthouses and other public buildings. This too doesn't seem economically possible or welcoming for kids.
     
    I'd like to discuss improving access to mental health care and how doubtful a solution that would be for preventing another disaster. I'm somewhat familiar with this as I've a child with pretty significant learning disabilities who would act out (not violently thank goodness). At any rate,  locating competent counseling services is extremely difficult and problematic, even for the most well intentioned parent with lots of resources. Schools programs are designed to handle things like learning disabilities, depression, school refusal. Their resources are overloaded. Furthermore they need the cooperation of both the students and parents. It's not clear any broad based community mental health program would have helped Adam Lanza.
     
    What's the solution? Who knows? Limiting access to semi-automatic weapons and large clips might mitigate these incidents. However this isn't going to happen any time soon.
  • Chuck Hagel and the Jews

    I can't let anti-Semites dictate the terms of this debate.

    Two e-mails I thought were worth answering:
    The first:

    You know supporting Chuck Hagel as you do (even in a backhanded way) means you're in the company of vicious anti-Semites and haters. I thought you should know that.

    Yes, I know that. There are plenty of people (on the Internet, at least) who want Hagel as secretary of defense so that he will punish Israel. There are others who want him in order to prove that "Jewish power" in Washington is in eclipse. I get all that. But I can't let anti-Semites dictate the terms of this debate. I think Israel is heading down a dangerous path, toward its own, eventual dissolution, because it refuses to contemplate even unilateral half-measures that could lay the groundwork for a Palestinian state. I've been arguing for years that the settlers are the vanguard of binationalism, and now they're closer to the center of power than ever before.

    I've spoken to Chuck Hagel in the past. He is not a hater of Israel. On the other hand, he, like Bob Gates, the former secretary of defense, might be able to look Netanyahu in the eye and demand an explanation for the Israeli government's actions on the West Bank. And yes, I'm disgusted by some of those of these new Hagelians. I know they wish Israel ill. But they shouldn't shape this debate, anymore than Hamas should shape this debate.

    The second:

    Don't you think it's dangerous for groups like the American Jewish Committee and the ADL, etc., to get so identified with stopping Hagel, to associate Jews with this cause? Couldn't this backfire?

    Jews are unpopular when they're powerless. They're unpopular when they're powerful. They might as well be powerful, no? Do you think Stephen Walt is going to suddenly like Jews when Jewish groups lose whatever political influence they have?  I don't have any problem with groups of American citizens expressing their opinions about potential cabinet nominees. And I would also note that many mainstream Jewish groups, and pro-Israel groups, are expressing their issues with Chuck Hagel without calling him an anti-Semite. So advocate away, I say.

    My issue is different. If mainstream American Jewish leaders would go to Israel and explain to the current Israeli leadership that it must find a way out of the current impasse, and must re-order its priorities, I would be very happy. There are many people around the world with their knives out for the Jewish state, because it's a Jewish state. That's just the way it is. Israel has to figure out the smartest way to counteract the ancient, bestial urge to eliminate to hurt Jews. Lately, it has not been very good at coming up with a plan. This is the main issue for me. Today's path leads, eventually, to pariah status, and a small state like Israel can't survive  as a pariah. 

  • The Chuck Hagel Controversy

    Jewish liberals are pushing back on attacks on the potential Cabinet nominee, but the way they're doing it is telling.

    Goldblog wasn't planning on covering the controversy surrounding the so-far theoretical nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, because it is, after all, theoretical, and because I think the situation is much more complex than both right and left think believe it to be, and who wants to get into it right now? I'm into enough at the moment.

    But then I received an email being circulated among Jewish liberals who support Hagel, and it provoked me to think through some of the deeper issues here. The point of the aforementioned e-mail was to argue that Hagel is, in fact, "pro-Israel," and it provides a list of the various times he's voted for this or that on behalf of Israel in the Senate. "Senator Hagel cosponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006," for instance. "The bill, which became US law, declared it U.S. policy to oppose organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah..." And so on.

    What struck me as unusual about the list is that it was framed as a response to right-wing criticism. It did not advance arguments you would expect to hear from the Left, but tried to mollify the Right. It contained nothing like, "Hagel is adamant in his support for a settlement freeze," or somesuch; the letter was designed to say, in effect, "Don't worry, Hagel is actually closer ideologically to Lindsey Graham than you think."

    About Hagel himself, I have mixed feelings: He is a patriot, and a smart and pleasant man (I've met him on a couple of occasions) and if he's anti-Semitic, he went about hiding this from me pretty well. I think, based on what I've read, that he has harbored very naive views about Iran and Hezbollah (whether he still harbors them I don't know) and that he's not particularly sentimental about Israel. He has also accrued some unfortunate supporters, including and especially the scapegoater Stephen Walt, but Hagel can't be blamed for this. The most troubling question about Hagel's potential nomination for some people concerns what it would mean about Obama's views on Iran. I've come to the conclusion (I came to it long ago) that Obama is serious when he says all options are on the table, and he might be so serious, in fact, that it wouldn't matter if his national security adviser was Zbigniew Brzezinski. Hagel, no matter how far he's moved, hasn't moved as far as Obama has on the issue. But I'm not sure Hagel's position in this argument is overly relevant, even if he's sitting by the president's side. And who better to sell the president's militant Iran position than someone who comes from the realist camp? I really don't think he would be able to influence the president away from the stand he has taken.

    Anyway, it's not Hagel's record itself that prompts me to write. The strategy advanced by the pro-Hagel Jewish Left is a fine political strategy, I suppose, and I wouldn't bother commenting on it, except that I just read that the Israeli political party HaBayit HaYehudi (the Jewish Home) is now poised to become one of the the country's biggest parties. It might, in fact, be the third-largest party in the next Knesset.

    The Jewish Home party advances an ideology that will bring about the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel. The Jewish Home party seeks to erase the dividing line between Israel and the West Bank; it seeks to build more and more settlements; it seeks to absorb the West Bank's Arabs into Israel as, at the most, second-class citizens. It seeks to empower Orthodox religious nationalism as the dominant ideology of the state turn Israel into the Jewish equivalent of a sharia state. And its policies would turn Israel into a pariah state, and Israel will not survive for the long-term as a pariah state.

    How does this relate to Hagel? This is how: Maybe, at this point, what we need are American officials who will speak with disconcerting bluntness to Israel about the choices it is making. If the Jewish Home party becomes a key part of Netanyahu's right-wing ruling coalition, you can be assured that there will not compromise coming in the forseeable future (it's almost impossible to forsee compromise now.) Maybe the time has come to redefine the term "pro-Israel" to include, in addition to providing support against Iran (a noble cause); help with the Iron Dome system (also a noble cause); and support to maintain Israel's qualitiative military edge (ditto), the straightest of straight talk about Israel's self-destructive policies on the West Bank. Maybe Hagel, who is not bound to old models, could be useful in this regard.

    And yes, I write this with some measure of despair.

  • Megan McArdle's Outrageous Gun Recommendation

    Her suggestion is crazy, right? In many ways, yes, but it should be noted that this is not actually her idea.

    My former colleague Megan McArdle writes in The Daily Beast:

    I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.  Would it work?  Would people do it?  I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips. 

    This suggestion of McArdle's, which appears at the end of a long, discursive piece arguing that there is not much to be done to stop gun violence, has provoked outrage across the Internet. Jonathan Chait spoke for many when he wrote:

    Are you kidding me? You think gun control is impractical, so your plan is to turn the entire national population, including young children, into a standby suicide squad? Through private initiative, of course. It's way more feasible than gun control!

    (snip)

    Unless I am missing a very subtle parody of libertarianism, McArdle's plan to teach children to launch banzai charges against mass murderers is the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication.

    McArdle's suggestion is crazy, right? In many ways, yes, but it should be noted that this is not actually her idea -- it is a recommendation disseminated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The federal government's "active shooter" policy suggests that, as a last resort, a person facing an armed killer should "attempt to incapacitate the shooter" and "act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter."

    Mocking McArdle for her notion seems quite uncharitable, when you have an entire federal bureaucracy to mock. The truth is, of course, that attacking someone who is trying to shoot you (the old, "run from a knife, run to a gun" idea of self-defense) beats dying without a fight, but it's still fairly ineffective. The heroic school principal and school psychologist in Newtown charged Adam Lanza, but were shot before they could "incapacitate" him. (DHS doesn't say anything about small children swamping a shooter, but McArdle is ambiguous in her post on the question of whether she means small children or not. Obviously, first graders aren't going to be attacking shooters.) 

    In my recent article advocating for concealed-carry (and for stricter gun laws, as well), I provided several examples of idiotic-sounding recommendations that universities (which are usually self-declared "gun-free" zones) pass on to students, staff and faculty in the event of an "active shooter" attack. These recommendations motivated me to rethink the issue of concealed-carry. From the article:

    Wichita State University counsels students in the following manner: "If the person(s) is causing death or serious physical injury to others and you are unable to run or hide you may choose to be compliant, play dead, or fight for your life."

    The University of Miami guidelines suggest that when all else fails, students should act "as aggressively as possible" against a shooter. The guidelines, taken from a Department of Homeland Security directive, also recommend "throwing items and improvising weapons," as well as "yelling."

    Otterbein University, in Ohio, tells students to "breathe to manage your fear" and informs them, "You may have to take the offensive if the shooter(s) enter your area. Gather weapons (pens, pencils, books, chairs, etc.) and mentally prepare your attack."

    West Virginia University advises students that if the situation is dire, they should "act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter." These items could include "student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc."

    The University of Colorado at Boulder's guidelines state, "You and classmates or friends may find yourselves in a situation where the shooter will accost you. If such an event occurs, quickly develop a plan to attack the shooter ... Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive."

    That last line -- "consider a plan to tackle the shooter" -- struck me as particularly hilarious. What universities are saying to their students is this: "We cannot protect you. But we won't allow you to carry a licensed, permitted weapon on campus. But since our lawyers told us we have to make believe that there's a way to protect yourself from people we can't protect you from, you should carry a pencil and an iPod with you at all times. These items may save your life."

  • Israel Relies on Evangelicals at its Moral and Political Peril

    Support from evangelical Christians was always a narrow reed on which to rest Israel's fortunes in America, and now the group is collapsing.

    It is a source of great frustration, even pain, among liberal American Jews that Israel finds such stalwart support among American evangelical Protestants, with whom they share very little. It is, of course, a source of great comfort to Israeli politicians such as Benjamin Netanyahu and to his even more right-wing colleagues, that evangelical support for Israel is so strong. Evangelical support always struck me as a narrow reed on which to rest Israel's fortunes in America, and not only because many evangelicals, in my experience, have no love for Jews as autonomous people, but merely as vehicles for the Christian redemption. I also thought it was odd to build a strategy around evangelicals because evangelicals don't represent a majority of Americans.

    Now, according to an important op-ed in The Times by a young evangelical pastor, it seems as if evangelicals represent fewer Americans than ever. I hope those Israelis who believe they can ignore the wishes of their liberal brethren (and their increasingly-former allies among non-Jewish liberals in the U.S.) read the whole thing. Here's an excerpt:

    In 2012 we witnessed a collapse in American evangelicalism. The old religious right largely failed to affect the Republican primaries, much less the presidential election. Last month, Americans voted in favor of same-sex marriage in four states, while Florida voters rejected an amendment to restrict abortion.

    Much has been said about conservative Christians and their need to retool politically. But that is a smaller story, riding on the back of a larger reality: Evangelicalism as we knew it in the 20th century is disintegrating.

    In 2011 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled church leaders from around the world. Evangelical ministers from the United States reported a greater loss of influence than church leaders from any other country -- with some 82 percent indicating that their movement was losing ground.

    I grew up hearing tales of my grandfather, a pastor, praying with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. My father, also a pastor, prayed with George W. Bush in 2000. I now minister to my own congregation, which has grown to about 500, a tenfold increase, in the last four years (by God's favor and grace, I believe). But, like most young evangelical ministers, I am less concerned with politics than with the exodus of my generation from the church.

    Studies from established evangelical polling organizations -- LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Barna Group -- have found that a majority of young people raised as evangelicals are quitting church, and often the faith, entirely.
  • Responding to Alex Seitz-Wald on Gun Control

    Since he didn't include so much of the material in his story, I thought I would simply post my correspondence with Seitz-Wald here.

    Alex Seitz-Wald, of Salon, has published a piece critical of my Atlantic piece that argued for concealed-carry permitting as one answer to gun violence (the other answers I gave include some mainstream gun control measures -- you can read about my views here). Seitz-Wald contacted me by e-mail before writing his story, and I responded to his various questions, but he chose not to include most of them in his story (which renders in a dishonest way the actual arguments I was making). In his own e-mails, you will see that he makes the argument I was making for me. Since he didn't include so much of the material in his story, I thought I would simply post my correspondence with Seitz-Wald here. This is unedited, except for the removal of some repetitive information:

    Seitz-Wald's first e-mail to me:

    Hi Jeff,

    I'm a fan of yours and really respect your work, but wanted to give you a heads up that I'm working on a big piece for Salon for tomorrow that will disagree sharply with your story on guns. I've spoken with several academic gun researchers who criticized the piece for a lack of inclusion of scientific studies on gun violence, which they say shows pretty conclusively, as one just told me: "Where there are more guns, there are more deaths."

    I just wanted to alert you and offer an opportunity to respond, specifically on exclusion of scientific research, if you cared to. I can send more info later in the day as my piece comes together. Filing later tonight for publishing tomorrow morning. Thank you very much.

    I wrote back:

    I think you should call Adam Winkler at UCLA for comment before you write. Also, I was making a specific point in the piece: There is no proof that concealed-carry permitting has led to a rise in violent crime. And there is evidence (National Crime Victimization Survey, etc.) to suggest that many law-abiding people use guns to defend themselves successfully, most often without actually firing.

    But of course the more guns there are, the more deaths you're going to have. But it's not the population of concealed-carry permit holders that is, generally speaking, causing those deaths. The whole point of the piece was to argue that since we are a gun-saturated society, and since the police cannot protect civilians from gun massacres (Connecticut being only the latest example), people who are well-trained and vetted and screened ought to be able to participate in their own defense. I find the Canadian model very attractive -- as I wrote in the piece -- but it's too late to turn this country into Canada.

    I assume much of the criticism is about the John Lott quote?

    Seitz-Wald wrote back a few hours later:

    Apologies for the slow response, was on the phone with people.

    I'm certainly sympathetic the problem of having so many guns already out there, and to the desire to protect oneself, and I like shooting guns, but I don't think more is the answer because 1) they're often not effective in a heated situation (though they occasionally have been) and 2) more importantly, then you have the gun sitting around waiting to be used in an emergency, but  we know that access to guns often leads to more conflicts and suicide attempts turning lethal than they otherwise would be. That's my big issue.

    The Lott quote certainly drew criticism, but I don't have a problem with it. You cite him as an advocate, not an academic, and that's fine. I should note my piece is not just responding to your story but to the more guns, less crime argument overall, so I will talk about Lott, but on his own right in advancing the argument, not because you quoted him.

    As for research, I'm mostly been speaking with researchers so far and don't have all the links at the moment, but can pass them along and will summarize. There's are several studies showing that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of violent death 2-5 fold. Here's some quick things: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html

    On CCW, there's a criticism of the data showing lower arrests and criminal activity because the CCW population is very different from the general population: It skews older and is people who have pass a background check, so is a demographic that's far less inclined to commit crimes.

    On the 2.5 million defensive uses of guns, there's criticism that many of them aren't actually defensive (Hemenway at Harvard took the responses to a judge to get opinions and many would not count as lawful uses).

    This really quick, and I can provide more, but still digging in and crashing on this.

    (The bold is mine, because, of course, this is the precise point of my article.)

    I wrote back:

    I think, based on what you've written, that we have more of a philosophical difference than a data difference. I start from the position that we live in a tragic reality, in which there are 280-300 million guns in circulation already, and no Constitutional, or practical, way to seize them. As I said, Canada looks like a very nice place from the gun perspective, but we're not going to be transformed into Canada. And also -- the headline of the piece was "The Case for More Guns." and I'm not going to complain about headlines -- they are what they are -- but I'm not advocating the addition of more guns into the population.

    What I'm saying is that law-abiding, vetted and trained people who have guns have a right to self-defense, and that, since the police and other government agencies obviously have failed to prevent many gun massacres, citizens who are screened and trained could have a role to play in stopping violent crime. The training is the biggest problem -- in places like Florida, it's far too easy to get a concealed carry permit.

    But to answer specific points:

    Sometimes guns aren't effective in a heated situation; sometimes they are. Your point re: suicide is a good one; 35 percent of all suicides (roughly) are committed with guns. We need better mental health screening for gun buyers, obviously. And I guess we just have a different perspective on the frequency of gun violence around the house. The vast, vast majority of people who own guns store them responsibly, use them responsibly and never run into a problem with their guns. In a way, this goes back to the training issue. I have no problem at all with gun control measures that would lead to more careful vetting of those who buy guns legally. (Illegal gun ownership is its own problem, obviously.) 
     
    I don't believe I wrote in my piece that we should have more guns. I believe that responsible, law-abiding people can own and even carry guns with limited downside. I'd like to get the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and the violent, and the very young. But a large number of Americans don't fall into these categories.
     
    On (concealed-carry), yes, exactly. Thank you for making my point for me. My article is about concealed carry. The people who have concealed carry licenses are generally older, and have passed a background check, and commit crime at lower rate than the general population. So they are not the problem. The debate is how much a part of the solution they can be. (Again, my bold.)

    On the safety issue, yes, having a gun around the house can be very dangerous. Children die every year when they discover a gun around the house. More children, however, die in backyard swimming pools. Careless parents and guardians are the real vector when it comes to accidental child death.

    (Also), as you read in the article, I give more credit to the 108,000 number (as does Winkler), than I do the 2.5 million number. 

    Please feel free to quote any of this.

     Seitz-Wald wrote back soon after:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think you may be right about the ideological vs. data difference being the main issue, but I think there is a data difference as well.

    You say you're not advocating the addition of more guns into the population, but that's the invariable product of more people arming themselves to defend themselves. It seems to me like a bit of a distinction without difference. The title of your piece is, after all, "The Case for More Guns." I get that the vast majority of those people are law abiding citizens who just want to protect themselves, but it still adds up to more guns in circulation, and we know that more guns around means more death. 

    I'm taking on the larges more guns = less crime argument, which is obviously bigger than your essay and is not the exact case your essay is making. But I view your essay as the smart and reasonable version of this theory, which I argue is inherently flawed, so I want to address it in that context. It's easy to knock down John Lott or Louis Gohmert or the gun rights absolutists, but your essay is far more compelling and thus prone to sparking vital dialog. But if law abiding citizens arming themselves was the solution, then we should have very little crime now considering the number of guns out there.

    I will add another philosophical difference which is that you are looking at the things mostly from the individual's perspective, where it's obvious that anyone err towards gun rights -- who wouldn't want a gun? But I don't think that's not the right way to look at public policy questions, which should be viewed in the aggregate. I'd love to not pay taxes...

    I imagine we don't really differ much on policy prescriptions. I favor a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and closing the gun show loophole, along with more rigorous training for CCW, and better checks on mental health. I'm not at all satisfied with this as a solution, as you say, given the existing number of guns out there and the Supreme Court's current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, it's the best we can do fo now. But I think it's kind of defeatist to just assume it's hopeless and fend for ourselves. Maybe it's a kind of progressivism: I think the government and police can be pretty farkakta often, but I'd rather leave it to them, where there's rigorous checks and accountability, than empower every citizen to make life and death decisions. I don't really have a better alternative, which I realize weakens my point, but I'm not ready to give up.

    Thanks.



    I wrote back:

    I don't think the piece makes the case for "more guns." It makes the case, given the failure of gun control advocates to advance their cause, and given the failure of police departments (the understandable failure, mind you) to protect innocent citizens in these types of shootings, concealed-carry by vetted and screened and trained civilians is something we ought to consider.

    I'm taking on the larges more guns = less crime argument, which is obviously bigger than your essay and is not the exact case your essay is making. But I view your essay as the smart and reasonable version of this theory, which I argue is inherently flawed, so I want to address it in that context. It's easy to knock down John Lott or Louis Gohmert or the gun rights absolutists, but your essay is far more compelling and thus prone to sparking vital dialog. But if law abiding citizens arming themselves was the solution, then we should have very little crime now considering the number of guns out there.

    Thank you thinking more favorably of me than you do Louis Gohmert. Re: your larger point, crime is, in fact, going down. I'm not going to argue causality (I would argue that general crime statistics suggest that concealed carry is not sparking a violent crime wave) but how do you know crime wouldn't be higher if people were disarmed? In other words, how do you prove that law-abiding citizens arming themselves isn't the solution, when you have the National Crime Victims Survey stats (see Winkler's quote in my story on the 108,000 number).

    I will add another philosophical difference which is that you are looking at the things mostly from the individual's perspective, where it's obvious that anyone err towards gun rights -- who wouldn't want a gun? But I don't think that's not the right way to look at public policy questions, which should be viewed in the aggregate. I'd love to not pay taxes...

    Yes,  believe an individual should have the right to defend himself from crime, especially since we know that the police do this so imperfectly. I suppose I wouldn't feel this way if you could prove to me that the 9 million concealed-carry permit holders in this country were robbing banks on a regular basis, but bank robbers aren't the sort of people who present themselves to their local sheriff for fingerprinting, background screening, gun-safety classes, etc.
    You don't hear the word "farkakta" too often at gun shows, in case you were wondering. Yes, I basically support the laundry list of items the Brady Campaign wants, but I also -- it is true -- fatalistic about the capacity for the country to reverse itself on guns. Buy-backs might be useful on the margins -- and unlike the Brady Campaign, which has closed the door to debates on the 2nd Amendment -- I wouldn't mind seeing a public debate on the subject. But here's the point -- many times we are on our own. That's the tragic truth. That school was undefended. Those kids were on their own. The principal and the school psychologist had to throw their bodies at Lanza in an effort to tackle him. That's all they had, and it wasn't enough.  Closing the gun-show loophole would not have helped that school. Having a police officer, or an armed security guard or someone with a gun who knew how to use it, that might have led to a different outcome.

    Sometimes I think I should take a much more radical stance and argue for gun eradication, but then I can't imagine a way to pull it off -- I can't figure out the policy that would induce most Americans to turn in their guns.  And to return to my first point -- this is a real philosophical difference. I think most Americans can be trusted with guns. I think the fact that we have somewhere in the range of 300 million guns in circulation, and crime is as low as it is, is something of a miracle. The truth is is that millions and millions of Americans keep guns, store them safely, use them properly and never hurt anyone. I don't really get southern and western gun culture myself, but I recognize that the people who are enamored of guns are, in the main, not criminals.

    Seitz-Wald didn't respond to this last e-mail. As you can see, we had a reasonable discussion about the issue. I was hoping that his article might reflect more of my thinking, contained in these long e-mails to him, but, unfortunately, it did not.

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