As a teacher, I can say with confidence that the best way to make sure you understand something is to write about it. The process of collecting, ordering, and transmitting your thoughts in written form requires a greater rigor that speaking. There’s a dimension of finality to what you write that forces you to think it through just that much more. So I’m especially glad to see that some of my students out there are doing their best to tackle the material we’ve covered in The Islamist Entanglement by writing about it.
One of the assignments that I’ve challenged them with has been the production of a distilled narrative integration. That’s fancy talk for the shortest possible paragraph that captures the essential storyline. So far they’ve done a fantastic job. I have a number of students who already have genuine command of the basic history of the Middle East after just four lectures, and we’ve got six more lectures to go!
Others have also chosen to summarize each of the lectures for themselves as they proceed, or to pick up on particular themes. Here’s a “roundup” of interesting writing by my students around the blogosphere.
Titanic Deck Chairs
New blogger C. August has been especially busy with some good insights. His post EU Asserts Democracy at Turkey’s Peril looks at the fascinating conflict of Secularism vs. Islamism in Turkish culture. He also has a nice analysis of how altruism has undercut American foreign policy in his piece on A Brief History of President Doctrines. I agree with August’s evaluation of the Monroe Doctrine wholeheartedly. It is the single best foreign policy doctrine ever proposed. And the so-called “Roosevelt Corollary” is the most pernicious corruption of a crucial value to America I can think of, matched only by Roosevelt’s virulent attacks on capitalism through his “trust-busting” initiatives.
Gideon Reich writes about the current situation in Afghanistan in his post We Continue to Refuse to Win. Reich is right that the Afghanistan situation cannot be isolated from the situation in its neighbors, Iran and Pakistan. This isn’t new, of course. You here about the connections in the media all the time, but America’s leaders do continue to evade that the situation in the Middle East requires an integrated perspective–and, that the purpose of fighting a war is to win. (I’ll be looking at the history of Afghanistan in lecture 5 of The Islamist Entanglement — available in full as a separate product for only $20.)
I also like how Gideon highlights McCain’s recent speech for its historical content in Bush, McCain, and Why Republicans Are Not Worth Voting For. It is indeed a myth that Republicans stand for self-interest and uniltareralism, and it makes complete sense for McCain to identify with the Truman Doctrine.
Powell History Around the World!
Martin Lindeskog of Sweden at egoist.blogspot.com has been enjoying the course so far. He has a post about lecture 1 on his site. (Warning, Martin–a true capitalist–has a lot of externally linked ads on his blog–it can take a while to load. I recommend his sign-up box so that you can get his posts via e-mail.)
Over in New Zealand, Peter Creswell runs “Not PC,” which takes aim at political correctness in that quarter of the globe. Peter has a some nice things to say about Powell History in his post Economics and History By Essentials. Peter’s blog has a neat mix of materials from philosophy to visual art and architecture. I especially enjoy seeing his posts on Frank Lloyd Wright. Check it out!