Thursday, January 05, 2017

Professor Herbert Mason, R.I.P.

MASON, Herbert Warren II Of Newbury, MA, died suddenly on New Year's Day. He was Emeritus University Professor and William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of History and Religious Thought at Boston University and President of the Association des Amis Louis Massignon, Paris. Herbert Mason translated many of Massignon's works from French to English. An eminent scholar and translator, writer and poet, he has lived for long periods of time in France and Ireland, and has traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Japan. His books have been translated into numerous foreign languages, including French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Japanese. His verse narrative Gilgamesh, an interpretation of the ancient Sumerian epic poem transcends boundaries of age, language, religion, and time. It was nominated for a National Book Award and is taught in high schools and colleges. He is survived by his wife, Jeanine Young-Mason, his children Cathleen Mason, Paul Mason, Sarah Mason and their families and his step sons Scott Angell, Gregg Angell, and Glenn Angell and their families and his sister, Sarah Nelson and her family. A Funeral Mass will be offered at Immaculate Conception Church, Newburyport, MA on Friday, January 6, 2017 at 10:30 with interment at Mt. Auburn Cemetery immediately following the Mass. There will be a public memorial service on April 22, 2017 at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. A fuller obituary will follow at a later date. The family is establishing an International Writing Prize in his name to be awarded annually.
Published in The Boston Globe on Jan. 5, 2017- See more at:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Moral Failure In The Response To The Syrian Conflict

In the ruins of Aleppo, a moral accounting of what the world let happen.

WBUR, "On Point".  December 19, 2016.

Richard Norton, professor of anthropology and international relations at Boston University's Frederick Pardee School of Global Studies.
Martha Myers, country manager for Turkey for the ARK Group. Former country director for Syria for Save the Children International and former director of relief and social services at the UN Relief and Works Agency.
Ben Taub, contributing writer for the New Yorker. (@bentaub91)

Friday, October 07, 2016

R.I.P. Professor Rouhoullah "Ruhi" K. Ramazani

Ruhi Ramazani, the doyen of Iran scholars in North American, was a distinguished University of Virginia scholar, an elegant and optimistic human being, and a man whose generous heart was legion among those who knew him.  He and his beloved wife Nesta were wonderful hosts and keen interlocutors who often opened their home to students, young and upcoming scholars and fellow colleagues.  Ruhi's passing is a time of sadness but also an occasion to remember and celebrate his seminal work.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Boston Post offers its take on influential voices in the foreign policy realm

The Top Foreign Policy Influencers in Boston

Note that several of the people listed are only nominally in Boston or Cambridge, which is to say they are affiliates of institutions such as Harvard's JFK School.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Exceptional documentary by Talal Derki: "Return to Homs". Main character is the charismatic Abdul Baset Saroot, one of the many young men who took on the Syrian regime, 2011-13.

Critical commentaries of the nuclear deal often sound more like after dinner banter than rigorous thinking

Harvard Law Prof Alan Dershowitz offers (Boston Globe, July 16, 2015) what I take to be a illusory critique of the Iran nuclear deal that is rather typical of much of the punditry on the Iran nuclear deal.
"We could have stuck to the original redlines – non-negotiable demands – from the beginning. These included on-the-spot inspections of all facilities rather than the nearly month-long notice that will allow the Iranians to hide what they are doing; shutting down all facilities specifically designed for nuclear weapons production; maintaining the embargo on missiles and other sophisticated weapons rather than allowing it to gradually be lifted; and most crucially, a written assurance that the international community will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear arsenal. The current assortment of indeterminate and varying timelines agreed to will allow Iranians to believe — and proclaim — they will soon be free of any constraints on their nuclear adventurism."
Two conclusions spring from a reading Dershowitz’s querulous commentary on the nuclear deal with Iran.  First, the U.S. gave away too much in the negotiations.  Second, that the writer apparently believes that nothing short of Iranian capitulation to U.S. redlines would constitute a success.

Rather than accept an imperfect agreement, Dershowitz would like the U.S. to be ready to go to war with Iran to “permanently end” its nuclear program.  He apparently thinks that sanctions could have been kept in place indefinitely and that the Obama Administration was mistaken to have said otherwise. 

Some of his notions about how the negotiations might have been organized would insure ineffectual results.  For instance, he suggests that Middle East allies of the U.S. should be allowed to participate.  Given the multilateral quality of the negotiations that means that Russia, China and other partners should invite their regional friends too.  Imagine how successful that confab would be and how quickly acrimony would break out.

He seems to think—“most crucially” in his words-- that a written assurance by the “international community” that Iran will never be allowed to have nuclear weapons would help demonstrate resolve.  Perhaps Dershowitz thinks a U.S. General Assembly resolution would do the trick?

Critics of the deal, such as Dershowitz, defame President Barack Obama by suggesting that he is willing to sacrifice U.S. security in favor of his agenda.  In turn, they offer careless thinking about how one gets to yes in negotiations and they blithely presume that hanging tough against Iran will eventually come to heel.  

Those who would like to kill the deal need to think much more rigorously about what they suggest as an alternative, and how they propose to put that alternative in place.  So far, what they offer resembles petulance more than analysis.