When Columbia University’s President Welcomed the Nazi Ambassador to Campus

Nicholas Murray Butler served as president of Columbia University from 1902 to 1945. During that time, as Matthew Wills writes, he also acquired national fame as a scholar and political figure; among other things, he ran for vice-president on the Republican ticket in 1912, and in 1931 he won a Nobel Prize—shared with Jane Addams—for helping to negotiate the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in which France, the U.S., and Germany renounced war. But as Wills points out, Butler’s attitude toward Nazism has left a shadow over his legacy.

In May 1933, the Nazis burned tens of thousands books at universities across Germany. Works by Einstein, Freud, Heine, Mann, Remarque, London, and Zola, among many others, were consigned to the fires. One of the authors whose books were burned was Franz Boas, the famed Columbia University anthropologist, who had long waged a campaign against racist pseudo-science and “Nordic nonsense.”

[Butler] did not rise to the occasion of speaking out in support of Boas, or academic freedom in Germany. When the Nazis expelled Jewish faculty members and students from universities, Butler stayed silent, continued sending Columbia students to Germany, and welcomed Nazi-approved students in exchange.

Meanwhile, students on campus who protested Nazi barbarism were met with a heavy hand. Faculty members who recognized the necessity of public protest against Nazis were punished as well—Butler ended the careers of two of them. Columbia’s student newspaper noted that the school’s reputation suffered because of “the remarkable silence of its president” about the “Hitler government.”

Read more at JStor Daily

More about: Academia, Columbia University, Nazi Germany, Pacifism

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria