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Tags: campus protests | hamas | israel

Youth, Poor Education Make Students Easy to Rally for Causes

Youth, Poor Education Make Students Easy to Rally for Causes

Pro-Palestinian protesters confront supporters of Israel outside The New School in lower Manhattan as tensions over the war in Gaza continue on campuses on Thursday. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Laura Hollis By Friday, 03 May 2024 09:02 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas, anti-Israel protests have spread to university campuses across the country, just as the agitators hoped (and planned) for them to do.

As was also expected, some of these protests have turned violent. A Jewish student was poked in the face with a flagpole at Yale University and hospitalized; another Jewish student was knocked unconscious at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Masked mobs have prevented entry of Jewish students and faculty into university facilities. Buildings have been vandalized and broken into at Columbia University, Cal Poly Humboldt and other locations.

Frustrated college presidents at dozens of schools have finally begun calling in police to retake college property and clear unlawful encampments, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

Because of their youth, relative geographic isolation or inadequate education, American college students tend to have insufficient understanding of the political, cultural and economic realities outside the United States. They are therefore easy to rally under the brightly colored banners and simplistic slogans of the latest cause celebre.

As we've observed during the current campus unrest, their sweeping statements, bereft of nuance, and infantile, attention-seeking behavior often reveal these "protests" to be little more than performative exercises in self-gratification.

Despite how predictably quick this demographic is to call for "revolution" or some other extreme consequence, few ask the critical question: If the regime they oppose is successfully toppled (or crippled), what will take its place?

It's likely that many couldn't answer that question about past revolutions, much less predict the future consequences of current upheavals. In the spirit of intellectual integrity (and humility), it's worth recalling the aftermath of so many such "regime changes" — particularly (though not exclusively) those brought about by movements heralded by the Left.

Take Russia, for example. Yes, the czarist system was bad; the country's poor labored under medieval-style serfdom until 1861, by which time western Europe and the United States were 100 years into the Industrial Revolution.

But the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, defended by America's intellectuals (and our press), and the privations of communism for decades thereafter were far worse. Tens of millions died of starvation, many in prisons or Siberian gulags.

Then there's Cuba. Yes, Fulgencio Batista was a dictator. But Fidel Castro and his comrade-in-camo Che Guevara were just as oppressive politically and arguably worse economically.

Castro imposed dictatorial rule, imprisoned and tortured political opponents, dissidents and critics, and criminalized the press. In 1958, the year before Batista was ousted, the average wage of a Cuban worker was the eighth highest in the world. That evaporated when Castro implemented central planning and eliminated private ownership of property.

Almost 70 years after the Cuban communist revolution, the country remains in a stranglehold of economic deprivation, with upwards of 70% of the country's population living in poverty.

Similar questions could be posed about Vietnam and Cambodia. France's colonialization of Indochina exploited the native populations. But the protracted civil war in Vietnam (which America entered, to our everlasting regret) cost 1,200,000 Vietnamese lives — not including the hundreds of thousands lost to political purges, ethnic cleansing and concentration camps.

Cambodia under Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge was even worse. Absurd "intellectual" social engineering theories, disastrous agricultural policies and wholesale slaughter of "enemies of the state" resulting in the deaths of nearly 2 million Cambodians — 20% of the population.

Leftists also clamored to topple the Shah of Iran and end the monarchy. But when Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was forced into exile in 1979, the liberalizing reforms of his White Revolution, including women's rights and westernized concepts of political and economic liberty, were swept away by the new Islamic Republic of Iran, under whose repressive control the Iranian public have since suffered for 45 years.

The current condemnation of Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East — is even more appalling than was support for the "revolutionaries" of earlier generations, whose murderous intentions were arguably less well known.

That cannot be said about Hamas, whose charter calls for the "obliteration" of the state of Israel ("from the River [Jordan] to the [Mediterranean] Sea") and rejects "peaceful solutions." Hamas has made its intentions and methods quite clear, most recently in the kidnapping, torture, butchery and slaughter of 1,200-plus Israelis on Oct. 7 last year.

That American college students can cheerfully express support for, or mistreat their own classmates, faculty and administrators in solidarity with, such an organization suggests these individuals should be kept as far away from power as possible.

As a practical matter, very little policy change in foreign nations will be prompted by the chanting, spray-painting, flag-draping, window-breaking or interpretive dancing of coddled, upper middle-class youth here, a fact that would be more obvious to our young people if they were better informed.

But if the ignorance of the average left-leaning college student is shameful, how much more so is the relentless warmongering of the neoconservative right, eager to spend billions arming this or that faction in some far-flung conflict?

America's military and intelligence interventions played an outsized role in many of the catastrophes described above. Far from "bringing democracy," they produced instability and upheaval, caused widespread destruction, economic devastation and death on a massive scale.

The primary beneficiaries have been multinational defense contractors, who are only too happy to line the pockets of war-happy politicians.

How many times do we have to see this movie?

A lot more, it would seem. Philosopher George Santayana wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

It is an indictment of our institutions of higher education that so few Americans know enough history to hesitate before clamoring for wars or revolutions. And it is apparently an exercise in futility to ask that they stop to consider the wisdom of the outcomes they demand and the likely consequences to others.

They're enjoying themselves too much.

Laura Hollis is an attorney and university professor who has taught courses in law and business for more than 30 years. Her legal publications have appeared in the Temple Law Review, Cardozo Law Review and the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. She is a nationally syndicated columnist whose work has been featured in dozens of print and online publications. Read reports by Professor Hollis — More Here.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

That American college students can cheerfully express support for, or mistreat their own classmates, faculty and administrators in solidarity with, such an organization suggests these individuals should be kept as far away from power as possible.
campus protests, hamas, israel
Friday, 03 May 2024 09:02 AM
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