Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mark Levin: “The Muslim Brotherhood Has Infiltrated Our Government, It’s Called Barack Obama.”

Mark Levin: “The Muslim Brotherhood Has Infiltrated Our Government, It’s Called Barack Obama.” Real Clear Politics, January 31, 2013.

Mark Levin: “The Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our government – it’s called Barack Obama!” The Right Scoop, January 31, 2013.

Also find it at: Fox Nation; MediaiteBreitbart; and YouTube.

Why Are Feminists So Angry? By Jessica Valenti.

Why Are Feminists So Angry? By Jessica Valenti. The Nation, January 30, 2013. Find video here.

Peace Process Sputters at Starting Line. By Walter Russell Mead.

Peace Process Sputters at Starting Line. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 31, 2013.


And so we are back to square one. The Palestinians are bitterly divided. One camp would like to sign an agreement with Israel but is too weak to enforce it and too divided, probably, to accept any agreement that Israel, even with its arms being twisted by the United States, would accept. The other group remains committed to the “one state, no Jews” formula for abolishing Israel, expelling almost all the Jews, and re-establishing Palestine in all its glory.

Israelis who don’t want a two state solution (at least not with a viable Palestinian state) can use the resulting stalemate to press for their own goals of more Israeli settlements. The substantial majority of Israelis who want a two state solution (with some caveats) don’t have much of an agenda to push in the absence of of a strong Palestinian partner who is both willing to accept and able to deliver a compromise peace.

And so it goes. As best we can tell, peace is not at hand.

Hope or Despair? The Future of Culture. By Wilfred M. McClay.

Hope or Despair? Roger Kimball and the Future of Culture. By Wilfred M. McClay. The University Bookman, Winter 2013.

Review of The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia. By Roger Kimball. St. Augustine’s Press, 2012. Hardcover, 360 pp.

Interview: Roger Kimball on The Fortunes of Permanence. By Ed Driscoll. PJ Media, July 12, 2012. Also find it here.

Nearly Half Of American Households Are 1 Emergency Away From Financial Disaster, Report Finds.

Nearly Half Of American Households Are 1 Emergency Away From Financial Disaster, Report Finds. By Jillian Berman. The Huffington Post, January 30, 2013.

Life After Blue: The Middle Class Will Beat The Seven Trolls. By Walter Russell Mead.

The Middle Class Will Beat The Seven Trolls. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 30, 2013. Also here.

Also see:

Another Road: The Blue Elites Are Wrong. By Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia, January 28, 2013.

Futuristic Blues. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 23, 2013.

The Hidden Prosperity of the Poor. By Thomas B. Edsall.

The Hidden Prosperity of the Poor. By Thomas B. Edsall. New York Times, January 30, 2013.

The Myth of a Stagnant Middle Class. By Donald J. Boudreaux and Mark J. Perry. Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2013.

Consumption and the Myths of Inequality. By Kevin A. Hassett and Aparna Mathur. Wall Street Journal, October 24, 2012.

Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery. By Joseph E. Stiglitz. New York Times, January 19, 2013.

Climate change and poverty have not gone away. By Joseph E Stiglitz. Project Syndicate, January 7, 2013. Also find it here.

Arab Spring’s Hits and Misses. By Fareed Zakaria.

Arab Spring’s hits and misses. By Fareed Zakaria. Washington Post, January 30, 2013.


The chaos at the second anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprising is only the latest and most vivid illustration that Egypt’s revolution is going off the rails. It has revived talk about the failure of the Arab Spring and even some nostalgia for the old order. But Arab dictators such as Hosni Mubarak could not have held onto power without even greater troubles; look at Syria. Events in the Middle East the past two years underscore that constitutions are as vital as elections and that good leadership is crucial in these transitions.

Compare the differences between Egypt and Jordan. At the start of the Arab Spring, it appeared that Egypt had responded to the will of its people, had made a clean break with its tyrannical past and was ushering in a new birth of freedom. Jordan, by contrast, responded with a few personnel changes, some promises to study the situation and talk of reform.

But then Egypt started going down the wrong path, and Jordan made a set of wise choices.

Put simply, Egypt chose democratization before liberalization. Elections became the most important element of the new order, used in legitimizing the new government, electing a president and ratifying the new constitution. As a result, the best organized force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, swept into power, even though, on the first ballot, only 25percent of voters chose its presidential nominee, Mohamed Morsi. The Brotherhood was also able to dominate the drafting of the constitution. The document had many defects, including its failure to explicitly protect women’s rights — only four of the constitutional assembly’s 85 members were women — and language that seems to enshrine the traditional “character” of the Egyptian family. It also weakens protections for religious minorities such as the Bahais, who already face persecution.

Some of its provisions ban blasphemy and insult and allow for media censorship in the name of national security. These are all ways to give the government unlimited powers, which the Muslim Brotherhood has used. More journalists have been persecuted for insulting Morsi in his six-month presidency than during the nearly 30-year reign of Mubarak. In November, Morsi declared that his presidential decrees were above judicial review.

In Jordan, by contrast, the king did not rush to hold elections (and was widely criticized for his deliberate pace). Instead, he appointed a council to propose changes to the constitution. The members consulted many people in Jordan and in the West to determine how to make the country’s political system more democratic and inclusive. A series of important changes were approved in September 2011. They transferred some of the king’s powers to parliament and established an independent commission to administer elections and a court to oversee the constitutionality of legislation.

The commission recently got its first use. The election was boycotted by Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood on the grounds that the changes were too small and that power still resided with the king. But 70percent of eligible voters registered, and 56percent turned out at the polls, the highest turnout in the region. Many critics of the king and government were elected; 12percent of the winners were opposition Islamist candidates. Thanks to a quota the commission set, 12percent of the new parliament’s members are female. King Abdullah II retains ultimate authority, but the new system is clearly a step in the transition to a constitutional monarchy.

Morocco has taken the same route as Jordan. It enacted constitutional reforms in 2011. In the elections that followed, Morocco’s Islamist Party won 107 of the 395 seats in parliament and formed a government. The head of this government, Abdelilah Benkirane, while a feisty critic of the West, has also spoken firmly about protecting the rights of minorities, explicitly including Jews, who he noted have lived in Morocco for centuries and are an integral part of the country.

The Arab world’s two largest experiments in democracy, Iraq and Egypt, have, unfortunately, poor choices in common. Both placed elections ahead of constitutions and popular participation ahead of individual rights. Both have had as their first elected leaders strongmen with Islamist backgrounds who have no real dedication to liberal democracy. The results have been the establishment of “illiberal democracy” in Iraq and the danger of a similar system in Egypt.

The best role models for the region might well be two small monarchies. Jordan and Morocco have gone the opposite route, making measured reforms and liberalizing their existing systems. The monarchies have chosen evolution over revolution. So far, it seems the better course.

A Mother’s Case for Gun Rights. By Anna Rittgers.

A mother’s case for gun rights. By Anna Rittgers., January 15, 2013.

Shut Up, They Explained. By Anna Rittgers. Independent Women’s Forum, January 31, 2013.

This November, cling to your gun rights. By Gayle Trotter. The Daily Caller, September 26, 2012.

Gun control regulations disarm women. By Gayle Trotter. Washington Times, January 17, 2013.

Gayle Trotter Testimony Captivates Senate Cun Control Hearings. By Christina Wilkie. The Huffington Post, January 30, 2013.

Gayle Trotter’s Ideas Will Not Keep Women Safe. By Andrea Marcotte. Slate, January 30, 2013.

Gayle Trotter to Sen. Whitehouse: “Cannot understand” as a man. Video. Washington Post, January 30, 2013. Also find it here.

About Last Week’s Israeli Elections. By Caroline Glick.

About last week’s elections. By Caroline Glick., January 30, 2013.

Should Jews Leave Britain? By Douglas Murray.

Should Jews Leave Britain? By Douglas Murray. The Spectator, January 29, 2013.

Bye-bye London. By Caroline Glick., January 21, 2013.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Rush Loves Rubio. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Why Rush Loves Rubio. Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 30, 2013.

The Peace Process After the Israeli Election. By Shlomo Avineri.

The Peace Process After the Election. By Shlomo Avineri. Foreign Affairs, January 25, 2013.


Even so, the peace process still matters, because the current stalemate is untenable. The question, however, is how to move forward. There is no doubt that the policies of the Netanyahu government have contributed to the gridlock, but so have Palestinian attempts to raise preconditions for the resumption of negotiations. The divide between the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile, has hurt the Palestinian Authority’s claim to legitimacy and made negotiations even more difficult. All this helped to explain why Israelis in this election were less focused than usual on the Palestinian issue.

But the experiences of the more dovish Israeli governments that preceded Netanyahu’s illustrate even deeper obstacles to peace. In the late 2000s, under Ehud Olmert’s center-left government, Israel negotiated with the Palestinian Authority for more than two years. Both sides entered talks with an honest interest in reaching a two-state solution. Had they been successful, Olmert might still be prime minister and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, would have a trump card to play against the more radical and fundamentalist Hamas. But as soon as negotiators moved from their ritualistic opening positions to the core issues of the conflict – borders, the fate of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugee problem, and Israel’s security concerns – it became clear that the gaps between the most moderate Israeli positions and the most moderate Palestinian positions were too wide to be easily bridged.

That has not changed. In fact, there are now more Jewish settlers in the West Bank than there were four years ago, which makes coming to an agreement thornier than it was during Olmert’s time. And Hamas’ continued control of the Gaza Strip means that even an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would not mean an end to the conflict. The current turmoil in the Arab world bodes ill for the peace process, as an Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and a Syria embroiled in a bloody civil war do not encourage even moderate Israelis to take risks with the Palestinians.

All this means that Israel’s next government should take a fresh look at what is feasible, with an eye toward the lessons from similar conflicts such as those in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kashmir. Like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, these disputes are multifaceted: They are not only about territory but also about sovereignty, legitimacy, and national self-determination; they have been exacerbated by religious differences; and they entail occupation, resistance to that occupation, and terrorism. None of these conflicts has been fully settled because the contending parties were not willing to give up their basic claims, but they have been gradually tempered. In each case, a complex set of partial agreements, conflict-management measures, unilateral decisions, and confidence-building strategies has generally kept bloodshed at bay. In Cyprus, Turkey’s decision to open crossings in Nicosia, for example, helped to stabilize the situation, as did internationally supervised border agreements between Serbia and Kosovo. Similar partial agreements have achieved the same end in Bosnia and Kashmir, although the deeper issues have still not been resolved.

In none of these cases was the United States able to move the parties toward a final-status agreement against their will, but it could help coax them to accept halfway measures that do not entail giving up fundamental claims. Such proactive conflict management may be the only realistic prospect for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. And it could be acceptable to a new Netanyahu government that will, in all probability, include centrist parties. Such an approach would mean moving ahead slowly, step by step, which would make it easier for both sides to sell such piecemeal progress to their constituencies, since they would not have to cross any of their fundamental and ideological redlines. Such a strategy would be based on what has already been achieved between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the much-overlooked fact that security cooperation between the two sides has improved in the last few years, despite the lack of progress on negotiations. Such an approach would entail Israel’s tacit acceptance to refrain from expanding its settlement project (a step Israel agreed to in the past, even under the hawkish government of Ariel Sharon), easing life conditions for the Palestinians through economic concessions and the further dismantling of checkpoints in the area, and encouraging Palestinian institution building. On the Palestinian side, the agreement would require moderating its public diplomacy and improving its educational system, both of which are geared to be confrontational. This may also encourage strengthening the implicit cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and although not much more could be achieved in Gaza given Hamas’ rejection of Israel’s very existence, it could encourage more moderate elements there if they see that cooperation pays off.

A key figure in this scheme would be Israel’s next minister of defense, who, taking into account Netanyahu’s weak position, will not likely be someone from Likud. Netanyahu will be under public pressure to appoint a person who could play the role of the responsible adult. This means that the current minister of defense, Ehud Barak, will likely remain in his position. If Barak retains his seat, his presence will greatly reassure both Israelis and the international community that pragmatism and not ideology will prevail in Israel’s new government.

The conventional wisdom in the international community is that one can return to the Oslo process of 20 years ago. But up until now, that has not achieved its stated aim – a two-state solution – and will not be very helpful in moving the two sides toward more accommodation. The recent Israeli elections have not changed this, and more modest aims are the only realistic way to push Israeli-Palestinian relations away from the dangers of confrontation and toward some modicum of reconciliation. Everything else has already failed.

The Jewish Community’s Drift Toward the Right. By Deborah Kaufman.

The Jewish Community’s Drift Toward the Right. By Deborah Kaufman. Tikkun.

An American Jewish Identity Crisis. By Alan Snitow. Tikkun.

It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. By Thomas L. Friedman.

It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, January 29, 2013.

Start-Ups: The True Engines of Job Growth. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 30, 2013.

Thomas Friedman, lifelong learning, & “curiosity quotient.” By Marti. Telling Secrets, January 30, 2013.


What do I mean by the Great Inflection? I mean something very big happened in the last decade. The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school, but was largely disguised by post-9/11 and the Great Recession. In 2004, I wrote a book, called “The World Is Flat,” about how the world was getting digitally connected so more people could compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, LinkedIn, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-chip (SOC) circuits, iPhones, iPods, iPads and cellphone apps didn’t exist, or were in their infancy.

Today, not only do all these things exist, but, in combination, they’ve taken us from connected to hyperconnected. Now, notes Craig Mundie, one of Microsoft’s top technologists, not just elites, but virtually everyone everywhere has, or will have soon, access to a hand-held computer/cellphone, which can be activated by voice or touch, connected via the cloud to infinite applications and storage, so they can work, invent, entertain, collaborate and learn for less money than ever before. Alas, though, every boss now also has cheaper, easier, faster access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. That means the old average is over. Everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value better than the new alternatives.

When the world gets this hyperconnected, adds Mundie, the speed with which every job and industry changes also goes into hypermode. “In the old days,” he said, “it was assumed that your educational foundation would last your whole lifetime. That is no longer true.” Because of the way every industry — from health care to manufacturing to education — is now being transformed by cheap, fast, connected computing power, the skill required for every decent job is rising as is the necessity of lifelong learning. More and more things you know and tools you use “are being made obsolete faster,” added Mundie. It’s as if every aspect of our lives is now being driven by Moore’s Law. This is exacerbating our unemployment problem.

In their terrific book, “Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy,” Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology note that for the last two centuries it happened that productivity, median income and employment all tracked each other nicely. “So most economists have had this feeling that if you just boost productivity, the pie grows, and, in the long run, everything else takes care of itself,” explained Brynjolfsson in an interview. “But there is no economic law that says technological progress has to benefit everyone. It’s entirely possible for the pie to get bigger and some people to get a smaller slice.” Indeed, when the digital revolution gets so cheap, fast, connected and ubiquitous you see this in three ways, Brynjolfsson added: those with more education start to earn much more than those without it, those with the capital to buy and operate machines earn much more than those who can just offer their labor, and those with superstar skills, who can reach global markets, earn much more than those with just slightly less talent.

Put it all together, he added, and you can understand, why the Great Recession took the biggest bite out of employment but is not the only thing affecting job loss today: why we have record productivity, wealth and innovation, yet median incomes are falling, inequality is rising and high unemployment remains persistent.

How to adapt? It will require more individual initiative. We know that it will be vital to have more of the “right” education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it and that we need everyone to be innovating new products and services to employ the people who are being liberated from routine work by automation and software. The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime. Government can and must help, but the president needs to explain that this won’t just be an era of “Yes We Can.” It will also be an era of “Yes You Can” and “Yes You Must.”

Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood. By Eric Trager.

Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood. By Eric Trager. Foreign Policy, January 28, 2013.

How did so many Western analysts get Egypt’s Islamist movement so wrong?

Why Is Obama Clinging to the Brotherhood? Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 30, 2013.

Aide to Egyptian President Morsi Claims Holocaust a US Hoax. By Paul Alster.

Aide to Egyptian President Morsi claims Holocaust a US hoax. By Paul Alster., January 29, 2013.

Will Germany Confront Morsi’s Holocaust Denial? By Eric Trager. The Atlantic, January 29, 2013.

Egypt’s Press Czar: US Invented Holocaust. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 30, 2013.

Germans Press Morsi on Slurs Against Jews as Berlin Marks Somber Anniversary. By Robert Mackey. New York Times, January 30, 2013.

Muslim Brotherhood Culture and Tourism Chairman Claims Holocaust Was Invented by US Intelligence. By Daniel Greenfield. FrontPage Magazine, January 26, 2013.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hillary Clinton Talks Benghazi With Greta Van Susteren In All-Encompassing Foreign Policy Interview. By Josh Feldman.

Hillary Clinton Talks Benghazi With Greta Van Susteren In All-Encompassing Foreign Policy Interview. By Josh Feldman. Mediaite, January 29, 2013.

Wolf Blitzer’s exclusive interview with Egyptian Pres. Mohamed Morsy. CNN, January 11, 2013.

What Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about President Morsi and the cease fire two days ago. By Greta Van Susteren. GretaWire, November 23, 2012.

Egypt’s Morsi Praised For Cease-Fire As Talks Begin. By Leila Fadel. NPR, November 22, 2012.

Egypt’s Morsi: statesman abroad, a “pharaoh” at home? By Leela Jacinto. France 24, November 23, 2012.

Egypt’s President Morsi Wins U.S. and Israeli Gratitude in Gaza Deal. By Reena Ninan and Dana Hughes. World News with Diane Sawyer. ABC, November 21, 2012.

Egypt’s New Leader Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties. By David D. Kirkpatrick and Steven Erlanger. New York Times, September 22, 2012. Video here.

Egypt and Morsy proved “pivotal” in Gaza cease-fire. CNN, November 22, 2012. Also find video here.

Britain’s National Sickness. By Melanie Phillips.

A LibDem MP gives voice to Britain’s national sickness. By Melanie Phillips. Daily Mail, January 27, 2013. Also find it here.

Britain’s infernal cocktail of hate. By Melanie Phillips., January 29, 2013.


No, the true venom of these remarks is the way they reverse the position of today’s Jewish victims – the Israeli survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren -- and their current would-be exterminators – the descendants of Hitler’s Nazi collaborators in Palestine during the Holocaust.

For the fact is that Israel is not trying to exterminate the Palestinians – indeed how could this possibly be the case, since the Palestinian population has more than quadrupled since the rebirth of Israel in 1948. Nor are the Israelis oppressing the Palestinians, who have benefited from some of the highest rises in GDP and lowest child mortality ratios in the Middle East.

Nor are the Israelis behaving inhumanely; it is the Palestinians who are committing crimes against humanity by targeting Israeli innocents for mass murder without remission, both from Gaza and from the West Bank. It is the Palestinians, in the West Bank as well as Gaza, who are brainwashed from the cradle to hate Jews and to believe that murdering Israelis is their highest glory. Which they have been doing in Israel and before that in Palestine for more than a century – despite the fact that, as the international community laid down in binding treaty in 1920, the Jews alone had the inalienable and historic right to settle throughout Palestine, including not just present-day Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza.

Moreover, while the Jews accepted proposals for a Palestinian state first made in the 1930s and then in 1947, and while the Israelis offered them more than 95 per cent of the possible land for a state in 2000 and 2008, the Palestinians responded merely by murdering more Jews.

Despite all this, Israel behaves towards its genocidal Palestinian attackers with a humanity that is seen in no other conflict on the planet. Despite the rocket attacks and constant smuggling of ever more fearsome weapons to be aimed at its civilians, it allows humanitarian supplies into Gaza; despite the constant plotting in the West Bank to kill more Israelis, it allows Palestinians to work in Israel, and treats Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israelis in Israeli hospitals. Yes of course there is Palestinian hardship caused by the checkpoints and security barrier. But the only reason these exist is to prevent Palestinians killing yet more Israelis. If the Palestinians and their Arab and Iranian backers stopped trying to wipe Israel off the map, there would be peace tomorrow.

Assad: We Regained the Upper Hand.

Assad: We Regained the Upper Hand. Al Akhbar English, January 28, 2013.

Morbid gallery reveals how Victorians took photos of their dead relatives. By Nick Enoch.

Morbid gallery reveals how Victorians took photos of their DEAD relatives posing on couches, beds and even in coffins. By Nick Enoch. Daily Mail, January 29, 2013.


Asma Assad Pregnant? By Eline Gordts.

Asma Assad Pregnant? Bashar Assad’s Wife Expecting Fourth Child, Lebanese Website Reports. By Eline Gordts. The Huffington Post, January 29, 2013.

Baby born into a bloodbath: President Assad’s British-born wife Asma, 37, said to be PREGNANT with her fourth child. Daily Mail, January 29, 2013.

Progress Means Broadband Now a Necessity. By Walter Russelll Mead.

Progress Means Broadband Now a Necessity. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 29, 2013.

The Web-Deprived Study at McDonald’s. By Anton Troianovski. Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2013. Also find it here.

Barack Obama is Not Pleased. By Franklin Foer and Chris Hughes.

Barack Obama is Not Pleased. By Franklin Foer and Chris Hughes. The New Republic, January 27, 2013. Also find it here.

The Ayn Rand Republicans. By John Nichols.

Meet Ron Johnson, the Randiest of the Ayn Rand Republcans. By John Nichols. The Nation, January 29, 2013.

Hell Isle. By Rick Perlstein. The Nation, January 28, 2013.

In Israel, Time Is Running Out for a Two-State Solution. By Jeffrey Goldberg.

In Israel, Time Is Running Out for a Two-State Solution. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, January 28, 2013.

Why Hispanics Don’t Vote for Republicans. By Heather Mac Donald

Why Hispanics Don’t Vote for Republicans. By Heather Mac Donald. National Review Online, November 7, 2012.

California’s Demographic Revolution. By Heather Mac Donald. City Journal, Winter 2012.

Is Egypt Facing Another Revolution? By Ariel Ben Solomon.

Is Egypt facing another revolution? By Ariel Ben Solomon. Jerusalem Post, January 29, 2013.

Crisis in Egypt Exposes Brotherhood’s Dependence on Military. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 29, 2013.

Egyptians Defy President’s Curfew, as Unrest Spreads. By Matt Bradley. Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2013.

Chaos and Lawlessness Grow After Days of Unrest in Egypt. By David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh. New York Times, January 28, 2013.

Obama Gives F-16’s To Egypt After Morsi Calls Jews “Apes And Pigs.” By Wolff Bachner. The Inquisitr, January 28, 2013.

The Failure of Egyptian Politics. By Khaled Elgindy. Tahrir Squared, January 28, 2013.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Its True Intentions Towards Israel. By Liad Porat. The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), Bar-Ilan University. Perspectives Papers on Current Affairs No. 192, December 10, 2012.

More posts on Morsi here, here, here, and here.

The West’s Perverse Nostalgia for Gaddafi. By Fouad Ajami.

Gaddafiphilia. By Fouad Ajami. The Daily Beast, January 29, 2013.


Two years on, we speak of the Arab rebellions in a manner we never did of the fall of communist dictatorships. A quarter century ago, it was only cranks who bemoaned the end of the communist tyrannies in Europe. There was chaos aplenty in those post-communist societies and vengeful nationalist feuds; those captive nations weren’t exactly models of liberalism. In Yugoslavia, a veritable prison of contending nationalisms, the fall of the state that Josip Broz Tito held together by guile and fear, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder, had put on display the pitfalls of “liberty” after decades of repression. And still, faith in the new history was to carry the day.

That moment in freedom’s advance was markedly different from the easy disenchantment with the Arab rebellions. Those had been dubbed an Arab Spring, and it was the laziest of things to announce scorching summers and an Islamist winter. The Arab dictatorships had been given decades of patience and indulgence, but patience was not to be extended to the new rebellions: these were to become orphans in the court of American opinion. American liberalism had turned surly toward the possibilities of freedom in distant, difficult lands. If George W. Bush’s “diplomacy of freedom,” tethered to the Iraq War, had maintained that freedom can stick on Arab and Muslim soil, liberalism ridiculed that hopefulness. This was a new twist in the evolution of American liberalism. In contrast to its European counterpart, American liberalism had tended to be hopeful about liberty’s prospects abroad. This was no longer the case. The Arab Awakening would find very few liberal promoters.

Nor was American conservatism convinced that these Arab rebellions were destined for success. Say what you will about the wellsprings of conservative thought, the emphasis is on the primacy of culture in determining the prospects of nations. For good reasons, Arab and Islamic culture was deemed to present formidable obstacles to democratic development. The crowd would unseat a dictatorship only to beget a theocratic tyranny. Iran after the Pahlavis was a cautionary tale.

. . . . . . . . . .

From one end of the Arab world to the other, this seemed like the dictators’ paradise. History’s democratic tides had bypassed the Arabs. There was no intellectual class with the tools and the temperament necessary to take on the rulers. The intellectuals had been cowed or bought off or had opted for exile. On the margins of political life, there was a breed of Islamists biding their time. The secularists were too proud, too steeped in the conceit of modernism to take the religious alternative seriously.

. . . . . . . . . .

These were, on some level, prison riots that had erupted in the Arab world. The dictators had robbed these countries of political efficacy and skills; in the aftermath of the dictators, we were to see in plain sight the harvest of their terrible work. These rulers had been predators and brigands: they had treated themselves and their offspring, and their retainers, to all that was denied their subjects. The scorched earth they left behind is testament to their tyrannies. Liberty of the Arab variety has not been pretty. But who, in good conscience, would want to lament the fall of the dictators?

Is Morsi a Two-Faced Manipulator? By Dieter Bednarz and Volkhard Windfuhr.

Radical Past: Former Associate Calls Morsi a “Master of Disguise.” By Dieter Bednarz and Volkhard Windfuhr. Spiegel Online, January 28, 2013.

Is Mohammed Morsi a peacebroker or a virulent anti-Semite? A former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has known Morsi for 13 years, believes that behind the Egyptian president’s veneer of goodwill towards Israel lies a deep-seated hatred.

More posts on Morsi here.

Some Inconvenient Truths. By Stephen M. Walt.

Some Inconvenient Truths. By Stephen M. Walt. Foreign Policy, January 28, 2013.

CBS’s Charles Osgood: “Is Constitution Truly Worthy of Reverence in Which Most Americans Hold It?”

CBS’s Charles Osgood: “Is Constitution Truly Worthy of Reverence in Which Most Americans Hold It?” By Noel Sheppard. NewsBusters, January 27, 2013.

Democracy Is On the Brink of a Sea Change. By Janet Daley.

Democracy is on the brink of a sea change. By Janet Daley. The Telegraph, January 26, 2013.


The core message was pounded home relentlessly: American government is now in the redistribution and welfare-provision business, and this is not (contrary to appearances) at variance with the founding fathers’ conception of a nation that is inherently opposed to state interference and domination over the individual. This is the new credo of American nationhood: the government, not the community or the household, will be the moral arbiter of social virtue. The traditional suspicion of the overweening power of the state is now a thing of the past. Democracy is about electing a government that will be there to protect you from hardship, shelter you from the storm and absolve you from sin. Well, no, maybe not that last one – but the concept of the state as moral saviour is not so remote from this, is it?

Another Road: The Blue Elites Are Wrong. By Walter Russell Mead.

Another Road: The Blue Elites Are Wrong. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 28, 2013. Also here, here.

Also see: Futuristic Blues. by Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia, January 23, 2013.


The blue vision of the future, as I wrote in my last essay, is a bleak one in many respects. If the establishment liberals of our time are right in their future vision, most of the population will be economically surplus; globalization and automation will empower a creative class on Wall Street and in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Most of the rest of the country will be stuck in low productivity, low wage jobs as manufacturing fades and is replaced by . . . nothing, unless you count government benefits and food stamps. The blues think that a redistributive and regulatory state (naturally enough administered by wise and well intentioned people such as themselves) can pump enough money from the growing parts of the economy onto the plebs and the proles in the post-industrial doldrums, providing at least a degree of middle class life to the sidelined majority.

The blue technocrats now influential in the national administration and in many of the country’s most important universities and foundations are reacting to real problems. In the last thirty years the transformation of the American economy has contributed to income polarization. The old industrial middle class, based on mass employment in unionized oligopolies, has been hollowed out, and no comparable source of stable high income employment has emerged. Large groups in America today are living on transfers from the profits of the healthy portions of the private sector recycled through government spending and subsidies. It is easy to see how rational people can conclude that the only hope of preserving mass prosperity in America comes from transfers and subsidies. If we add to this the belief that only a powerful and intrusive regulatory state can prevent destructive climate change, then the case for the blue utopia looks ironclad. To save the planet, save the middle class and provide American minorities and single mothers with the basic elements of an acceptable life, we must set up a far more powerful federal government than we have ever known, and give it sweeping powers over the production and distribution of wealth.

But what if this isn’t true? What if the shift from a late-stage industrial economy to an information economy has a different social effect? What if the information revolution continues and even accelerates the democratization of political, social and cultural life by empowering ordinary people? What if the information revolution, like the industrial revolution, ultimately leads to a radical improvement in the way ordinary people live and opens up vast new horizons of human potential and freedom?

Obviously nobody knows what the future holds, and anything anybody says about the social consequences of the information revolution is mostly conjecture; still, the elegantly paternalistic pessimism of our elites about the future of the masses seems both defeatist and overdone. The information revolution, one should never forget, may be disruptive but more fundamentally it is good news. Human productivity is rising dramatically. If the bad news is that fewer and fewer people will earn a living working in factories, the good news is that a smaller and smaller percentage of the time and energy of the human race must be devoted to the manufacture of the material objects we need for daily life. Just as it’s good news overall when agricultural productivity increases and the majority of the human race no longer has to spend its time providing food, it’s good news when we as a species can free ourselves from the drudgery and monotony of factory work.

The economic transformation is also good news for the greens, if they can open their minds wide enough to understand it. A post-industrial economy depends less on metal-bashing and stuff-moving than an industrial one and the information revolution means that developing countries can reach affluence without repeating the mistakes of the past. The implications for issues like climate change are staggering if the information revolution is pushing the advanced countries toward a lower carbon economy and opening a path to development for countries like India and China that doesn’t require them to retrace US and European history in the 20th century.

Thinking about how the transition to an information economy can be made to work and made to work especially for the middle class is the single most important political question before us today. It’s hard to think about the future in a time of rapid change, but fortunately history does give us some guidance that can help us see the opportunities and problems ahead a little more clearly.

The best guide we have for how things might go is inexact but useful: the industrial revolution. This huge transformation, still unfinished today in many parts of the world, is the only thing at all comparable to what we face now. If we look carefully at that history we can get some sense of what may lie ahead.

The industrial revolution actually consisted of several big changes that were related but that worked out in different ways. Most historians concentrate on the rise of the industrial economy, but that era also saw two other enormous shifts: the collapse of agricultural employment and a population boom as better medical knowledge and rising food supplies transformed the demographic picture. For Americans, the agricultural collapse had two consequences: it created a crisis in rural America and led to a series of migrations from the countryside to the city culminating in the Great Migration of African Americans into northern cities from World War I onwards, and it was responsible for the waves of European immigration from the Civil War to the imposition of strict immigrant quotas after World War I. The combination of the collapse of agricultural employment in the Atlantic world and the population boom helped drive 100 years of American history—and since World War II has played a leading role in Hispanic and Caribbean immigration to the United States.

The collapse of manufacturing and clerical employment, the disappearance of assembly lines and stenography pools, is not creating a social crisis as profound or long lasting as the collapse of agriculture, but it is the major source of the inequality and income stagnation that we see today. (In the United States, the consequences have been exacerbated by immigration caused in part by changes in agriculture south of our border.) The conventional picture of inexorably rising inequality assumes that new jobs won’t be created to take up the slack in the labor market as the old jobs dry up.

This was true at times during the industrial revolution and there were times when the resulting imbalances in the labor market drove wages and living standards down. There was a lot of talk at various points about the polarization of income, the growing inequality of society, and the danger of social revolution if these trends weren’t checked. In the end, though, in the advanced industrial economies the industrial revolution created enough manufacturing and clerical jobs to improve labor’s bargaining position and usher in a much more egalitarian and affluent era.

This didn’t happen all by itself. A whole set of major social changes was needed to prepare the way for the affluent industrial middle class societies of the last half of the twentieth century. Universal education both equipped the children and grandchildren of displaced farm workers and urban migrants with the skills needed for factory work and conditioned them socially to live in the more regimented, clock-driven urban world. The progressive state arose to provide services like education, public health, food and drug regulation and the many other needs that industrial, urban societies needed that pre-industrial societies did not. Finance, transport, medicine, consumer marketing: industry after industry was born or transformed during the greatest revolution in human affairs since the Neolithic Revolution and the arrival of farming.

The population as a whole had to move to a higher level of consciousness, education and awareness to make this transition. Formal education was a part of it, but for peasants to become workers and participants in modern society and politics many lessons had to be learned, much social capital had to be created, and much cultural change had to be embraced. The simple world of the village was replaced by the complicated urban and suburban landscape we know today; that transformation took time and work, and few observers in 1800 could have predicted how well educated, well traveled, seasoned, sophisticated and skilled the common people would become by 2013.

The task facing America today looks something like the task we faced after the Civil War. How do we manage the transition from a well-established political and social system to something more productive? Both then and now, many of the negative features of the transformation appeared first, while the benefits came slowly. The population boom and the agricultural transition drove millions into cities looking for work when there wasn’t yet enough factory employment. There were many people in the 19th century like our gentry liberals today who believed that the new world would pauperize the majority, and who thought that the elite had to band together to defend the values and practices of a vanishing past. Fortunately, history rolled right over them and Americans were ultimately able to build a society that was both more prosperous and more free than anything the pre-industrial world had ever seen.

Transforming Culture, Education Key to a New Birth of Freedom. By Jarrett Stepman.

Transforming Culture, Education Key to a New Birth of Freedom. By Jarrett Stepman. Human Events, January 28, 2013.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Can Social Media Bring Free Speech to China? By Bethany Mandel.

Can Social Media Bring Free Speech to China? By Bethany Mandel. Commentary, January 28, 2013.

Why Is Obama Bragging About Egypt? By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Why Is Obama Bragging About Egypt? By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 28, 2013.

Illustrating the Link Between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Illustrating the Link Between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 27, 2013.

Note to Palin: GOP Needs More than a Mouth. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Note to Palin: GOP Needs More than a Mouth. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 27, 2013.

Morsi Declares State of Emergency in Three Egyptian Cities. By David D. Kirkpatrick.

Morsi Declares State of Emergency in Three Egyptian Cities. By David D. Kirkpatrick. New York Times, January 27, 2013.

Megyn Kelly Can Save Fox News. By Noreen Malone.

Megyn Kelly Can Save Fox News. By Noreen Malone. The New Republic, November 9, 2012.

The War Over Patriotism. By Peter Beinart.

The War Over Patriotism. By Peter Beinart. Time, June 26, 2008. From the July 7, 2008 issue. Also here.

Why I’m Not Patriotic. By Matthew Rothschild. The Progressive, July 2, 2008.

Some Thoughts on Patriotism. By Jonathan Chait. The New Republic, July 2, 2008.


The two parties have starkly contrasting views of what it means to love your country. Can they be reconciled?

When critics challenge Barack Obama’s patriotism, his supporters have a ready reply: True patriotism has nothing to do with little flags on politicians’ lapels. It’s not about symbols; it’s about actions. It’s not about odes to American greatness; it’s about taking on your government when it goes astray.

But there Obama is, in his first TV advertisement of the general-election campaign, talking about his “deep and abiding faith in the country I love.” And there, perched below his left shoulder, is a subtle, but not too subtle reminder: a tiny American flag.

Obama’s no fool. He may not believe that things like flag pins should matter politically, but he knows the difference between should and does. Since Vietnam, the ability to associate oneself with patriotic symbols has often been the difference between Democrats who win and Democrats who lose. Why couldn’t George McGovern buy a white working-class vote in 1972? Partly, as the great campaign chronicler Theodore White noted, because virtually every member of Richard Nixon’s Cabinet wore a flag lapel button, and no one in McGovern’s entourage did. Michael Dukakis lost in 1988 because as governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed a bill requiring teachers to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance, a veto the Republicans never let him forget.

Obama is trying to follow a different path, blazed by Robert F. Kennedy, who in 1967—just as he was coming out against the Vietnam War—co-sponsored legislation raising penalties for protesters who desecrate the flag. For his part, John McCain is a walking American flag, his heroic biography at the root of his entire campaign. What both campaigns understand is that American patriotism wears two faces: a patriotism of affirmation, which appeals more to conservatives, and a patriotism of dissent, particularly cherished by liberals. Both brands are precious, and both are dangerous. And in this campaign, the candidate who embodies the best of both will probably win.

Preserving the Past

On the surface, defining patriotism is simple. It is love and devotion to country. The questions are why we love it and how we express our devotion. That's where the arguments begin.

The conservative answer is implicit in the title of John McCain’s 1999 book, Faith of My Fathers. Why should we love America? In part, at least, because our forefathers did. Think about the lyrics to America (“My Country, ’Tis of Thee”): “Land where my fathers died, /Land of the Pilgrims' pride.” Most liberals don’t consider those the best lines of the song. What about the Americans whose fathers died somewhere else? What about all the nasty stuff the Pilgrims did? But conservatives generally want to conserve, and that requires a reverence for the past. What McCain’s title implies is that patriotism isn’t a choice; it’s an inheritance. Being born into a nation is like being born into a religion or a family. You may be called on to reaffirm the commitment as you reach adulthood—as McCain did by joining the military—but it is impressed upon you early on, by those who have come before.

That’s why conservatives tend to believe that loving America today requires loving its past. Conservatives often fret about “politically correct” education, which forces America’s students to dwell on its past sins. They’re forever writing books like America: The Last Best Hope (by William J. Bennett) and America: A Patriotic Primer (by Lynne Cheney), which teach children that historically the U.S. was a pretty nifty place. These books are based on the belief that our national forefathers are a bit like our actual mothers and fathers: if we dishonor them, we dishonor ourselves. That’s why conservatives got so upset when Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country” (a comment she says was misinterpreted). In the eyes of conservatives, those comments suggested a lack of gratitude toward the nation that—as they saw it—has given her and the rest of us so much.

Conservatives know America isn’t perfect, of course. But they grade on a curve. Partly that’s because they generally take a dimmer view of human nature than do their counterparts on the left. When evaluating America, they're more likely to remember that for most of human history, tyranny has been the norm. By that standard, America looks pretty good. Conservatives worry that if Americans don’t appreciate—and celebrate—their nation’s past accomplishments, they’ll assume the country can be easily and dramatically improved. And they’ll end up making things worse. But if conservatives believe that America is, comparatively, a great country, they also believe that comparing America with other countries is beside the point. It’s like your family: it doesn’t matter whether it’s objectively better than someone else’s. You love it because it is yours.

The President who best summoned this brand of patriotism was Ronald Reagan. After the humiliation of Vietnam, stagflation and the Iran hostage crisis, Reagan—the nation’s oldest President—served as a living link to a stronger, prouder, earlier America. “I would like to be President because I would like to see this country become once again a country where a little 6-year-old girl can grow up knowing the same freedom that I knew when I was 6 years old, growing up in America,” he once declared. As a matter of historical fact, that statement was downright bizarre. When Reagan was 6, in 1917, women and most blacks couldn’t vote, and America’s entry into World War I was whipping up an anti-German frenzy so vicious that some towns in Reagan’s native Midwest banned the playing of Beethoven and Brahms. But for Reagan, who sometimes confused movies with real life, history usually meant myth. In his mind, American history was the saga of brave, good-hearted men and women battling daunting odds but forever trying to do the right thing. His favorite TV show was Little House on the Prairie.

As President, Reagan convinced many Americans that they were living in that mythic land once again. He was a master at associating himself with America’s cherished symbols. The images in his 1984 “Morning in America” ad—the fresh-faced lad on his paper route, the proud mother in the simple church watching her daughter walk down the aisle, the burly man gently hoisting an American flag—moistened even many liberal eyes. In fact, Reagan practically became one of those symbols himself: the cowboy President, sitting astride his horse, framed by a rugged Western terrain.

McCain is a little rougher around the edges. Unlike Reagan, who during the Second World War only played soldiers on the big screen, McCain has actually seen combat. And as it did Bob Dole, the experience has made him a little more ironic and a little less sappy. (Dole tried to play the Reagan role in 1996, asking Americans in his convention acceptance speech to “let me be the bridge to an America that only the unknowing call myth,” but he couldn’t pull it off.) But if McCain isn’t Reagan, he still exemplifies many of conservative patriotism’s key themes. He followed in his forefathers' footsteps; he put aside his hell-raising youth and learned to obey. He served his country in Vietnam, an unpopular war whose veterans we honor not because their service necessarily made the world a better place but simply because they are ours.

On one key issue, though—immigration—McCain's view of patriotism differs from that of many on the right. Conservatives tend to believe that while Americans are bound together by the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, they are also bound together by a set of inherited traditions that immigrants must be encouraged—even required—to adopt. And they fret that if newcomers don’t assimilate into that common culture, they won’t be truly patriotic. McCain rarely discusses the dangers of mass immigration, but for many conservatives, the fact that some immigrants eat vindaloo or bok choy rather than turkey on Thanksgiving isn’t charming; it’s worrisome. They see multiculturalism as the celebration of various ethnic cultures at our national culture’s expense. And when that celebration is linked to the claim that America’s national traditions are racist—as it sometimes is on college campuses—conservatives begin to suspect that multiculturalism is leading to outright disloyalty. That’s why conservative talk radio and Fox News went berserk a couple of years back when some immigrant activists paraded through America's cities waving Mexican flags. It confirmed their deepest fear: that if you let people retain their native tongue and let them spurn American culture for the culture of their native land, they will remain politically loyal to their native land as well.

Hoping for a Braver Future

If conservatives tend to see patriotism as an inheritance from a glorious past, liberals often see it as the promise of a future that redeems the past. Consider Obama’s original answer about the flag pin: “I won’t wear that pin on my chest,” he said last fall. “Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.” Will make this country great? It wasn’t great in the past? It’s not great as it is?

The liberal answer is, Not great enough. For liberals, America is less a common culture than a set of ideals about democracy, equality and the rule of law. American history is a chronicle of the distance between those ideals and reality. And American patriotism is the struggle to narrow the gap. Thus, patriotism isn’t about honoring and replicating the past; it’s about surpassing it.

If Reagan best evoked conservative patriotism, many liberals still identify their brand with John F. Kennedy, a leader forever associated with unfulfilled promise. If Reagan conjured the past, Kennedy downplayed it, urging Americans to instead grab hold of the future. He liked to cite Goethe, who “tells us in his greatest poem that Faust lost the liberty of his soul when he said to the passing moment, ‘Stay, thou art so fair.’” Americans risked a similar fate, Kennedy warned, “if we pause for the passing moment, if we rest on our achievements, if we resist the pace of progress . . . Those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

Obama’s political persona is also deeply bound up with youth, promise and liberation from the constraints of the past. In McCain’s life, patriotism is about replicating and honoring what came before: the son and grandson of admirals becomes a war hero. In Obama’s, patriotism is about escaping what came before: the grandson of an African farmer becomes the embodiment of the American Dream. If McCain’s identity has been shaped largely by inherited tradition, Obama’s is largely the result of personal invention, a deeply American concept. Obama chose a profession, a city, a religious identity, even a racial one, mostly on his own. His first book is called not Faith of My Fathers—how could it be, since in so many ways he has created his own faith?—but Dreams from My Father, since Obama imagined a father he never knew and from those dreams constructed a life. If some conservatives worry that America’s recent immigration wave is fracturing the nation, Obama represents the liberal faith that assimilation is relatively easy and that newcomers don’t divide America; they improve it.

Obama’s election would, like Kennedy’s, represent a triumph over past prejudice. The election of an African American, like the election of a Catholic, would be a sign that America is—as Michelle Obama implied—a different and better nation than it was before, one more worthy of the patriotism of all its citizens. Liberals are more comfortable thinking about America that way: as a nation that must earn its citizens’ devotion by making good on its ideals. For conservatives, the devotion must come first; politics is secondary. But for liberals, patriotic devotion without political struggle is often empty. Liberals think lapel pins are fine if they inspire Americans to struggle to realize the nation’s promise. But they worry that those symbols can become—especially when wielded by people in power—substitutes for that struggle and thus emblems of hypocrisy and complacency.

Conservatives tend to be particularly moved by stories of Americans showing extraordinary devotion to our patriotic symbols. McCain tells an especially powerful one about a fellow prisoner in North Vietnam named Mike Christian, who stitched a U.S. flag on the inside of his shirt and was brutally beaten by his captors in response but immediately began stitching it again, even with his ribs broken and eyes swollen nearly shut. Of course, any sane liberal would find that story stirring as well. But liberals more often lionize people who display patriotism by calling America on the carpet for violating its highest ideals. For liberals more than for conservatives, there is something quintessentially patriotic about Frederick Douglass's famous 1852 oration, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” in which the great African-American abolitionist refused to celebrate the anniversary of America’s founding, telling a Rochester, N.Y., crowd that “above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.”

How to Be a Patriot

On inspection, the liberal and conservative brands of patriotism both have defects. In a country where today’s nativists are yesterday's immigrants and where change is practically a national religion, conservative patriotism can seem anachronistic. To be Spanish or Russian or Japanese is to imagine that you share a common ancestry and common traditions that trace back into the mists of time. But in America, where most people hail from somewhere else, that kind of blood-and-soil patriotism makes no sense. There is something vaguely farcical about conservative panic over Mexican flags in Los Angeles when Irish flags have long festooned Boston's streets on St. Patrick’s Day. Linking patriotism too closely to a reverence for inherited tradition contradicts one of America's most powerful traditions: that our future shouldn't be dictated by our past.

By defining Americanism too narrowly and backwardly, conservative patriotism risks becoming clubby. And by celebrating America too unabashedly—without sufficient regard for America’s sins—it risks degenerating from patriotism into nationalism, a self-righteous, chest-thumping ideology that celebrates America at the expense of the rest of the world.

But if conservative patriotism can be too exclusionary, liberal patriotism risks not being exclusionary enough. If liberals love America purely because it embodies ideals like liberty, justice and equality, why shouldn’t they love Canada—which from a liberal perspective often goes further toward realizing those principles—even more? And what do liberals do when those universal ideals collide with America’s self-interest? Giving away the federal budget to Africa would probably increase the net sum of justice and equality on the planet, after all. But it would harm Americans and thus be unpatriotic.

Eminent thinkers, from Tolstoy to contemporary philosophers like Martha Nussbaum and George Kateb, have denounced patriotism on exactly those grounds: that it’s wrong to prefer one’s countrymen and -women to people in other lands. Patriotism, in Kateb’s words, is illiberal; it “is an attack on the Enlightenment.” There's a lot of truth in that. Liberals may love America in part because it aspires to certain ideals, but if they love it only because it aspires to those ideals, then what they really love is the ideals, not America. Conservatives are right. To some degree, patriotism must mean loving your country for the same reason you love your family: simply because it is yours.

When it comes to patriotism, conservatives and liberals need each other, because love of country requires both affirmation and criticism. It’s a good thing that Americans fly the flag on July 4. In a country as diverse as ours, patriotic symbols are a powerful balm. And if people stopped flying the flag every time the government did something they didn’t like, it would become an emblem not of national unity but of political division. On the other hand, waving a flag, like holding a Bible, is supposed to be a spur to action. When it becomes an end in itself, America needs people willing to follow in the footsteps of the prophets and remind us that complacent ritual can be the enemy of true devotion.

Patriotism should be proud but not blind, critical yet loving. And liberals and conservatives should agree that if patriotism entails no sacrifice, if it is all faith and no works, then something has gone wrong. The American who volunteers to fight in Iraq and the American who protests the war both express a truer patriotism than the American who treats it as a distant spectacle with no claim on his talents or conscience.

And no matter how they define patriotism, Americans should tremble before suggesting that any fellow citizen lacks it. Obama’s original mistake was not in declining to wear the flag pin but in saying he had stopped wearing it because he saw “people wearing a lapel pin but not acting very patriotic.” And that’s what makes his current adoption of the symbol so shrewd. By opposing the Iraq war in the fevered year after 9/11—when some Bush supporters branded doves unpatriotic—he has already expressed an understanding of patriotism particularly beloved by liberals: patriotism as lonely dissent. Now he is expressing an understanding particularly important to the conservatives he must court: patriotism as symbolic devotion.

McCain has bucked his side as well. He has refused to bash illegal immigrants. He has championed national service, an idea generally more favored by liberals, which helps Americans devote themselves to their country without donning its uniform. And by crusading against Washington corruption, he has acknowledged how defective American democracy often is, something Reagan, with his airbrushed patriotism, rarely did.

So is wearing the flag pin good or bad? It is both; it all depends on where and why. If you’re going to a Young Americans for Freedom meeting, where people think patriotism means “my country right or wrong,” leave it at home and tell them about Frederick Douglass, who wouldn’t celebrate the Fourth of July while his fellow Americans were in bondage. And if you’re going to a meeting of the cultural-studies department at Left-Wing U., where patriotism often means “my country wrong and wronger,” slap it on, and tell them about Mike Christian, who lay half-dead in a North Vietnamese jail, stitching an American flag.

And if anyone gives you a hard time, tell him he doesn't know what true patriotism is.