Friday, July 12, 2013

Israel: A Model for Islamic Democracy. By Jonathan Cristol.

Israel: A Model for Islamic Democracy. By Jonathan Cristol. Via Meadia, July 30, 2010.

East-West Expansion Made the United States a Great Power. By Robert Kaplan.

Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way, by Emanuel Leutze, 1862.  A classic allegory of Jacksonian America and one of the most ambitious statements of Jacksonian nationalism and empire building in the nineteenth century.  Architect of the Capitol.

Homage to the Lower 48. By Robert Kaplan. Real Clear World, July 11, 2013.


A half-century ago, I was a little boy on a trip with my parents from New York City to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit relatives. We crossed Pennsylvania on the recently completed Pennsylvania Turnpike. Pennsylvania from the New Jersey border to the Ohio border was vast, with the magnificent Alleghany range, a subset of the Appalachians, in the broad middle of the state, heralded by the Blue Mountain tunnel. The interstate highway system built under President Dwight Eisenhower was gleaming and exotic back then, with lovely rest stops with real restaurants where you were waited on at tables – not the slummy fast-food joints that disgrace rest stops today.
At one rest stop I picked up a collection of travel articles, written in easy Reader’s Digest style, suited for my age. There was a story about a family driving west and stopping for breakfast somewhere in Nebraska, anticipating the sight of the Rocky Mountains where they were headed. “You have to earn the Rockies,” the father said, “by driving through the flat Midwest.” Earn the Rockies is a phrase that has stayed with me my whole life: It sums up America’s continental geography – and by inference, why America is a world power. It summed up my yearning to travel and see mountains even higher than the Appalachians in Pennsylvania. Finally in 1970, when I was 18, I hitchhiked across America from New York to Oregon and spent a summer roaming the Rocky Mountains.
When my family made that trip a half-century ago, Alaska and Hawaii were new states admitted to the union only the year before. The United States now reached halfway across the Pacific, and yet in 1960 it still thought of itself as a continental nation, stretching from sea to shining sea. Nevertheless, if you were a Hawaiian, you thought of the continental United States as “the mainland.” And if you were an Alaskan, it was “the lower 48.” The term lower 48 always rang a bell for me, signifying as it did the contiguous 48 states that completed the temperate zone of North America between Canada and Mexico. Arizona was the 48th state, admitted to the union only in 1912. Until then, and throughout the 19th century, ever since the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, American presidents administered the West or parts of it as imperial overlords: governing places as territories that were not as yet states.
Indeed, the entire operating myth of American nationhood has had an east-to-west orientation. America’s continental geography was perfectly appointed for gradual westering settlement. The original 13 colonies huddled around many natural, deep-water Atlantic harbors, with the Appalachians as a western boundary. Passes through the Appalachians enabled the pioneers to enter the Midwest, where a flat panel of rich farmland – and the back-breaking labor required for it to bear crops, and to clear the forests on it – ground down the various North European immigrant communities into a distinctive American culture. By the time the water-starved Great Plains and the Rockies beckoned forth another generation of settlers, the Transcontinental Railroad was at hand to complete the story of nation-building unto the Pacific.
Of course, the Rockies emblemized this whole saga: their sheer beauty and majesty helped make Americans feel that they were a special people, ordained to do great things; the utter height of these mountains provided settlers with the supreme logistical challenge. The Rockies are a signal example of how a physical environment can mold a people's character.
In fact, had the United States been settled from west to east, from California directly into the water-starved tableland of Nevada and Arizona, it is possible that the country would have begun as an oligarchy or some such authoritarian regime, in order to strictly administer water rights. This is partly the background to such great books of sea to shining sea nationhood as Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (1954) and Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert (1986). In a larger sense, the story of earning the Rockies is chronicled in such epics as Walter Prescott Webb’s The Great Plains (1931) and Bernard DeVoto’s lyrical trilogy of westward expansion, The Year of Decision: 1846 (1943), Across the Wide Missouri (1947) and The Course of Empire (1952). DeVoto wrote those books during World War II and some of the darkest days of the Cold War. Yet, by concentrating on the Rocky Mountains and all that they represented, he told Americans why they were great. DeVoto’s prose, like the music of Stephen Foster – of which DeVoto writes about so eloquently – catches at dead center the very energy of Manifest Destiny.
DeVoto, repeating Henry David Thoreau’s dictum, advised Americans that, metaphorically, they “must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe.” DeVoto never left North America his whole life. He was not an isolationist but a geopolitical thinker who understood the continental basis of American power.
That continental basis is subtly shifting. I may be of the last generation that sees the United States in terms of its east-to-west historic geography of Manifest Destiny. Americans today do not take horses or trains, drive, ride buses or hitchhike across the continent. They fly. Our airports have been the new bus stations. Americans no longer experience the exhilaration of seeing the front range of the Rockies after crossing the flat prairie and Great Plains. They experience much less the regional diversity of the United States, as McDonald’s and Starbucks deface the urban landscape. Our towns and small cities with their refreshing provincial aura have been transformed into vast, suburban conurbations, each integrally connected to the global economy. Cosmopolitanism is no longer restricted to the coasts. That is a good thing, even as something special has been lost.
At the same time, our southern border beckons more importantly than ever. The combined populations of Mexico and Central America have risen to half that of the United States and will go higher, as the average person south of the border is almost a decade younger than the average American. While Mexican drug cartels partly dominate substantial territory in northern Mexico, Mexico may be on its way to becoming one of the world's top 10 economies, with plans by some in Mexico City to connect more ports on the Atlantic and Pacific with more efficient road and rail networks. Meanwhile, the widening of the Panama Canal within the next two years may put a new economic emphasis on the Greater Caribbean, from America’s Gulf Coast to northern South America. Latin history is certainly moving north, as the destiny of North America goes from being east-to-west to north-to-south.
The east-west, sea to shining sea world of my childhood and youth was a world of the Industrial Age nation-state, with all of its chill-up-your-spine myths. The north-south world will be one of globalization, as the United States dissolves into a larger planetary geography, where its epic pioneering past will be relevant only to the degree it helps America compete economically.
The lower 48 made Americans what they are – a people of the frontier, forever seeking to earn the Rockies. The degree to which Americans can spiritually hold on to that geography will help them cross the new frontiers ahead.

What Morsi’s Fall Means for Hamas. By Jonathan Schanzer.

What Morsy’s Fall Means for Hamas. By Jonathan Schanzer. Global Public Square. CNN, July 11, 2013.

Israel Is the Big Winner in the Arab Spring. By Walter Russell Mead.

And the Biggest Winner in the Arab Spring Is . . . Israel. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, July 12, 2013.


Israel plans to restructure its military with an eye on new threats and fading risks from neighbors like Syria and Egypt, the WSJ reports:
Israel’s military plans to downsize its conventional firepower such as tanks and artillery to focus on countering threats from guerrilla warfare and to boost its technological prowess, in a recognition that the Middle East turmoil has virtually halted the ability of neighbors to invade for years to come. . . .
The army plans to cut thousands of career officers, shut ground-force units, eliminate air-force squadrons, and decommission naval ships over a period of five years, said an Israeli army spokesman who declined to provide more details….
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in public remarks that the army plans to be less dependent on heavy armaments. “In another few years we will see a different” Israel Defense Forces, he said. “Wars of military versus military—in the format we last met 40 years ago, in the Yom Kippur War—are becoming less and less relevant.”
This “sea change” will increase Israel’s qualitative superiority. In the 21st century more than ever before, technology is becoming the most important element of military power, not how many 18 year olds can you deploy. That’s a big advantage for high-tech, low-population countries like Israel.
Here’s a related thought: Secretary Kerry’s peace mission to Israel and Palestine is in part based on the calculation that uncertainty and concerns about the consequences of the Arab Spring for regional security (especially the consequences of a more active Hezbollah) make Israel more amenable to US pressure and suggestions. But this WSJ piece suggests a different calculation: Israel’s defense establishment may actually feel that the effective destruction of the Syrian Army, the internal struggles in Iraq, and the preoccupation with domestic order in Egypt have neutralized the military power of Israel’s neighbors.
If so, Kerry may find it harder to trade US reassurances for Israeli concessions than he expected.

A Peace Process on Hold. By Michael Gerson.

A Peace Process on Hold. By Michael Gerson. Real Clear Politics, July 12, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.


The Green Line — across which generations of Israelis and Palestinians have fought and haggled — was given its name because U.N. mediator Ralph Bunche used a green pencil to draw the cease-fire boundary in 1949. In the Middle East, arbitrary markings can assume the geographic seriousness of mountain ranges.
The last Israeli prime minister to try drawing outside the lines was Ehud Olmert, who proposed a map in 2008 giving Palestinians control over 94 percent of the occupied territories and half of Jerusalem, along with a plan for joint custodianship of the holy places. “I thought it may bring an end to my political career,” Olmert told me, “but I was determined to do it.” Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice observed that another Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, had been assassinated for less.
Olmert lived; the peace process didn’t. Olmert’s Palestinian negotiating partner, Mahmoud Abbas, never got to “yes.”
Now the Obama administration — or at least Secretary of State John Kerry — is trying to restart peace talks. So far, this has involved a process to produce a formulation that would allow both sides to sit at the same table. If there is a more substantive policy outcome in the works, it has been effectively hidden from everyone but Kerry.
Israelis of various political stripes admire Kerry’s dedication but wonder about this timing. Recent Israeli elections were almost exclusively focused on nation-building at home. Israel is in the midst of a tech-led economic boom. Tel Aviv is a cross between Miami Beach and Palo Alto — and feels very distant (though it isn’t by miles) from Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel is also protecting its “villa in the jungle” (former prime minister Ehud Barak’s description) more effectively than most thought possible. The vast security wall is ugly but effective. The Iron Dome and other missile defense systems have proved their worth. The result is the best security situation in Israel’s history. This is a tribute to Israel’s extraordinary talent for improvisation. But it has encouraged an Iron Dome mentality, in which every national problem appears to have a technical solution. Many Israelis seem content to manage conflict rather than resolve it through negotiations.
The arguments for Israel to define its borders through a two-state settlement remain strong. “Given the history and heritage of the Jewish people,” Olmert says, “we can’t occupy forever 3 or 4 or 5 million people without equal rights.” An agreement, he argues, would increase Israeli legitimacy, open global markets and make a Jewish state more demographically sustainable.
But these arguments seem abstract and long-term compared with the pleasures of life in the villa. The majority of Israelis vaguely support a two-state solution, but there is no critical mass of political support for concessions in that cause. And Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, doesn’t seem inclined to follow the Olmert model of leadership and unexpected generosity from a position of Israeli strength.
On the Palestinian side, the need for a two-state solution is acute because the current quasi-state, the Palestinian Authority (PA), is a shell, dependent on outside donations to function. (The day before I visited Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative center, gas stations began denying PA security vehicles fuel for lack of payment.) Given Israeli settlement activity and general Palestinian distrust for Netanyahu, confidence in a negotiated solution is low. But the alternative that is gaining some traction among some Palestinian leaders — a unilateral effort to gain recognition from the United Nations — would cause both the United States and Israel to (once again) cut the flow of outside donations to the PA, risking its total collapse.
Several Palestinian leaders have sufficient strength to undermine each other. The question is whether any Palestinian leader is strong enough to deliver on a peace agreement. Hamas, meanwhile, seems content to retain control of Gaza and hold out for a return to Israel’s 1948 borders — meaning no Israel at all. And surrounding Arab nations, which might be expected to lend a hand in the peace process, are either distracted by regional chaos or engulfed in it.
The result is the Middle East at its most frustrating. Majorities of Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution. The broad parameters of a deal have been clear since the Clinton administration (though the details are devil-filled). The American secretary of state is energetically on the job. But little is likely to change.

Why Conservatives Must Master the Art of Narrative. By Rod Dreher.

Story Lines, Not Party Lines. By Rod Dreher. The American Conservative, July 10, 2013.

Why conservatives must master the narrative art.

What Impedes Conservative Efforts to Shape the Culture? By Jim Geraghty. National Review Online, July 12, 2013.

Egypt’s Missing Precondition. By Iain Murray.

Egypt’s Missing Precondition. By Iain Murray. The American Spectator, July 12, 2013.


It is commonplace today to regard liberty and democracy as inextricably correlated — if you have one, you must have the other. Yet as Egypt and other failed democracies are showing, that is not the case. Indeed, we are rediscovering some fundamental truths that the American Founders knew — that liberty is an essential precondition for sustainable democracy and that there is more to democracy than majority rule.
We often forget that the Arab Spring was brought about not by an unquenchable thirst for democracy, but by restraints on trade. The self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in front of the Tunisian parliament that set off the Arab Spring was caused not by a desire for a vote in who should rule that country, but because of the repeated confiscation of his wares by local police, culminating in the confiscation of his scales. His last words were, “How is a man to make a living?”
As Tom Palmer of the Atlas Network notes, this basic plea for human dignity reverberated around the Arab world. The Egyptian wing of the protests blew up particularly over police brutality.

A little over two years on, the autocratic Hosni Mubarak has been overthrown, but the solution of “democracy” appears to have solved none of Egypt’s problems. Farida Makar of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies told Deutsche Welle in February, “[T]orture still happens in police stations… excessive violence is still used against demonstrators and… everything is decided according to a security mentality.”
Now many are asking, “What went wrong?” A more apt query is, “What hasn’t gone on?” In the case of Egypt, plenty.

Magna Carta, the foundation of English rights, tackled these problems long before democracy was established in England. In 1215, King John promised that if a man were to be fined, the tools of his trade would not be taken away. He also promised not to imprison anyone save by the judgment of 12 of his peers. These two provisions laid the foundation for the law’s respect of the dignity of England’s common man — what we now call the “institutions of liberty.”
Other institutions of liberty of liberty followed, some springing from Magna Carta, others won by a distinctly undemocratic Parliament. These included the rule of law, an independent judiciary, enforceable contracts, free markets, property rights, and many others.
The recognition of these institutions was essential in the growth of England’s economy. A similar phenomenon occurred in Holland, and these two countries led the way in the creation of a modern economy based around what economic historian Deirdre McCluskey calls “bourgeois dignity.”
These are the institutions that the American Founders inherited. Indeed, the American Revolution was fought not to remake society, but to preserve these rights from a King who seemed determined to abrogate them. One of the complaints articulated in the Declaration of Independence was a condemnation of arbitrary bureaucracy: “He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.” In other words, “How is a man to make a living?”
The Founders, however, were wary of democracy. In Federalist Number 10, Alexander Hamilton warned against it:
A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
This phenomenon, which the great classical liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of the majority,” is what has been at issue in Egypt. A new, democratically elected government without a foundation in the institutions of liberty showed no inclination to obtain or rule according to them.
Democracy as we know it took centuries to establish not only in Britain, but also in the relatively young United States, where such illiberal institutions as slavery and the denial of the vote to the unpropertied and women took a long time to overcome. However, it was the institutions of liberty that provided the foundation on which democracy and equal rights for all could be built.
Egypt has underlined this lesson. It has shown us one undeniable truth: The institutions of liberty are more important than the trappings of democracy.

Two Males, No Men. By Daniel J. Flynn.

Two Males, No Men. By Daniel J. Flynn. The American Spectator, July 12, 2013.

Zimmerman, Trayvon, and Manliness. By Rush Limbaugh., July 12, 2013.


They don’t make men like they used to. One can consult a Danish study that shows plummeting testosterone levels for scientific confirmation of this. Or, one could more easily turn on any cable news network’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Zimmerman-Martin case, a tragedy involving two males fumbling in the dark on how to be men.
Whatever the protagonists may be guilty of they are surely innocent of being men. The six female jurors, not tasked to reach a verdict on the manhood of the central players, nevertheless know the truth of this more than other trial observers. The Venusians know the Martians better than they know themselves. And vice versa — what do they know of x chromosomes who only x chromosomes know?
On the maturity count, Trayvon Martin might reasonably plead not guilty by reason of chronology. Seventeen-year-old boys quite often act like, in the vernacular of Zimmerman, “f—-ing punks.” Most grow out of it, but Mr. Martin unfortunately will not get that chance. Rarely, in spite of their exaggerated masculine posturing, do teenage boys behave as mature males.
Martin’s Twitter feed reads as a parody of poor grammar and an even more impoverished vocabulary. There, he’s a “No Limit N-gga,” girls he knows are “bitches” and “hoes,” and the primary extracurricular activity he immerses himself in is marijuana. The gold-teeth smile, the tattoos, the ten-day suspension from school, and all the rest appear as pathetic attempts to assert his virility. Yet, as his supporters point out, Trayvon also liked Skittles and Chuck E. Cheese’s. The presentation that Trayvon affected and the Trayvon that his supporters present are, like so many making the journey from adolescence to adulthood, at war internally.
George Zimmerman, in contrast, projects a courtroom image of a meek pudgeball who wouldn’t (couldn’t?) hurt a fly — and not in a Norman Bates way. Perhaps this is the effect that his lawyers intended. But it jibes with what we know. According to one unidentified witness, Zimmerman endured a domineering mother’s frequent beatings and a docile father who failed to stick up for his kids. His mixed-martial arts instructor described him as “physically soft,” a student who lacked athleticism and “didn’t know how to really effectively punch.”
One wonders if the cage-fighting classes, the pursuit of a career in law enforcement, and a firearm kept ready to fire were Zimmerman’s ways of discovering his elusive manhood in a manner akin to Trayvon’s tattoos, coarse language, and demonstrative drug use. With the teenager sans a father in the home to serve as guide, and the neighborhood-watch captain growing up watching the cowed captain of his home, the pair’s past altered their future as much as anything else did.
Zimmerman’s screams and Trayvon slamming Zimmerman’s head into the concrete weren’t the acts of men. A man is neither a woman nor an animal. The proper response to an assault by a 158-pound teenager isn’t to scream for help or grab for a gun. It is to punch back or better yet subdue and issue a spanking. And a sucker punch, the repeated hitting of a downed opponent, and the bashing of a skull against the concrete doesn’t pass muster with the Marquess of Queensberry. Perhaps the “No Holds Barred Fighting” dojo that Zimmerman had signed up for would approve.
Their households lacked strong male role models; their society, even more so. Four in ten American kids enter the world without their father married to their mother. When schoolboys begin to exhibit traits natural to their sex, the energetic fellows earn the wrath of detention and Ritalin. Any game that highlights contact — from dodgeball to football — comes under attack. Primetime television celebrates the fop and makes a buffoon out of fathers (see Simpson, Homer; Everybody Loves, Raymond). Jobs relying on the physical characteristics favored in males have been outsourced to robots and foreigners. When a pundit asked “Are Men Necessary?” a few years back it reflected the scarcity rather than the superfluity of the genuine article.
Civilizing men out of existence has come at great cost to civilization. Instead of men, we get feminine imitations lacking beauty. We get lost boys compensating by becoming barbarians. We get Sanford, Florida, February 26, 2012.

The Five Republican Parties. By Norm Ornstein.

There’s No Republican Party—There Are 5 of Them. By Norm Ornstein. The Atlantic, July 11, 2013.

The Muslim Brotherhood After Morsi. By Carrie Rosefsky Wickham.

The Muslim Brotherhood After Morsi. By Carrie Rosefsky Wickham. Foreign Affairs, July 11, 2013.

Can the Brothers reboot?

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood sit on a barrier they erected near the Rabaa Adawiya Square, July 11, 2013. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Courtesy Reuters.)