Friday, December 27, 2013

Kerry’s Oh-So-’90s Security Nonsense. By Caroline Glick.

Kerry’s oh-so-’90s security nonsense. By Caroline B. Glick. Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2013. Also at


“There are several serious problems with Kerry’s arrangements . . . their most glaring flaws are rooted in their disregard for all the lessons we have learned over the past two decades.”

Like his supporters, US Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently been asleep for the past 20 years.
Kerry has proffered us security arrangements, which he claims will protect Israel from aggression for the long haul. They will do this, he argues, despite the fact that his plan denies the Jewish state physically defensible borders in the framework of a peace deal with the PLO.
There are several serious problems with Kerry’s arrangements. But in the context of Kerry’s repeated claims that his commitment to Israel’s security is unqualified, their most glaring flaws are rooted in their disregard for all the lessons we have learned over the past two decades.
Kerry’s security arrangements rest on three assumptions. First, they assume that the main threats Israel will face in an era of “peace” with the Palestinians will emanate from east of the Jordan River. The main two scenarios that have been raised are the threat of terrorists and advanced weaponry being smuggled across the border; and a land invasion or other type of major aggression against Israel, perpetrated by Iraqis moving across Jordan.
It is to fend off these threats, Kerry argues, that he would agree to a temporary deployment of Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley even after Israel expels all or most of the 650,000 Israeli civilians who live in Judea, Samaria and eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem.
We will consider the strategic wisdom of his plans for defending Israel from threats east of the Jordan River presently. But first we need to ask whether a threat from across the border would really be the only significant threat that Israel would face after surrendering Judea, Samaria and much of Jerusalem to the PLO.
The answer to this question is obvious to every Israeli who has been awake for the past 20 years, since Israel started down the “land for peace” road with the PLO. The greatest threat Israel will face in an era of “peace” with the Palestinians will not come from east of the Jordan. It will come from west of the Jordan – from the Jew-free Palestinian state.
The Palestinians don’t give us peace for land. They give us war for land. Whether they support the PLO, Hamas or anything in between, the Palestinians have used every centimeter of land that Israel has given them as launching bases for terrorist and political attacks against Israel.
There is no peace camp in Palestinian society. There are only terrorist organizations that compete for power and turf. And to the extent there are moderates in Palestinian society, they are empowered when Israel is in control, and weakened when Israel transfers power to the PLO. Back in halcyon 1990s, Israeli supporters of “land for peace” told us, “It’s better to be smart than right.”
By this they meant that for peace, we should be willing to give up our historical homeland, and even our eternal capital, despite the fact that they are ours by legal and historic right. That peace, they promised, would protect us, neutralize the threat of terrorism and make the entire Arab world love us.
Over the past 20 years, we learned that all these wise men were fools. Even as the likes of Tom Friedman and Jeremy Ben Ami continue to tell us that the choice is between ideology – that is, Jewish rights and honor – and peace, today we know that they are full of it.
Our most peaceful periods have been those in which we have been fully deployed in Judea and Samaria. The more fully we deploy, the more we exercise our legal and national rights to sovereign power in those areas, the safer and more peaceful Israeli and Palestinian societies alike have been.
The only way to be smart, we have learned, is by being right. The only way to secure peace is by insisting that our rights be respected. We won’t get peace for land. We will get war – not from the Iraqis or anyone else to our east, but from the Palestinians. And since the Palestinians are the people Kerry is intending to empower with his peace plan and his security arrangements, both his peace plan and his security arrangements are deeply dangerous and hostile.
As for the threat from east of the Jordan, here too, Kerry’s security arrangements are absurd. Kerry and his supporters claim that by enabling Israel to maintain a limited force along border with Jordan for a period of 5-15 years, he will build, in the words of Jeffrey Goldberg, his biggest fan, “an impregnable security system.”
But this is ridiculous. When Israel withdrew from the international border between Gaza and Egypt, it wrongly assumed two things – first, that the regime of Hosni Mubarak would always be in power, and second, that Mubarak’s regime would secure the border.
In the event, Mubarak, Israel’s peace partner, did not secure the border. According to then Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin, in the three months after Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, the Palestinians smuggled more weapons into the Gaza Strip from Egypt than they had in the previous 38 years, when Israel controlled the border.
And of course Mubarak did not remain in power. He was replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood.
While it is true that for now, the Egyptian military has wrested control over the country from the Muslim Brotherhood, and is reportedly cooperating with Israel in the Sinai, there is no reason to assume that the present conditions will prevail.
Kerry’s security arrangements along the Jordan Valley are predicated on two similarly dim-witted notions. First, that the Hashemite regime will remain in power forever. And second, that the Hashemites will want to protect the border forever.
Given the instability of the Arab world as a whole and the fact that the overwhelming majority of Jordanians are Palestinians, the most likely scenario is that the Hashemites will be overthrown at some point in the eminently foreseeable future.
Moreover, even if King Abdullah II manages to remain in power, his children are half Palestinian. So even if the Hashemites remain in power, there is no reason to believe that their commitment to peace with Israel will be maintained over time. This is doubly true given the rise of jihadist forces aligned with Iran and al-Qaida battling for power in Syria and Iraq.
The third foundation of Kerry’s security arrangements is that Israel can trust America’s security guarantees.
This position of course was completely discredited by the nuclear deal that Kerry and President Barack Obama have concluded with Iran, which paves the way for the genocidal Islamic Republic to acquire nuclear weapons.
After the Iran deal, only the most reckless and irresponsible Israeli leaders could take American security guarantees at face value.
Israelis frustrate the land-for-peace processors from Washington because we have actually been awake for the past 20 years. And we refuse forget what we know.
Land for peace was killed by Palestinian terrorists.
Jordan is not forever.
And US security guarantees are about as useful as a three dollar bill.

A Spirit of Absolute Folly. By Ari Shavit.

A Spirit of Absolute Folly. By Ari Shavit. From My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2013. Pp. 331-334. Originally published in Haaretz, August 11, 2006, here, here.


In the difficult summer of 2006, the State of Israel is declaring in astonishment: They surprised us. They surprised us in a big way. They surprised us with Katyushas and they surprised us with the Al-Fajr rockets and they surprised us with the Zelzal missiles. They surprised us with anti-tank missiles. And they surprised us with the operational skill of the anti-tank squads. They surprised us with the bunkers and the camouflage. They surprised us with the command and monitoring. They surprised us with strategy, fighting ability and a fighting spirit. They surprised us with the astonishing power that a small death-army with low technology and high religious motivation can have.
However, more than they surprised us in Summer 2006 with the strength of Hezbollah, they surprised us this summer with our own weakness. They surprised us with ourselves. They surprised us with the low level of national leadership. They surprised us with scandalous strategic bumbling. They surprised us with the lack of vision, lack of creativity and lack of determination on the part of the senior military command. They surprised us with faulty intelligence and a delusionary logistical network and improper preparedness for war. They surprised us with the fact that the Israeli war machine is not what it once was. While we were celebrating it became rusty.
Generally it is not right to conduct an in-depth investigation of a wartime failure during a war. However, at the end of the most embarrassing year of Israeli defense since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Israeli government is not drawing conclusions. It is not reorganizing the system, there is no evidence of a real learning curve and it is not radiating a new ethos. On the contrary: It is adding another layer of folly onto a previous one. Its slowness to react is dangerous. Its caution is a recipe for disaster. Its attempt to prevent bloodshed is costing a great deal of bloodshed. So that now of all times, just when the forces are moving toward south Lebanon, there is no escaping the question of where we went wrong. It is so that Israel will be able to achieve a last-minute victory and so that the troops will be able to achieve their goals and so the soldiers will be able to return home safely, that we must ask already now: What has happened to us? What the hell happened to us?
First and foremost, we were blinded by political correctness. The politically correct discourse that reigned supreme over the last decade was disconnected from reality. It focused on the issue of occupation but did not address the fact that Israel is caught in an existential conflict fraught with religious and cultural land mines. It paid too much attention to Israel’s wrongdoing, and too little to the historical and geopolitical context within which Israel has to survive.
Israeli political correctness also assumed that Israeli might is a given. Therefore, it was dismissive of the need to maintain this might. Because the army was perceived to be an occupying force, it was denounced. Anything military or national or Zionist was regarded with contempt. Collective values gave way to individualistic ones. Power was synonymous with fascism. Old-fashioned Israeli masculinity was castrated as we indulged ourselves in the pursuit of absolute justice and absolute pleasure. The old discourse of duty and commitment was replaced by a new discourse of protest and hedonism.
And there was something else: Israelis were besotted with the illusion of normalcy. But on its most basic level, Israel is not a normal nation. It is a Jewish state in an Arab world, and a Western state in an Islamic world, and a democracy in a region of tyranny. It is at odds with its surroundings. There is a constant and inherent tension between Israel and the world it lives in. That means that Israel cannot lead the normal European life of any EU member. But because of its values, economic structure, and culture, Israel cannot but attempt to lead a normal life. This contradiction is substantial and perpetual. The only way to resolve it is to produce a unique, positive anomaly that will address the unique negative anomaly of Israeli life. This is what Zionism accomplished in the three decades leading to the founding of the state, by formulating unique social inventions such as the kibbutz and the Laborite social economy of the Histadrut. This is what Israel did in its first three decades, by striking a delicate balance between Israel’s unique national requirements and its inhabitants’ need for personal space and a degree of sanity. But after 1967, 1973, and 1977, this balance was lost. In the 1980s and 1990s, Israelis went wild. We bought into the illusion that this stormy port was actually a safe harbor. We deluded ourselves into thinking that we could live on this shore as other nations live on theirs. We squandered Israel’s unique positive anomaly, all the while chipping away at our defensive shield. Ironically, those who wished Israel to be normal brought about a chaotic state of affairs that could not but lead to the total loss of any normalcy whatsoever.
Both political correctness and the illusion of normalcy were strictly phenomena of the elite. The public at large remained sober and strong. Middle Israel did not forget Israel’s existential challenge. In times of trouble, it was tough and resilient. But the Israeli elite detached themselves from historical reality. Business, the media, and academia dimmed Israel’s vision and weakened its spirit. They did not read the geostrategic map. They did not remember history or understand history. Their constant attacks on nationalism, the military, and the Zionist narrative consumed Israel’s existence from within. Business inculcated ad absurdum the illusion of normalcy by initiating sweeping privatization and establishing an aggressive capitalist regime that didn’t suit the needs of a nation in conflict. Academia instilled ad absurdum a rigid political correctness by turning the constructive means of self-criticism into an obsessive deconstructive end of its own. The media promoted a false consciousness that combined wild consumerism with hypocritical righteousness. Instead of purpose and promise, the Israeli elite embraced self-doubt and cynicism. Each sector undermined Zionism in its own way. They misled Israelis into believing that Tel Aviv was Manhattan, that the market is king, and that mammon is God. By doing so, they didn't give young Israelis the normative tools needed to fight for their country. A nation with no equality, no solidarity, and no belief in its own cause is not a nation worth fighting for. It’s not a nation that a young woman or a young man will kill and get killed for. But in the Middle East, a nation whose youngsters are not willing to kill and get killed for it is a nation on borrowed time. It will not last for long.
So what we see now, as rockets pound our cities and villages, is not only a failure of the Israeli Army to defend its citizens, but the grave outcome of the historic failure of the Israeli elite. This Israeli elite turned its back on reality, turned its back on the state, stopped leading Israel, and stopped holding Israel together. With every fiber of its being, Israel wished to be a modern-day Athens. But in this land and in this era there is no future for an Athens that doesn’t have in it a grain of Sparta. There is no hope here for a life-loving society that doesn’t know how to deal with the imminence of death. Now we must face reality. We must reconstruct our nation-state. We must restore the delicate balance between forcefulness and normalcy. And we must rebuild from scratch our defensive shield. After years of illusions, delusions, and recklessness, we must recognize our fate. We must live up to our life’s decree.

The Left Against Zion. By Caroline Glick.

The Left against Zion. By Caroline Glick. Jerusalem Post, December 19, 2013. Also at


The Left’s doctrinaire insistence that Israel is the root of all evil is not limited to campuses.

In the 1960s, the American Left embraced the anti-Vietnam War movement as its cri de coeur.
In the 1970s, the Left’s foreign policy focus shifted to calling for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the US and its Western allies.
In the 1980s, supporting the Sandinista Communists’ takeover of Nicaragua became the catechism of the Left.
In the 1990s, the war on global capitalism – that is, the anti-globalization movement – captivated the passions of US Leftists from coast to coast.
In the 2000s, it was again, the anti-war movement.
This time the Left rioted and demonstrated against the war in Iraq.
And in this decade, the main foreign policy issue that galvanizes the passions and energies of the committed American Left is the movement to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.
This week has been a big one for the anti-Israel movement. In the space of a few days, two quasi academic organizations – the American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association – have launched boycotts against Israeli universities. Their boycotts follow a similar one announced in April by the Asian Studies Association.
These groups’ actions have not taken place in isolation. They are of a piece with ever-escalating acts of anti-Israel agitation in college campuses throughout the United States.
Between the growth of Israel Apartheid Day (or Week, or Month) from a fringe exercise on isolated campuses to a staple of the academic calendar in universities throughout the US and Canada, and the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to wage economic war against the Jewish state, anti-Israel activism has become the focal point of Leftist foreign policy activism in the US and throughout the Western world.
Every week brings a wealth of stories about new cases of aggressive anti-Israel activism. At the University of Michigan last week, thousands of students were sent fake eviction notices from the university’s housing office. A pro-Palestinian group distributed them in dorms across campus to disseminate the blood libel that Israel is carrying out mass expulsions of Palestinians.
At Swarthmore College, leftist anti-Israel Jewish students who control Hillel are insisting on using Hillel’s good offices to disseminate and legitimate anti-Israel slanders.
And the Left’s doctrinaire insistence that Israel is the root of all evil is not limited to campuses.
At New York’s 92nd Street Y, Commentary editor John Podhoretz was booed and hissed by the audience for trying to explain why the ASA’s just-announced boycott of Israel was an obscene act of bigotry.
Many commentators have rightly pointed out that the ASA and the NAISA are fringe groups.
They represent doctorate holders who chose to devote their careers to disciplines predicated not on scholarship, but on political activism cloaked in academic regalia whose goal is to discredit American power. The ASA has only 5,000 members, and only 1,200 of them voted on the Israel- boycott resolution. The NAISA has even fewer members.
It would be wrong, however, to use the paltry number of these fringe groups’ members as means to dismiss the phenomenon that they represent. They are very much in line with the general drift of the Left.
Rejecting Israel’s right to exist has become part of the Left’s dogma. It is a part of the catechism.
Holding a negative view of the Jewish state is a condition for membership in the ideological camp. It is an article of faith, not fact.
Consider the background of the president of the ASA. Curtis Marez is an associate professor in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego. His area of expertise is Chicano Film and Media Studies.
He doesn’t know anything about Israel. He just knows that he’s a Leftist. And today, Leftists demonize Israel. Their actions have nothing to do with anything Israel does or has ever done. They have nothing to do with human rights. Hating Israel, slandering Israel and supporting the destruction of Israel are just things that good Leftists do.
And Marez was not out of step with his fellow Leftists who rule the roost at UCSD. This past March the student council passed a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that do business with Israel.
Why? Because hating Israel is what Leftists do.
The Left’s crusade against the Jewish state began in earnest in late 2000. The Palestinians’ decision to reject statehood and renew their terror war against Israel ushered in the move by anti-Israel forces on the Left to take over the movement. And as they have risen, they have managed to silence and discredit previously fully accredited members of the ideological Left for the heresy of supporting Israel.
This week, Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz retired after 50 years on the law faculty. His exit, the same week as the ASA and the NAISA announced their boycotts of Israeli universities, symbolized the marginalization of the pro-Israel Left that Dershowitz represented.
For years, Dershowitz has been a non-entity in leftist circles. His place at the table was usurped by anti-Israel Jews like Peter Beinart. And now Beinart is finding himself increasingly challenged by anti-Semitic Jews like Max Blumenthal.
The progression is unmistakable.
The question is, is it irreversible? Must supporters of Israel choose between their support for Israel and their affinity for the Left? Certainly it is true that the more the issue of support for Israel splits along ideological and partisan lines, the more reasonable it is for supporters of Israel to move to the ideological camp and the party that supports Israel, and away from the ones that do not support Israel.
The average voter is not in a position to change the positions of his party or the dogma of his ideological camp. He can take it or leave it. With rejection of Israel now firmly entrenched in the Left’s dogma, and with the Left firmly in control of the Democratic Party under President Barack Obama’s leadership, for those who care about Israel, the Republican Party is a more natural fit.
So, too, the ideological Right is far more congenial to the Jewish state than the Left.
While the most sensible place for supporters of Israel to be today is on the political Right, it is also true that it is neither smart nor responsible to abandon the Left completely. Jews should be able to feel comfortable as Jews, and as supporters of Israel everywhere. Ideological camps that castigate Jews for their pride in the accomplishments of the Jewish state, and for their support and concern for its survival and prosperity, are camps in desperate need of fixing.
But we should not fool ourselves. Challenging the likes of Marez, or the Swarthmore students, or Max Blumenthal or Peter Beinart to a reasoned debate is an exercise in futility. They do not care about human rights. They do not care that Israel is the only human rights-respecting democracy in the Middle East. They do not care about the pathological nature of Palestinian society. They do not care about the Jewish people’s indigenous rights and international legal rights to sovereignty not only over Tel Aviv and Haifa, but over Hebron and Ramallah.
Being hypocrites doesn’t bother them either.
You can talk until you’re blue in the face about the civilian victims of the Syrian civil war, or the gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and the absence of religious freedom throughout the Muslim world. But they don’t care. They aren’t trying to make the world a better place.
Facts cannot compete with their faith. Reason has no place in their closed intellectual universe.
To accept reason and facts would be an act of heresy.
Marez may be a hypocrite, and even a servant of evil. But he is no heretic.
The only real way to mitigate the hard Left’s devotion to Israel’s destruction is by changing the power balance on the Left. For the past decade, donors like George Soros have been open in their commitment to elect Democrats who oppose the US’s alliance with Israel. A decade ago, Soros and fellow Jewish American billionaire Peter Lewis funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into became a clearinghouse for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish messages that became the stock in trade of the ideological Left, and of Democratic candidates in need of campaign funding.
It was due to then-Democratic senator Joe Lieberman’s refusal to get on the Soros- and Lewis-funded anti-Israel bandwagon in the 2004 elections, that they turned against Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary for his seat in the Senate. His Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont, who won the primary, ran a campaign laced with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish propaganda.
There are Democratic funders, like Penny Pritzker, Lester Crown and Haim Saban, who support Israel. If they were so inclined, they could use their considerable funds to change the power equation in the Democratic Party. They could cultivate and support pro-Israel Democratic candidates. They could take the Democratic Party back.
This week ended with Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer finally breaking his silence on Obama’s Iran deal and joining forces with his fellow Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk to defy Obama on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Given Obama’s floundering popularity, it is possible that Schumer’s move will open the door for a change in the Democratic Party.
In truth, there is no reason for the Democratic Party to remain in place. It isn’t ordained that the Democrats must cleave to the hard Left.
The rejection of Israel is not a natural component of leftist dogma. It’s just that for the past decade, the smart money and the rising power on the Left has been with those who oppose Israel’s existence as a strong, independent Jewish state.
While the ASA and its comrades are on the fringes of academia, they are not fringe voices on the Left. The Left has embraced the cause of Israel’s destruction. And its financial power has made it difficult for pro-Israel Democrats to act on their convictions, and those of their voters.
The combination of an exodus of supporters of Israel – Jews and non-Jews alike – from the Left and from the Democratic Party on the one hand, and generous funding for pro-Israel Democratic candidates on the other, can change the equation.
America lost the Vietnam War. The Sandinistas are back in change in Nicaragua. But if people are willing to stand up now and be counted, America need not harm Israel.

Why Do Christians Tolerate Palestinian Historical Revisionism? By Evelyn Gordon.

Why Do Christians Tolerate Palestinian Historical Revisionism? By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, December 26, 2013.

The World In Crisis. By Ben Domenech.

The World In Crisis. By Ben Domenech. The Federalist, December 24, 2013.


We close 2013 in a world that seems to be swiftly tilting toward ever-larger crises of government legitimacy, oncoming clashes of foreign powers, and an abiding sense of concern on the part of the American people that the economic realities of long-term unemployment, wage stagnation, and the working class squeeze of higher prices for health care, higher education, and basic goods and services are not a brief trend, but enduring problems for which Washington has no solutions.
On the foreign policy front, 2013 may well turn out to be the year in which offered a preface for the Next Big War. From Iran to Syria to China, the American position has collapsed with such rapidity that our understanding of these situations from just a year ago are dramatically altered. The era of the Monroe Doctrine may be over, but the lack of an American grand strategy has left our approach to foreign policy an extended drama of incoherence, and our inability to grapple with the unraveling of the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring is only one of many challenges which will present themselves in the coming year. Unrest is only likely to increase in a global economy where youth unemployment has actually increased to the same levels as during the economic crisis.
But the crisis closer to home may be the one which proves more troublesome in the long term: a crisis of legitimacy within Western democracy, one that has gripped the American system in the wake of the mismanagement of elections, disasters, wars, financial crises, stimulus packages, bailouts, and now health care overhauls. Americans are losing faith in the American Dream for themselves and for their children, and they are roughly evenly split on whether the solution to these problems is more government or more liberty – a question which is becoming the defining decision of our era.
This is about more than just who we elect or which party we trust in which arena. It represents a very real schism about first principles and the universe – a division between an approach to life which considers natural law, inherent rights and duties, the rule of law and more as important, and one which views as essential the ongoing actions of the collective to achieve a secular social justice. The shared underlying assumptions about life and the ordering of society, which had such a strong role in America’s early success, are largely gone or greatly diminished. They aren’t coming back.
The rise of the Nones – those who don’t believe in anything in particular, and aren’t interested in investigating faith – is only likely to increase. One in three Millennials profess no religious affiliation, and one of the underestimated aspects of their absence of participation in a faith community of any sort is their lack of interest in seeking one out. Perhaps there’s a silver lining here, from a secularist perspective: a less religious America may sound like a context for less religious strife – fewer people who care, fewer people to argue about it, right? But the reverse is true.
The culture wars haven’t ended – they’ve escalated, and they will continue to escalate in a society where people have fewer commonly held views, and less respect for those who disagree with them for any reason, least of all a religious one. The lack of a shared language of compromise and respect leads to ongoing and increasingly contentious clashes of faith, politics, and sexual rights, where lightning rods of courts and culture lead to flashpoints that strain social bonds, break friendships, and end the ability to have a healthy community where disagreement over law and politics does not lead to death threats on social media.
The next year will bring more flashpoints in the broken public square. In 2014, the highest courts in the land will rule on the ability of Christian business owners to practice their faith as they see fit, and the power of government to compel them to go against their beliefs. We might hope for a country where more people would lay down their arms and view those who disagree with their ideology with respect and impartiality. But for all the handwringing, history has shown us that this is the way things go when trust breaks down and respect vanishes. As G.K. Chesterton notes: “Why should they be impartial, what is being impartial, when the whole world is at war about whether one thing is a devouring superstition or a divine hope?”
Of course, there is still hope. The nation has survived incredible crises before, on the global scale and within our society. The path toward liberty is still a viable one. And perhaps we will find that even when things break down, when government fails and grand strategies fade, the American people can count on each other more than they thought. These are strange times for the country and the world. But we may find that, even as institutions fail us, the American people exceed expectations. They have done it so many times before. In the coming year, they will be called on to do so again.

America’s Culture Wars Will Never End. By W. James Antle III.

America’s Culture Wars Will Never End. By W. James Antle III. The National Interest, December 26, 2013.


The United Methodist Church defrocked yet another minister for officiating a same-sex wedding, in this case his son’s. While some 70 Methodist clergy members recently vowed to defy their church’s teachings on marriage, the largest mainline Protestant denomination has been reaffirming them every four years by commanding margins.
In Utah, a law against polygamy has been weakened while judges struck down the state’s prohibition of same-sex marriage. Or, to frame the issue as Utah’s Mormon majority might see it, the state’s reaffirmation of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
At times it seems impossible to escape the controversy over Duck Dynasty, with the protests and the counterprotests that were unleashed when GQ decided to ask one of its stars to share his deep thoughts on human sexuality.
Leon Trotsky, call your office. You may not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is interested in you.
The objectives of the culture warriors are clear. The right-most flank hopes that it can re-stigmatize homosexuality, nudging gays back into the closet. The left-most flank aims to reclassify traditional religious and moral beliefs about homosexuality as the equivalent of racism, to be stamped out by custom and law like Jim Crow.
Both of these goals bumps up against what Al Gore might call an inconvenient truth: neither gay people nor people with traditional sexual values are likely to go anywhere anytime soon.
With the possible exception of smoking, there is no issue on which the culture has changed so rapidly as homosexuality. Gay marriage has gone from unthinkable to inevitable. Less than a decade ago, even mainstream liberal Democrats opposed it (especially if they had national ambitions). Now even some conservative Republicans are declaring their support.
At the same time, the Christian churches that remain opposed are not small sects. They are the biggest religious denominations in the country, and in a few cases the fastest growing. The Protestant churches that are changing their positions on marriage and sexuality are, like the Episcopalians and the United Church of Christ, usually small and shrinking.
In an odd way, both gay rights groups and social conservatives deal with two different but occasionally overlapping motivations: they both want to be left alone and to change the culture. Proponents of gay marriage want to be able to live as they choose and also to make the culture more accepting of the way they live. Social conservatives want to protect their own religious liberty and also transform the culture according to their moral vision.
This points to a possible truce, but also suggests continued conflict will remain inevitable. Both sides of the culture war can agree to maximum tolerance of the other side. “Showing a bit of respect for cultural values with which you disagree is not a bad thing,” Barney Frank said in 2004. “Don’t call people bigots and fools just because you disagree with them.”
At the same time, people were more willing to be tolerant as they also came to believe that gay marriage, for instance, wasn’t such a bad thing on the merits. To protect their own religious liberty, social conservatives will have to keep making the positive case for their values—values that are in some cases derided as bigotry. It’s no coincidence that Frank made his plea for cultural respect back when opponents of gay marriage were still winning.
But that doesn’t mean social conservatives can’t take Frank’s advice. A good start would be to recognize that the Judeo-Christian ethic, in sexual mores and so much else, is no longer intuitive to a great many Americans. Heavy-handed appeals, be they theological or (in the case of Phil Robertson) scatological, are likely to fall flat. Don’t call people heathens or fools (or worse) just because you disagree with them.
While specific social debates come and go, the culture wars will never end. But neither will the reality that the combatants must live together.

How the GOP Became the “White Man’s Party.” By Ian Haney López.

How the GOP became the “White Man’s Party.” By Ian Haney López. Salon, December 22, 2013.

Haney López:

The Republican Party today, in its voters and in its elected officials, is almost all white. But it wasn’t always like that. Indeed, in the decades immediately before 1964, neither party was racially identified in the eyes of the American public. Even as the Democratic Party on the national level increasingly embraced civil rights, partly as a way to capture the growing political power of blacks who had migrated to Northern cities, Southern Democrats—like George Wallace— remained staunch defenders of Jim Crow. Meanwhile, among Republicans, the racial antipathies of the rightwing found little favor among many party leaders. To take an important example, Brown and its desegregation imperative were backed by Republicans: Chief Justice Earl Warren, who wrote the opinion, was a Republican, and the first troops ordered into the South in 1957 to protect black students attempting to integrate a white school were sent there by the Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon. Reflecting the roughly equal commitment of both parties to racial progress, even as late as 1962, the public perceived Republicans and Democrats to be similarly committed to racial justice. In that year, when asked which party “is more likely to see that Negroes get fair treatment in jobs and housing,” 22.7 percent of the public said Democrats and 21.3 percent said Republicans, while over half could perceive no difference between the two.
The 1964 presidential election marked the beginning of the realignment we live with today. Where in 1962 both parties were perceived as equally, if tepidly, supportive of civil rights, two years later 60 percent of the public identified Democrats as more likely to pursue fair treatment, versus only 7 percent who so identified the Republican Party. What happened?
Groundwork for the shift was laid in the run-up to the 1964 election by rightwing elements in the Republican Party, which gained momentum from the loss of the then-moderate Nixon to John F. Kennedy in 1960. This faction of the party had never stopped warring against the New Deal. Its standard bearer was Barry Goldwater, a senator from Arizona and heir to a department store fortune. His pampered upbringing and wealth notwithstanding, Goldwater affected a cowboy’s rough-and-tumble persona in his dress and speech, casting himself as a walking embodiment of the Marlboro Man’s disdain for the nanny state. Goldwater and the reactionary stalwarts who rallied to him saw the Democratic Party as a mortal threat to the nation: domestically, because of the corrupting influence of a powerful central government deeply involved in regulating the marketplace and using taxes to reallocate wealth downward, and abroad in its willingness to compromise with communist countries instead of going to war against them. Goldwater himself, though, was no racial throwback. For instance, in 1957 and again in 1960 he voted in favor of federal civil rights legislation. By 1961, however, Goldwater and his partisans had become convinced that the key to electoral success lay in gaining ground in the South, and that in turn required appealing to racist sentiments in white voters, even at the cost of black support. As Goldwater drawled, “We’re not going to get the Negro vote as a bloc in 1964 and 1968, so we ought to go hunting where the ducks are.”
This racial plan riled more moderate members of the Republican establishment, such as New York senator Jacob Javits, who in the fall of 1963 may have been the first to refer to a “Southern Strategy” in the context of repudiating it. By then, however, the right wing of the party had won out. As the conservative journalist Robert Novak reported after attending a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Denver during the summer of 1963: “A good many, perhaps a majority of the party’s leadership, envision substantial political gold to be mined in the racial crisis by becoming in fact, though not in name, the White Man’s Party. ‘Remember,’ one astute party worker said quietly . . . ‘this isn’t South Africa. The white man outnumbers the Negro 9 to 1 in this country.’ ” The rise of a racially-identified GOP is not a tale of latent bigotry in that party. It is instead a story centered on the strategic decision to use racism to become “the White Man’s Party.”

The War on Christians in the Middle East. By Michael Gerson.

The War on Christians. By Michael Gerson. Real Clear Politics, December 27, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.

What the Middle East would be like without Christians. By Christa Case Bryant. The Christian Science Monitor, December 22, 2013.


In some parts of the world, Herod’s massacre of the innocents is a living tradition. On Christmas Day in Iraq, 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian districts of Baghdad. Radical Islamists mark — and stain — the season with brutality and intolerance.
The violence, of course, is not restricted by the calendar. In recent months, we’ve seen Coptic Christians gunned down in Cairo and churches burned. Thousands of Syrian Christians have fled to Turkey. “Where we live,” said one refugee, “10 churches have been burned down. ... When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave.
Across North Africa and the greater Middle East, anti-Christian pressure has grown during the past few decades, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. This persecution has gained recent attention from the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope. “We won’t resign ourselves,” says Pope Francis, “to a Middle East without Christians.”
The most passionate advocate has been Prince Charles — an often underestimated, consistently thoughtful figure. “For 20 years,” he said in a recent speech, “I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so.”
The growth of this persecution is sometimes used as a club against the very idea of democracy promotion. Middle East democracy, the argument goes, often results in oppressive Sunni religious ascendancy. Majority rule will bring the harsh imposition of the majority faith.
But this is the criticism of a caricature. Democracy promotion — as embraced by the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute or Freedom House — is about human liberty protected by democratic institutions. Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we’ve recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls. And even marginally more favorable dictators can’t be propped up forever, as we’ve also recently witnessed. So it matters greatly whether America and other democracies can help pluralism survive and shape the emerging political order.
This is a priority for both humanitarian and strategic reasons. As William Inboden of the University of Texas notes, there is a robust correlation between religious persecution and national security threats. “Including World War II,” argues Inboden, “every major war the United States has fought over the past 70 years has been against an enemy that also severely violated religious freedom.” The reverse is equally true. “There is not a single nation in the world,” he says, “that both respects religious freedom and poses a security threat to the United States.”
There are a number of possible explanations for this strong correlation. The most compelling is that religious freedom involves the full and final internalization of democratic values — the right to be a heretic or infidel. It requires the state to recognize the existence of binding loyalties that reach beyond the state’s official views.
It took many centuries for Christendom to achieve this thick form of pluralism. Whether the Islamic world can move toward its own, culturally distinctive version of this democratic virtue is now one of the largest geopolitical questions of the 21st century.
Some argue that Muslim theology — emphasizing fidelity to its conception of divine law — makes this unlikely (or impossible). Others point to past centuries when Muslim majorities and rulers coexisted with large Arab-Christian populations — a thin form of pluralism in which Christians were second-class citizens but not subject to violent intolerance. Every major religious faith contains elements of tribal exclusivity and teachings of respect for the other. The emergence of social pluralism depends on emphasizing the latter above the former.
Promoting democratic institutions is no easy task in the midst of revolution and civil war. But even limited levers — stronger condemnation of abuses, conditioning aid on the protection of minorities, supporting moderate forces in the region — are worth employing when the stakes are so high. America, however, seems strangely disengaged. “One of America’s oddest failures in recent years,” argue Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, “is its inability to draw any global lessons from its unique success in dealing with religion at home. It is a mystery why a country so rooted in pluralism has made so little of religious freedom.”
A recovery of that emphasis might begin with a simple commitment: not to resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.

How the U.S. Triumph in South Sudan Came Undone. By Colum Lynch.

How the U.S. Triumph in South Sudan Came Undone. By Colum Lynch. Foreign Policy, December 26, 2013. Also here.

The White House bet on guerrilla fighters changing their warring ways. Turns out it was a bad bet.

Drill Down. By Keith Johnson. Foreign Policy, December 23, 2013. Also here.


Earlier this month, Riek Machar, South Sudan’s first vice president, returned to what he knows best, leading an armed insurgency being fought by members of his Nuer tribe. In recent days, the fighting has escalated sharply, engulfing several of the country's 10 provinces, and bringing the young nation to the brink of civil war.
The stakes are high for the United States, as fighting threatens to upend one of the most important foreign policy initiatives of the last two decades in sub-Saharan Africa – one that unified Republicans, Democrats, African Americans, human rights advocates, and Christians. On Saturday, four U.S. troops were wounded when their V-22 Osprey came under fire during an aborted operation to evacuate U.S. nationals from the town of Bor. An additional 150 Marines have been sent to the region to prep for possible future evacuations.
It’s an extraordinary and painful development, given America’s major role in securing independence for South Sudan. But the toughest part for Americans to swallow may be that it’s the U.S.-backed leaders of South Sudan – the supposed good guys – that are responsible for plunging the country into chaos and threatening to wreck America's signature achievement in the region.
“A whole generation of U.S. leaders that are invested in the success of South Sudan are heartbroken; I’m heartbroken about what going on there, especially because you don’t see the hand of Khartoum in this,” said [U.S. diplomat] Cameron Hudson. “I think it’s going to be very [difficult] to get the genie back in to the bottle. These guys are good at fighting and they are comfortable doing it.”


But turning that oil promise into reality faces plenty of daunting challenges, as underscored by the violence in South Sudan over the last week. Security looms largest, because it is a precondition both to develop the oil itself and also to build the pipelines, roads, and rail lines the region needs to make energy development a reality. But cronyism, weak laws, poor governance, corruption, and domestic politics can combine to scuttle hopes of a quick energy-fired economic bonanza.
“There is a myth that many oil companies and policy makers subscribe to, which is that economic interests will trump everything else. What gets discounted, is that in some places in Africa, there is a different calculus. Tribal animosities, personal animosities, political grudges  all those weigh a lot heavier, and there are a lot of people willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces,” said the Atlantic Council’s J. Peter Pham.