General Eisenhower speaks with paratroopers prior to the invasion. (Photo via Library of Congress)
Seventy years ago this June 6, the Americans, British, and Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion of Europe since the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 B.C.
About 160,000 troops landed on five Normandy beaches and linked up with airborne troops in a masterful display of planning and courage. Within a month, almost a million Allied troops had landed in France and were heading eastward toward the German border. Within eleven months the war with Germany was over.
The Washington Post reports that some members of Secretary of State John Kerry’s senior staff think it’s time to say “enough” of Kerry’s futile and delusional attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Arabs and implement the “two-
state solution.” That’s a revelation one would think the chief diplomat of the greatest power in history would have experienced decades ago. Since the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, it has been obvious to all except the duplicitous, the ignorant, and the Jew-hater that the Arabs do not want a “Palestinian state living in peace side-by-side with Israel,” something they could have had many times in the past. On the contrary, as they serially prove in word and deed, they want Israel destroyed.
As Caroline Glick documents in her new bookThe Israeli Solution, the “two-state solution” is a diplomatic chimera for the West, and a tactic for revanchist Arabs who cannot achieve their eliminationist aims by military means. But the “Palestinian state” is merely one of many myths, half-truths, and outright lies that befuddle Western diplomats and leaders, and put the security and possibly the existence of Israel at risk.
First there is the canard that Israel is somehow an illegitimate state, a neo-imperialist outpost that Westerners created to protect their economic and geopolitical interests. In this popular myth, invading Jewish colonists “stole” the land and ethnically cleansed the region of its true possessors, the indigenous “Palestinian people.” This crime was repeated after 1967 Six Day War, when Israel seized the “West Bank,” occupying it as a colonial power and subjecting its inhabitants to a brutally discriminatory regime. The continuing power of this lie Continue reading “Israel’s Worst Enemy: Lies and Myths”→
There is a pastime among liberal pundits — the latest is Nicholas Kristof — to quote a new center left global ranking (with unbiased titles such as “The Social Progress Imperative”) and then to decry that the United States is behind its major industrial competitors in things like “Internet Access” and “Ecosystem sustainability.” The subtext of these rants is that an illiberal, reactionary U.S. does not spend enough on government entitlements to promote parity, equality and social justice among its citizenry. These pessimistic rankings increase the angst about the American condition when viewed from scowling perches in Washington or New York.
Not surprisingly, the winners in these periodic gloomy assessments are usually smaller or intermediate quasi-socialist nations, with mostly homogeneous ethnic and religious populations (e.g., Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, etc.). And the result is that Americans are scolded to tone down their pride at being exceptional and to begin to emulate such supposedly more livable societies.
Yet I suppose that if you were to assess, say, the mostly 5.6 million homogenously well off Californians, who lived within 10 miles of the coast, from San Diego to Berkeley, they would compare quite nicely with Denmark. Or for that matter, should the Danish system be applied to 300 million in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, I also think that they would sink a bit in terms of social progress.
The criteria by which America is to be judged are often both biased and historically ignorant. Why not rank the United States in comparison with other similarly huge countries that span three time zones, and include in their enormous populations radically different ethnic and religious groups? Continue reading “Why Aren’t We No. 1?”→
President Obama talks about Vladimir Putin as if he were a Pennsylvania “clinger” who operates on outdated principles, who is driven by fear, and whom unfortunately the post-Enlightenment mind of even Barack Obama
cannot always reach. Deconstruct a recent CBS News interview with President Obama, and the limitations of his now-routine psychoanalyses are all too clear. Consider the following presidential assertions:
Obama said in the CBS interview that Vladimir Putin was “willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union.”
Is that any surprise? Why would Putin not “show a deeply held grievance” — given that Russians enjoyed far more pride and influence when they had far more territory and power than they do now? Just because elites in the West might consider Denmark and Luxembourg model societies, given their per capita incomes, ample social services, high-speed mass transit, and climate-change sensitivities, does not necessarily mean that the grandchildren of Stalingrad and Leningrad would agree. Continue reading “Obama’s Enlightened Foolery”→
At a time when terrorism committed in the name of Islam is rampant, we are continuously being assured—especially by three major institutions that play a dominant role in forming the Western mindset, namely, mainstream media,
academia, and government—that the sort of Islam embraced by “radicals,” “jihadis,” and so forth, has nothing to do with “real” Islam.
“True” Islam, so the narrative goes, is intrinsically free of anything “bad.” It’s the nut-jobs who hijack it for their own agenda that are to blame.
More specifically, we are told that there exists a “moderate” Islam and an “extremist” Islam—the former good and true, embraced by a Muslim majority, the latter a perverse sacrilege practiced by an exploitative minority.
But what do these dual adjectives—“moderate” and “extremist”—ultimately mean in the context of Islam? Are they both equal and viable alternatives insofar as to how Islam is understood? Are they both theologically legitimate? This last question is particularly important, since Islam is first and foremost a religious way of life centered around the words of a deity (Allah) and his prophet (Muhammad)—the significance of Continue reading “Why ‘Moderate Islam’ is an Oxymoron”→
For three centuries the West built up enormous economic, cultural, and military capital that dwarfs and dominates that of the rest of the world. Other countries may hate and resent Europe and the United States, but they still have to imitate, adapt, or steal the technology, financial systems, and even popular culture of the West. Yet this dominance has come at a price for Westerners, one that contains the seeds of our decline.
One baleful effect of this achievement has been the erosion of the virtues and ideals that created Western dominance in the first place, a phenomenon long recognized as the cost of national success. Two thousand years ago the Roman historian Livy, surveying the wreckage of the Roman Republic, invited his reader to contemplate the “life and manners” of his ancestors that led to their dominance, and “then, as discipline gradually declined, let him follow in his thoughts their morals, at first as slightly giving way, next how they sunk more and more, then began to fall headlong, until he reaches the present times, when we can neither endure our vices, nor their remedies.” Livy specifically linked this decline to the vast increase of wealth that followed the success of Rome, and that “introduced avarice, and a longing for excessive pleasures, amidst luxury and a passion for ruining ourselves and destroying every thing else.”
Clichés, one might say, but no less true for that. The astonishing wealth of the West, more widely distributed than in any other civilization, the abandonment of religion as the foundation of morals and virtues, the transformation of political freedom into self-centered license, and the commodification of hedonism that makes available to everyman luxuries and behaviors once reserved for a tiny elite, have made self-indulgence and the present more important than self-sacrifice and the future. Declining birthrates, a preference for Continue reading “Western Arrogance and Decline”→
By the beginning of 1980, Jimmy Carter was in big trouble. Almost everything he had said or done in foreign policy over the prior three years had failed — and he was running for reelection.
Carter had come into office in 1977 promising a new American stance abroad predicated on human rights. He bragged of an end to our supposedly inordinate fear of Soviet-inspired Communism. He entertained the hope of not losing a single American soldier in combat during his tenure. And he rejected the realpolitik of the Nixon-Kissinger years.
The State Department would end the excessive influence of the bellicose National Security Council. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance would put a kinder, gentler face on American diplomacy. We championed Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe over more moderate black reformers. We broke with the Shah of Iran, who fled his country in January 1979. We for a while praised the Ayatollah Khomeini and sought ways to reach out to him. Carter’s U.N. ambassador, Andrew Young, called Khomeini “some kind of saint.” Young met secretly with PLO representatives in Kuwait. In an interview, he falsely alleged of his own country that “We still have hundreds of people that I would categorize as political prisoners in our prisons.” Continue reading “A New Obama Doctrine?”→
In critique of the George W. Bush administration, and in praise of the perceived foreign-policy restraint of Obama’s first five years in the White House, a persistent myth has arisen that Obama is reminiscent of Eisenhower — in the sense of being a president who kept America out of other nations’ affairs and did not waste blood and treasure chasing imaginary enemies.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Andrew Bacevich, Fareed Zakaria (“Why Barack Is like Ike”), and a host of others have made such romantic, but quite misleading, arguments about the good old days under the man they consider the last good Republican president.
Ike was no doubt a superb president. Yet while he could be sober and judicious in deploying American forces abroad, he was hardly the non-interventionist of our present fantasies, who is so frequently used and abused to score partisan political points.
There is a strange disconnect about Eisenhower’s supposed policy of restraint, especially in reference to the Middle East, and his liberal use of the CIA in covert operations. While romanticizing Ike, we often deplore the 1953 coup in Iran and the role of the CIA, but seem to forget that it was Ike who ordered the CIA intervention that helped to lead to the ouster of Continue reading “Obama: Ike Redivivus?”→
This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and we should reflect on the “lessons” we have been taught so often on how to avoid another such devastating conflict. Chief among them seems to be the canard that the Versailles Treaty of 1919 that officially ended the war caused a far worse one just 20 years later — usually in the sense of an unnecessary harshness accorded a defeated Imperial Germany.
The humanities are in their latest periodic crisis. Though the causes of the
ongoing decline may be debated, everyone accepts the dismal news about eroding university enrollments, ever fewer new faculty positions, the decline in majors, and the lack of jobs for humanities graduates. Less than 8% of current BA degrees are awarded to humanities majors. The New York Times recently reported that while 45% of the undergraduate faculty at Stanford teach in the humanities, only 15% of the students major in them.
Of course, the numbers of humanities majors have been in decline since the 1970s. But what seems different today is that the humanities are less sacrosanct in the university. Literature, philosophy, and art are no longer immune from budget cuts by virtue of their traditional intrinsic value to the university. Either Continue reading “The Death of the Humanities”→