Defense

Yes, America should come first in its foreign policy

If Twitter is useful for one thing, it’s keeping your finger on the dying pulse of American intellectual debate. There was a point in the most recent Republican debate — was it the 42nd or 43rd such event? — when Ted Cruz mentioned that he wanted an “America-first foreign policy.” I’m late commenting about this, but it’s amazing what’s controversial these days: Cruz’s critics seized on the remark as evidence of some alleged “isolationism.” Their trick was to link Cruz to the America First Committee of the early 1940s, designed to keep the United States out of the Second World War and backed by genuine isolationists like Charles Lindbergh.

Of course, anyone who pays attention to what his opponents actually say, as opposed to what he wants them to have said so he can wage reputational warfare on them, knows that this is not what Cruz or his like-minded contemporaries believe. (more…)

Will Putin Save Christians in the Middle East?

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I have written the cover story for the December 11, 2015, issue of The Catholic Herald on whether Vladimir Putin can save Middle Eastern Christians. More broadly, I consider some of the religious and strategic dimensions of Russian foreign policy:

If there’s one mistake any analyst can make, however, it is to assume that a group or person has only one goal.

To ask whether Putin is interested in helping Christians or enhancing Russia’s power in the Middle East is to offer a false choice. It is entirely possible that he is interested in both. It is also possible that he sees the enhancement of Russian power in the Middle East as synonymous with the protection of Christianity.

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Free to Choose?

In my latest piece for The Weekly Standard, I review David Boaz’s book The Libertarian Mind, which, though brilliant and well written, unintentionally reveals why libertarianism does not command broader support:

Arguing that libertarianism has become increasingly popular, Boaz cites the declining support for central economic planning. He does not acknowledge (or, perhaps, does not realize) that socialism has pivoted from economics to culture. Most radical leftists these days don’t care about nationalizing heavy industry; they are concerned mainly with putting traditional Western culture through a kind of Maoist struggle session. Since the libertarian theory of freedom is highly rationalist, based on axioms and syllogisms, its proponents are at a disadvantage against such irrational and illogical attacks.

That’s why culture, often deftly avoided by free market thinkers, is so important to sustaining political liberty. Libertarians ignore just how much their philosophy derives from (and depends on) Western culture; thus they ignore how shifts in that culture affect the reception and survival of libertarian ideas. They tend to think that since libertarianism is logical and internally consistent, everyone will eventually accept it​—​a very Whiggish, and very dangerous, belief.

Read the whole thing here.

The Other War on Terror

In The Weekly Standard, I review Adam Zamoyski’s Phantom Terror, a study of European monarchs’ paranoia regarding the threat of subversion and terrorism after the French Revolution:

Time and again, rulers construed uprisings not as expressions of discontent—the stimulus for action was more likely to be a bad grain harvest than a radical pamphlet—but as grand conspiracies hatched by shadowy maestros. The locus of Europe’s subversion was thought to be a body called the comité directeur. From its perch in Paris, this imagined group was the alleged central committee of European discontent, the heirs of Robespierre and Saint-Just.

Like all fantastical masterminds, the comité was everywhere and nowhere. Utterly convinced of its existence, European authorities whiffed its influence in every protest and every disturbance.

Read the whole thing here.