I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
- James Baldwin
This week's featured article is "The Islamic State: Separating Insight from Stereotype".
This week everybody was talking about what the Islamic State wants
It all started with "What ISIS Really Wants" in The Atlantic. The reason that article inspired so much back-and-forth is that it's the hardest kind of article to sort out: one that contains both major insights and major flaws. So I want to encourage you both to learn from it and not to be fooled by it. Hence this week's featured article.
and who loves America
One measure of our democracy's lack of vitality is the triviality of the things we talk about. This week at a Scott Walker event, Rudy Giuliani said:
I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.
Walker avoided committing himself, saying that he doesn't know whether Obama loves America. He also doesn't know whether Obama is Christian.
People who had any substantive vision of their own to put forward wouldn't be talking about stuff like this.
And if we're going to talk about loving America, consider this: After 9-11, President Bush's approval rating shot above 90%, because when the country was threatened, liberals lined up behind a president they didn't like and didn't even necessarily believe had legitimately won the election. How many conservatives love America like that?
and Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress
It's really a weird situation: Congress is providing a platform for a foreign leader to campaign for re-election by denouncing American policy. Rabbi David Teutsch has responded with his "first fully public statement criticizing a sitting Israeli government official".
Netanyahu has stated that in coming to speak to Congress, he represents the voice of world Jewry. At best, that claim is a delusion, and at worse, a self-serving lie. There has never been any one person able to speak for world Jewry, an ideologically, theologically, and culturally diverse group of communities. He surely does not speak for me, nor for thousands of active, Jews committed to Israel.
Back when JFK was running for president, anti-Catholic rhetoric said that Catholics couldn't be loyal Americans, because their first loyalty was to the Pope. Anti-Semites say the same thing about American Jews and Israel. This kind of rhetoric from Netanyahu doesn't help. M.J. Rosenberg responds:
If American Jews feel that they are being forced to choose between the United States and Israel, there can be little doubt that they will choose the country they live in and to which they have always been devoted. Netanyahu is playing with fire when he even hints at such a choice.
On the substance of the issue Netanyahu wants to talk about -- a nuclear deal with Iran -- see James Fallows.
and you also might be interested in ...
One question that I hope gets raised repeatedly in the 2016 presidential campaign is: Can conservatives acknowledge past mistakes and learn new lessons?
Paul Krugman raised that question with regard to economic policy. He notes that Scott Walker and Rick Perry have been courting the supply-side economics crowd, whose predictions have been consistently wrong for the past eight or nine years: Not only didn't they see the real-estate bubble or the Great Recession coming, but they have spent the Obama years warning about the return of inflation and high interest rates -- the exact opposite of what has been happening.
It also came up this week when Jeb Bush made a lackluster foreign policy speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. (He read the text as if his speechwriters had left it sitting on the podium and he was seeing it for the first time.) His claims to be his "own man" clashed with his list of foreign-policy advisers, nearly all of whom were architects of his father and brother's foreign policy -- including Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney's only rival for the title "The Man Most Consistently Wrong About Iraq".
Krugman sums up:
Across the board, the modern American right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there. ... If anything, alleged experts seem to get points by showing that they’re willing to keep saying the same things no matter how embarrassingly wrong they’ve been in the past.
Whether they share his name or not, Republican presidential candidates (other than maybe Rand Paul) still seem to be running for George W. Bush's third term. Even after eight years to think about it, they have announced no lessons that they have learned from the across-the-board failures of his first two terms.
Matt Yglesias has a good analysis of the gender wage gap.
Ben Carson says that all's fair in war. I'm afraid to ask him about love.
OK, that was too flip. What Carson actually did was object to fighting a "politically correct war". Instead, he said: "If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war. Other than that, we have to win."
What is lost in this point of view -- and marks Carson as dangerously naive in military affairs -- is that the tactics of war have to serve the objectives of war. If your objectives are more subtle than just "kill everybody and come home", you need rules of engagement, and you need to punish soldiers who break those rules.