Author Archives: Ron Lipsman

Is Israel Turning Inward?

Two recent, significant events in Israel highlight a major change in the Israeli people’s attitude toward their nation’s role in Middle Eastern affairs. These events were the January elections for a new Knesset (Parliament) and the just-concluded state visit of President Obama. The outcome of the elections befuddled virtually all of the international political prognosticators. Moreover, the impact of Obama’s visit – with the possible exception of a tentative rapprochement with Turkey – will be essentially nil. These surprising developments reflect a sea change in the Israeli public’s perception of the major issues confronting their nation and, more importantly, how their tiny country should deal with these issues – both those that were formerly anointed as the most pressing as well as those now recognized by the people as truly the most urgent.

From the moment of its birth, Israel has been under attack. The assault has been broad (emanating from its Arab neighbors, the Muslim world, the Communist nations, the UN and even from Europe), sustained (65 years with no respite), vicious (the attackers employ terrorism, bigotry-motivated  boycotts, bloodthirsty calumny and of course conventional war) and existential. Regarding the latter, while Israel’s foes have sought its destruction from the beginning, their former discretion about expressing their true intentions has given way to blatant and transparent statements of their desire to obliterate the Jewish nation and its people.

Not surprisingly, in response to the ongoing dire threat, Israel’s main objective for the last two-thirds of a century has been to confront and repel the threat; but equally importantly, to pursue policies that – they mistakenly believed – might at least ameliorate, but more hopefully terminate the constant assault. Israel’s governments have considered their primary responsibility to be: the protection of the homeland through a perpetual vigilance against and preparation for the never-ending belligerence of her enemies – which, as indicated, comprised Arabs, and more generally, Muslims, aided and abetted by hostile forces throughout the world. The primary focus, therefore, of the government, and of the people in general, was on foreign affairs, military preparedness and homeland security. It is true that during her existence, Israel has also managed to create a robust democracy, a vibrant economy, a fair amount of social cohesion and arguably the most successful ethnic nation-state on Earth. But the efforts of the people to create these successful societal components  always had to take second place to the more urgent need to defend the nation. The latter was on the mind of almost every Israeli almost all of the time.

Well, the threat has not vanished. One could even argue that, in light of: the “Arab spring” – in particular, its manifestations in Egypt and Syria; the ominous machinations of the Iranian regime; the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe; and the perceived diminution of American power and will, the threat is actually greater than ever. Nevertheless, signs abound that the Israeli people are turning their attention inward. Those signs include:

·        The recent election in which the results made clear that the people are far more interested in: internal economic disparities; the role of the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) community; the role of Israel’s internal Arab population; the nature of the government’s structure; and the social composition of society than they are in Arab “democrats,” Iranian fanatics, European BDSers or J-Street morons in America.

·        The tepid response to Barack Obama. Many worried that Obama’s barely concealed disdain for Israel and its government would spark demonstrations or other manifestations of displeasure during his visit. Not only did that not occur, but much of the Israeli public simply ignored him.(One should not be confused by the enthusiastic response of the hand-picked leftist audience at his Jerusalem “student” speech.)

·        Israel’s perfunctory intervention in Gaza last fall. Rather than a massive ground incursion, Israel satisfied itself with the minimum effort required to stop Hamas’ rockets – temporarily, of course.

·        Israel’s failure to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. Apparently Israel has calculated that either: it does not possess the requisite firepower and/or the resultant Hezbollah/Hamas retaliation would be too painful and/or maybe the Americans will take care of the problem after all and/or even with nukes the Iranians won’t be suicidal enough to attack Israel and/or Israel just doesn’t have the moxie. Whatever the reason, despite the continued tough rhetoric from Netanyahu, it is increasingly clear that no Israeli attack is forthcoming.

·        The intense focus on the economy, technological development, energy exploration and trade. These pursuits absorb and energize the public and the government far more than does the “peace process.”

·        Indeed, the near total lack of interest in the so-called Israel-Palestinian peace process is striking. It is a topic that garners less attention than at any time since the Six Day War.

A combination of fatigue, boredom and reality has set in. Regarding Israel’s’ relationship with the Arab/Muslim world, there is nothing new to say or do. The Palestinians in particular and the Arab/Muslim world in general are irreconcilably opposed to the existence of a sovereign Jewish nation in the heart of the Umma. It has been so for more than a hundred years and will likely remain so for at least another hundred years. No Israeli attitude, policy or action will change that. So why bother?

Israel is a formidable military power. It has defended itself successfully since the War of Independence and indications are that it will continue to be able to do so for the foreseeable future. Why obsess about it? There are no “peace plans” to be concocted that will add anything to the equation. Just keep the guns oiled, the intelligence flowing and morale high. Bullets mayfly again – as they have so often in the past. When they cease to whistle, nothing will have changed.

Look around! Western Civilization is in decline. In addition, the Muslim world remains mired in bigotry, medievalism, tribalism,political barbarity and economic ignorance. China, India and other rising powers are a long way from dominance. In the short term at least, there is no conceivable correlation of forces that is going to alter Israel’s status in the Middle East.

Finally, there are pressing domestic issues that Israel has ignored for far too long because of its laser focus on external affairs. It’s time to turn attention to the home front.

Israel has had relatively brief periods in which it has been similarly inclined – in the early/mid 1960s, in the mid/late 1970s, in the mid1980s. But events always intervened to draw the focus back to the incessant conflict. Regarding the three periods mentioned, the signal events marking their close were, respectively, the Six Day War, Sadat’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the First Intifada – followed of course by Oslo. Time will tell if this new, conceivably more intense, internal focus proves to be more enduring.


This essay also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:

Who Controls the Campus Agenda: The Faculty or Campus Administrators?

Faculty believe that it is their right and duty to set the campus agenda. Faculty expect to establish – either directly or indirectly – the main thrusts that their campuses will pursue. In particular, they see it as their prerogative to determine:
  •  the standards by which students – both graduate and undergraduate – will be admitted to campus;
  •  the research agenda of the various departments, institutes and colleges into which the faculty organize themselves;
  • which academic programs will be emphasized and which left to wither;
  • who their administrative leaders shall be – from program directors and research institute heads up to chairs, deans, provosts and presidents;
  • the academic and professional criteria according to which promotions are decided, grants are pursued, prizes are awarded,
    appointments are made and support staff are hired;
  • the extra-curricular menu of their campus – e.g., who shall receive official campus invitations to speak, what corporate
    collaborations to seek, which donors to cultivate, even what campus clubs shall receive official sanction.

Historically, the faculty actually did enjoy the capability to do all of these things. This was in part because it was viewed as the natural way to run a university, and in part because there were no countervailing forces to prevent it. The administrative layers that accompanied and facilitated faculty control of campuses were fairly thin. That is, the percentage of professional, full-time campus administrators was small compared to that of the faculty. Furthermore, many of them were drawn from the ranks of the faculty (to which they returned after relatively brief stints in campus administration) and so although these faculty functioned as administrators, they still thought of themselves as faculty and deported themselves accordingly.

All of this has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. The number of campus administrators has exploded. Instead of a single dean of an all-encompassing college of arts and sciences, we see a host of deans spearheading numerous units into which the large college has been split. These deans enjoy the support of a gaggle of assistant and associate deans, dragging in tow scores more chairs, heads and directors. This is accompanied by a proliferation of new academic units on campus – e.g., Urban Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies and countless other ‘Studies’ departments representing ‘compelling’ fields of academic study that we didn’t know existed in mid-twentieth century. These bogus departments are augmented by a slew of ‘indispensable’ administrative support units and positions — especially at the central campus level – all of which has resulted in an explosion of assistants, staff and advisors. The academic pedigree of these lower and mid-level administrators is notoriously weak. They – and, unfortunately too often, their senior level bosses – are not culled from the ranks of the tenured faculty. Finally, the money has followed the growth in size. The salaries of all this new campus uman infrastructure are high – in some cases bordering on the obscene.

The net effect is that while faculty are often under the mistaken impression that they continue to perform the duties outlined in the opening bulleted list, they in fact do not. Increasingly, the setting of academic priorities, the discharge of academic responsibilities and the establishment of the overall academic agenda is under the control of a vast, over-centralized bureaucracy of campus administrators – whose allegiance is often not to objective faculty goals but rather to narrow political agendas.

How did this come about and what are, and will be, the consequences? Here are the means by which this fundamental transformation of American academia has come about:

Societal. The movement toward centralized administrative control of academia mirrors similar trends in other facets of American society. The most obvious is the gargantuan growth in power and scope of the federal government. Americans seem to be losing faith in their society’s ability to solve its problems at the local, community or family level and, over the last 50 years, have been turning increasingly to a powerful, omnipresent, central government to manage the people’s most intimate affairs. Similar trends toward centralization of power can be observed in American corporate life, health care and the media. It’s not surprising, therefore, that a similar movement occurred in higher education. Incidentally, the same phenomenon is prevalent in K-12 education as well.
Specialization. The trend toward specialization in science, technology, even in the humanities has been well documented. The result has been the growth of little fiefdoms all over campus. In order to avoid Balkanization, all of these separate domains have been brought under the control of the all-powerful center.
Universal Higher Education. The American people have come to favor the idea of universal higher education – everyone should go to college and get a degree. It is self-evident how the movement to mass higher education has abetted the dramatic expansion of academic ‘choices’ on campus and the proliferation of specious academic programs – together with the personnel to administer them.
Money. Society has been throwing money at higher education at dizzying rates (large government and corporate grants, rapid and substantial rises in tuition and fees, generous federal and state subsidies, lavish endowments). Well, money always means
power. Often, faculty are too busy or too naïve to devote the requisite time to gain control of incoming funds. Administrators, on the other hand, are most expert at grabbing hold of and directing financial resources to their own liking.
Politics. It is well-documented that the nation’s faculty are overwhelmingly liberal in their politic outlook – especially, in the humanities and social sciences. Well, a less well-known fact is that campus administrators are even more so. This leads to faculty acquiescence toward central campus control since the overall campus milieu created by central administrators meets with faculty approval.
Secrecy and Duplicity. Campus administrators excel at creating structures, which lend the impression that faculty are in control. Universities commonly sport faculty senates, faculty advisory committees, faculty members on the Board of Regents, and various other official mechanisms, which suggest major faculty input into university governance. It’s all window dressing. The real power runs from the President down through the metastasizing labyrinth of campus administrators who make the critical decisions.
Accountability. Suspicion grew over the years that life-time tenure appointments for faculty could lead to abuses (as it sometimes does). Structures were put in place to mitigate. Annual faculty activity reviews, department and program reviews and periodic academic assessments by both internal and external committees – driven by the administrative contingent – has further sapped faculty energy and power.
Hegemony and Fear. As indicated above, the liberal mindset is pervasive on campus. Administrators have devised clever and forceful methods to ensure that it stays that way. Faculty who buck it are ostracized, sometimes even forced out. More commonly faculty dissidents are cowed and silenced by the threat to their career posed by past ostracization of those who flaunted their opposition. Heaven help those, for example, who fail to genuflect to the Diversity regime imposed by campus administrators.
Adjunct Faculty. Another well-documented phenomenon is the startling decrease in the percentage of instructional staff on campus comprised of tenured faculty. A rapidly growing percentage of university instruction is presented by adjunct faculty. The
latter have little interest and virtually no say in campus governance. It is not surprising that the decreasing percentage of regular academic faculty has less influence also.
So what have been the consequences of this transformation of campus power from the faculty to the administrators? Here are four deleterious ones; there are likely others:
    1. Politicization of the campus. There is an almost all-pervasive political bias on campus. Faculty and students who don’t parrot the liberal line – not just on politics, but also in science (e.g., climate and evolution), culture (gay marriage and     abortion) and economics (spending and taxes) – are viewed not only as wrong, but often as crazy. It is intimidating, tyrannical and completely contrary to what the nature of a campus environment should encompass. Education has been replaced by indoctrination.
    2. Lowering of academic standards. Because of the spread of meaningless studies programs, abuses of affirmative action, pressure for grade inflation and the silencing of the faculty, the academic standards of the university continue to slip.      Campuses have degenerated into diploma mills producing clones of the liberal people who run the place, not independent thinkers with innovative ideas – which is of course what universities are supposed to produce.

    4. Prohibitive cost. The explosive growth of the administrative clan has led to an unchecked growth in the cost of the product. Tuitions have skyrocketed; students graduate (or don’t graduate) after incurring enormous debt; increasingly the supposed  payoff in higher income that a university degree is supposed to ensure is disappearing and finally, the worth of the product that the universities are selling is called into question.

    6. Bubble. Which leads to the increasingly widespread belief that higher education is our nation’s next bubble. The situation outlined in #3 above is unsustainable. And as Stein’s Law says: ‘If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.’ A major crisis in higher education is waiting around a nearby corner. One wonders if one of the outcomes of the budding crisis will be a return to a more prominent role for academic faculty in university governance.


    This essay also appeared in The Land of the Free at:

The Future of Israel and Western Civilization

Offering a prognosis for the future of Israel and Western Civilization, while reviewing two books and a Commentary magazine essay on them addressed to the same topic

The West is in retreat. The European Union is beset by seemingly insolvable economic problems, a burgeoning, indigestible Muslim population and a near total loss of confidence in its Christian foundation. The English-speaking countries (the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) are also plagued by pending fiscal calamities, bloated governments that sap individual liberty, moral decay and declining confidence in the merits of their traditional ‘English way of life.’ Latin America never really signed on to the program; the nations of the East – although some flirted with Western style societies – move increasingly to authoritarianism, and the Middle East and Africa are awash in a radical Islamism that abhors Western Civilization.

However, the principle subject of this essay is the future of the tiny outpost of Western Civilization known as Israel. Receiving increasingly tepid support from its allies in the West; ignored if not disdained by disinterested parties in Arica, Latin America and the East; reviled and marked for death by the Muslim world; the beleaguered state of Israel faces a daunting task in trying to preserve its independence, prosperity, indeed its life. Thus it is legitimate to ask: What is its prognosis?

Purported answers are offered in two timely books, Israel: The Will to Prevail, by Danny Danon and The Promise of Israel: Why Its Seemingly Greatest Weakness Is Actually Its Greatest Strength, by Daniel Gordis. In addition, an extremely keen analysis of both books may be found in the December 2012 issue of Commentary Magazine, namely, Israel, the Will and {Promise, by Stephen Daisley. In these three venues, the prognosis for Israel is unrealistically optimistic in the two books and essentially avoided in the review. I will take a stab at a more realistic appraisal here.

As Daisley explains, Danon expresses a strong opinion on three major points: (i) the so-called Arab Spring does not represent the dawn of democracy in the Arab world, but rather the ‘eclipse of the forces of liberalism’ and the ascendance of Islamism; (ii) Israel is too subservient to American paternalism and must take a more independent, nationalistic stance; and (iii) the notion of a Palestinian state is anathema to Israel – the solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem must be found in a pre-1967 configuration, i.e., Gaza back to Egypt and the Arab peoples of the West Bank, but not the land, back to Jordan. So according to Danon:

‘In terms of dealing with Arab nations, many Israelis today have gone back to the warrior mentality of Ben-Gurion. We’re sick of hollow accords and grand ceremonies done for the camera’s sake. More of us are awakening every day to the fact that it takes more than a lovely ritual at the White House, with the accompanying smiles and handshakes and photo ops, to get anything real accomplished. Ben-Gurion was willing to pay a price for the security of Israel in international opprobrium, and so it is with a new generation of Israeli leaders. We also understand the necessity of shaping our fate by our own hands. If we have to pay a price with the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, so be it…What I am proposing here is a three-state solution. This would entail a regional agreement with Jordan, Egypt, and Israel that would give Palestinians land and other rights across these three areas — not land to form a distinct Palestinian state but land within the borders of these states as they exist now…A strong sense of Israeli nationalism must prevail if the state is to successfully overcome the current chaotic situation—even if that means contravening the wishes of U.S. administrations. Israel needs a new vision and direction; we need to take control of our own destiny and dictate our own history.’

Daisley assays Danon’s three opinions thus: he essentially agrees with (i); views (ii) as shortsighted and self-defeating; and (iii) as naïve and unrealistic. Turning to Gordis, Daisley correctly points out the vast difference in the nature of the two authors. While Danon is a politician and his book reads like that of one laying out a position paper in anticipation of the next election, Gordis is a philosopher and theologian who writes with penetrating insight, originality and eloquence. His book is elegantly crafted and cogently argued.

Gordis’ breathtakingly original idea is as follows: Inspired by the carnage that they inflicted upon themselves throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and reinforced by the omnipresent, menacing threat to safety posed by the Cold War, the Europeans (with the English-speaking nations eventually coming along) decided that the cause of the strife was to be found in the divisiveness inherent in the nation state structure of the continent. The separate entities, grounded in ethnic identification, religious particularism and capitalistic frenzy were inevitably in fierce competition with each other leading to conflict and war. The nation state concept had outlived its usefulness and a more comprehensive form of government (a more universal world order) needed to be established. Thus the European Union to start.

Alas, the Jews, based on their perceived self-impotence in the face of the Holocaust, decided exactly the opposite. They needed their own state in order to be able to live in safety and to pursue their own destiny. As time has progressed since the creation of Israel, the West has grown more fervent in its belief that the ethnic nation state must be superseded and tiny Israel flies in the face of that goal. It becomes an affront to the West and hence loses its support. But Gordis goes further – namely, the West is wrong and Israel is right. That is, without the ethnic nation state as the basis for organizing the world’s population, the world will lose its humanity, its people will lose their freedoms and human empathy and solidarity will evaporate in a haze of sameness. Thus, according to Gordis:

‘This book makes an audacious and seemingly odd claim. It suggests that what now divides Israel and the international community is an idea: the ethnic nation-state—a country created around a shared cultural heritage. This is what has the West so put out with Israel. Israel has lost its once-charmed status in the international arena, I argue, because of a “conflict over this very idea.

What is at stake in the current battle over Israel’s legitimacy is not merely the idea on which Israel is based, but, quite possibly, human freedom as we know it. The idea that human freedom might be at risk in today’s battles over Israel might seem far-fetched or hyperbolic. This book will argue that it is not, and that human beings everywhere thus have a great stake in what the world ultimately does with the Jewish state.”

Today’s infatuation with the notion that human difference ought to be papered over is not the first time that the world has embraced a dangerous and dead-end philosophical fad. In the past century alone, humanity has lived through infatuations with unfettered socialism, then with communism, and even with the belief in the nobility of imperialism. But Israel is a reminder to the world that there are moments when someone—be it a prophet in biblical times or a nation-state in today’s international community—has to speak truth to power and insist on what is right and true, regardless of how unpopular the idea is. Israel represents the argument that the nation-state is not a fad, but rather an ancient and still compelling vision for humanity.

Rather than pretend that all human beings were essentially the same, the Jews, thanks to their new country, would celebrate their differentness. In defiance of the world’s insistence on the denial of difference, Israelis chose … their own heritage over some imagined universal culture. Israel was a choice of difference over the ideal of sameness, a preference for the particular over the global, and for the Jews’ own story over some anemic panhuman narrative. But in making that choice to be different, the Jews—even though they could not then have fully anticipated how this might come back to haunt them and their young state—were embarking on a path that was destined to put them at odds with the prevailing ethos of Europe and much of the rest of the world.

In the inimitable words of Rabbi Sacks, ‘There is no road to human solidarity that does not begin with moral particularity—by coming to know what it means to be a child, a parent, a neighbor, a friend. We learn to love humanity by loving specific human beings. There is no short-cut. Identity and particularism are not obstacles to caring about others; they are the road to empathy, and from there they are the path to partnerships that labor for freedom.’

Daisley neither endorses nor rejects Gordis’ thesis. He is obviously impressed with the originality, scope and potential impact of what Gordis suggests. Daisley opines: ‘Gordis’ work is a small book with a big idea, and he should be commended for that. The public discourse is wanting for big ideas, particularly on Israel…Thus [according to Gordis] Zionism becomes not just a movement for Jewish national rights but a rear-guard action against cultural relativism and the self-immolation of the West.’ But while heaping praise on Gordis for his originality and depth of thought, Daisley offers no evaluation of the chance of success of implementing Gordis’ scheme, much less an opinion on its intrinsic merits. He just seems to be pleasantly surprised that anyone could have an original thought on the overworked ‘Israel problem.’

Western Civilization is in a battle for survival – a contest in which it doesn’t seem even to recognize that it is a combatant. Only Israel is aware of the contest – because its very survival is constantly and manifestly at stake. What has been its strategy to survive? What should it be? What is the prognosis?

Israel played offense from the end of the Second World War until the Six Day War in 1967. It girded itself to bring the State into existence, no matter the odds or the cost, then defended it vigorously in the aftermath and unabashedly expanded it when presented with the opportunity. But then it rested on its laurels and its game plan became more defense than offense. It announced to the world that in light of its historic victory, it should be clear – especially to the Arabs – that Israel was here to stay, that it would succeed and prosper, and that the Arabs, the Muslims, indeed the world should accept it as a permanent member of the community of nations. The Arabs/Muslims did no such thing – and the rest of the world (especially the West, for reasons explained by Gordis) is increasingly rejecting Israel’s assertion as well. Maybe it’s time to go back on offense.

And that is exactly what Danon and Gordis prescribe, although – as we have seen – with different strategies in mind. Now, Daisley obviously has no faith in Danon’s plans; and he takes a pass on the merit of Gordis’ strategy. Actually, there is an unmistakable undercurrent of disbelief, in Daisley’s essay, that anything worthwhile could come of Gordis’ ideas. Indeed, Daisley is correct. Both strategies – that of Danon and of Gordis – are unrealistic. Danon is correct that Israel’s acquiescence to a 23rd Arab State on the West Bank would be tantamount to suicide. It is totally obvious that the main objective of the Arabs who reside in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (and elsewhere) is the destruction of Israel and the murder or expulsion of its Jewish inhabitants. After that, whether those Arabs become an independent state or merge into a union with Jordan and/or Lebanon and/or Syria is of no consequence. The West does not care; it expects Israel to agree to the creation of such an entity. Even if this were not so, Danon’s plan requires the cooperation of Egypt and Jordan – and that is absolutely not forthcoming.

Gordis’ plan is even more ludicrous. It requires tiny Israel to convince the Western World that the ethnic nation state is a force for good in the world at exactly the moment that the West has reached precisely the opposite conclusion. This is beyond wishful thinking; it is hallucinatory. Talk about spitting into the wind. Were Israel to embark on a PR campaign along the lines suggested by Gordis, its standing among the western nations would plummet even further than it already has.

So what is Israel to do? If neither of the offensive strategies of Danon or Gordis is viable, should it continue to play defense? Well, one plays defense either to protect a lead – which is clearly not the case for Israel – or to bide one’s time until conditions change allowing one to go on offense. Israel has been and apparently remains committed to continue to wait for two things – only one of which it articulates to itself: (i) the Muslim world will accept the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East; (ii) the Western World will regain its footing and resume its leadership of the civilized world. Regarding (i), Vladimir and Estragon had a better chance of Godot showing up. There is absolutely no indication that such an occurrence could be expected in any remotely near time frame. As for (ii), it may be premature to write the final obituary for Western Civilization, but the trends of the last two generations have not been encouraging.

So Israel should perhaps jettison its defensive strategy and go on offense. How exactly? I wish I knew! Certainly if it believes that the West is not doomed, then Israel needs to work aggressively to convince the US and Europe that it is foolhardy and against their better interests not to back Israel 100%. Surely the West must come to the recognition that Israel is a kindred spirit, a bulkhead of freedom and a vital security asset. (As Alexander Haig once famously said: ‘Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.’) Israel should receive the West’s total backing against the reactionary, fundamentalist, anti-democratic and bigoted forces abreast in the Arab/Muslim world. Moreover, as the day draws near when the West will no longer rely on Middle Eastern oil, the incentive not to recognize Israel’s value decreases. Israel needs to be much more proactive in making its case along these lines. But if the West cannot see the validity of that reasoning, then it is a sign that Western Civilization is indeed doomed and Israel needs a Plan B.

If the West is in fact doomed, then what shall unfold in the world in the not too distant future is one of: (i) a new dark ages marked by anarchy, chaos, violence and poverty; or (ii) a balance of power between a small number of contending forces, like China, Islam, perhaps Russia or India or Brazil, and maybe the US – leading to some world stability, albeit without liberty or widespread prosperity; or (iii) Islamic domination of the planet; or (iv) something else.

Now how in the world can Israel plan for that? It would probably continue to play defense. But I suspect that to survive in any of these four unappetizing scenarios, some offense will be required. Its form at this moment is highly undetermined. But continuing to ‘lay back’ and expect the world to accommodate the most starkly ethnic nation state on Earth is perhaps the most unrealistic plan of all. So let us pray for America and the West to regain their footing. Israel can play a positive role in such a renaissance.

This essay/review also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at:
and in The Land of the Free at:
and finally in Think Israel at:

Understanding the Liberal Mindset

An attempt to explain the liberal mindset based on a simple, but striking example of liberal thought

A dear friend – let’s call him Jack, who is a very prominent and influential fellow in my community, recently penned a column in a local newsletter. In it, he speaks about his desire to express himself more forcefully on the central issues that confront our community. Indeed, he wishes to do more than express himself; he aspires to lead the community to formulate and implement solutions to some of the more serious problems that residents face. But then he specifies the key issues that he believes are ‘…facing us – gun violence, poverty, homelessness, hunger.’ He asserts that we must ‘…engage to try to ‘solve’ these huge challenges – in small and large ways. And as our community grows in size, and our potential to make a real difference starts to multiply, my desire to see our community engage in these issues grows too! ”

I confess that I am scratching my head at Jack’s list of issues that plague our community: ‘gun violence, poverty, homelessness, hunger.’ I think this list passing strange. In fact Jack is an eminent figure in a vibrant community of relatively prosperous suburbanites of all ages living in one of the most affluent, safe, beautiful and even diverse neighborhoods in the region – indeed, I vouchsafe, in the entire country. It is absolutely without question that aside from what could be no more than a miniscule percentage, no member of our community has encountered gun violence, poverty, homelessness or hunger recently – or indeed at any time in his or her own life.

Now I don’t want to give a false picture of an idyllic existence; the local community certainly does face some serious problems. Those that come to mind include the following:

  • Like all Americans, we inhabit an increasingly bankrupt nation (as well as a severely fiscally challenged State) – the burden of which we are laying off on our children. If we don’t get our fiscal house in order, then we – and certainly our children – will not enjoy for much longer the ‘idyllic existence’ of which we are so enamored and to which we are accustomed. The violence done to our economic well-being easily exceeds any inflicted by automatic weapons.
  • Again, like all Americans, we reside in a country and a neighborhood in which the prospects for the coming generations to live as well as we do is clearly diminished. The American dream is in jeopardy. What are we going to do about it?
  • Congestion, overly expensive housing and excessive government taxation and regulation make it difficult to sustain this idyllic corner of the world that we have created. How can we wisely mollify these real threats to our community – any one of which is a far more prevalent and serious problem than ‘hunger.’
  • A uniform political outlook in our local schools, libraries, government and media closes the minds of our children to any questioning of the politically correct atmosphere that permeates our local society. The only homelessness that is evident in our community is attached to those who profess an alternate outlook.
  • American culture is saturated with pornography, vulgarity, permissiveness media violence and a growing disrespect for religion. Is that the ‘poverty’ (of spirit) that keeps Jack awake at night?

When I converse with my neighbors, I can detect other common problems that might trouble Jack – e.g., neglected children due to parents who work long hours to pay for the trappings of the good life that we enjoy; broken marriages and other familial crises that deprive children of a happy and nurturing home life; a stagnant economy that cripples economic opportunity and advancement; increasing alienation from religious faith as exemplified by dwindling church attendance, moral decay and the proliferation of ‘alternate lifestyles.’ But nowhere do I see anyone who has been victimized by gun violence, nor anyone who is hungry, homeless or poverty-stricken. How in heaven’s name can Jack identify these as the central issues ‘facing us?’

Well here is my stab at an answer. Certainly violence, poverty, hunger and homelessness are serious problems in many parts of the world, and in some parts of our nation. When we learn of tragedies associated with these afflictions – be it a Sandy Hook shooting or pictures in the news of a filthy, street-dwelling, vagabond roaming a blighted urban neighborhood – our hearts are rent and we wish that our world could be spared the horror of these calamities. Now compare those poignant tragedies to the more personal dilemmas we face: not enough of a salary raise this year; my wife and I are working so hard that there is barely any time left for each other; my prepubescent son is being bullied in school; or God forbid, my eldest daughter is dating a gangbanger. The liberal mind is haunted far more by the former than the latter. He/she ruminates: if we can fix these ‘global,’ horrific problems, then the world would be good and trivial matters like a faltering personal economy will be much easier to deal with.

Since the dawn of civilization, there has been a dichotomy in the human soul between the universal and the particular. Conservatives tend to focus on the particular – particularly when it comes to the world’s faults. For liberals, the universal is the way to calm the soul. In a way, I admire Jack that he is so deeply troubled personally by a nameless homeless person whose visage on TV moves him to action. I applaud the emotion; but I believe that Jack would be more successful at healing the world if he kept his attention focused on the more visceral needs of his friends and neighbors in the community.

Obama’s Minions and the 2014 Game Plan

Obama’s selections for his second term senior leadership team reveal quite clearly what his game plan is for the next two years – and for the following two, for that matter. His picks, including Susan Rice (thwarted), John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan, Jack Lew and Eric Holder, are all cut from the same cloth. In terms of both domestic and foreign policy, they represent the same hard left viewpoint as their boss. They have virtually no private sector experience, no appreciable record of cooperation or accommodation with Republicans or conservatives and a near total fealty to the redistributionist, statist, multicultural, America-denigrating philosophy that animates and motivates our ‘transformational’ president.

Obama enjoyed control of both the executive and legislative branches of government during his first two years in office. He used it to dramatically advance the transformational philosophy that he espouses. His aim is to refashion America away from its traditional founding as a constitutional republic based on individual liberty, free market capitalism, religiously-grounded morality, limited government and a devotion to the ideal of America as a shining example and promoter of freedom throughout the world. Instead he envisions a collectivist, Euro-style social welfare state marked by an overwhelmingly powerful central government, a government–controlled corporate economy, a secular, multicultural populace that favors equality over liberty, and a nation whose place among the nations of the world is no more exalted than any other.

It is true that America has been moving in the direction Obama favors for a century – including several major surges to the left under Wilson, FDR and LBJ. Now Obama means to complete the transformation and during his first two years, he had great success along those lines (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, two ultra-liberal Supreme Court appointments, gays in the military, among others). But the American people threw a monkey wrench in the works in the 2010 midterm elections. However, unlike Bill Clinton, who – when faced with a similar setback – tacked to the right and actually implemented several center-right initiatives (a balanced budget and welfare reform, e.g.), Obama conceived a different response.

He spent the last two years picking fights with Republicans, castigating conservatives, refusing to cooperate at all with the House’s efforts to reduce the federal debt and deficit, excoriating his electoral opponent and then blaming the Republicans for the ensuing stalemate. It worked – he got re-elected. But, although he retained the Senate, he failed to take the House.

Therefore, the strategy for the next two years is clearly more of the same. The consequences will be dire: the debt explosion will continue; economic stagnation will persist; our foreign enemies will grow stronger and bolder. And Obama believes – likely correctly – that he can lay all the blame on the House Republicans. The goal then is to retake the House in 2014 and then to complete the transformation of America. Should he succeed, in the years 2014-2016, we shall see: cap and trade, a value added tax, card check, amnesty for illegal aliens, a further dramatic military drawdown, and a slew of other collectivist legislation and regulation that will indeed complete the transformation of the country into the United Socialist States of America.

Three final points:

  1. The American people freely chose the route traveled thus far. It is folly to assume that, without some major wake-up call, they will not complete the choice in 2014.
  2. We have seen the future of Obama’s America. It is represented at best by an England that is a zephyr of an international force in comparison to its 300-year history of world power; and at worst by Greece with its declining standard of living, political and cultural paralysis, and civil unrest.
  3. If Congressional Republicans will recognize Obama’s strategy, they might begin to devise some tactics to counter it. Attempts to compromise with Obama will either bear no fruit or, like recent examples, will yield poison fruit that will be blamed on Republicans. Conservatives must articulate to the American people what lies in store for them if Obama succeeds. Hopefully, what remains of traditional America (presumably 53%) will awaken and thwart Obama’s socialist designs for our country.
This article also appeared in The American Thinker at: