America Untethered

“For the first time in my 72 years, I have no idea what’s going on,” writes Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Henry Allen, in the Wall Street Journal. “We are all outsiders with no inside to be outside of…What a strange time it is to be alive in America.”

What a strange time indeed.

Since President Barack Obama and the Democrats committed to “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Americans find themselves increasingly perplexed by events–untethered to the immutable, reliable reality of life in an ordered society. Police are the enemy. Marijuana is legal. Marriage is redefined. Iran is a negotiating partner.

What’s happened?

The American Left increasingly exchanges its championship of liberal virtues for support of the avant garde. Ronald Brownstein and Libby Isenstein of National Journal provide a series of charts showing how the Democrat Party has realigned politically while the Republican Party changed much more modestly. These charts, sourced with data gathered in Pew Research Center surveys, show that the percentage of Democrats self identifying as “very liberal” has dramatically increased since 1996. On some issues, too, Democrats have “evolved” more substantially than the general public.

Judging by Obama’s drive to normalize relations with Cuba and to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, there appears no slowing of the Democrats’ trend.

This helps make the 2016 election so crucial.

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, makes this very case.

“The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake…Now…the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread.”

Barnes’ assertion rings true. But how does it connect to Democrats’ unmooring America from once accepted social norms and order? The answer rests in the courts–specifically, the Supreme Court.

“Four justices are 76 or older. Two…are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote.”

Control of the Supreme Court affects lower court rulings and much of America’s character for generations. Liberals understand this and cheer whenever their agenda is codified by courts. The implications of these decisions will outlast us–and likely our offspring as well.

Unfortunately, pundits deem every election “The Most Important Election in the Entire History of Civilization.” Americans, myself included, tire of the superlative and consider it nothing more than talking heads crying wolf. Considering the Democrat Party’s sharp leftward turn, though, there is something to be said about using the 2016 election to take stock of where we are, where we came from, and where we want to go, before these changes are cast in stone by a liberal Supreme Court.

A Republican president elected in 2016 will likely preside over the retirements of justices Ginsburg, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer. With a friendly Congress, these judges could be replaced with strong conservatives. At the end of one term, Justice Thomas will reach 70 years old and Alito will be 69, granting the next president the opportunity to replace six Supreme Court justices.

On the other hand, a Democratic president could do the same, if he/she enters the White House in 2016, leaving us to collectively ponder the rest Allen’s quote:

“I worry that reality itself is fading like the Cheshire cat, leaving behind only a smile that grows ever more alarming.”

Iran Deal Epitomizes the Wrong Way to Encourage Peace

Capitulating to Oppressors Breeds More Oppression


Peter Beinart writes a piece in The Atlantic that elucidates the folly of constructivist political theory and President Barack Obama’s role in negotiations with Iran. Beinart expresses hope that the nuclear deal with Iran could bring Democracy to the nation and improve human rights conditions. Rather than rely on military threats, sanctions, and isolation to urge Iran in the right direction, he argues that a conciliatory approach bore fruit historically and can do so today. The theory belies logic and the price of failure is high.

Beinart highlights the case of Akbar Ganji, a journalist jailed in Iran for calling on the country to replace its theocracy with a democracy. Ganji has since been released and has fled Iran. From his safe haven, he argues that the Iranian people live in fear resulting from economic sanctions and military threats from the United States and Israel.

“If the United States and its allies ‘are truly interested in the development of democracy in Iran…they should set aside military threats and economic sanctions.”

Beinart agrees.

He chastises hawks’ simplistic view of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War successes:

“Reagan entered the White House in 1981, built up the American military, sent arms to anti-communist rebels, refused to negotiate arms-control deals, called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire,’ and, presto, the Berlin Wall fell.”

Instead, Beinart argues, Reagan de-escalated the Cold War by meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev without preconditions, cooling bellicose rhetoric, and signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

“The lesson,” Beinart writes, is “that imposing sanctions and threatening war rarely strengthen human rights. It’s usually the reverse.”

With this in mind, the Iranian nuclear talks have devolved from the U.S. and her European allies calling on Iran to dismantle its nuclear program to now–a complete reversal of previous U.S. positions. The Wall Street Journal editorial page lists some of these major departures:

“Obama has already conceded that Iran can keep enriching uranium, that it can maintain 5,060 centrifuges to do the enriching, that its enriched-uranium stockpiles can stay inside Iran, that the once-concealed facilities at Fordow and Arak can stay open (albeit in altered form), and that Iran can continue doing research on advanced centrifuges.”

In addition to these concessions, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants an immediate repeal of economic sanctions and no inspections under any conditions of Iran’s military sites. Whatever demands the West makes on Iran must be upheld, or else the sanctions will immediately “snap back,” President Obama claims. How these sanctions will be immediately reimposed remains unclear. According to Beinart, though, caving to the Ayatollah would benefit more people than currently face harm through sanctions and the fear of war.

So why, Beinart asks, “in the face of all this evidence…do American hawks…still overwhelmingly oppose Obama’s diplomatic openings?”

Americans believe in carrots and sticks. Reward for good behavior and punishment for bad. We fear that granting concessions to brutal dictatorships will encourage more brutal dictatorships. In particular, dictators motivated by antisemitism stop at very little to kill Jews. Beinart doesn’t negate this possibility in his piece, even calling on American leaders to “criticize dictatorships.” Apparently, though, when that criticism goes so far as to call a murderous regime “evil,” a red line has been crossed.

So, what should the West do to discourage despotism?

Neorealists/neoliberals argue that coalitions built around pro-social behaviors create a cohort of nations that benefit from cooperation. NATO, WTO, the World Bank and IMF, name some of the multinational entities that work under this assumption. Nations allowed to participate in these organizations prosper. Those that don’t, don’t.

America started the neoliberal model after the end of World War II left so much of the world in shambles. Up until that point, the wealthiest and most powerful nations ruled the globe single-handedly until their power waned enough to allow a rival to topple the world order and claw to the top of the heap. The neorealist model dispatches with that practice. Neoliberalism encourages leaders to allow a free press, hold elections, curb aggression against their neighbors–all in order to join some of the multinational groups that work hand in hand toward mutual benefit.

Beinart and Obama appear bent on a constructivist approach that offers carrots with no sticks. They believe that by lifting sanctions and capitulating to despots, they uphold human rights for the unfortunate subjects of Iran and similar countries. In reality, they allow bloodthirsty dictators the means to build tools to violate the sovereignty and human rights of people in other countries.

Reality, though, is not a place where constructivism thrives.