A survey of 2,504 French adults found that 69 percent of respondents would not buy products labeled ‘made in Israel.’
Europe’s highest court isn’t exactly telling everybody to boycott Israeli food and wine. But they’re doing their darnedest to ensure Europeans don’t buy them.
For anyone who missed the news, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled last week that food and wine produced by Jewish Israelis beyond the Green Line must be explicitly marked: “‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ could be used.”
Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University Scalia Law School, considers the new labels “a new kind of Yellow Star on Jewish-made products.” He told The Federalist that the CJEU’s labeling requirements “are not geographic—they are not about where something was made but by whom.” Kontorovich added, “They’re not even pretending that the rules they’re applying to Israel are the rules they’re applying to the rest of the world.”
Readers may recall that when the court’s advocate general suggested such labeling earlier this year, his reasoning was that consumers needed “neutral and objective information.” But this outcome is neither neutral nor objective. As Marc Greendorfer, president of Zachor Legal Institute, which battles Israel boycotts, emailed, “That the court contravened established principles of international law to wrongly stipulate the status of the disputed areas (as occupied) exposes the fact that this ruling was about taking sides in a political dispute.”
“Labels are not the place to engage in political debate,” Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, which participated in this case, told The Federalist.Indeed, product labeling is supposed to be about health and safety. Labels also help consumers shop “ethically” or “responsibly.” But if a consumer factors politics into those decisions and wants to avoid Israeli goods, why is it so important to specify where in Israel those goods are produced?
According to a 2017 poll conducted by Opinion Way for the Lawfare Project, a survey of 2,504 French adults found that 69 percent of respondents would not buy products labeled “made in Israel.” That number rose to 75 percent if labels read “West Bank, Israeli colony/settlement.” So more detailed labeling would clearly shift some shoppers’ habits, but those figures are already startlingly high.
While the CJEU may not be declaring a boycott with this ruling— after all, it remains legal to import Israeli goods — they are nudging consumers in that direction. Even the U.S. State Department, which typically avoids criticizing allies, expressed “deep concern,” calling “the circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement . . . suggestive of anti-Israel bias.” They also rightly noted that “this requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel,” a movement Germany’s own parliament considers antisemitic, and even Nazi-like.
This decision is not focused on informing consumers about unconscionable behavior across the globe (e.g., the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs) or highlighting the world’s many disputed territories (see: Western Sahara, Cyprus, and Crimea for starters). It is about ostracizing the world’s only Jewish nation and unilaterally redrawing Israel’s borders via economic pressure.
The aforementioned French survey underscores just how widespread popular prejudice against Israel is in France, long home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. Rather than calm that prejudice, the CJEU panders to it, inflames it, and now embeds it in law. So it won’t be surprising if antagonism to Israel keeps rising in France and the rest of Europe. Stigmatizing Israel now has the gloss of official, legal respectability.
The whole episode is offensive. Consider, this long-awaited decision was scheduled for release on November 12. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum reminds us that date is significant, as “just 2 days after the end of Kristallnacht [in 1938], the Nazi government issued the Decree on the Elimination of the Jews from Economic Life. Banned from owning shops or selling any kind of good or service, most Jews lost their livelihoods entirely.”
Further, by establishing a unique standard for Israel, this decision fits the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, cited in the United Nations’ recent report on global antisemitism. So it’s rich for the European Commission to tell Fox News, “Any suggestion that indication of origin on products coming from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory or in the occupied Golan has anything to do with targeting Jews or anti-Semitism is unacceptable. The EU stands strongly and unequivocally against any form of anti-Semitism.”
Check out that loaded word choice. Then consider that such critiques are fair game. The EU does not stand unequivocally against antisemitism. There are bright spots, like Austria’s second largest city banning support for BDS. However, European Jews are acutely aware that antisemitism is widespread and dangerous.
EU officials like Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, know that in spite of the many reported antisemitic crimes across the EU, 80 percent remain uncounted. “As one person asked [O’Flaherty], ‘Why would I report antisemitism to an antisemite?’” Over in Britain, which has not quite left the EU, nearly half of British Jews have said they “would ‘seriously consider’ emigrating if [Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn is elected prime minister [in December].”
Seventy-four years after the Holocaust’s end, the EU is no haven for Jews. Nor is it a particularly reliable friend to Israel. Calling the decision “disgraceful,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told The Federalist, “This labeling singles out Jews who live in communities where Europeans don’t think they should be allowed to live and identifies them for boycotts. It is reminiscent of the darkest moments in Europe’s history.”
Indeed, the CJEU may have forgotten, but world Jewry hasn’t. We also know that discrimination and other harms that start with Jews never end with us. So whether or not the timing was coincidental, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcing a reversal of Obama-era policy regarding Israel’s settlements certainly looks fortuitous, because this fight is far from over.
There are uncountable narratives when it comes to the actual and perceived domestic as well as international predicaments of the newly independent state of Ukraine. As a rule, known facts are mixed with unsubstantiated rumors, which, in turn, give birth to fantastic conjectures, ungrounded intuitions, and outright lies in the service of partisan political interests. In reality, the Ukraine question is extremely complex. Yet in the United State of America, both politicians and the media present this complexity to the public from a one sided, exclusively distorted American perspective.
Meanwhile, successive and mostly short-lived Ukrainian governments have tumbled from ever escalating crises to misguided revolutions and repeated implosions in predictable intervals. First the two high ranking former communists dubbed the “Red Barons”, former President Leonid Kravchuk and former President Leonid Kuchma, made half-hearted attempts at the privatization of the state owned economy. Called the “voucher privatization” and originally aimed at distributing state assets judiciously among all Ukrainians, this privatization scheme resulted in the creation of the Ukrainian oligarchy. This development, in turn, deepened the already pervasive corruption that was the essence of the Soviet Union.
Then, following a badly botched presidential election, came the “Orange Revolution” that brought forth the allegedly enlightened and pro-Western Victor Yushchenko. Paralyzed by his petty and incessant bickering with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, he lost badly to his main rival, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych. The latter was chased from office before his term expired by what was termed by the Kremlin as a coup d’etat but was viewed by the West as a popular revolution against Yanukovych’s vacillation to sign an association agreement with the European Union in Vilnius on November 28, 2013.
Almost immediately after the foiled signing of the association agreement, protests against President Yanukovych commenced. What later was elevated to the mythical heights of the “Revolution of Dignity” forced President Yanukovych to flee Ukraine. In the subsequent presidential election of May 2014, Ukrainians elected with overwhelming majority one of their country’s oligarchs, the “Chocolate King” Petro Poroshenko. In the interim, Russia invaded and then annexed the Crimea. To add insult to injury, Russia also has triggered an armed uprising in eastern Ukraine that has a significant concentration of ethnic Russians.
True to the past of the sovereign state of Ukraine, President Poroshenko did fail in an abysmal fashion, too. In the second round of the presidential election, on April 21, 2019, 73% of the Ukrainian voters chose a non-politician by the name of Volodymyr Zelensky as their new president. Clearly, the vast majority of Ukrainians decided to close the book on almost three decades of arrogant incompetence and shameless corruption by their politicians and oligarch allies. Finally, they expressed their desire to live and raise their children in a normally functioning, peaceful, and transparent state, politically as well as economically.
Although the lion’s share of the blame must be assigned to the Ukrainians themselves, American policy toward the independent sate of Ukraine was burdened by glaring incompetence, unrealistic illusions, erratic oscillations between Russia and Ukraine, and outright idiocy. Instead of assisting the newly independent Ukraine to establish the political and economic foundations of a unified state by harmonizing the old and new forces, the late President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton paid little if any attention to the troubled country. The formers son and his successor President Barrack Obama’s, attempts at interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs generally only made the situation worse. Especially, the Obama administration’s role in the early and violent removal of President Yanukovych proved to be a double edged sword. On the one hand, President Poroshenko was unable to accomplish the objectives of the Maidan revolution. On the other hand, it triggered Russia’s direct intervention in the Ukrainian mess. Moreover, Vice President Joe Biden’s private diplomacy to help his son Hunter Biden enrich himself and the family gave license to President Poroshenko and the oligarchs to continue unabated their corrupt and destructive activities within and outside Ukraine.
As a result, President Volodymyr Zelensky has inherited a situation in which the oligarchic system was discredited and the democratic values of the United State of America have become objects of ubiquitous scorn. Presently, Ukrainian society is completely traumatized and gripped by an existential fear of enormous proportions.
What can and needs to be done? One does not have to look further for a possible solution that to the almost identical history of the Republic of Finland and its troubled relations with imperial Russia, the Soviet Union and today’s Russian Federation. For centuries, Finland had managed to balance its relationship with Russia and its loyalty to the rest of Europe. From the Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire to the wars against the Soviet Union in 1939 and in 1944, which resulted in Finnish territorial losses, the country survived the Cold War’s Finlandization period. Presently as a full member of the European Union and a close cooperating state with NATO, Finland follows highly pragmatic policies vis-a-vis the Russian Federation. In a recent interview with Bloomberg: Business News, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto described his country’s attitude toward its powerful neighbor thus: “A Cossack takes everything that is loose. You have to be very clear and not let things become loose.”
President Zelensky would be well advised to follow this old Finnish wisdom. He will have to show firmness and resolve with Russia. Furthermore, he must be practical. He must know Ukraine’s strengths and limitations. Becoming a member of the European Union is clearly attainable. Full membership in NATO presently is not. However, being prepared for future Russian aggressions is within the capabilities of Ukraine. To achieve these goals, the Zelensky administration will have to move ever closer to the West by relentlessly promoting Western values inside Ukraine and simultaneously maintaining normal relations with Moscow.
Peace, stability, and prosperity have always been the Sisyphean endeavors of mankind. No doubt, President Zelensky will have to show real leadership. Otherwise, he and Ukraine will end up on the dust heaps of history.
The Jones Act is a necessary and vital part of not just the United States maritime sector, but the economy itself. According to the Transportation Institute, the Jones Act contributes more than $150 billion and more than 650,000 jobs annually to the American economy. These numbers should only increase as we continue to invest in the growing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market. Currently, our domestic shipyards have built, and are in the process of building, assets capable of moving and delivering LNG. Conrad Shipyard delivered the first LNG bunker barge built in North America at its Orange, Texas shipyard. VT Halter has recently launched their LNG Articulated Tug & Barge, which should be eligible for work in early 2020. Building Jones Act compliant LNG vessels comes with the added advantage of having the option to custom build them for the exact market they will be serving.
While the economic gains provided by the Jones Act do enough to justify its existence, the massive national security and defense benefits that it contributes reinforce the importance of this nearly century old act. The law itself states that it “is necessary for the national defense and the development of the domestic and foreign commerce of the United States to have a merchant marine owned and operated as vessels of the United States by citizens of the United States composed of the best-equipped, safest, and most suitable types of vessels constructed in the United States and manned with a trained and efficient citizen personnel.” During times of war, an overwhelming majority of the United States’ weapons, supplies, and even troops themselves are carried into war zones by vessels. This practice is guaranteed in no small part by the Jones Act.
Furthermore, maintaining a fleet of domestically flagged and crewed vessels allows us as a country to quickly assist our allies, as well as respond to any global crisis in an incredibly efficient manner. The Jones Act also decreases the threat of a maritime related attack on U.S. territory, as it encourages increased monitoring of foreign vessels. It also ensures the United States maintains control of our shipping routes. Elimination of the Jones Act opens the door for adversarial countries such as China or Russia to seize control of our inland waterways, potentially creating massive national security risks.
The United States is well on their way to creating and sustaining a strong LNG industry, one that is directly supplied and backed by the Jones Act. Elimination or waiving of the Jones Act would be a rash decision, one that sets the United States up for failure on a number of fronts. It would cost our economy hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as billions of dollars in revenue, all while opening the door for opposing countries to capitalize on our losses. Notably, we would also be creating a number of security risks and exposing ourselves to serious defense risks. The numerous benefits of the Jones Act (economic, financial and defense related) far outweigh the uncertainty and danger of removing it.
By Miklos K. Radvanyi
Historically, the fate of what has been called only since the last decade of the 20th century the sovereign state of Ukraine has been depended mostly on the whims of the major European powers. Moreover, if one would like to separate the myths from the facts, Ukraine has never occupied a fixed geographical area or has been a political, economic, and cultural entity with well-defined national uniqueness. Thus, when independence was declared on August 24, 1991, the new state of Ukraine has lacked and is still devoid of a mature national identity.
On the other hand, in the ubiquitous euphoria of the relatively peaceful break up of the Soviet Union in the West, irrational optimism, coupled with blinding emotions, prevented well-meaning politicians, self-appointed experts, and the general public to weigh with due seriousness the enormous challenges that this newly minted state will and must face. In the intervening three decades, and before Ukraine could have attained a sufficient degree of national character, successive governments have brought it dangerously close to becoming an irredeemably failed state.
Meanwhile, after almost three years of relentless pursuit of the mirage of President Trump’s impeachment, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have latched theirs and their party’s political future onto the so-called “Ukrainian quid pro quo.” Claiming that in the ominous telephone call President Trump blackmailed Ukrainian President Zelensky by withholding almost half a billion dollars earmarked for military assistance in exchange for compromising information on Joe’s and Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian activities, and thus explicitly solicited the latter’s support for his reelection, the President committed an impeachable offense under Article II, section 4 of the constitution. To add additional legal insult to a clearly political injury, the Democrats stated that they reserve the right to charge President Trump with more crimes of their liking.
While almost all of the Democrats and many like minded citizens consider this development in Washington, D.C. a potential victory for the rule of law, such assessment misses the mark. The same politicians who accuse President Trump of endangering national security, remain strangely nonchalant about the precarious domestic and international conditions of Ukraine, the future of the United States’ interests in the European theatre, and the global dimensions of three decades of erroneous policies toward one of the largest European countries situated strategically between Russia and the rest of the continent.
To start with, Ukraine is in extremely deep political, financial, economic, social, and cultural crises. Therefore, President Zelensky intends simultaneously to make peace with Russia, to carry out wholesale reforms of the economy, to fight corruption, to petition international financial organizations and donors for bailouts, and to bring his country closer to NATO and the European Union.
For the United States of America, the desirable outcome would be successes for President Zelensky personally and his administration generally on all those fronts. Here, it is important to note that prior to 2016, during President Obama’s eight years, the near consensual view among Ukrainian experts was that support for Ukraine’s superficial stability was paramount. For this reason, President Obama and his administration did nothing to move successive administrations in Kyiv to abandon the ultra nationalist policies against ethnic minorities, the arrogant criminal corruption of politicians, and the rapid impoverishment of the society. Yet, President Obama’s passivity created an American political vacuum toward Ukraine that, in turn, invited Vice President Biden to exploit the corruption ridden Ukrainian political and economic systems for his and his family’s unethical and even criminal enrichment. More importantly, because they did not comprehend the depth of the ultra nationalism and the all encompassing nature of the corruption, the Obama administration treated Ukraine like a normal state. Not having a coherent Ukrainian policy, the Obama administration in general and Vice President Biden in particular showed their collective incompetence and institutional delusion of Ukraine.
Now that the Democrats use and abuse Ukraine as a domestic political football, what happens next is an open question. Will the Trump administration be able to fashion a coherent Ukrainian policy amidst the relentless negative campaign of the opposition? Likewise, will Russia exploit the self-generated American paralysis to deepen Ukraine’s misery? Will the decisively defeated ultra nationalist Poroshenko minority provoke a civil war to nullify the results of the spring elections? As a result, will Ukraine again be dominated by the old criminal enterprise rejected recently so decisively by the voters?
For the United States of America and especially for the Trump administration, the objective ought to be clear: President Trump must state firmly that the United States of America will not compromise its fundamental values. The Ukrainian question for him is not a fight over power against the Democrats but a matter of importance about democracy and prosperity. Ultra nationalism and unwarranted cultural fanaticism will not be tolerated. Equally, the endemic corruption must be eliminated decisively and moral purity shall be reestablished. For, if corruption and immorality will continue, Ukraine will disappear as an independent nation. Finally, in direct opposition to President Obama, President Trump must emphasize to President Zelensky that he is not interested in whether he is loved or hated in Ukraine. On his part, he will act with honor toward Ukraine. In turn, President Zelensky and Ukraine can count on President Trump’s assistance if they respect the new Realpolitik of the United States of America.
The US Air Force (USAF) is in the process of developing the next generation Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). This critically important next generation nuclear deterrent is known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and it is needed because America’s current ground based nuclear deterrent is the Minuteman missile that was first deployed in 1962. It was originally designed to last 10 years. The system has been updated over 50 to 60 years to keep pace with the growing threat, but the aging system requires a complete overhaul to assure continued deterrence for the next 50+ years.
Unfortunately, the USAF has completely mismanaged the process and despite paying lip service to “competition,” is now on the verge of awarding a sole-source, cost plus contact for more than $85 billion. Let that sink in. Something as important as our nuclear deterrent could be done without serious competition. As a result, the American taxpayer will likely be forced to pay more, wait longer, and get less protection from growing nuclear threats. It didn’t have to be like this and there is still time for President Trump and Member of Congress on both sides of the aisle to demand that the Air Force regroup and get this important detail right.
GBSD’s need is so obvious, that in an era of virtually no bi-partisanship, GBSD nonetheless has strong bi-partisan support. But, we must get this right because will have to live with the results for the next 50 to 60 years. And on the nuclear front, the world will be far more dangerous the next 50 years than it was the last 50 years. And with China’s plans to challenge and replace the US as the world’s most powerful nation, we cannot afford to have our nuclear deterrent be second best. The murderous and dictatorial communist Chinese leadership will not be a benevolent force in the world.
While the Air Force paid lip service to “competition,” it created a process that subverted any real or robust competition. And the Air Force defended its flawed process by arguing that the urgency was so great that they couldn’t slow down to get things right — even if in the end it would save time, save money, and produce a far better and capable nuclear deterrent. Perhaps most importantly, this mismanagement a less robust system means that America will be at greater risk for the next 50 or 60 years — until the next major update and redevelopment.
Simply put, the Air Force’s mismanagement means that GBSD will be more costly, arrive later, and be less capable. It is particularly ironic because the Air Force has been warned that it was mishandling things (I’ve written on this before — Next Generation ICBM Should Be The Result Of Robust Competition and I’m not the only one.) But their response was always to chant the magic word “competition” while digging in its heels and proceeding to subvert any serious competition.
A robust competition between America’s best minds, and most capable high tech firms will produce a more robust system and at a lower cost. Moreover, a teamwork approach would speed its development and deployment. With real competition, GBSD will be less costly, be developed faster, and be more capable and effective. Even if you think fixing the Air Force’s past mismanagement might cost some time with a restart, wouldn’t you want our nuclear deterrent for the next 50 to 60 years to be as robust as possible?
Ask yourself if Olympians perform better running all alone in an ordinary workout, or when they are in a competitive environment and are pushed by other top Olympians in the race. The answer is obvious. The Air Force has presided over a process that effectively asks an Olympian to perform his best while working out alone. If that sounds dumb, you understand the level of mismanagement.
The Air Force competitively selected Boeing and Northrop Grumman as the only viable providers of GBSD. Almost immediately, Northrop Grumman bought the sole, viable manufacturer of solid rocket boosters for this rocket – Orbital ATK, and likely did so to corner the market for GBSD. The solid rocket boosters are a major part of the GBSD program and constitute about 1/2 of the cost of each missile. In any event, no matter who makes the rest of the missile, the rocket boosters will be made by Orbital ATK. But if Northrup Grumman is allowed to use its ownership of Orbital ATK (in contravention of a consent decree made at the time of the purchase to avoid precisely this situation), they can effectively price their competition out of the game by charging them more for the rocket boosters.
So the Air Force has effectively and massively favored one competitor in the GBSD process and thereby eliminated the balance, fairness and benefits of competition. Consequently, Boeing informed the Air Force that they will not pursue an unfair solicitation. This makes perfect sense — why invest millions in a so-called competitive process that isn’t remotely competitive because the outcome is predetermined by poorly conceived ground rules?
Had the Air Force removed the rocket booster portion the GBSD project out of the competition, they could have had a robust competition between two great high tech firms on the rest of the GBSD system.
While the Air Force has made it clear that its heels are dug in and it won’t correct its mismanagement, President Trump and Members of Congress must demand that the Air Force start the competitive process over and hold a real competition.
The Air Force must be instructed to remove solid rocket booster component from the competition — since either party will use the same booster, it isn’t a factor. Then, the two firms can innovate and compete on the technology and capability and cost of the missile. The taxpayer benefits and all of us who would like to be protected from nuclear attack will have the most robust deterrent possible.
President Trump and Congress should speak with one voice on something as fundamentally important as America’s nuclear deterrent. That one voice should be saying, “Wait a minute! This system that will protect us from nuclear threat for the next 50 to 60 years. It must be the result of a real and robust competition, not a sham process.” The Air Force has said that competition matters. It is now time for their actions to prove that they mean it!
President Donald Trump announced the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Sunday morning in an address to the nation after a Saturday night raid in northwest Syria.
“He died like a dog, he died like a coward,” Trump said.
Baghdadi’s death marks the execution of the world’s most dangerous terrorist since Osama Bin Laden’s killing in 2011. Baghdadi, the founder of the Islamic State, otherwise known as “ISIS” or “ISIL,” oversaw the extrajudicial killings of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Muadh al-Kasasbeh capturing international attention in addition to the slaughtering of hundreds more.
The obituary from the Washington Post however, framed one of the world’s most brutal terrorists as an “austere religious scholar.”
“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48,” read the initial published headline from one of America’s leading newspapers.
The headline published was actually the second headline picked by the paper, which at first read, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State’s ‘terrorist-in-chief,’ dies at 48.”
They had it right the first time.
The Washington Post changed the headline on its Al-Baghdadi obituary from “Islamic State’s terrorist-in-Chief” to “austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State.”
The headline has since been changed to “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, extremist leader of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
While the Post eventually made the headline somewhat better, though they were spot-on the first time, the obituary still reads remarkably well-disposed touting the ISIS leader’s academic credentials and career building his vast terrorist empire responsible for torturing countless innocent people.
The Post, after chronicling Baghdadi’s rise to power, waited until the 40th paragraph of the obituary to mention Baghdadi was also a serial rapist for much of the last decade.
“Later, former hostages would reveal that Mr. Baghdadi also kept a number of personal sex slaves during his years as the Islamic State’s leader, including slain American hostage Kayla Mueller and a number of captured Yazidi women. U.S. officials corroborated the accounts,” the Post wrote.
Just last week, Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are closely aligned with Iran, claimed credit for a drone attack on Saudi oil processing facilities.
News changes fast — a surprising development is that now the Houthi’s say Iran is responsible for the attack and that the Iranians have more attacks planned in the near future. The Houthi’s also vowed not to launch any additional attacks themselves.
Something that is not surprising is that missile defense critics in the U.S. are now arguing that the drone attack proves that missile defense doesn’t work. This is, of course, entirely without merit. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is offering Russian missile defense systems to “help” protect against future attacks from its client state of Iran. Let that sink in.
Given Russia’s intimate relationship with Iran, it is entirely possible the attack was coordinated with Russia. It is not as if this would be out of character for Putin. Of course, Putin has never done anything on the international stage simply to be helpful. He is simply trying to help himself and advance his ambitions.
Imagine if he could get U.S. allies to insert and integrate Russian hardware into their U.S.-made defensive systems. Imagine the hacking potential on something like that. Putin would love to learn more about our defensive systems. For that reason, the U.S. earlier this year canceled sales of high-tech American defensive systems to Turkey, a member of NATO, after they integrated Russian equipment in their defensive systems.
But back to the missile defense critics in the U.S. who are unwittingly helping Putin.
Right now very little is actually known about the attack. While preliminary indications are it was a drone attack, we are not even certain precisely what weapons were used. It is profoundly unhelpful to jump to hasty conclusions to support a misguided ideology — particularly when the primary beneficiary of those hasty conclusions will be an adversary like Putin’s Russia.
Beyond not jumping to silly conclusions without any real facts, it is important to realize that an effective missile defense system is layered. Parts of the system protect against ICBMs which actually at some point in their flight are out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Parts of the system protect against intermediate range missiles and other parts protect against shorter range missiles. Each of these missiles has different travel paths and different vulnerabilities. Thus different defenses are needed.
In football, a good defensive coordinator employs a different defense if the opposing team needs only one yard to score than he would if the opposition need twenty-five yards to score. The same concept is true with missile defense.
Having only one layer of missile defense in place to defend against all sorts of attacks leaves the region vulnerable to the other risks. For example, the Patriot defensive missile system is designed to protect against high-flying targets such as jets and ballistic missiles. It wasn’t designed to defend against low flying drones and short range cruise missiles. Patriot’s radars are not intended to scan such low flying means of attack. Nor was Patriot designed to intercept ICBM’s just outside the Earth’s atmosphere. But we know the Patriot system works very well as we’ve seen it in real life combat defend both troops and civilian populations from missile attack.
Criticizing any particular layer of missile defense for not stopping an attack that it was never designed or intended to stop is like criticizing a 350 pound defensive nose tackle for not doing a good job of racing down the sideline to cover a speedy wide receiver. A good defensive football team is made up of different parts, with different skills and capabilities. Together they are a formidable defense. But playing out of position, they are ineffective.
To defend Saudi oil faculties, they would need a layered system — one that has the ability to protect against ballistic missile attack as well as drones and low-flying cruise missiles. Missile defense critics know this, but they don’t care. They simply want to use an unfortunate news event to promote their misguided anti-missile defense ideology in hopes of a short-term political victory.
Since his return to power as Prime Minister in 2010, Viktor Orban has posed the greatest threat to the fledgling Hungarian democracy as well as to the gradual political integration of the European Union. Having been voted out of office unceremoniously after just a single four year term in 2002, he and his party, the Alliance of Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: FIDESZ), worked hard in opposition for eight long years to undermine successive Hungarian governments by developing and refining his all consuming ideological and institutional hatred for democracy. Domestically, his message centered around the extreme politicization of the historical miseries of the Hungarian people, and the emotional weaponization of the notion of being surrounded by a sea of hostile Slavic nations. This shameless and even unconscionable exploitation of Hungary’s turbulent history and lack of proper political culture, has resulted in an intellectual vacuum in politics that has prevented the country of leaving the past behind and to embark unequivocally on a pro-Western course. To add insult to injury, his relentless anti-Brussels’ rhetoric has cemented the centuries’ old Hungarian resentment vis-a-vis the leading powers of the European continent. However, these prior aberrations from core European values have not been taken into consideration as a wide assortment of European and American politicians mindlessly courted Viktor Orban, while in opposition, as the face of the “new Europe.”
In reality, Viktor Orban has never stopped being an authoritarian wolf in sheep’s clothing. Since 2010, he has wielded absolute power in Hungary. Thus, Hungary has reverted back to the status quo ante of being a one-party state. Therefore, knowing what motivates him means understanding the root causes of Hungarian domestic and foreign policies. Because he has worked very hard to create this situation, Viktor Orban has been determined not to give up even an iota of his powers. Voluntarily or constitutionally, he will never share it with anybody inside of Hungary or outside of it with the European Union’s institutions in Brussels and elsewhere.
His so-called “illiberal democracy”, which is in itself a contradictio in terminis, is decidedly anti-democratic as well as anti-capitalist. According to his primitiv and incoherent reasoning, the new era for Hungary has started not with the liberation of Hungary in June 1991, but with the financial crisis of 2008. Defining it as “a huge Western financial collapse” that changed the world forever, he states that the pre-2008 liberal world order is over, being replaced by the “illiberal democracies” of Asia, such as China, Singapore, India, and even the geographically hybrid Russia and Turkey. In his now infamous speech, delivered on July 26, 2014, in Baile Tusnad (in Hungarian: Tusnadfurdo), Romania, he spoke about his vision for the future of Hungary. Invoking former President Barack Obama, he claimed that the former “made numerous and repeated statements regarding how American society and the American government is to declare war on cynicism originating from the financial sector.” To underscore his thesis of America’s moral decline, Viktor Orban elaborated thus: “The US president says that if a hardworking American constantly has to choose between career and family, America will lose its place in the world economy.” To wit, without naming “a well recognized analyst”, Viktor Orban directly warned the United States of America that “the strength of American “soft power” is deteriorating , because liberal values today incorporate corruption, sex and violence, and these liberal values discredit America and American modernization.” Unsatisfied with calling the United States of America ubiquitously immoral, Viktor Orban turned on Western Europe thus: “Also, the Open Society Foundation published a study not long ago analyzing Western Europe. In this, we can read a sentence that says that Western Europe was so preoccupied with solving the situation of immigrants that it forgot about the working class.” Then, to up his anti-democratic and anti-capitalist rhetoric, he continued: “One of the richest Americans, who was one of the first investors in the company Amazon, stated that we are living in a society that is less and less capitalist and more and more feudal, and if the economic system does not reform itself then the middle class will disappear, and as he puts it, “the rich will be attacked with pitchforks.”
Following this idiotic and garbled reasoning, Viktor Orban came to the self-serving conclusion that there is a race in the world “to invent a state that is most capable of making a nation successful.” His solution is a system “that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracy, maybe not even democracy, and yet making nations (still) successful.” Designating China, Russia, India, Singapore, and Turkey “the stars of the world”, he found them all worthy of emulation. Again, reverting back to his fascination with authoritarianism and dictatorship, he stated: “Just because something is not liberal, it still can be a democracy.” How this feat could be accomplished is, according to this newly minted fake political philosopher, very simple. The world must abandon liberal democracy altogether and join the forces of authoritarianism and dictatorships, in order to establish divine justice, equality, prosperity; in other words, heaven on earth. What Viktor Orban failed to utter openly is that, according to him, universal peace and prosperity could only reign on earth when the almighty state, headed by people like him, would rule exclusively over everybody and everything.
The triumphant march of authoritarianism has started immediately after the 2010 elections in Hungary. Having secured a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament called Orszaggyules (the State Assembly) with a simple majority of the popular votes, Viktor Orban and his party decided to give the country a new constitution. The April 25, 2011, constitution that entered into force in 2012, and amended until now seven times to serve the increasingly authoritarian whim of the Prime Minister, starts with the first sentence of the Hungarian national anthem and continues with a preamble full of lies and historical distortions. Giving short shift and even denying the real history of the country between March 19, 1944, the occupation of Hungary by the Wehrmacht, and the withdrawal of the Soviet Red Army from Hungary in June 1991, Viktor Orban intended to hide that political developments in Hungary have failed to establish a solid foundation for democracy.
The main body of the constitution is laced with meaningless platitudes and political slogans, intended to conceal the intentional ambiguities of the legal guarantees of individual rights, the lack of separation of powers, the mocking of the rule of law, and the lost principle of checks and balances. Subsequent legislative acts resulted in total control by FIDESZ of the judiciary through the National Office of the Judiciary, the local governments, the media, academia, and the financial institutions by the long term appointments of loyal political soldiers of his party. In reality, the new legal system created by FIDESZ have destroyed the very principles of democracy by their actual application. Thus, Viktor Orban established a legal system that does not apply to him, his family, and his crownies. Clearly, such a dual implementation of the law makes the entire legal system a hoax. This hoax, in turn, cannot guarantee peace, freedom, and order in society. Today’s Hungary is an inverted democracy. Viktor Orban’s government is an instrument of legally sanctioned coercion.
Yet, along with this inverted and distorted democracy, Viktor Orban lives in permanent fear of the Hungarian people. For the majority of Hungarians, residing within the internationally recognized borders of Hungary, reject their growing tyrannization by the FIDESZ government. In 2014 and 2018 respectively, FIDESZ was only able to capture around 44% of the votes, while still maintaining its slim two-thirds majority in Parliament. Accordingly, the new citizenship and electoral laws have extended citizenship and granted voting rights to all ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries. These ethnic Hungarians are allowed to vote by mail, while Hungarian citizens residing within Hungary, but working abroad, have to go to one of the country’s diplomatic residences to cast their ballots. In this manner, general and local elections in Hungary have been tainted with serious irregularities, and even fraudulent schemes. Therefore, the Law CCIII of 2011 as amended, on the elections of members of Parliament, has been subjected to limitless criticism domestically by all the opposition parties as well as by the European Commission For Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission). To add political insult to legal injury, FIDESZ members in the National Election Committee also enjoy absolute majority. This construct, namely government within the government, could perpetuate Viktor Orban’s authoritarianism for decades to come.
The Orban administration’s rationale is obvious. Ethnic Hungarians resent to be a minority in states that the Hungarian kingdom controlled for centuries. For this reason, they are more inclined to vote for FIDESZ that they consider to protect them internationally. Hungarians who leave the country mostly to Western Europe, Canada, and the United States of America are less likely to prefer the current government. In this regard, reports of long lines in front of Hungarian embassies and consulates and the resulting chaos underscores the ulterior motives of Viktor Orban and his administration. In addition, votes submitted by mail cannot be monitored and verified as easily as ballots cast in person. Such vote rigging and ubiquitous electoral fraud, in order to maintain FIDESZ’s narrow supermajority in Parliament, has been well documented in numerous investigating journalistic reports in Hungarian social media and the international press.
The politically motivated overthrow of the pre-2010 legal system, accompanied by the aggressive dismantling of the democratic institutions and the persecution of private organizations representing core European values, finally has drawn the attention of the European Union to the Hungarian situation. Accordingly, on May 17, 2017, the European Parliament adopted by a vote of 393 in favor to 221 against with 64 abstentions a resolution to trigger the warning mechanism of Article 7, Section 1, of the Treaty of the European Union against Hungary. This resolution called upon the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs to produce a report on “the political situation in Hungary.” Invoking Article 7, Section 1, of the Treaty of the European Union was without a precedent before. Subsequently, the aforementioned Committee appointed Judith Sargentini of the Netherlands, as the rapporteur responsible for writing a report on the political situation in Hungary.
On June 25, 2018, the Committee adopted the Sargentini Report by a vote of 37 for and 19 against. On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament voted on the Sargentini Report, condemning with a four-fifths majority the anti-democratic turn of Hungary, and initiating the procedure related to Article 7, Section 1 of the Treaty of the European Union by requesting the Council of the European Union “to determine, pursuant to article 7, Section 1, of the Treaty of the European Union, the existence of a clear risk of a serious breach by Hungary of the values on which the Union is founded.”
Here, it is noteworthy to state that in the entire history of the European Parliament such an overwhelming consensus concerning a member state had never been recorded before. Up until that date, Viktor Orban’s political acrobatics, namely, his attempt to ride simultaneously two horses, the European and the Hungarian, with two inherently irreconcilable rhetorics, have not been challenged in a serious way. Yet, FIDESZ’s campaign against Brussels under the banner of “Let’s Stop Brussels”, and the subsequent “Stop Soros” movement with its anti-Semitic overtones, finally opened the eyes of the European Union to the blatantly anti-EU policies of and to the destruction of democracy by the Orban administration, which taken together have posed a mortal danger to the entire Union.
Citing Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union that makes it the precondition of joining the organization the respect and the promotion of European values, the Sargentini Report enumerates the Orban administration’s transgressions in twelve points. For starters, the number twelve has its special significance for every Hungarian. When the Hungarians rose in 1848 against the Habsburg tyranny, young Hungarians condensed their demands for national independence and democracy in exactly twelve points. The public reading of the Twelve Points on March 15, 1848, signaled the beginning of the long and bloody Battle for Freedom (in Hungarian: Szabadsagharc) that was crushed in 1849 by the joint forces of the Habsburg Emperor and Nicholas I of Russia.
Generally speaking, the Sargentini Report raises three major issues: democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Primarily, it voices alarm over the functioning of the constitutional and electoral systems. In its second point, it deals with the independence of the judiciary and of other institutions, and the rights of judges. Next, it examines the topics of corruption and conflict of interest. In point four, it analyses the issues of privacy and data protection. This follows by taking under the microscope the subject of freedom of expression. Points six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve examine the state of academic freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of association, the right to equal treatment, the rights of minorities and their protection against hateful statements, the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, and the state of economic and social rights.
More specifically, the Sargentini Report criticizes the endangerment of the separation of powers and the weakening of the national system of checks and balances; the restrictions on the authority of the Constitutional Court and the recent changes to the procedure of selecting judges; the excessive powers of the president of the National Judicial Office; the “serious irregularities” and “conflicts of interest” with regard to EU-financed public-procurement tenders; insufficient legal guarantees against unlawful surveillance for national security purposes; inadequate guarantees of freedom of expression; the procedures regarding the election of the Media Council; the legal provision granting exclusive rights to the Hungarian News Agency (Hungarian acronyms: MTI) to provide news for public television and radio; the singling out of about two thousand Hungarians by name through the press, who allegedly working to “topple” the Orban government; constraint on academic freedom by then Law on National Higher Education; the war on NGOs; incitement against foreigners; discrimination against women; rising sentiments of racism and intolerance against the Roma minority; and the politicization of anti-Semitism.
As a response, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a resolution by a vote of 129 in favor to 26 votes against, with 18 abstentions, on October 16, 2018, condemning the Sargentini Report. The resolution reads in its main part as follows:
“The Sargentini Report attacked the decisions, Fundamental Law, legislation and personal decisions that the democratically elected Hungarian Parliament ratified within its own sphere of authority. With this, it (the Sargentini Report) transcended its sphere of authority and violated Hungary’s sovereignty….. We reject the slander contained in the mendacious pro-immigration indictment called the Sargentini Report. We reject this report which attacks Hungary because it did not admit immigrants, rejected the quota, built a legal border barrier and made the organization of illegal immigration punishable….. We call upon the government of Hungary not to submit to blackmail: reject the false accusations against Hungary and take legal measures against the fraudulently adopted report slandering Hungary.”
In the spirit of this resolution, the Hungarian government recently submitted a 131 page Information Note to the General Affairs Council of the European Union. In it, Hungary attacks the decisions by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on procedural as well as material grounds. Procedurally, Hungary objected to the method of vote counting. Because of the procedural irregularities, Hungary considers all the votes in this matter “null and void.” In its substance, Hungary judges the Report as being “politically motivated” and not being based on “facts, precise legal provisions and objective analysis.” The main body of the Note attempts to refute the Report point by point. However, the Hungarian government’s arguments are woefully one sided and selective. Contrary to its assertions, the NOTE is politically motivated and subjective in the extreme. Clearly, Viktor Orban is absolutely determined to prevent the Euopean Union from interfering with his authoritarian rule and his all pervasive criminal corruption schemes in Hungary.
Most recently, at the 28th Congress of FIDESZ, on September 28, 2019, Viktor Orban was reelected chairman of his party. His closing speech reinforced the message in the Hungarian government’s Information Note. To begin with, it was highly arrogant in its tone and extremely appalling in its content. Calling his fellow party members comrades, he credited their unquestionable loyalty to him as the most important political attribute of FIDESZ against his opponents. Defining the essence of membership as “of the same blood”, he thanked everybody for having shown understanding and forgiveness toward his weaknesses. Equating this with President Reagan’s eleventh commandment, he stated that in his party, members are mere workers and he alone is the boss. Rejecting 1991 as the initial date of regime change, he stated that the real political changes started to develop in 2010, from his second ascension to power. Repeating again his disdain for democracy, he termed the 2011 constitution the foundation of Christian freedom as opposed to liberal freedom. Without explaining what he meant by that distinction, he launched into an incoherent attack against “internationalism” and praised Hungarian patriotism. Displaying his total misunderstanding of the American and European democracies, he went after the liberal elites whose rule he termed “very dangerous.” Labeling his opposition “traitors of the nation”, he declared that the unity of FIDESZ and the Hungarian people is indivisible. Praising his like minded Polish colleagues and criticizing the new Italian government, and Prime Minister Conte personally, offering him sarcastically Hungary’s assistance in border protection, he again repeated his resolve not to cooperate with Brussels on immigration. In closing, referring to the Hungarian nation as “our race” (in Hungarian: a mi fajtank), he exhorted his comrades to persevere against those who try to harm Hungary. In his last sentence, he rejoiced over the “great powers that have moved around Europe and Hungary”, and assured his “comrades” that, for this reason, they are not animals but living souls, who understand that Hungary exists “over everything”, and that “the good Lord is present above everybody.” Finally, being the avid soccer fan he is, he yelled: “Go for it Hungarians! Go for it Hungary!” The message is: “My way United States of America and European Union or the highway.”
Two days later, on September 30, 2019, at a joint press conference with Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne, Viktor Orban lashed out at everybody who, according to him, dares to question that Hungary is a nation of laws, and who dares to state that the rule of law does not fully exist in Hungary. “Anybody who questions that Hungary is a state of the rule of law threads on our honor, and I recommend everybody to contemplate such a statement very carefully.” In addition, he stated that international relations must be based on mutual respect and not on countries snubbing each other.
Realistically, the European Union is powerless to act effectively against the challenges to its authority by Viktor Orban. It can strip Hungary of voting rights and representation, but powerless of removing the latter from the organization. Thus, the wholesale destruction of democracy and the free economy will continue in Hungary unabated. Along with Hungary’s “illiberal democracy”, the number of like minded governments and counterfeit republics would most probably multiply. These governments will surely remain unstable and weak. The peoples that they supposedly represent, will be denied their basic rights and, with time, will decide to revolt. From these dangers the European Union must be saved. Clearly, only a great reconstruction of the Union will save all of Europe.
The United States of America would be well advised to assist in saving the continent again. In this context, Viktor Orban is a highly destructive force and a great political liability that Washington cannot afford. His goal is to weaken and ultimately destroy the European Union, in order to save his corrupt, criminal, and authoritarian regime. Surely, he must be stopped. The United States of America must rise above Viktor Orban’s false narrative about being the European Trump because of his anti-migrant policy. Clearly, he is not President Donald J. Trump. More importantly, Washington must understand that a strong and more unified European Union is a strategic ally whom the United States of America cannot weaken by supporting those who strive to destroy it. For, if the European Union fails, democracy and capitalism will be endangered, and the United States of America will be at a strategic disadvantage vis-a-vis Russia and China.
More globally, the world cannot stand idly by, witness the current corruption, and the ultimate destruction of the most successful civilization in human history. The choice between the future of the European Union and Viktor Orban is a no brainer. If he does not comprehend what is at stake, Viktor Orban must be relegated to the ash heap of history.
Professional American historiography has made steady advances in the breadth and sophistication with which it approaches certain aspects of the past, but those advances have come at the expense of public knowledge and shared historical consciousness. The story of America has been fractured into a thousand pieces and burdened with so much ideological baggage that studying history actually alienates young Americans from the possibility of properly appreciating their past. Nearly 20 years ago I wrote a small book called The Student’s Guide to U.S. History for ISI Books. I was unable to include in its bibliography a high school or college level textbook on U.S. history, because there was not one suitable for recommendation.
But criticism of the status quo is easy. What is harder is to create a better alternative. That was my aim in writing Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.
Land of Hope swims against the prevailing currents in several ways, not the least of which is that it is a physical book. It is no coincidence that the giant textbook publisher Pearson has just announced its plans to go digital-first with its own massive array of textbooks, 1,500 titles in all, including those in history. Students will eventually be required to use—and institutions will be required to offer—the constantly updated texts, tethering students and schools exclusively to the publisher’s digital platform. George Orwell, please call the Ministry of Truth.
In the early years of printing, printers would often display a truncated version of a Latin proverb: Littera scripta manet, which means, “The written letter remains.” The whole proverb reads: Vox audita perit littera scripta manet, which can be translated, “The heard voice perishes, but the written letter remains.” It contrasts fleeting orality and settled literacy. What does such a proverb mean today, when our civilization—in which the great majority of inhabitants, as Christians and Jews, have been People of the Book—is fast becoming a civilization inhabited by People of the Screen, people tied to the ever-changing, ever-fluid, ever-malleable presentation of the past made possible by the nature of digital technology?
Land of Hope also goes against the current by not dumbing down the reading level. It is written with an underlying conviction that we should never sell short the capacity of young Americans to read challenging books if they are interesting and well-wrought. Such books are far more likely to stoke the fire of their imaginations and convey to them the complexity and excitement of history—history not as an inert recitation of facts, but as a reflective task that takes us to the depths of what it means to be human.
Let me mention three distinctive themes that run through the book, themes that are hinted at in the book’s title and are instructive about America’s character.
First, there is the theme of America as a land—not just an idea, but also a people and a nation; a nation with a particular history, connected to a particular piece of real estate. To understand our nation, it’s not enough to understand principles such as equality and liberty, as important as those are. We also have to understand how those principles were put into action, how they were developed, how they came to be forces in our national life. American history, to be sure, is inseparable from America’s principles and ideals, but America is not simply those things. It is a place with a venerable history created by men and women to whom our veneration is owed. Think of those who lie in Arlington National Cemetery and of countless others in the long history of such sacrifices made on behalf of our country. These things bind us to the land in visceral ways that go beyond ideas or principles.
Second is the theme of hope. The idea of America as a land of hope shouldn’t be misinterpreted as signifying a saccharine or sentimental view of America’s past, but rather as taking into account history’s spiritual dimension. We are creatures with free wills and aspirations, not merely tumbleweeds at the mercy of large historical forces. Hope is a quality of soul, something that’s not quantifiable or explicable in strictly material terms. It is a consistent characteristic of this country that we have always sought to rise above or move beyond the conditions that are given to us at birth—something not true of every people. To be an American is to believe that the status we are born into is never the final word. We have a spirit of striving, a spirit of hope that goes back to our very beginnings.
Third and finally there is the theme of story. Our narratives large and small are an essential part of the way that we Americans make sense of the world. As I write in the book,
The impulse to write history and organize our world around stories is intrinsic to us as human beings. We are, at our core, remembering and story-making creatures, and stories are one of the chief ways we find meaning in the flow of events. What we call “history” and “literature” are merely the refinement and intensification of that basic human impulse, that need.
The word need is not an exaggeration. For the human animal, meaning is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Without it, we perish. Historical consciousness is to civilized society what memory is to individual identity. Without memory, without the stories by which our memories are carried forward, we cannot say who, or what, we are. Without them, our life and thought dissolve into a meaningless, unrelated rush of events. Without them, we cannot do the most human of things: we cannot learn, use language, pass on knowledge, raise children, establish rules of conduct, engage in science, or dwell harmoniously in society. Without them, we cannot govern ourselves.
Nor can we have a sense of the future as a time we know will come, because we remember that other tomorrows have come and gone. A culture without memory will necessarily be barbarous and easily tyrannized, even if it is technologically advanced. The incessant waves of daily events will occupy all our attention and defeat all our efforts to connect past, present, and future, thereby diverting us from an understanding of the human things that unfold in time, including the path of our own lives.
The stakes were beautifully expressed in the words of the great Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer: “When a day passes it is no longer there. What remains of it? Nothing more than a story. If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written, man would live like the beasts, only for the day. The whole world, all human life is one long story.”
Singer was right. As individuals, as communities, as countries: we are nothing more than flotsam and jetsam without the stories in which we find our lives’ meaning.
Of course, there are stories and then there are stories. French writer André Malraux once wrote, “A man is what he hides: a miserable little pile of secrets.” That’s one way of thinking about a man’s life, but it’s a reductive and simplistic way. We’ve all read biographies like that. But where in this approach is an account of a man’s striving, his ambitions, his ideals, his efforts at transcendence? Is it a fair and accurate account of a man to speak only or even mainly of his secrets and failings? Similarly with a nation’s history, it must be far more than a compilation of failings and crimes. It must give credence to the aspirational dimension of a nation’s life, and particularly for so aspirational a nation as the United States—arguably the most aspirational nation in human history.
A proper history of America must do this without evading the fact that we’ve often failed miserably, fallen short, and done terrible things. We have not always been a land of hope for everyone—for a great many, but not for all. And so our sense of hope has a double-edged quality about it: to be a land of hope is also to risk being a land of disappointment, a land of frustration, even a land of disillusionment. To understand our history is to experience these negative things. But we wouldn’t experience them so sharply if we weren’t a land of hope, if we didn’t embrace that outlook and aspiration. To use a colloquialism, we Americans allow ourselves to get our hopes up—and that is always risky.
Land of Hope’s epigraph is a passage that has long been a source of inspiration and direction to me. Written by John Dos Passos, a man of the radical left in his youth who later moved to the sensible right, it is from a 1941 essay, “The Use of the Past,” and it is uncannily relevant to the present:
Every generation rewrites the past. In easy times history is more or less of an ornamental art, but in times of danger we are driven to the written record by a pressing need to find answers to the riddles of today. We need to know what kind of firm ground other men, belonging to generations before us, have found to stand on. In spite of changing conditions of life they were not very different from ourselves, their thoughts were the grandfathers of our thoughts, they managed to meet situations as difficult as those we have to face, to meet them sometimes lightheartedly, and in some measure to make their hopes prevail. We need to know how they did it.
In times of change and danger when there is a quicksand of fear under men’s reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present and get us past that idiot delusion of the exceptional Now that blocks good thinking. That is why, in times like ours, when old institutions are caving in and being replaced by new institutions not necessarily in accord with most men’s preconceived hopes, political thought has to look backwards as well as forwards.
Isn’t that marvelous? There’s so much to unpack in it, but of special relevance today is his rather rough denunciation of “that idiot delusion of the exceptional Now.” This phrase expresses something that nearly all of us who teach history run up against. It’s harder than usual today to get young people interested in the past because they are so firmly convinced that we’re living in a time so unprecedented, enjoying pocket-sized technologies that are so transformative, that there’s no point in looking at what went on in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To them the past has been superseded—just as our present world is forever in the process of being superseded.
While this posture may be ill-informed and lazy, a way to justify not learning anything, it also represents a genuine conviction, amply reinforced by the endless passing parade of sensations and images in which we are enveloped—one thing always being succeeded by something else, nothing being permanent, nothing enduring, always moving, moving, moving into a new exceptional Now. But it is a childish and disabling illusion that must be countered, in just the way that Dos Passos suggests.
Even in confronting the challenging questions of American history, most notably the existence of slavery, there are deep lessons to be learned. By the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the institution of slavery had become deeply enmeshed in the national economy, despite all the ways that its existence stood in glaring contradiction to our nation’s commitment to equality and self-rule as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Hence there was real bite to the mocking question fired at Americans by British writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”
How, we wonder today, could such otherwise enlightened and exemplary men as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have owned slaves, a practice so contradictory to all they stood for? As I write in the book:
There is no easy answer to such questions. But surely a part of the answer is that each of us is born into a world that we did not make, and it is only with the greatest effort, and often at very great cost, that we are ever able to change that world for the better. Moral sensibilities are not static; they develop and deepen over time, and general moral progress is very slow. Part of the study of history involves a training of the imagination, learning to see historical actors as speaking and acting in their own times rather than ours; and learning to see even our heroes as an all-too-human mixture of admirable and unadmirable qualities, people like us who may, like us, be constrained by circumstances beyond their control. . . .
The ambivalences regarding slavery built into the structure of the Constitution were almost certainly unavoidable in the short term, in order to achieve an effective political union of the nation. What we need to understand is how the original compromise no longer became acceptable to increasing numbers of Americans, especially in one part of the Union, and why slavery, a ubiquitous institution in human history, came to be seen not merely as an unfortunate evil but as a sinful impediment to human progress, a stain upon a whole nation. We live today on the other side of a great transformation in moral sensibility, a transformation that was taking place but was not yet completed in the very years the United States was being formed.
A related lesson of history is that acts of statesmanship often require courage and imagination, even daring, especially when the outcome seems doubtful. Take the case of Lincoln. So accustomed are we to thinking of Lincoln in heroic terms that we forget the depth and breadth of his unpopularity during his entire time in office. Few great leaders have been more comprehensively disdained, loathed, and underestimated. A low Southern view of him, of course, was to be expected, but it was widely shared in the North as well. As Lincoln biographer David Donald put it, “Lincoln’s own associates thought him ‘a Simple Susan, a baboon, an aimless punster, a smutty joker.’” Abolitionist Wendell Phillips called him “a huckster in politics, a first-rate, second-rate man.” George McClellan, his opponent in the 1864 election, openly disdained him as a “well-meaning baboon.” For much of that election year, Lincoln was convinced, with good reason, that he was doomed to lose the election, with incalculable consequences for the war effort and the future of the nation.
To quote the book again:
We need to remember that this is generally how history happens. It is not like a Hollywood movie in which the background music swells and the crowd in the room applauds and leaps to its feet as the orator dispenses timeless words, and the camera pans the room full of smiling faces. In real history, the background music does not swell, the trumpets do not sound, and the carping critics often seem louder than the applause. The leader or the soldier has to wonder whether he is acting in vain, whether the criticisms of others are in fact true, whether time will judge him harshly, whether his sacrifice will count for anything. Few great leaders have felt this burden more completely than Lincoln.
In conclusion, let me suggest that the story of the ending of the Civil War in April 1865 might hold a lesson for those of our fellow countrymen today who seem to regard America’s past with contempt:
On April 9, after a last flurry of futile resistance, Lee faced facts and arranged to meet Grant at a brick home in the village of Appomattox Court House to surrender his army. He could not formally surrender for the whole Confederacy, but the surrender of his army would trigger the surrender of all others, and so it represented the end of the Confederate cause.
It was a poignant scene, dignified and restrained and sad, as when a terrible storm that has raged and blown has finally exhausted itself, leaving behind a strange and reverent calm, purged of all passion. The two men had known one another in the Mexican War, and had not seen one another in nearly twenty years. Lee arrived first, wearing his elegant dress uniform, soon to be joined by Grant clad in a mud-spattered sack coat, his trousers tucked into his muddy boots. They showed one another a deep and respectful courtesy, and Grant generously allowed Lee’s officers to keep their sidearms and the men to keep their horses and take them home for the spring planting. None would be arrested or charged with treason.
Four days later, when Lee’s army of 28,000 men marched in to surrender their arms and colors, General Joshua L. Chamberlain of Maine, a hero of Gettysburg, was present at the ceremony. He later wrote of his observations that day, reflecting upon his soldierly respect for the men before him, each passing by and stacking his arms, men who only days before had been his mortal foes: “Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? . . . On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!”
Such deep sympathies, in a victory so heavily tinged with sadness and grief and death. This war was, and remains to this day, America’s bloodiest conflict, having generated at least a million and a half casualties on the two sides combined, [including] 620,000 deaths, the equivalent of six million men in today’s American population. One in four soldiers who went to war never returned home. One in thirteen returned home with one or more missing limbs. For decades to come, in every village and town in the land, one could see men bearing such scars and mutilations, a lingering reminder of the price they and others had paid.
And yet, Chamberlain’s words suggested that there might be room in the days and years ahead for the spirit of conciliation that Lincoln had called for in his Second Inaugural Speech, a spirit of binding up wounds, and of caring for the many afflicted and bereaved, and then moving ahead, together. It was a slender hope, yet a hope worth holding, worth nurturing, worth pursuing.
We all know that it did not turn out that way, due in part to Lincoln’s death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. But the story is illustrative nonetheless. If Chamberlain’s troops could find it in their hearts to be that forgiving, that generous, that respectful of men who had only days before been their mortal enemies, we certainly ought to be able to extend a similar generosity towards men in what is now, for us, a far more distant past. Lincoln himself said something similar, at a cabinet meeting on April 14, the very day of his assassination:
I hope there will be no persecution, no bloody work after the war is over. . . . Enough lives have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentment if we expect harmony and union. There has been too much of a desire on the part of some of our very good friends to be masters, to interfere with and dictate to those states, to treat the people not as fellow citizens; there is too little respect for their rights. I do not sympathize in these feelings.
That was good counsel then and now, and it is an example of the wisdom that the study of history can provide us. May such wisdom be an impetus for us to rediscover such a humane and generous example in our own times.
To listen to most Democrats, they’ve got President Trump on the run when it comes to immigration.
The “big beautiful” wall he promised to build along the border with Mexico hasn’t gone up, and House Democrats will no longer fund even the border-security projects they supported in the past. Federal courts have also been preventing Team Trump from pushing through its efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants, let alone to attempt to fix a broken asylum system gamed by economic migrants from Central America who don’t fit the traditional definition of refugees fleeing for their lives.
But anyone who believes sanctuary-movement backers and Dems seeking to decriminalize illegal immigration are beating the president needs a reality check.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled to permit the administration to go on refusing to accept applications for asylum from migrants who have passed through another country without being denied asylum there, while a case challenging this common-sense policy works its way through the courts.
That comes on the heels of the court’s decision in July to allow Trump to use money from the defense budget to build the border wall. It was yet another significant victory for the administration’s initiatives and a sign that the left’s judicial guerrilla war that had been stymieing the president is starting to crumble.
Expect liberal efforts to prevent Trump from overturning President Barack Obama’s executive orders that effectively granted amnesty to millions of illegals to meet the same fate.
Fact is, despite the beating Trump has continued to take from the media about government tactics aimed at stemming the surge of illegal immigrants over the southern border, his policies have started to show signs of success.
While no one expects Mexico to pay for Trump’s wall, it is doing something more important: using its resources to stop its people from crossing over into the United States illegally. It has, for example, reinforced security on its southern border and set up checkpoints on highways leading north, dispatching 21,600 police and troops across the nation in the effort.
So far in 2019, the US Border Patrol has arrested more than 400,000 migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for crossing the border illegally. But only 4,300 Mexicans were caught doing so.
It’s all strong evidence that, far from ignoring or rejecting Trump’s efforts to jawbone them into doing something to stop the flood of illegals, America’s most important southern neighbor is listening to him. Recall that Mexico stepped up actions to control the migrants in a bid to avoid tariffs Trump had threatened to impose.
The message has also gotten through to those seeking to come to the United States illegally. Mexican officials have said there has been a “significant decrease” in the number of Central Americans entering their country this year for the purpose of illegally immigrating to the United States.
It makes sense. The campaign by Obama and other Democrats to grant amnesty and a wide array of benefits to illegal immigrants fueled the surge across the border, with new migrants seeking the same lenient treatment. That led to the crisis in which federal resources were overwhelmed by the sheer number of asylum-seekers, prompting much grandstanding and crocodile tears from the left.
Trump’s critics have libelously denounced his attempts to enforce the law — and restore order at the border — as reminiscent of the Nazis and evidence of racism. Yet those efforts seem to be having the intended effect on those contemplating coming here without permission.
With the courts recognizing Trump’s right to use his power to protect the border and with Mexico now cooperating with the United States, perhaps there’s a chance to break the long deadlock over immigration in Washington.
Of course, everyone knows America’s immigration system is badly broken, but Democrats, who hope they will win control of both Congress and the White House next year, have prevented a compromise that would allow the so-called “Dreamers” to stay in the country in exchange for the building of a border wall. So a fix may have to wait until after the 2020 election.
But no matter who wins next year, Trump has shown that, his intemperate rhetoric on the issue not withstanding, strict enforcement policies combined with the help of both the Supreme Court and the Mexicans can provide a way forward to fix an illegal-immigration problem that has long seemed insoluble.
When Ronald Reagan was asked what his plan was for dealing with the communist threat, he responded, “We win, they lose.” Those four words led to an impressive victory for human freedom around the world. To this day, there are boulevards named after Reagan all over the world in nations that were once dominated and enslaved by communism’s hatred of freedom and lust for control.
In an extemporaneous moment at ground zero, President George Bush said, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Because reasonable people can argue in good faith with some of Bush’s decisions in his efforts to protect America, it is perhaps too easy to forget some of the unassailable truths we learned or were reminded of on September 1, 2001.
First, America has enemies because America stands for freedom. We can waste time in self-flagellation trying to figure out why evil terrorist troglodytes hate us and we can even blame ourselves for their hateful, murderous actions. But we should accept the undeniable truth is that we attract the hatred of those who hate freedom.
Second, America must actively defend itself from those who hate freedom and therefore hate us. We have the right to do so. We do not need to die at the hands of cowardly terrorist madmen to prove we are the champions of freedom. They are working relentlessly to destroy us. Are we working tirelessly to defend ourselves and defeat them?
Third, we must be patient and be prepared for a long battle on the way to victory. Because America responded correctly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and mobilized to protect itself and the cause of freedom, the course of history was changed for the better. America was the beacon of hope to freedom loving peoples in every oppressed land. After a long struggle, Soviet communism collapsed, the world became safer, and Russians and Eastern Europeans began to enjoy more freedom.
Likewise, the events of September 11, 2001, or more precisely, how we respond to those events, will shape the 21st Century and beyond. Defeating communism took more than four decades. Defeating this new variant of murderous freedom-hating thugs will likely take as long and could take longer — this enemy does not have obvious national boundaries and the movement of its troops cannot be traced by satellite.
Fourth, there are those in the world who are not obviously troglodytes, but who quietly support and aid these murderous neanderthals. We must stop them from lending aid. Those who aid the troglodytes toward their goal must be stopped — diplomatically if possible, with force, if necessary.
To President Reagan, it was clear that America is exceptional and that we have an extraordinary role to play in the world if the cause of human freedom is to advance. Sadly, in contrast, Obama does not see America in the same light. Sure, America has its flaws, but Obama seems far too quick to apologize for imagined foibles and too reluctant to acknowledge our true strengths and virtues. In his own words, Obama believes “in American exceptionalism, just as … Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism” — which is to say that he does not believe that America is exceptional in any important way.
America is exceptional! Part of the reason for that exceptionalism is that America has not only defended its own interests, but it has also championed freedom for others. Today, Russians and Eastern Europeans enjoy freedoms they could not have dreamed of when President Reagan was first elected. These once oppressed peoples were not Reagan’s enemy. They, too, longed for freedom. They were victims of communism. Reagan understood this. And his battle was not with the oppressed, but with their oppressors.
Likewise, today Americans understand that Arabs and Muslims are not our enemy. But their oppressors — Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and other terrorists — are. America has no quarrel with Muslims or Arabs. Many of our brave fighting men and women are of Arab descent. Like the Russians and Eastern Europeans who now enjoy more freedom, the Arab world will experience greater freedom and opportunity when the oppressive troglodytes are finally defeated.
We look back on the “greatest generation” with admiration because they faced the enemies that confronted them and soundly defeated them even at great personal sacrifice. Will future generations will look back on us as another “greatest generation” because we defeated the barbarians at the gate no matter how long it takes — or as unworthy laggards of the American dream of freedom and opportunity because we lost interest in defending freedom?
We must maintain the purpose and resolve we felt on September 11, 2001. We cannot allow that day to become a distant memory or merely a footnote in history. It must continually motivate us to champion freedom and to defeat those who intend to rule the world with fear and violence and who plan to subjugate our children to their intolerant, violent ideology of hatred.
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George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government. Mr. Landrith is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Business Editor of the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics. In 1994 and 1996, Mr. Landrith was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. You can follow George on Twitter @GLandrith. This article was originally published at Frontiers of Freedom and OpEds.com on Sept. 11, 2011.
The problem with GBSD is that the acquisition approach did not keep pace or align with significant changes in the industrial landscape, and as a result, the cost to the American taxpayer will be higher and the quality of the system is apt to be lower. Competition is believed to provide the highest quality products at the lowest possible price. When a competition isn’t reasonable, balanced or fair, it provides none of those benefits.
America’s Minuteman Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was first deployed in 1962 in the cold war environment of “Mutually Assured Destruction” and was a system designed to last 10 years. The system has been updated over 50 to 60 years to keep pace with the growing threat of adversarial nations but the aging system requires a complete overhaul to assure continued deterrence for the next 50 years. That is why Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) has bi-partisan support, is a high Department of Defense (DoD) priority and must be given our full attention.
The US has many allies and friends around the globe who rely upon the US umbrella of nuclear deterrence. But there are also many adversaries who have made it clear that they would attack the US if the cost and risk are low enough. Therein lies the wisdom of “peace through strength.” Being strong and capable means that the bad actors in the world refrain from attacking us because they fear what might happen to them as a result. Weakness invites attack. Strength repels it. Strength also deters it.
The problem with GBSD is that the acquisition approach did not keep pace or align with significant changes in the industrial landscape, and as a result, the cost to the American taxpayer will be higher and the quality of the system is apt to be lower. Competition is believed to provide the highest quality products at the lowest possible price. When a competition isn’t reasonable, balanced or fair, it provides none of those benefits.
The Air Force competitively selected Boeing and Northrop Grumman as the only viable providers of GBSD. Almost immediately, Northrop Grumman bought the sole, viable manufacturer of solid rocket boosters in the US – Orbital ATK, and likely did so to corner the market for GBSD. For technological, industrial base and reliability reasons, solid rocket boosters are a major part of the GBSD program and constitute about 1/2 of the cost of each missile. The advantage within the GBSD request for proposal to a single contractor has eliminated the balance, fairness and benefits of competition. Consequently, Boeing informed the USAF that they will not pursue an unfair solicitation. In my view, Boeing has made a self-evidently reasonable decision to not bid on GBSD because there is no good reason to invest millions in a “competitive” process that isn’t competitive because the outcome is predetermined by poorly conceived ground rules.
How could it have been done differently?
The Air Force could have removed the solid rocket booster component from the competition, at least within the price determination, and allowed the two engineering titans to fairly compete on the best solution that maximizes deterrent capability at the lowest price. In all cases, the new GBSD system would include solid rocket boosters designed and built by Orbital-ATK, now owned by Northrop Grumman. Instead, the GBSD solicitation tilted the competition for the entire GBSD program towards Northrop Grumman as a sole source contract and the cost and performance benefits of robust competition are lost.
The clock is ticking and there is an optimum solution right in front of us to resolve this problem and assure on-time GBSD deterrence. For almost 60 years, the two companies have partnered in one way or another to design, build and deploy America’s nuclear deterrent Minuteman and the similar missile defense systems. GBSD will require the expertise and contributions of both Boeing and Northrop Grumman as Minuteman did when America won the Cold War.
If the past is any indication, both companies should play a major role and provide the best outcome as they represent the best and only viable industrial capability. I, for one, would like to think that our nuclear deterrent is a best-in-nation effort.
Some might argue that reworking the acquisition strategy will only slow down GBSD development. But the truth is, a joint teaming approach would actually speed things up and save money. Boeing and Northrop Grumman are already working on Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contracts for GBSD and could begin efforts immediately to join resources on a USAF-optimized design, rather than waiting for a competition that won’t be a competition at all. The Air Force owes it to the American taxpayer and citizen to provide a ground based deterrent soon that meets the country’s needs as cost effectively as possible. The only way forward is a joint industry team – the same team that secured our Nation in the past and can do so for the future.
Why ban BDS supporters?
Israel’s decision to ban Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is, while controversial, the right one. Yes, America is Israel’s foremost ally and members of Congress, the elected representatives of the American people, must always be respected.
Like America, Israel is a nation of laws, and the democratically elected government adopted a law in 2017 which prohibits the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control.” This includes proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
Why ban BDS supporters?
The answer is that their objective is the destruction of Israel. They make no secret of this goal. As As’ad AbuKhali has said,” “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
Who said that Israel is obligated to invite people into the country who seek its destruction?
Since entering Congress just a few months ago, and in the years before, Omar and Tlaib have waged war against Israel and the Jewish people. They have made disgustingly anti-Semitic comments, including accusations that the Jewish people are not loyal to the United States but to Israel; that the Jewish people buy politicians with their money; that Israel hypnotizes the world with its evil actions, and that Israel is an apartheid occupier which must be boycotted.
We can only assume that what Omar and Tlaib would be doing in Israel is simply inciting and inflaming the Palestinian population, or at the very least trying to visit upon Israel the most negative possible media coverage in order to delegitimize the Middle East’s only democracy before the eyes of the world.
Israel does not have to prove its commitment to freedom of speech by allowing foreigners into the country who want to exploit that liberty to propagandize against the state and advocate measures to undermine its democracy. Omar and Tlaib could have asked to travel with the other 40 Democrats who recently visited Israel, but they preferred to go separately to avoid the discomfort of meeting with Israeli leaders and experiencing an Israel that does not comport with their preconceived notions. Unlike their colleagues, they were uninterested in learning about Israel; they prefer to speak from ignorance. The two were clearly out for publicity and hoped to find opportunities to embarrass the Israeli people and their government while highlighting their anti-Israel agenda.
Israel is also not unique in determining who should be allowed to enter the country. Applicants for visas to the United States, for example, are asked several questions about their political views and activities. The USA Patriot Act allows the Secretary of State to bar admission to the United States to “any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”
The list of people barred or excluded from the United States includes Irish politician Gerry Adams, British singers Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim. And none of them supported movements advocating the destruction of the United States.
Israel is under constant attack, not just from terrorists, but from boycotters and others who seek to smear Israel in any way they can, via social media, mainstream media, and public relations stunts. Omar and Tlaib have every right to disparage Israel, but they cannot disguise their anti-Semitism by claiming to be merely criticizing the Israeli government. No one is silencing them, but they cannot have it both ways; they cannot promote a movement that denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their homeland and then complain when they are not allowed into that home.
If Israel made an exception for two promoters of BDS because they are members of Congress, it would make a mockery of the law passed by Israel’s parliament and its democratic principles. And being a member of Congress does provide license to work to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.
Prior to this year’s elections, Ukrainians appeared to stumble collectively toward their second civil war in five years, thus forecasting a renewed domestic catastrophe as well as instigating an ominous foreign policy crisis for the Trump administration in a strategically pivotal part of Europe amid enduring tensions between the United States and Russia.
After declaring independence from the disintegrating Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, the elected representatives of the sovereign republic of Ukraine faced two fundamental problems: the establishment of a Ukrainian national state and the creation of a free market economy. Three decades later the verdict is in: successive Ukrainian presidents have utterly failed to make the people the real sovereign, while simultaneously, have managed to turn the Ukrainian economy into a tightly controlled corrupt, criminal political enterprise. The people’s feeble attempt at facing these challenges decisively in 2004, ended in a spectacular failure. A second similar attempt in 2014, proved to be even worse. It was an unmitigated disaster. By early 2019, during the waning days of the Poroshenko presidency, Ukraine was in an extremely deep political, financial, economic, social, cultural, and moral crisis.
Politically, the sovereignty of the Ukranian people was a shame. The citizens were held hostage to the reign of greedy and irresponsible oligarchs. Financially, the local currency, the hryvnia, became almost worthless and the national debt reached 40% of the GDP. Economically, Ukraine has turned into the poorest country of the European continent. Socially, destructive hatred and fear from each other among various ethnic
communities pushed society to the brink of another bloody civil war. Culturally, the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Russian: Pravoslavna Tserkva Ukrayiny) on December 15, 2018, has created even among the 43.9% Ukrainian population fundamental confusions concerning their religious loyalties. Morally, this hatred and the resulting mistrust have inflamed long simmering racially motivated enmities mainly between the Ukrainian and Russian inhabitants of the country. As a result of the bloody Maidan coup d’etat and the subsequent policies of former President Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine has lost the Crimea and has triggered a deluge of fire and blood in the eastern part of the country. The latter in particular, has turned into a vicious circle, in which peace has become elusive.
Amid all these fundamental problems and uncertainties, most Ukrainian presidents have oscillated between their citizens’ desire to anchor the country in the West and the formers’ political inclination to maintain dictatorial powers with democratic facade. Their successive power grabs have moved Ukraine ever closer to its eastern neighbor Russia. In this manner, the so-called Ukrainian democracy has become a joke. That the West, in particular the United States of America, has been unable to stop the gradual descent of Ukraine into chaos is a tragedy for its sorry diplomacy. Specifically, the eight years of the Obama administration that allowed Vice President Joe Biden to take advantage of the all pervasive corruption, and help his son Hunter to enrich himself to the detriment of both countries, have been an unequivocal disgrace. Regrettably, the same Obama/Biden bureaucrats still control Ukrainian affairs from the State Department. Thus, American policy toward Ukraine remains abysmally contradictory and absolutely ineffective. In order to redefine the bilateral relationship with the new Ukrainian administration, the Trump administration should be guided by the facts on the ground. Accordingly, the White House must understand that what has transpired in the spring and more recently in the summer in Ukraine has been a real and fundamental transformation, in which the vast majority of the people have participated in a bloodless revolution to prevent another bloody civil war.
Onto this political minefield has stepped as an unlikely presidential candidate in early 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky. A lawyer by education and an entertainer by profession, he has succeeded to trigger a national uprising not just against President Petro Poroshenko who was running for a second term, but also against three decades of political and economic corruption.
The young Volodymyr Zelensky first introduced himself to the national audience in 2002, in the widely popular Russian language show called The Club of the Joyfuls and the Resourcefuls (Russian: Klub Viselikh i Nakhodchivikh). Starting to run in the Soviet TV in 1960, the show quickly became a national phenomenon. In 1972, Leonid Brezhnev closed the show, because of its increasingly critical political content. Under Mikhail Gorbachev the show was reinstated. In 2002, the best team was named The 95 Resident (Russian: 95-iy Kvartal) led by Volodymyr Zelensky from the town of Krivoy Rog. The team turned its newfound success into a permanent television show. Under the title Kiev Night (Russian: Vecherniy Kiev), they appeared every Saturday night on one of the Ukrainian TV channels. Not being satisfied with a weekly show, the team also performed live on streets and squares throughout the country. Finally, starting in 2006, they introduced a thirty five episode program entitled Servant of the People (Russian: Sluga Naroda) that became by far the most popular television show in Ukraine.
The storyline of the show is as simple as effective. A poor high school history teacher by the name of Vasyl Goloborodko (meaning in Ukrainian Clean Face), who lives with his parents, are convinced by his students to run for president. The show presents a critical picture of conditions in Ukraine from the Maidan events in 2014 on. Based on this criticism, the hero of the show builds a national movement and decisively wins the presidential election. In real life, Volodymyr Zelensky beat Petro Poroshenko 73.23% to 24.46%. Following the dissolution of the Verkhovna
Rada on May 20, 2019, parliamentary elections took place on July 21, 2019. President Volodymyr Zelenski’s party, appropriately named Servant of the People, received 254 mandates out of 424 overall.
In his inauguration speech, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that presently he has no intention to run for a second term. Then, admonished his countrymen and countrywomen to internalize their desire to be an integral part of Europe. He added that anyone who feels to be Ukrainian and would like to help the country are welcome and could obtain citizenship. Turning to politics, he emphasized the overwhelming importance of peace. To achieve peace, he stated that he would be willing to go the extra mile. He proposed direct talks with all parties involved. He strongly emphasized the unity of the entire Ukraine. Ukraine cannot be divided. The Donbas region and the Crimean peninsula are parts of Ukraine. Acknowledged that the social conditions in the country are untenable. Accordingly, everything must be done to restore the viability of the economy. Finally, President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed symbolic measures to restore the people’s faith in government.
The most important question is how to achieve these objectives. First, the new president, as soon as members of the new parliament are sworn in, must deliver a decisive and crushing blow to all who took part in running Ukraine to the ground. Second, Russia should neither be hated or feared. Negotiations must be conducted with a great deal of patience, because Russia is also fears and even hates any sovereign government in Ukraine. However, peace in the east and negotiations regarding the future of the Crimean peninsula are vital to normalization of domestic and foreign affairs of Ukraine. Third, the most thorough audit of Ukraine’s finances must be undertaken by foreign auditors. Finally, the president must work to realize the two major unfinished objectives, namely, the establishment of the Ukrainian national state and the creation of a national free market economy.
The United States of America and the European Union must wish success to Ukraine and extend all the assistance they can possibly marshall for this onerous undertaking.
Just as inflation can destroy a nation’s currency, so too inflation of another kind can destroy a nation’s citizenry.
I’m talking about the Democrat plot to vastly expand the voter base by first importing illegal aliens and then making it as easy as possible for them to vote — sometimes up to and including giving them legal access to state and local elections.
This, coupled with the Democrat effort to diminish trust in our elections by constantly inventing ever-more ludicrous claims of voter suppression, has resulted in a deadly attack on our national sovereignty. If people no longer believe they can trust our elections, then they will feel justified in rejecting the legitimacy of the government itself.
Sound familiar? That’s the faux justification of the resistance in rejecting loyalty to the duly elected president. Remember, according to the Democratic left, President Trump is only in office as a result of foreign interference and voter suppression. Reality doesn’t matter. In the eyes of the far left, Stacey Abrams is the governor of Georgia even though she lost the election by 50,000 votes.
Now, Democrats rarely talk about allowing illegal immigrants to vote in elections, but that is not always the case. Following the Cass Sunstein strategy of effecting transformational change in society through small incremental “nudges,” some Democrats currently call for allowing illegal aliens to vote in school and other local elections on the theory that all residents have a stake in the operation of schools and city services. Sure they do, and all illegal immigrants also have a stake in federal immigration policy, which will eventually be the argument why they should be allowed to vote in federal elections as well.
Nor can we discount the possibility of non-eligible voters participating in federal elections as long as voter ID is not mandatory. Progressives typically label as “voter suppression” any policy that requires voters to present a legal ID before voting. The claim is that Democrat voters are less likely to be able to obtain such an ID, though there is never any realistic explanation of why that is the case. Nor can they explain why they think cashing a check at a grocery store should have a higher bar than exercising your sacred trust of participating as a sovereign voice in the government of the United States.
Since many illegal immigrants now have access to a driver’s license in “sanctuary states” such as California, it is difficult if not impossible to tell a legal citizen from an interloper. The only thing that prevents illegal immigrants from voting is an unwillingness to break the law, and they have already proven that they think the law doesn’t apply to them.
Mark Hemingway wrote exhaustively at RealClearInvestigations earlier this month that it’s not only illegal aliens who present a threat to the sanctity of our elections. According to his report, Los Angeles by itself has 1.6 million more people registered to vote than eligible voters. But it’s not just Los Angeles or California that present a risk. According to Hemingway:
“Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have total voter registration tallies exceeding 100%, and in total, 38 states have counties where voter registration rates exceed 100%. Another state that stands out is Kentucky, where the voter registration rate in 48 of its 120 counties exceeded 100% last year. About 15% of America’s counties where there is reliable voter data – that is, over 400 counties out of 2,800 – have voter registration rates over 100%.”
If you think it is absurd that Democrats might want to take advantage of the large illegal immigration population to increase their vote totals, consider this: When passing their first piece of legislation in the Nancy Pelosi-led House of Representatives in 2019, Democrats rejected a GOP amendment stating that “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”
There’s that idea of inflation again, which brings us back to the question of the value of citizenship. This is no longer a merely academic exercise, as we learned in the first round of Democratic presidential debates. Many of the candidates confirmed they want to decriminalize illegal immigration and even offer government benefits to those who are in the country without permission. Moreover, we’ve been told by the Supreme Court that we can’t ask about citizenship on the census unless our “motive” is politically correct. This raises the question of whether citizenship even matters in the world that Marx built.
What, for instance, makes an American an American? If citizenship rights are fungible — if, for instance, you can exchange your Guatemalan citizenship for quasi U.S. citizenship merely by stepping across a border — then what obligations does government have to its own citizens? Don’t we at some point surrender our own rights to the claims of sovereignty if borders are not barriers but merely props for a social-justice docudrama? At least in the realm of rhetoric, citizenship should no longer be considered a once-and-for-all privilege. Easy come, easy go.
I wonder if that’s what President Trump had in mind when he made the supposedly outrageous comments about “the Squad” of four socialist Democrats who want to demolish our borders. He has been attacked for asking, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the four congresswomen were born in the United States, so Trump was technically wrong to say the “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen … originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” but under the new rules of fluid citizenship, he may have been even closer to the target than even he knew.
If citizenship no longer protects us, if we are obligated to shelter anyone who crosses our borders, then the value of that citizenship has been deflated just as the voter rolls have been inflated. Will the Squad really be “sent back” to some ancestral homeland? No, obviously not, but their advocacy of a country without borders makes them an apt target for those who want to defend our sovereignty.
President Trump, as usual, is ahead of the curve. He has pushed the open-borders argument to its natural conclusion. Citizenship and the responsibilities of citizenship either mean something specific or they don’t. Since Democrats in Congress refuse to acknowledge that U.S. citizenship has a real and permanent and impermeable meaning in law, then they need to live with the consequences of their globalist agenda. Sure, they are citizens of our great country, but if they are right in their defense of illegal immigrants, then that citizenship has no lasting value and offers no guarantees to those who possess it. In the brave new world without borders, the four congresswomen — and the rest of us — will have no certainty where we belong nor whether our citizenship rights can be taken away from us as easily as our protections.