Foreign Policy area of interest
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Ancient Talmudic wisdom teaches that whoever destroys a soul, destroys an entire world. So it’s understandable that in unveiling heightened gun control measures last week before an audience of shooting victims’ relatives, President Obama shed tears.
Inspired by the San Bernardino massacre to take unilateral action he admits “will save few lives” (nor would they have prevented any recent mass shooting), the president urged Americans to Think Again about “common-sense” gun reforms.
Obama’s executive actions bypass bipartisan congressional majorities, and 58 percent of voters who say “the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on,” according to last week’s Rasmussen poll.
“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence,” Obama frequently laments, a claim judged false by Politifact and the Washington Post who called his language “slippery.”
In fact, the US ranks 11th in per capita fatalities from mass public shootings – behind European countries with stricter gun control laws such as France, Switzerland, Norway and Belgium – according to a Crime Prevention Research Center analysis of the period 2009 through 2015. Meanwhile, total U.S. homicides are at historic lows.
Turns out, Obama is a better salesman for guns than gun control, the New York Times noted. During Obama’s tenure, gun ownership has nearly doubled, with women and concealed-carry owners representing the fastest-growing segments. Even as the stock market suffered its worst yearly start ever, shares of firearm manufacturers soared.
At his CNN town hall meeting, Obama faced gun rights defenders, including rape victim Kimberly Corban. “I have been unspeakably victimized once already and I refuse to let that happen again,” Corban explained in asking Obama to understand that restrictions make it harder for her to possess a gun, “making my kids and I less safe.”
While Obama was repeating his “if you like your guns you can keep them” mantra, presidential frontrunner Donald Trump drew deafening applause in Vermont after saying, “You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That’s bait!”
Even in Bernie Sanders country, people wonder why after a shooting spree lawmakers reflexively seek to limit the gun rights of law-abiding citizens, making them vulnerable to criminals who account for the vast majority of gun violence.
America’s killing fields aren’t in suburbia; they’re urban centers blighted by societal decay, gang warfare and beleaguered law enforcement. The perpetrators aren’t mentally ill loners; they’re mostly criminals killing criminals.
If addressing gun violence is such an urgent priority, why have weapons convictions declined six percent since last year and 35 percent since peaking in 2006? Why is Obama releasing dangerous gun felons and hardcore Guantanamo Bay jihadists? Why insist on resettling Syrian refugees whom the FBI says it can’t vet and Islamic radicals intend to infiltrate?
Why does Obama sanction “sanctuary city” policies that ignore immigration laws by releasing criminal illegal immigrants into unsuspecting populaces? Between 2010 and 2014, 121 released illegals proceeded to commit murder – that’s two souls lost per month.
Obama’s gun fiats came amid an ominous 2016 debut: escalating Middle Eastern conflict; a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan; mass sexual assaults by Arab refugees in Germany; a hydrogen bomb test in North Korea; sanctions-violating ballistic missile facilities in Iran; captured footage exposing ISIS’s “jihadi university”; and an ISIS-inspired terrorist ambushing a Philadelphia policeman with a stolen gun.
Seemingly indifferent to these life-imperiling events, Obama intends to override the will of the people – as with his 2014 executive order to grant amnesty to 5 million illegals, and the Iran deal, granting them $150 billion to fund terrorism and build ballistic missiles – setting dangerous precedents for our constitutional system.
Testifying before Congress about accumulating separation of powers violations – over-reaches for which the Supreme Court unanimously rebuked the White House 12 times – constitutional law professor and Obama-voter Jonathan Turley said Obama is “becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.” Turley insists the President “can’t say the solution to gridlock is you simply have to resolve it on my terms.”
By forcing his agenda on Americans, Obama is building a Trump Tower of insecurity and distrust, an edifice Trump unapologetically promises to destroy to “make America great again.” He’s tapping into Americans’ “dissatisfaction with government,” which tops Gallup’s latest list of voter concerns, with gun control barely rating.
That such an unlikely and flawed candidate is contending for the presidency speaks to America’s state of disunion. It’s tear inducing considering Obama ascended to the White House with this plea for national unity:
“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America…There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United State of America.”
Think Again – Since elections are designed to punish failures and reward success, may 2016 reveal a statesman capable of delivering the legitimate government Americans deserve.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
With the civilized world reeling from the Islamic State’s “no-lives-matter” terrorism, it’s worth recalling how General George Patton inspired college-age G.I.’s to vacate their safe spaces for D-Day’s virtual suicide mission. Rallying them to Think Again about their lives’ purpose, Patton’s micro-aggression-laced appeal established, “Americans play to win.”
Could college students cocooned on today’s morally confused campuses appreciate such stridency in defense of liberty, or would they banish Patton as they have other unfashionable voices, including former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice?
“We’ll win this war,” Patton proclaimed, “by fighting and showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have…. We’re not going to just shoot the bastards,” he clarified, “we’re going to rip out their living goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.”
Responding more fearlessly than today’s campus “crybullies” could fathom, Patton’s troops helped crush Nazism while others extinguished Imperial Japan, ending tyrannical threats to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Seven decades after winning World War II, the greatest threat to individual rights is not Islamic radicalism, but a fading commitment to bedrock democratic values – free expression, equality under the law, and pluralism.
As Abraham Lincoln understood, "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms,” he predicted, “it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
To appreciate the freedoms we’re in jeopardy of losing – and the medievalism to which jihadists want to return – recall humanity’s condition before our rights-assuring ideals civilized the world. As 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes described, life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
Oscar Wilde once observed how America’s youth, “are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.” Proving Wilde’s point, 40 percent of millenials support government restrictions on offensive speech, according to a recent Pew poll, compared to 12 percent of seniors.
That America’s youth disproportionately favor speech suppression explains headline-grabbing campus meltdowns – and refusals by Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld to perform for students too sensitive to take a joke.
Most distressing is how adults charged with teaching the young to thrive in a world of potential offenses are ceding control to children who are ill-equipped to govern themselves never mind society, creating what essayist Joseph Epstein calls “Kindergarchy.”
Instead of learning how to cope with divergent ideas, values, and speech, many young adults in our Kindergarchy invert the Golden Rule, doing unto others what they wouldn’t want done to them. Increasingly, they’re disrespectful – even hostile – to those with different viewpoints.
Consider these campus absurdities: Mount Holyoke canceled “The Vagina Monologues” for lack of “transgender inclusivity”; Wesleyan’s student government cut funding for a newspaper that published an “offensive” op-ed; Columbia students claimed Greek mythology “marginalizes student identities,” requiring trigger warnings; Brown created a secret group for discussing controversial topics freely; Amherst activists demanded banning free speech posters.
Under pressure to promote the toxic concept of “microaggression” (subconscious bigotry), University of California campuses discourage phrases deemed offensive, including “America is the land of opportunity,” and “There’s only one race, the human race.”
Missouri’s recent protests over alleged racism devolved into demands for the now former university president to write a handwritten resignation letter apologizing for “white, male privilege.”
Yale’s debate over potentially insensitive Halloween costumes morphed into outrage after a faculty member suggested, “free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.” Is there room, she wondered, to be “obnoxious,” “inappropriate,” or offensive” on campuses that are increasingly “places of censure and prohibition?” In response, a student whined, “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”
In their widely-discussed Atlantic essay, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” co-authors Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue “teaching students that their emotions can be used effectively as weapons…may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.”
Herein lies the problem with the “victimhood culture” that permeates our Kindergarchy – it disempowers and hurts people. Wouldn’t young adults “be better prepared to flourish,” Haidt and Lukianoff ask, “if we taught them to question their own emotional reactions, and to give people the benefit of the doubt?”
Ultimately, coerced silence kills democracy for as Edmund Burke noted, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Americans have always been a people willing to do something about evil, but as Patton understood, defeating evil is a choice, not a destiny.
To secure the open and vibrant society from which America’s creativity, prosperity and decency spring, we must continuously defend our democratic values, at home and abroad.
Think Again – without America as a bulwark of liberty, how will the Islamic world ever embrace freedom and modernity?
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Last week during the most-watched primary debate in history, a U.S. senator fired a cogently argued objection at his party’s leader, drawing a contemptuous and insulting personal attack.
No, it wasn’t Sen. Rand Paul who chastised Donald Trump for being “on every side of every issue,” criticism for which Trump poked Paul for “having a bad night.”
It was Sen. Chuck Schumer who, after taking a month to Think Again about the Iranian nuclear agreement, announced his carefully considered rationale for opposing President Obama’s controversial foreign policy objective – an accord that reverses America’s long-standing policy to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon and the proliferation it would spawn.
Schumer judged the deal not on “whether the agreement is ideal, but whether we are better with or without it.” He concluded we’d be worse off and less able to thwart the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism after giving Iran’s “brutal, theocratic” regime $50-150 billion in unfrozen assets to “pursue nefarious goals,” and allowing them to become a nuclear-threshold state.
Schumer’s conclusion reflects the opinion of experts who’ve appeared before Congress, including Amb. Robert Joseph, chief U.S. negotiator of the 2003 Libya deal that dismantled the country’s nuclear program.
Calling the Iran deal a “bad agreement” with “fatal flaws,” Joseph testified “the threat to the U.S. homeland and to our NATO allies of an Iran armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles will increase, not decrease, under the anticipated agreement.”
Schumer cited the ayatollahs’ long track record of deceit and deception, and their "tight and undiminished grip on Iran," in deciding it’s “better to keep U.S. sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.”
Unwilling to tolerate principled opposition, deal supporters launched a vicious smear campaign, branding Schumer “Warmonger Chuck,” even though Americans by a two-to-one margin oppose the Iran deal and believe it will make the world less safe, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
About the presumptive next Senate Minority Leader, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Democrats should “consider the voting record of those who want to lead the caucus,” proving Voltaire’s observation: “it’s dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.”
Schumer’s lambasting followed Obama’s speech at American University, the stage from which President Kennedy made his case for the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. “Let us not be blind to our differences,” Kennedy encouraged, “but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.” The Senate voted 80-19 to ratify the treaty.
Standing in Kennedy’s place, Obama dismissed critics who are concerned the Iran accord doesn’t reflect pre-negotiation promises, saying it’s not a “tough call” to support the deal. After insisting the only alternative is “another war in the Middle East,” Obama denounced opponents’ “knee-jerk partisanship,” “stridency” and “lobbyists” demanding war.
“It's those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They're making common cause with the Republican Caucus,” Obama charged, as if America’s duly-elected representatives are the moral equivalents of unelected theocrats who stone women, hang gays, and shoot peaceful protestors.
Supreme Leader Ali Khameni has already violated the deal, most significantly by having his top aid declare, “entry into our military sites is absolutely forbidden.” Yet Obama maintained the deal “permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” one of many evidence-free assertions that underscore Kennedy’s key insight: "no treaty ... can provide absolute security against the risks of deception and evasion."
Equally practiced in the art of evidence-free political rhetoric, Trump is a word salad-spewing colossus atop an untidy Republican presidential field. The ultimate anti-politician to disaffected voters enraged by ruling elites and political correctness, Trump wins plaudits for disparaging “stupid people” and those who “don’t treat me nice” – not for persuasive abilities.
All style and no substance, even on issues that make supporters swoon – illegal immigration, trade deals, Planned Parenthood – Trump is imprecise, incoherent, and inconsistent, though it matters not to his champions. Asked about Iran in last week’s debate, Trump mustered “I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite.”
Our democratic system relies on leaders who say what they mean and then get elected to go do what they said. More than celebrity, Trump’s surge derives from a smoldering frustration with politicians who don’t respect their contract with the people.
On the high-stakes Iran deal, Obama is poised to override the will of the people, and an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in Congress, unless Americans insist otherwise. Kennedy was right, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”
Think Again – May the right answer on the Iran deal emerge from an open, informed and respectful debate in Congress next month.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
At a recent 11,000-strong Netroots Nation conference, irate activists booed off the stage presidential candidate Martin O’Malley for proclaiming “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.”
That O’Malley was jeered for his echo of “all men are created equal” – the self-evident truth that fueled America’s civil rights movement – reflects a disturbing phenomenon, one social critic Aldous Huxley called the propagandist’s purpose: “to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”
By emphasizing differences and distorting reality, propagandists incite mistrust and hostility, compelling followers to line up dutifully behind partisan agendas, never to Think Again.
Yet as Adolf Hitler understood – and history proves – blind partisanship is dangerous. “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think,” observed modern history’s greatest propagandist and destroyer of humanity.
A 2013 experiment conducted by pollster Mark Mellman for the Bipartisan Policy Center confirmed Hitler’s insight, revealing how partisanship often overrides informed policy preferences, blinding people to the consequences of their choices.
Two groups of respondents were asked to select between Republican and Democrat education plans, with the labels on each plan reversed in each group. Rather than choose a plan based on policy preferences, Republicans and Democrats in each group overwhelmingly opted for their party’s plan.
“The evidence suggests that parties have considerable latitude to alter their positions without losing voters,” Melman concluded, “driving voters further apart on the issues if they choose.”
Consider how the Obama Administration is severing the long-standing bipartisan consensus to use all elements of American foreign policy -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- to prevent Iran’s theocratic regime, and the world’s most lethal terrorist state, from acquiring nuclear weapons.
On the most consequential life and death issue facing Americans, administration officials have reversed their pledges to prevent an Iranian bomb while ridiculing those who won’t renege, branding them the equivalent of warmongers.
Meanwhile, the Iran deal would convey a jackpot of sanctions-relief, conventional arms and intercontinental ballistic missiles, enabling the world’s worst warmongers – the tyrannical ayatollahs whose declared goal is to establish a global caliphate and “raise the banner of Islam over the White House.”
Unfortunately, by prematurely sidelining diplomatic and economic leverage, the deal leaves America with few peaceful ways to counter Iran, or secure our hostages’ release.
Normally, far-reaching international agreements – particularly nuclear-related treaties – require a two-thirds Senate majority to assure domestic support. Fearful of constitutionally mandated scrutiny, the administration framed the deal as an executive agreement requiring no congressional approval. To reassert its treaty authority, Congress agreed that disapproval requires an unprecedented two-thirds majority in both houses.
Most worrisome, the administration has circumvented voters, the Constitution and American sovereignty by obtaining UN approval of the Iran accord – including secret side deals – before Congress’s review. Should Congress reject the deal, administration officials argue America would be violating international law.
Whose lives will matter most: Those of pressured lawmakers, or Americans whose lives, and way of life, are imperiled by the agreement?
The same question can be asked of policymakers who put the lives of criminal aliens ahead of law-abiding innocents by allowing immigration laws to go unenforced.
This month, an illegal immigrant with seven convictions, five deportations and multiple returns to San Francisco’s “sanctuary city,” shot and killed 32-year old Kate Steinle while she was strolling with her Dad.
Like San Francisco, more than 300 sanctuary jurisdictions routinely ignore immigration laws, as tens of thousands of criminal aliens have been released into unsuspecting populaces. Between 2010 and 2014, 121 released illegals proceeded to commit murder – that’s two preventable tragedies per month. Yet propagandists obscuring these facts call opponents of sanctuary policies racist.
Similarly, it’s a “war on women” to be critical of Planned Parenthood, even after secretly recorded videos exposed the human cost – and price – of saleable baby parts, harvested from late-term abortions at their clinics.
In two videos that went viral, Planned Parenthood officials explain why their “less crunchy” techniques make them “very good at getting heart, lung, liver.” They crush above and below to “get it all intact.” A third video shows doctors discussing how to maximize fetal tissue revenue.
It’s hard to reconcile a belief that “all lives matter” with the routine and lawful crushing of emerging human life. Yet a mother’s life and right to control her body also matter. Acknowledging these conflicting truisms is a mark of a healthy society, one capable of breaking through the propaganda to consider the question: at what point does the mother’s right to control her life stop trumping a baby’s right to life?
George Orwell said, “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it,” which is why O’Malley was booed for saying “all lives matter.” Reversing society’s drift requires citizens willing to risk vilification to search for the truth, people who’ll resist reality-distorting partisans.
Think Again – by reversing Hitler’s insight, imagine the good fortune for society when the people do think.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
As capitulations to Iran’s theocracy dragged on, numbing Americans to the civilization-imperiling consequences of the planet’s most lethal terrorist state possessing nuclear weapons capability, a political sideshow emerged.
Two blunt iconoclasts, billionaire Donald Trump and self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, are encouraging Americans to Think Again about policies that undercut our interests, drawing surprisingly large crowds, breathless media attention, and lofty poll numbers.
Causing the collective eyes of the political class to roll, Trump and Sanders resonate with a pablum-fed electorate starving for authentic debate, policies aligned with citizens’ concerns, and leaders who say what they mean and mean what they say.
Witness the deceptions being used to normalize the mortal threat posed by Tuesday’s nuclear deal with Iran’s genocidal Ayatollahs. They’ve sponsored a slow-motion jihad against America ever since revolutionaries seized our embassy and hostages in 1979, asserting their constitution’s commitment to “universal holy government and the downfall of all others.”
Do politicians mean what they’ve consistently said about dismantling the nuclear program of the “Death to America”-dedicated Iranian theocracy? Will they claim the accord prevents an Iranian bomb when it merely delays it? Are they intentionally confusing us about what “verifiable” means, insisting the accord’s Iranian-approved “access where necessary, when necessary” meets the original “go anywhere-anytime” inspection standard?
It’s déjà vu considering Britain’s Neville Chamberlain hailed the Munich Agreement with Hitler for delivering “peace with honor,” and President Clinton called the North Korea nuclear deal – which relied on verification – “the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”
Will lawmakers reject the concession-laden deal criticized by five former Obama Administration national security advisors for falling “short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good agreement’?” Their assessment supports Henry Kissinger and George Shultz’s conclusion: “Negotiations …to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability.”
Regarding bi-partisan dissension, Yale University foreign policy scholar Walter Russell Meade commented, “This is not what diplomatic success usually looks like. In fact, it’s hard to think of another moment in American diplomatic history in which so many warning lights from so many places have flashed so brightly.”
That’s because the agreement grants the Supreme Leader’s core demands: preserving Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure, allowing near-zero breakout time to a bomb if it cheats, a decade if it doesn’t; gradual sanctions relief unlocking an estimated $150 billion; limiting intrusive inspections; and jettisoning the conventional weapons embargo and international legal regime branding Iran a rogue state – without requiring Iran to renounce terrorism or release American prisoners.
Are lawmakers listening to voters of whom 76 percent rated terrorism their top priority in a January Pew poll while 52 percent now believe America is a more dangerous place than it was before 9/11, according to Rasmussen’s July survey?
Senators were right to vote 99-0 in 2010 for painstakingly conceived coercive sanctions – relaxed when Iran negotiations began – to force the self-described deceivers to dismantle their nuclear program, as six UN resolutions ordered. Are Senators now willing to bet American lives on rebooting sanctions if Iran continues its murderous ways?
Declaring an Iranian bomb “would be a game-changer,” presidential candidate Barack Obama re-iterated pledges to prevent it. “The deal we’ll accept is – they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.” He also promised to “take no options off the table… including all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to … ensure the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort."
The truth is, every president since Carter has failed to deploy these powers to oppose Iranian hostility, allowing committed revolutionaries and skilled diplomats to out-flank and out-negotiate the mightiest nation on earth.
Iran doesn’t control all terrorists, but it’s the head of an Islamic supremacist snake seeking to subjugate humanity and destroy freedom. Responsible for killing and maiming thousands of Americans, and posing threats we’ve neither anticipated nor mitigated, their unanswered aggression has stimulated more aggression.
We’ve failed to retaliate after successive attacks; conflated our “national interest” with democracy promotion, “nation-building” and détente with avowed enemies; and enunciated “redlines” we haven’t backed up. With U.S. credibility diluted, we’re harmless as an enemy, treacherous as a friend and weaker guardians of American security.
The Iranian nuclear deal reflects our self-crippling foreign policy. But as Winston Churchill noted, “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” Having led efforts to extinguish Nazi, Imperial Japan and Soviet threats, America can do the same against aggressors with far less economic and military strength.
Think Again – The Berlin Wall turned to rubble twenty-nine months after President Reagan told Soviet leader Gorbachev, “if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity …tear down this wall!” Why can't the same be said of Iran’s nuclear installations? Then they can rejoin the civilized world.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
It’s not a Mad Max world into which students are graduating, but it’s a Mad, Mad one, fraught with genocidal fanaticism, proliferating scandals, and morally deficient leadership.
As terrorists claimed swaths of Iraq and Syria for the Islamic State, and “death to America”-seeking Iran crept closer to nuclear weapons capability, recent headlines featured indictments of international soccer officials at FIFA and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Distrust of civil institutions pervades society.
Meanwhile, the conflicts of interest surrounding Hillary Clinton prompted CNN’s John King to note “you can’t go 20 minutes...without some story…. that gives you a little bit of the creeps.” Will Americans ignore behavior in a presidential candidate that they’d normally deem reprehensible?
The question before graduates is whether they’ll “party on” – accepting a world of imperiled liberties and moral retreat – or whether they’ll Think Again and try to improve it.
Can a generation more informed about Bruce Jenner’s transformation than the Constitution adhere to a founding principle of our democracy, that “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom,” as Benjamin Franklin insisted?
Will iPhone-era Americans raised in the freest, richest and most decent society the world has ever known demand the civic trust, honesty, and accountability on which America’s extraordinariness has depended?
Unfortunately, for over half a century, many institutions charged with cultivating civic virtue – family, faith and education – have failed to transmit the moral values vital to healthy societies. Skyrocketing numbers of single households, a struggling middle class and a crisis in higher education have combined to deprive us of citizens with the requisite moral character for self-government.
Author J.D. Salinger captured education’s problem in his 1961 book “Franny and Zooey:” His heroine grumbles, “You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly ever even hear the word ‘wisdom’ mentioned!”
Professor Allan Bloom of the University of Chicago had a more scholarly take in his 1987 bestseller, “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Student.”
Bemoaning the demotion of the humanities’ “great books” and academia’s “openness” trend, Bloom argued that because education was no longer a quest for wisdom and “truth,” it was eroding the intellectual foundations of liberty and morality. After all, 18-22 years olds don’t just self-actualize morally.
“Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason,” Bloom contended, lamenting, “It now means accepting everything and denying reason’s power” to distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, and justice from injustice.
Safe from reflective thought, potential insult or conflicting ideas, and without the ennobling insights and discipline gleaned from studying Aristotle, Shakespeare or Twain, is it surprising that our “best and brightest” converted housing finance into a high-stakes casino, rendered our foreign policy incoherent, and encumbered generations of American taxpayers with more debt than the world has ever known?
Campus horribles reached a zenith with the lauding of Columbia University undergraduate Emma Sulkowicz – aka “Mattress Girl” – who accused a friend of brutally raping her. Though the University and district attorney cleared him, Sulkowicz continued to tote a mattress -- the scene of the alleged crime -- on her back, garnering media plaudits, an invitation from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to the State of the Union address, and a celebratory shout-out at commencement.
To Sulkowicz’s champions, it doesn’t matter that the truth interfered with their popular narrative about "campus rape culture," or that their irresponsible statements increase the scrutiny given to rape victims and irreparably damage the reputations of the truly innocent. Those things are a trifle compared to their political agenda.
As if addressing Sulkowicz, actor Matthew McConaughey told University of Houston graduates “Life’s not fair. It never was, isn’t now and won’t ever be. Do not fall into the entitled trap of feeling like you’re a victim. You’re not.” McConaughey echoed Franklin’s maxim: “The Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
Last year, Admiral William McRaven, who commanded the Osama bin Laden operation, mined his Navy SEAL training to offer University of Texas graduates tips on how to change “ourselves and the world around us.”
In his widely admired address, he counseled, “Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone…You will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up,” then subsequent generations will live in a better world.
In truth, our Mad, Mad world isn’t a safe place and our era’s existential and moral challenges aren’t unprecedented. If graduates haven’t yet grappled with mind-bending questions – what’s a good person, how to make ethical judgments, what are civic duties – they will. As they struggle, may humanity’s wisdom guide them.
Think Again – “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance,” Franklin said. To recall why, consider Adolf Hitler’s observation: “lucky for governments that people don’t think.”
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Fleeing East Africa for Italy in a rickety rescue boat, 15 Christian asylum seekers were thrown to their deaths last week by fellow refugees because they weren’t praying to Allah.
We’re shocked by reports of innocents murdered for their beliefs, and orange-jump-suited victims marching to their deaths because, as Americans, we’re safe from such persecution.
Our freedoms evolved in part from an infamous, hysteria-induced episode in 17-century Puritan Massachusetts where anyone suspected of witchcraft was persecuted. The Salem witch trials became a cautionary tale about the dangers of false accusations and contempt for due process, and an allegory for the anti-Communist “witch-hunts” led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.
While heads don’t literally roll in America, the reputations of those refusing to Think Again often do, the result of character assassinations that corrode our civil society.
Witness the defamatory antics of Sen. Harry Reid while Senate majority leader. Like McCarthy, Reid regularly hurled false accusations at adversaries, including his 2012 election-year claim that Mitt Romney “hasn’t paid taxes for ten years.” Asked recently if he regretted his charge, the man entrusted with leading the world’s greatest deliberative body crowed, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”
Accused of having “no sense of decency,” McCarthy’s recklessness was eventually halted and the Senate later censured him. However, Reid was not censured. Neither was Sen. Edward Kennedy, who notoriously smothered in its crib the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of eminent jurist Robert Bork – called highly qualified by Sen. Joe Biden before he joined Kennedy in reputationally beheading the judge.
Explaining later why Bork needed to be cast as the devil, anti-Bork activist Ann Lewis acknowledged that an open debate “would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” Hence, Kennedy’s outrageous claim that in Bork’s America, “women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.”
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote, “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.” Toxic political discourse is now standard, as dissenters are isolated, scorned and even silenced. To paraphrase George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” these days it’s hard to tell man from pig.
For example, those who believed Police Officer Darren Wilson didn’t kill Ferguson teenager Michael Brown while Brown had his hands up -- a myth discredited by the Justice Department – were labeled racists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears less esteemed by the Obama administration than Iran’s “Death to America”-spewing Ayatollah -- and is persona non grata at the White House for doubting the emerging Iranian nuclear deal.
To oppose the coerced participation of service providers in same-sex weddings is deemed anti-gay, the label attached to former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who lost his job last year for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Righteously indignant at the purging of dissidents, gay-marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan said, "If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."
With dissident scientists in their crosshairs, environmental bullies Rep. Raul Grijalva and Sen. Edward Markey are also threating free speech -- and academic freedom and scientific inquiry. Their witch-hunt has already bagged Professor Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado.
Despite supporting policies to combat climate change, Pielke’s offense was finding no increase in extreme weather due to global warming, a conclusion endorsed by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt,” he said after deciding to abandon climate research.
As a columnist, I’m a target for vilification that attempts to escort contrarians from polite society. I’ve been branded a bigot for applying Abraham Lincoln’s “absence of malice” vision to our culture’s civil wars; an extremist and warmonger for asking, “Why coexist with a mortal Iranian threat?” and an elitist leech for decrying our economy’s uneven playing field, warped by cronyism. For breaking with “settled science” orthodoxy, pitchforked prosecutors urged my editors to censor me.
Though I crave more reasoned debate that illuminates, even unifies, I recognize that my detractors’ right to unconstructive criticism is the flip side of my right to free expression. Individual liberty is the reason my persecuted grandparents came to America in a wave of huddled masses, not unlike those crossing dangerous seas today.
Though jeopardized, the open, diverse and vibrant society we’ve become is the source of America’s creativity, prosperity, generosity… and decency. We’re still the greatest continuing experiment in human history, founded on the unique idea that people from different places with differing backgrounds and values could forge a civilized and free nation. It’s an idea that all Americans have a responsibility to sustain.
Think Again - to preserve our decency and vitality, people don’t need to change their minds, just open them.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare penned, and last week I was fortunate to behold a performance for the ages, one that moved its standing-room only audience.
Sitting in the gallery above a joint session of Congress, and feeling history’s weight at our civilization’s fateful crossroads, I watched Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enter the House chamber to thunderous bipartisan applause before delivering a gracious, credible, and consequential speech.
Defending our common heritage and interests, Netanyahu received 43 ovations from ideologically diverse lawmakers, reflecting our countries’ durable bond – for which he expressed fervent gratitude – and our mutual desire for lasting peace and security.
In an era starving for leadership, moral clarity and courage, Netanyahu served a feast. With the Iranian nuclear negotiation deadline looming, he implored us to Think Again about the reported concession-laden deal that would make a nuclear-armed power out of the planet’s most lethal terrorist state -- the one jailing journalists, hanging gays, stoning women, dominating sovereign nations, and inciting violence responsible for American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking before legislators entrusted with upholding America’s founding ethic, Netanyahu contrasted it with the Iranian theocracy’s principles – “death, tyranny and the pursuit of jihad” – disputing the notion that the “Death to America” regime could become a responsible power among nations.
Despite promising repeatedly to prevent Iran’s radical regime from ever obtaining nuclear weapons, the Obama administration is reportedly near an agreement that would allow just that. The administration also aims to skirt Senate ratification, extraordinary given the far-reaching international security implications.
In addition to accepting Iran’s massive nuclear infrastructure and the region’s largest ballistic-missile inventory, it ratifies what even the UN wouldn’t – Iran’s uranium enrichment rights. Most worrisome, the proposed deal lifts restrictions after only 10 years, allowing Iran’s unconditional development of nuclear weapons and undoubtedly sparking a nuclear arms race in a great tinderbox.
Rather than averting war, the deal advances it. Immunized from internal revolution and external challenges, would Iran “fund less terrorism when it has mountains of cash,” Netanyahu asked, or “change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?"
Herein lies Netanyahu’s essential truth: The free world isn’t stuck with only two choices, this deal or war, as some argue. A better deal can be negotiated with Iran’s vulnerable regime, a deal that protects the world’s security interests by denying Iran an easy path to the bomb, and with which Israel and its Arab neighbors “could live, literally,” as Netanyahu put it.
“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country,” Netanyahu proclaimed, “let it act like a normal country.” Until it stops inciting regional violence, supporting global terrorism and threatening Israel’s annihilation, he argued, it must remain isolated.
Obama’s former Iran advisor, Dennis Ross, wrote in USA Today that Netanyahu “made a strong case” about why the potential agreement with Iran “is a very bad deal,” calling on his ex-boss to answer Netanyahu’s concerns. Disagreeing with Obama, Ross contended Netanyahu did offer “the alternative of insisting on better terms and increasing the pressure on the Iranians until a more credible agreement is reached.”
To Mideast allies scrambling to counter radical Islam, America’s perceived indifference to their security interests amid our engagement with Iran’s expansionist theocracy prompts this frightening concern: does America respect its enemies more than its friends?
Rarely have we diverged so dramatically from America’s bipartisan peace-through-strength tradition, best articulated by President Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
That’s what struck me as I stood to applaud Netanyahu’s pledge, “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
Upon leaving, I noticed with hope the marble relief of Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher who said, “You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes.” Maimonides’ profile is one of 22 sages adorning the gallery wall whose ideas underpin our democracy. Each looks toward the relief of Moses who faces the podium, above which is etched “IN GOD WE TRUST.”
Think Again – may the truths reverberating around our leaders inspire in them Moses-like determination to deliver us to the land they promised, one free of Iranian nukes.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
There’s an old political saying that if your opponent is committing suicide, get out of the way. Yet Professor Sean Elias requires a response, so hateful was his odious retort in the Aspen Times to my column, ”Why coexist with a mortal Iranian threat?”
Evidence that society’s oldest prejudice endures after a post-Nazi dormancy, Elias’s letter-to-the-editor reflects the bigotry that’s inciting lethal anti-Jewishness in Europe, and existential threats to Israel, the only nation-state of the Jewish people and the sole democracy in the Mideast’s radicalized swamp.
No other nation is surrounded by as much hostility or is targeted for destruction by governmental and terrorist groups. Yet Vermont-sized Israel, nine miles wide at its narrowest point, suffers unreasonable scrutiny, despite comprising only 0.3 percent of the region’s territory and 1.6 percent of its population.
Peddling prejudices as obvious truths, Elias employs familiar stereotypes to convince you to Think Again about Jews, Israel and its leaders, hoping to incite hatred for a people who’ve suffered 2,500 years of unrelenting oppression while inspiring more free and decent societies.
Before the Jews, the pagan world resembled today’s Islamic State, devoid of freedom and dignity. It was “the Jews,” American founder John Adams noted, who “contributed more to civilized man than any other nation. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more than any other nation, ancient or modern.”
Unfortunately, “things change, anti-Semitism remains,” observed Auschwitz-survivor and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Elie Wiesel. Because words have power, he insists, “we can bring hope, or despair -- it’s always in our hands.”
Elias chooses despair, scolding “Jewish fanatics;” “Jewish misbehavior;” “Jewish jingoism;” a rhetorically “handicapped rabbi;” “radicalized Jews who would have the US sacrifice its citizens to defend an Israeli state;” and “Judeocentrism” at the Aspen Times, invoking the classic canard, Jewish control of the media.
Calling my column a “fanatical Zionist propagandist piece,” Elias argues, “Extremist Jews like Sturm will welcome the blood-tainted, saber-rattling, opportunistic prime minister of Israel…. Benjamin Netanyahu (who’ll)…soon slither into the halls of Congress.”
The professor represents a growing anti-Jew movement -- thriving on campuses and in international organizations – aimed at delegitimizing and ultimately denying Jewish self-determination in the Jews’ ancestral homeland. Activists don’t care about depriving the world of Israeli innovations -- medical, technological, renewable-energy, water-conservation -- only destroying Israel.
Though Israel’s Arab citizens – one-fifth of its population – are freer than all citizens living in 22 Arab nations, and despite the country’s free press, independent judiciary and regular elections, anti-Jewish activists brand Israel a “racist, apartheid state,” an insult to those who’ve suffered real apartheid.
Last week, Stanford’s student government joined a growing list of organizations favoring divestment from Israel, citing “human rights abuses.” In a world of human rights violators, Israel is demonized as a pariah – not China, North Korea, or Iran.
Since Israel is a liberal, free, immigrant-friendly, multiethnic oasis in a cesspool of political, religious and sexual persecution, what else besides Jew-hatred explains the doubled standard applied to the world’s only sovereign Jewish community, and it’s singling out for isolation and strangulation?
Reflecting on his five-years as an AP reporter in Israel, Matti Friedman blasted the media’s “groupthink,” arguing it has “moved away from careful explanation and toward a kind of political character assassination on behalf of the side it identified as being right.”
New “settlement” houses are newsworthy, not new rockets smuggled into Gaza or Hamas’s placement of military installations near schools and hospitals. Deaths and injuries from Israel's defensive military operations are stories, not Hamas's war crimes, generating civilian casualties on both sides.
When journalists “portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers…. is that Jews are the worst people on earth,” Friedman concluded.
Should anti-Israel activists succeed, Friedman believes democracy and modernity will be replaced by ruthless extremism, as in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, “ending the only safe progressive space in the Middle East, the only secure minority refuge in the Middle East, and the only Jewish country on Earth.”
On the frontlines of the battle to preserve freedom, Israel is the canary struggling to survive the noxious coalmine, not the cause of the deadly fumes. Hatred that targets Jews never ends with Jews. Eventually it reaches Christians, women, gays, and liberals, as evident throughout the Mideast today.
This will be Netanyahu’s message to Congress. Representing a people whose contributions include the ethical tenets underpinning civilization -- equality before the law, sanctity of life, freedom, social responsibility, peace as a commandment -- his goal is to join with America, history’s greatest champion of these values, to preserve them.
Think Again – As Wiesel urges, by bringing hope, not despair, to public discourse, we can help the forces of tolerance, freedom and peace repair the world.
Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA
Imagine catching a lethal, fast-growing yet operable cancer in a child before it’s spread. The doctors assure a high survival rate, assuming traditional protocols. Meanwhile, a third opinion proposes no treatment believing the child can co-exist normally with cancer.
Entrusted with the awesome responsibility of ensuring the child’s healthy future, how long would you Think Again before opting to remove the cancerous “Sword of Damocles” – and fear – hanging over precious life?
Alas, too often leaders charged with safeguarding life have sacrificed it on the altar of “normalization,” preferring inaction to threat-mitigating albeit difficult operations.
Regretful that Western powers didn’t avert World War II by restraining Hitler, Winston Churchill lamented “There never was in all history a war easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe.” Craving Hitler’s partnership in a stable Europe, and trusting he’d abide by international treaties, European powers negotiated the Munich Agreement without Czech participation, permitting Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s “Sudetenland.”
Today, a confrontation-wary world faces another genocidal, fanatical, and global threat – radical Islam and its various savage and infidel-hating manifestations. Like the Nazis who pursued a “master race” through ethnic cleansing, Islamic radicals seek a sharia-compliant “master faith” – though disagreeing on the master -- to crush other faiths, including Islamic ones.
Increasingly brazen, headline-grabbing terrorist organizations include ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko-Haram, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Yemen’s Houthi’s. ISIS’ propagandistic snuff videos of executions by beheading, live burial and burning attract recruits willing to commit atrocities, even in Western capitals.
If ISIS is radical Islam’s “JV” team, as President Obama called them, Iran is its Olympic team. Long recognized by the U.S. government as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, Iran is the planet’s “most dangerous regime,” the title of Ted Koppel’s documentary about the anti-Western theocracy. Required by Allah to wage global jihad until their Messiah’s return, apocalyptic mullahs uphold their constitution’s commitment to “a universal holy government and the downfall of all others.”
Since its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has sought Middle East dominance. As American leadership and involvement receded, to our allies’ dismay, Iran’s influence and terrorist activities -- financing, weapon provisioning, intelligence, safe harbor and logistical support -- expanded.
As enemies of freedom, peace, human rights, and international law, militants target the beating hearts of these bedrock values – America (Great Satan) and our most reliable ally Israel (Little Satan). Though denying the Holocaust, Islamic militants and their Iranian overlord want to trigger a second one by obliterating Israel, as Hamas’ charter promises.
“If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide,” Hezbollah’s leader boasted. As French Jews stream into Israel following the anti-Semitic attack at a Paris kosher butcher, it simplifies the fulfillment of their “Judenrein” ambitions, especially with Israel’s neighbors – Syria, Lebanon and Iraq -- now firmly within Iran’s grip.
Fearing nuclear-backed Islamic extremism and proliferation, successive US presidents and Congresses have affirmed America’s peace-through-strength strategy, insisting “all options are on the table” to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions -- even Obama. “I don’t have a policy of containment,” he declared in a 2012 speech, promising “to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” with military force if necessary.
Unfortunately, if you like Obama’s election-year pledges, you can’t keep them. In November 2013, just as ratcheted-up sanctions were forcing Iran to choose between economic collapse and dismantling its nuclear program, the administration announced its pivot to Iran engagement. In return for “freezing” it’s nuclear program, Iran could become “a very successful regional power,” the President said.
Amid echoes of Churchill’s laments, America’s premier nuclear arms negotiator, Henry Kissinger, testified before the Senate about the agreement administration officials want to sign, potentially by March 24th. Having negotiated without the involvement of fretful Mid-east allies, the administration aims to skirt Senate ratification, extraordinary given the far-reaching international security implications.
According to Kissinger, what “began as an international effort… to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option” has morphed into a “bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability.” The impact ”will be to transform the negotiations from preventing proliferation to managing it,” he said, predicting, “We will live in a proliferated world in which everybody – even if that agreement is maintained – will be very close to the trigger point.”
The truth is we can’t coexist with a metastasizing cancer like a nuclearized Iranian terrorist state. That’s why in 2010 the Senate voted 99-0 – against Obama’s wishes -- for intensified sanctions, since relaxed, and why there’s overwhelming bi-partisan support to restore their negotiation-strengthening effect. Entrusted with safeguarding civilization’s future, shouldn’t our leaders act while the cancer is operable?
Think Again – To avert the tragic fate of the Jordanian fighter pilot, we mustn’t let the Iranians cage us, leaving us vulnerable to their nuclearized Sword of Damocles.