Sex, Law, Religion—and a Secularist’s Morality Tale

In Sex in the Constitution, Geoffrey Stone—formerly dean of the University of Chicago’s law school—explains how the American legal system dealt with attempts to regulate sexual relations from colonial times until the present day, giving particular attention to the ways legislation regarding sex ran up against the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Andrew Koppelman finds the book “a remarkably clear articulation of a very common [but] crude view of the appropriate relation between politics and religion”:

Stone thinks that the controversies over legal regulation of sexuality were, at their core, religious. . . . The struggle is one between good secularism and bad religion. . . . The struggle is not only about sexual freedom. It is also about containing the dangerous power of religion. . . . [T]he book reads like an indictment of the dangerous and tyrannical impulses of religious dogma. Yet the religious are not the bad guys in the story of modern sexual liberation. . . .

[For instance], Stone emphasizes the [Constitution’s] framers who sought to contain religion for rationalistic reasons. But American disestablishment was equally the creation of dissenting Protestants who thought that state support tended to corrupt the true faith. Religious fanatics like John Milton and Roger Williams advocated disestablishment a century before the Enlightenment. The Christians’ indispensable role in disestablishment presents a problem for Stone’s vision of a politics purged of religious influence. . . .

[But the more important question is this:] how bad is it if a law’s supporters are religious? Stone notes that when Californians voted against same-sex marriage in 2008, “the voting patterns made crystal clear” that the law was “a successful effort by persons holding a specific religious belief to use the authority of the law to impose their belief on their fellow citizens.” . . . The argument implies that the support of religious people is a kind of constitutional poison, contaminating and invalidating otherwise legitimate statutes. Of what use then is their right to vote?

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More about: American law, First Amendment, Religion & Holidays, Secularism, Sex, U.S. Constitution

 

Iran’s Defeat May Not Be Immediate, but Effective Containment Is at Hand

Aug. 20 2018

In the 1980s, the U.S. pursued a policy of economic, military, and political pressure on the Soviet Union that led to—or at least hastened—its collapse while avoiding a head-on military confrontation. Some see reasons to hope that a similar strategy might bring about the collapse of the Islamic Republic. Frederick Kagan, however, argues against excessive optimism. Carefully comparing the current situation of Iran to that of the Gorbachev-era USSR, he suggests instead that victory over Tehran can be effectively achieved even if the regime persists, at least for the time being:

What must [an Iran] strategy accomplish in order to advance American national security and vital national interests? Regime change was the only outcome during the cold war that could accomplish those goals, given the conventional and nuclear military power of the Soviet Union. Iran is much weaker by every measure and much more vulnerable to isolation than the Soviets were. . . . Isolating Iran from external resources and forcing the regime to concentrate on controlling its own population would be major accomplishments that would transform the Middle East. . . .

It is vital to note that the strategy toward the Soviet Union included securing Western Europe against the Soviet threat and foreclosing Soviet efforts to pare America’s allies, especially West Germany, away from it while simultaneously supporting (in an appropriately limited fashion) the Solidarity uprising in Poland and the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. It is not meaningful to speak of a victory strategy against Iran that does not include contesting Iranian control and influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq while strengthening and hardening the Arab frontline states (including Oman and Qatar) against Iranian influence.

Syria is Iran’s Afghanistan—it is the theater in which Iranian forces are most vulnerable, where Iranian popular support for the war is wearing thin, and where the U.S. can compel [Iran] to expend its limited resources on a defensive battle. Iraq is Iran’s Poland—the area Iran has come to dominate, but with limitations, and a country Iran’s leaders believe they cannot afford to lose. The U.S. is infinitely better positioned to contest Iran’s control over Iraq than it ever was in Poland (and similarly better positioned in Syria than it was in Afghanistan).

A long-term approach would focus on building a consensus among America’s allies about the need to implement a victory strategy. It would deter the Russians and Chinese from stepping in to keep Iran alive. It would disrupt the supply chain of strategic materials Iran needs to advance its nuclear and conventional military capabilities. And it would force Iran to fight hard for its positions in Iraq and Syria while simultaneously pressing the Iranian economy in every possible way. Such a strategy would almost certainly force the Islamic Republic back in on itself, halt and reverse its movement toward regional hegemony, exacerbate schisms within the Iranian leadership and between the regime and the people, and possibly, over time, and in a uniquely Iranian way, lead to a change in the nature of the regime.

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More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Soviet Union, U.S. Foreign policy