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Childrearing Involves Not Just Assigning Duties but Instilling a Sense of Duty

Dec. 19 2017

In The Vanishing American Adult, the Nebraska senator Ben Sasse diagnoses a general cultural malaise besetting today’s young people, and attributes it primarily to changes in attitudes toward education and child-rearing. Sasse’s prescriptions for remedying this situation involve, above all, giving children duties. In his review, the rabbi and Jewish theologian Shalom Carmy—drawing on the writings of Søren Kierkegaard—examines just how religion fits into the book’s argument:

Sasse makes no secret of his Christian commitment. In The Vanishing American Adult, this comes out primarily in his advocacy of an Augustinian view of human nature: children do not become ethical adults without vigorous training. Sasse contrasts this view with the dominant philosophy of education traced (perhaps a bit too simplistically) to John Dewey.

This is right. But to my mind . . . young people need more than tasks, projects, and assignments. They need to see that duty has, [in Kierkegaard’s words], “eternal validity.”

Children may not understand all of this naturally. Duties are onerous, at least part of the time. Yet children can be taught, or rather brought to understand, that doing a task well and taking responsibility for it begets joy, even happiness, as some of Sasse’s illustrations show. We can teach, by precept and example, that this is the foundation for adulthood.

The relation of this moral sense to religion is complex. In Kierkegaard’s writings, [it] belongs to the ethical stage rather than the religious. But the ethical orientation is open to the religious. For Kierkegaard, the road from ethical responsibility to religion characteristically runs through guilt and repentance. There is a great deal of truth in this. But there is an affirmative side as well. Learning to take joy in God’s commandments, participating in acts of kindness, in prayer and thanksgiving, and in religious study, prepare young hearts to savor the “eternal validity” of duty’s adult demands. Those of us who know this indeed have something to be thankful for.

Read more at First Things

More about: Ben Sasse, Children, Education, Judaism, Kierkegaard, Religion & Holidays

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen