In his renowned 1882 lecture “What Is a Nation?” the French historian Ernest Renan argued that the essence of nationhood lies not in geography, race, or language but in a shared sense of past and future. Discussing this essay with Alan Rubenstein, Daniel Polisar suggests that, although Renan was no great friend of the Jews, his argument very much comports with the history of the Jewish nation and also has much in common with the ideas animating Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State. (Audio, 42 minutes. Options for download and streaming are available at the link below.)
Nationalism, Zionism, and the Jews
In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan
When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:
A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.
Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .
The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .
Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.