A New Science-Fiction Movie Explores What Happens When the Future Goes to War with the Past

Nov. 25 2020

The philosopher Leo Strauss, in one of his most significant essays on Judaism, contrasts the modern West’s understanding of progress with the Jewish aspiration for t’shuvah, or return (often imprecisely rendered as repentance). While one view sees perfection in an imagined future, the other hopes for a return to the past. It is an extreme version of the former view, perhaps, that was at work when rioters in Portland, Oregon destroyed statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Reviewing Christopher Nolan’s new time-travel film Tenet, Michael Weingrad is put in mind of that event, which occurred just a few days after he saw the film, and not far from his own home:

“The future is trying to kill us,” explains one of the characters. Nolan leaves the precise details vague; there is a gesture at the environmental damage we in the present are said to be causing. But the point is that our descendants have found us wanting and have decided to solve the problem by destroying us, their past.

In other words, Nolan gives us the metaphysics of much of the left, dramatized with explosions and spy gear. It is part of the progressive faith that the future is always better and more moral. Why, then, should the future not try to kill us, we who were inconsiderate enough to be born in the past, and who always seem to hold back the better world just around the corner?

So how do you fight the future? To some extent, you can’t. Yet Nolan gives us heroes who do not give in to historical determinism. They do not confuse their position on a timeline with morality.

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Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: Film, Leo Strauss, Progressivism, Repentance

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy