Alexis de Tocqueville and the American Way in Religion

Unlike in France, where after the 1789 Revolution the established church was replaced by a policy of official secularism, the U.S. has always tried to strike a balance between protecting religion and maintaining the state’s neutrality in religious matters. Ironically, writes Paul Carrese, this path owes much to two Frenchmen: Charles de Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville. But what is the condition of American moderation today?

America still is largely exceptional among modern liberal democracies for the balance it holds between two principles that, as the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville noted almost two centuries ago, are not happily aligned in most polities: liberty and religious tolerance, on the one hand, and respect for religious sources of truth, morality, and political views, on the other. Today it is the rare university graduate or member of our political or cultural elite who knows that Tocqueville defined this balance, or moderation, as America’s “point of departure.” His Democracy in America (1835/1840) considered this the foundation for our political institutions, political culture, and broader social or moral culture.

Writing shortly after the French Revolution and its campaign for secularism, [Tocqueville] saw the need for a different philosophy. He knew that French secularists of his day would be puzzled to learn that American politics was full of religious ideas and yet its liberal democracy was healthier, and more peaceful, than France’s. A Tocquevillean today would note that the secularists still would be puzzled, [but] also would notice the neglected, decaying foundations of American moderation.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Alexis de Tocqueville, American Religion, Freedom of Religion, History & Ideas, Montesquieu, Secularism

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7