Leo Strauss and the Dangers of Postmodernism

According to the late Leo Strauss, some of the West’s greatest devotees of philosophical truth and reason encoded their beliefs in hints, irony, and deliberate self-contradiction, interpretable only by those initiated into the art of esoteric reading. In Philosophy between the Lines, Arthur Melzer musters empirical evidence that, from Plato to Montesquieu, central Western thinkers really did employ that method of writing. Commenting on the implications of Melzer’s analysis for today’s academic infatuation with postmodernism, deconstruction, and cultural relativism, Francis Fukuyama writes:

Many contemporary inhabitants of liberal democratic societies are perfectly comfortable with relativism because they think that it encourages toleration and liberal politics. The opposite of relativism, after all, is absolutism (is it not?)—the arrogant and potentially tyrannical belief that there is only one truth. . . . But as Melzer points out, the postmodernist project is itself incoherent and self-undermining. If all beliefs are equally true or historically contingent, if the belief in reason is simply an ethnocentric Western prejudice, then there is no superior moral position from which to judge even the most abhorrent practices—as well as, of course, no epistemological basis for postmodernism itself. . . .

The recovery of the rationalist project was central to Strauss’s life work—not the dogmatic reason of the Enlightenment, but rather the more skeptical version presented by Plato and Aristotle, a version less abstract and more embedded in the ordinary reality that humans perceived. But before there could be a return to that tradition, it had to be elucidated and rescued from centuries of accrued misinterpretation. This was why esotericism was so central to Strauss’s project: you could not understand the original effort to enthrone reason if you couldn’t read these earlier authors correctly.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Friedrich Nietzsche, History & Ideas, Leo Strauss, Postmodernism, Rationalism, Relativism

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy