A Jewish Scholar, an Isolationist Senator, and a Mysterious Quotation from George Washington

To this day, the first American president’s valedictory warning against “foreign entanglements” is well known, and often cited for purposes both good and ill. But in 1934, Senator William Borah read a Washington Post editorial critical of himself that quoted Washington as having also said, “When, our institutions being firmly consolidated and working with complete success, we might safely and perhaps beneficially take part in the consultations held by foreign states for the advantage of the nations.”

An enraged Borah, the leader of the Republican party’s isolationist wing, instructed his staff to find the source of the quotation, which they traced to the Jewish scholar Horace Kallen, who was, in Esther Schor’s words, “an ardent Zionist, a prominent internationalist, and the leading advocate of what he called ‘cultural pluralism.’” As for Borah, who would denounce the quotation as a forgery, and condemn Kallen for it, Schor writes:

Having lost his 1936 bid for the Republican nomination, Borah spent the late 1930s pressing the case for American neutrality. He habitually blamed the Versailles Treaty for Hitler’s aggression. Privately, Borah also lamented Nazi persecution of “those poor people” and criticized Germany for financing insurgents in the United States. But he made no secret of his admiration for Hitler, imagining that a personal conversation with the Führer just might set things to right: “There are so many great sides to [Hitler], I believe I might accomplish something.” In 1938, he sought, through the German ambassador, an invitation to Berlin. But when the Foreign Office cabled the invitation to meet with both Hitler and Ribbentrop, Borah declined; he was ill, relations between the United States and Germany were deteriorating, and he suspected FDR would block his journey.

Upon learning that Germany had just invaded Poland, Borah told a journalist, “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler—all this might have been averted.” Meanwhile, despite [the prominent rabbi and Jewish leader] Stephen Wise’s personal appeals, Borah refused to speak out against the Nazi persecution of Jews.

By this time, Kallen had embarked on a quest for the origins of the quotation, which Schor recounts alongside a historical quest of her own regarding Kallen’s efforts to defend himself.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Adolf Hitler, American Jewish History, George Washington, Isolationism

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy