Midge Decter’s Decades-Long Fight for Freedom, Responsibility, and Moral Seriousness

Recalling the life and many achievements of the writer and editor Midge Decter, who passed away on Monday at the age of ninety-four, Tevi Troy calls attention to her active engagement in political affairs. Decter in 1972 helped to establish the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, which aimed to rescue the Democratic party from its more radical elements. In 1981, she founded the Committee for a Free World, dedicated to combatting Communism. At the root of both projects, writes Troy, was Decter’s opposition to the hard left:

This left, with its rejection of tradition and authority, made her uncomfortable. As she wrote in Commentary in 1982, “The refusal to be bound by rules, any rules, turned children against their elders, impelled them to don rags and roam the country simulating poverty, destroy their brains with drugs, burn books, and rage against the very idea of responsibility, social, intellectual, or personal.”

She was also a staunch anti-Communist. As she would write, Commentary’s “true animating passion was a deep hatred for Communism in any and all of its manifestations.” She felt that the Democratic Party of the 1970s was wavering on that principle. Unlike many of her fellow neoconservatives, she had never had a Marxist phase. “The only grand posturing of my teens,” she once recalled, “had been a declared intention to die on the barricades in Palestine” [fighting Arab aggression]. To her, the George McGovern Democrats of the early 1970s no longer upheld the liberal anti-Communist banner she held dear.

In his own remembrance, Yuval Levin praises Decter as a “a powerful and penetrating writer” and seeks to identify the threads connecting her social criticism with her political ideals:

Her essays could see right to the core of the failures of the modern left—often long before those failures become apparent as a practical matter to everyone with eyes to see. Her early collections, The Liberated Woman and The New Chastity, from the early 1970s, are full of insights that our society would take decades to grasp, but which Decter could see in real time because she took the radicals’ unseriousness seriously and understood where their moral recklessness would lead.

The need to take responsibility for what was breaking down in our society was a theme to which she would recur for decades—refusing to let Americans get away with blaming the degradation of our culture on anyone but ourselves.

For me, perhaps the most powerful articulation of the point came in an extraordinary essay that was my first exposure to Decter—a piece called “A Jew in Anti-Christian America,” published in First Things in 1995, when I was a college freshman. It’s not her greatest or most lasting piece of writing, but it combines autobiography, social analysis, and startling insight in her characteristic “force for good” style. You should read it today. In it she argues, among other things, that the radicalism she had warned of in the 70s had evolved into a combination of arrogance and nihilism that she described as the philosophy of “why not?” and “so what?”

Read more at National Review

More about: Communism, Midge Decter, Neoconservatism, New Left, Norman Podhoretz

Russia’s Alliance with Hizballah Is Growing Stronger

Tehran’s ongoing cooperation with Moscow has recently garnered public attention because of the Kremlin’s use of Iranian arms against Ukraine, but it extends much further, including to the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah. Aurora Ortega and Matthew Levitt explain:

Over the last few years, Russia has quietly extended its reach into Lebanon, seeking to cultivate cultural, economic, and military ties in Beirut as part of a strategy to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, while sidelining the U.S. and elevating Moscow’s role as a peacemaker.

Russia’s alliance with Hizballah was born out of the conflict in Syria, where Russian and Hizballah forces fought side-by-side in an alliance with the Assad regime. For years, this alliance appeared strictly limited to military activity in Syria, but in 2018, Hizballah and Russia began to engage in unprecedented joint sanctions-evasion activities. . . . In November 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury exposed a convoluted trade-based oil-smuggling sanctions-evasion scheme directed by Hizballah and [Iran].

The enhanced level of collaboration between Russia and Hizballah is not limited to sanctions evasion. In March 2021, Hizballah sent a delegation to Moscow, on its second-ever “diplomatic” visit to the country. Unlike its first visit a decade prior, which was enveloped in secrecy with no media exposure, this visit was well publicized. During their three days in Moscow, Hizballah representatives met with various Russian officials, including the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. . . . Just three months after this visit to Moscow, Hizballah received the Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov in Beirut to discuss further collaboration on joint projects.

Read more at Royal United Services Institute

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Lebanon, Russia