Henry Kissinger’s Religious Awakening

Aug. 31 2022

Having come to America as a teenager fleeing Nazi Germany, Henry Kissinger returned during World War II with the U.S. Army and was deeply moved after playing a role in liberating a concentration camp. Yet he has had little connection with Jewish life in his long career since then. Jeremy Rosen was thus surprised by what he found in the controversial former secretary of state’s most recent book:

At the age of ninety-nine, [Kissinger] has just published a new book, Leadership: Six Studies in World Leadership, describing the careers of leaders he admired—Konrad Adenauer of Germany, Charles De Gaulle of France, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and Margaret Thatcher of the UK. Significantly, he points out that they were all deeply religious, with the possible exception of Lee Kuan Yew. . . . He laments the erosion of moral purpose and the religious belief that often underpinned Western societies, and looks aghast at these divisive destructive features of American politics today.

Although some Jews like to claim him as one of ours, his whole career seems to have been an escape from everything Jewish.

The Nixon tapes have recorded him remaining silent as his [boss] excoriates Jews in general. When he returned from the war in Europe, he told his father, “Certain ties bound in convention mean nothing to me. I have come to judge men on their merits.” He told Golda Meir that he was an American first, a Nixonite second, and a Jew last. She replied that in Israel, they read from right to left! . . . In recent years, [however], he has been seen in Orthodox synagogues on the High Holy Days.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Decline of religion, Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy