The Defense of Liberalism Requires an Understanding of Its Weaknesses

In a 1941 lecture in New York City, the Jewish scholar Leo Strauss reflected on his experience as a university student in his native Germany in the 1920s as a way to introduce his American audience to the contrast between what he called “closed” and “open societies.” (Four years later, Karl Popper, another German-speaking philosopher of Jewish extraction, would popularize these terms.) Matthew Rose writes:

Strauss’s portrait of his classmates was unsparing, but not disdainful. Strauss described young men full of vehement certainty about what they rejected, but inarticulate and unreflective about what they affirmed. “The prospect of a pacified planet, without rulers and ruled,” he observed, “was positively horrifying to [them].” Strauss lamented that their passions found no outlet other than the crudest propaganda. Unable to understand or express themselves in any other way—Strauss noted that they had largely rejected Christian belief—they gave voice to savage forms of group identity. The mark of barbarism, Strauss explained, was the belief that truth and justice should be defined in terms of ethnic or racial membership.

As Rose goes on to explain, Strauss hoped his American listeners would appreciate the appeal of such a rejection of liberal democratic values, and thus become better equipped to oppose it. But to do so, they would first have to understand liberalism’s weaknesses:

Strauss didn’t wish to turn his students into sophisticated enemies of liberalism. His goal was to turn them into virtuous defenders of democracy. But to become true patrons of the open society, they needed qualities of character that could be developed only through a proper appreciation of traditional society. The open society was right to order its common life through the exercise of reason and the arts of civility. But the closed society was also right about some important things. It acknowledged our need to be loyal to a particular people, to inherit a cultural tradition, to admire inequalities of achievement, to reverence the authority of the past, and to experience self-transcendence through self-sacrifice. It acknowledged as well the importance of a leadership class whose decisions expose them to special risk rather than shielding them from it.

As Strauss observed, these are permanent truths, not atavisms, no matter how unpalatable they are to the progressive-minded. A society that cannot affirm them invites catastrophe, no less than does a society that cannot question them.

Read more at First Things

More about: Leo Strauss, liberal democracy, Nazism

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security