The Liberal State, Broadly Defined, Is Not Hostile to Religion

Responding to recent debates among American religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy of the kind practiced in the U.S. is innately inimical to traditional religious values, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George defend a system of government devoted to protecting the freedom of its citizens. These two Catholic intellectuals instead argue for a version of liberalism that is supremely well suited to allowing for religious flourishing, so long as certain principles are observed.

[P]olitical authority shouldn’t undertake managerial direction of religious institutions, and it shouldn’t coerce religious acts (though it may and should coercively forbid certain acts that may happen to be religious, such as the slaughter of children). This is because the political common good does not directly concern personal holiness. . . .

And note well that nothing in this argument [for a republic that guarantees individual rights] supports or encourages progressive liberalism’s strictures against religious believers acting in the public square to advocate for just and humane public policy. It does require equal liberty for religious communities as a political matter in circumstances of pluralism like ours. But it does not require a naked public square where religious believers must leave behind their substantive beliefs about the human good.

Indeed, religious traditions are sources of wisdom, and citizens owe it to one another to draw deeply from these wells of wisdom when deliberating about essential aspects of justice and the common good. This is not, contrary to certain fears, to embrace theocracy—the authority of church and state are distinct. As Richard John Neuhaus never tired of saying, the alternative to the naked public square isn’t the sacred public square but the civil public square in which citizens of all religious persuasions (or “comprehensive views”) can deliberate together about how we should order the life of the community we constitute.

Our “liberal” institutions deserve better than to be dismissed a-priori based on abstractions. They deserve to be admired when they enable the common good, and improved (or in some cases replaced) when they don’t.

Read more at National Affairs

More about: Liberalism, Religion and politics, Richard John Neuhaus, U.S. Politics

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy