The Murder of a French Teacher Demonstrates the Limits of Enlightenment Optimism

France currently finds itself in the midst of a wave of jihadist terrorist attacks, which began with the beheading of a school teacher who, in a discussion of freedom of expression, had shown his students caricatured drawings of the founder of Islam. Having recently read the German Enlightenment thinker Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s play Nathan the Wise—in which a Christian knight, a Muslim prince, and the eponymous wise Jew of the title learn to look past their disagreements over religion—Michael Weiner shares some thoughts on the French situation:

In his play, Lessing offers us an idealistic model of how people of faith might work out their differences by acknowledging our essential equality and shared truths. We have made enormous progress in the last 200 years in easing inter-Christian tensions and granting Jews throughout the West equal rights and respect. But as the world grows more connected, and people of vastly different backgrounds are thrown together, this grand project will become harder to sustain, and demands an infusion of good ideas and constructive action.

Avowedly secular, post-Christian Western Europe was once a bastion of Lessingian tolerance, but a history teacher was just butchered in Paris. I’m not exactly sure how to prevent that, but I’m pretty confident our terrorist wouldn’t have been convinced by [Nathan’s] parable about rings and a rousing speech arguing that deep down, we are all the same.

Unlike Lessing and Enlightenment reformers with big dreams, my instincts tend toward admitting ignorance and setting more attainable goals. It will take a long time before France arrives at the kumbaya moment with which the play finishes. True wisdom would mean acknowledging that this problem is hard and that no matter how enlightened we think our society is, extreme forms of religion will continue to disrupt our hopes for a perfectly peaceful world.

Read more at Forward

More about: Enlightenment, European Islam, France, Radical Islam, Terrorism

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy