A Nation of Victims Is Apt to Become a Nation in Decline. It Can Also Become a Nation of Victimizers

March 17 2023

Writing before the entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy declared his presidential candidacy, Theodore Kupfer considers the diagnosis of America’s social ills that Ramaswamy sets forth in his book Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence. Kupfer writes:

Whereas Americans once took pride in their ability to overcome long odds, now they tell and believe stories about “what they can’t do,” from racial minorities living in immiserated towns to southerners lamenting the lost Confederacy to aspiring college students eagerly workshopping sob stories with admissions counselors. Declaring oneself a victim might seem disempowering, but people keep doing it, perhaps because victim status confers advantages on those who can gain official recognition.

Ramaswamy argues that a victimhood complex is contributing to national decline in America, but not all such complexes are enervating. Nazis rose to power blaming “Jewish Bolshevism” for the German people’s interwar misfortune, while Communists sparked revolutions across the world by blaming capitalist exploitation for human misery. Ramaswamy fears that the U.S. has fallen behind China in educational excellence and military preparedness, and yet the Chinese government and its hardline nationalist supporters often refer to their nation’s “century of humiliation” at the hands of an imperial West. Past alleged wrongs can be a powerful motivator.

A more precise statement of the problem is that Americans regard themselves not just as victims but as victims of one another.

Read more at National Review

More about: American politics, American society, United States


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount