Is There Anything Special About Religion?

Recent debates over the meaning of religious freedom, argues Mark Bauerlein, often tend to ignore the idea—once taken for granted—that religion serves a distinct social and moral purpose:

[T]he Founders . . . placed religious liberty as the first guarantee in the Bill of Rights for a reason. They understood that religious conviction is different from other preferences. They were sensitive to its depths, to its definitive character, and most obviously to the fact that people who believe in God and belong to a church accept both as transcendent authorities.

But, of course, if you regard religion as just another human construct, then it has no claim higher than other claims. . . . The conclusion is inevitable once you conceive of religion as simply a group identity. At that point, the error of religious faith is to set its central object, God, above other groups’ central objects (for instance, same-sex desire) after having entered the public sphere.

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Read more at First Things

More about: American founding, church and state, Freedom of Religion, Religion & Holidays, U.S. Constitution

 

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship