The State Is No Substitute for Personal Responsibility in the Age of the Smartphone

Reflecting on the rush to buy the latest model of the iPhone, and on recent research into the social and psychic effects of the new age of electronic connectedness, Jonathan Sacks sees a problem ultimately rooted not in technology but in the collapse of traditional morality:

Between the Reformation and now, the ethic that bound society together was drawn from religion in one or other of its Judeo-Christian forms. Yes, there was a progressive secularization of power. But religion had a huge influence on society, some of it harsh and hypocritical but much of it admirable and altruistic. It strengthened the bonds of family and community, encouraging personal and social responsibility. It spoke of virtue, fidelity, and service to others. It told stories that made sense of our place in the universe and enacted rituals that inspired humility in the face of eternity.

For 50 years the West has been embarked on an experiment whose true cost we are only beginning to realize, namely the creation of a society without a shared moral code, an ethic known to academics as “expressive individualism,” which roughly means “do whatever you want and can get away with.”

People believed that the collateral damage could be dealt with by the state. It would care for the children of broken or abusive families. Its regulatory bodies would enforce financial and business ethics. Its tax regime would guarantee fairness in the distribution of rewards. But the state is no substitute for an internalized code of honor and personal responsibility. Unfettered freedom still means today what it meant to Thucydides long ago: the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.

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More about: Jonathan Sacks, Religion & Holidays, Technology, Western civilization


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