Without Enduring Moral Principles, Democracy Cannot Flourish

Giving his state-of-the-union address in 1939, as war clouds gathered over Europe, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stressed that people must “prepare to defend not their homes alone but the tenets of faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments, and their very civilization are founded.” Michael Gerson sees in these words an understanding, now largely been lost, of what is necessary for America to endure:

Our public and political life, Roosevelt assumed, is ultimately a reflection or echo of our spiritual life. Here I use “spiritual” broadly to mean a set of beliefs that challenge our natural egotism and cause us to respect the rights and dignity of others. A democracy especially is based on generally held convictions about the nature and equality of human beings. Its idealism is inherent. . . ,

What can be learned from that distant world facing an existential threat? [Today’s American political] crisis is very different. Yet it is a crisis of [what the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain termed] the “democratic state of mind.” What voices and institutions are proclaiming and defending [what FDR called] the “tenets of faith and humanity” that make democracy both pleasant and possible?

For many secular liberals, such language is inherently suspect. On what basis can any set of beliefs be preferred above another? Democracy requires, in this view, not just a political pluralism but a pluralism of values.

Such a position is absurdly lacking in self-awareness. A commitment to pluralism is itself a value, which must be preferred above other values such as, say, the interests of a master race or the dictatorship of the proletariat. The democratic faith now emerges from more diverse sources—both religious and non-religious—than Roosevelt might have imagined. But it is still a moral and spiritual commitment that must be taught in order for any democracy worthy of the name to survive.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Democracy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria