September 18, 2019

Sunday Reads: Trump’s Caesarism, NATO without America?, Immigration in the Book of Ruth


Kori Schake gives explains why NATO is the cornerstone of America’s global dominance:

That countries invite us into their problems is one of the great assets of the American-led order. It reinforces our power to be the guarantor of the order, giving us greater influence over the rules that are set. American hegemony has been unique in setting rules that advantage others as well as us—a mutually beneficial outcome that makes sustaining that order  less expensive overall. If we had to impose rules, rather than rely on the attractiveness of our policies, American power would be a much costlier proposition.

Robert Kaplan decries Donald Trump’s “Caesarist” vision of US security:

A domineering American military, shorn of an equally effective diplomatic service and lacking cultural outreach, is itself undermined as a moral force. And without that, alliances — built on a shared liberal vision — become harder to maintain. The difference between alliance building and outright hegemony can be a fine one. All this affects the morale of the armed services for the worse. By drastically cutting or eliminating some of the main civilian elements of American power, Trump is redefining the military in a way that should make the Pentagon brass uncomfortable.


Nadav Eyal writes about the dreams Trump sold everyone in his Middle East visit:

In his visit to the Middle East, Trump sold and sold—and very successfully. Saudi King Salman became the American president’s personal hero. He is mentioned in every meeting and speech thanks to his supreme wisdom and intelligence, along with a promise to heat up the Iranian front… The Israelis received a lot of warmth for Netanyahu, sympathy towards the Israeli situation and an important visit to the Western Wall. Through his visit to the region, Trump dealt with the deep animosity in his political base in America towards Saudi Arabia and the Saudis. The Palestinians got the least, not even a right to self-determination. That’s the way it is in business. They are the smallest and weakest creatures. But Trump is such a good salesman, that even they are satisfied.

Business Insider ranks the 25 coolest tech companies in Israel:

Multinational tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft all have research centres in Israel but some of the local companies are arguably more interesting, with many of them specialising in drones, cybersecurity, and autonomous driving technology… The tech companies have been ranked based on interviews with multiple investors on the ground in Israel and what the firms have achieved over the last year.

Middle East

Aaron David Miller believes that Trump should have been tougher with the Arab leaders who convened in Riyadh:

But Riyadh is also part of the problem. To talk — as the President did — about shared values between America and a state that is undemocratic, repressive, discriminates against women, and gays, whose political elite relies on a partnership with a clerical establishment that legitimizes, expounds and spreads a puritanical form of Islam that is anti-semitic, anti-Christian, anti-western and funds religious educational programs, mosques, imams and religious schools that do the same, not only enables the very forces the US is trying to defeat, but identifies America with a Muslim nation that hardly represents moderate or progressive views.

The Washington Institute’s Fabrice Balanche believes that there is a growing risk of international confrontation in the Syrian desert:

Going forward, an international agreement on how to occupy former IS territory is growing more urgent by the day. Without such understandings, the parties run the risk of direct confrontation between Russian and American forces. For instance, how would Washington respond if U.S.-backed rebels were bombed by Russian aviation? And how might Moscow and Damascus react if Syrian army forces or their militia allies are struck in the Badia again? At a time when the Russian ground presence in Syria is reportedly growing and multiple factions are rushing to seize former IS territory in the desert, the potential for missteps is high, and the resultant diplomatic and military fallout could be dangerous.

Jewish World

Rabbi Jeremy Fine offers some suggestions for moves that could help save Conservative Judaism:

I am all for hearing everyone in the room as long as someone at the end points in the direction we are headed. When I was in my final year of Rabbinical School a classmate of mine suggested that the Conservative Movement needed a “Pope.” He wanted one individual leader who was able to make statements and synergize. The current model of multiple seminaries doing different things, dues to the Rabbinical Assembly, USCJ, then USY, Ramah and Schechter includes a lot of voices. Five years later I agree with this classmate of mine. We need a Pope.

Ahead of Shavuot, Margo Schlanger talks about illegal immigration in the Book of Ruth:

Ruth is a story not just of conversion but of immigration, and illegal immigration at that; I’ll explain below… Ruth stands in for all of us as the best kind of receiver of Torah: She is simultaneously brave and kind. She chooses to make compassion her guiding value, and she boldly ventures to join a new community that in turn accepts her fully. In the story, Ruth’s kindness, her chesed, awakes corresponding compassion in those around her.

I hope, this year, she also inspires our communities to act with kindness and chutzpah, to welcome strangers in need as she was welcomed.