September 17, 2019

Sunday Reads: Trump & the Qatar crisis, David Grossman’s Man-Booker prize, The intermarriage wars


Kate Brannen, Dan De Luce, and Paul McLeary report on the Pentagon’s objections to the White House’s Iran and Syria plans:

Despite the more aggressive stance pushed by some White House officials, Mattis, military commanders, and top U.S. diplomats all oppose opening up a broader front against Iran and its proxies in southeastern Syria, viewing it as a risky move that could draw the United States into a dangerous confrontation with Iran, defense officials said. Such a clash could trigger retaliation against U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran has armed thousands of Shiite militia fighters and deployed hundreds of Revolutionary Guard officers.

Benjamin Friedman and Joshua Shifrinson take a curious look at the hysteria around President Trump’s attitude towards America’s NATO allies:

Now that the dust has settled on President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip, we can assess the damage. The conventional hysteria notwithstanding, Trump’s rudeness towards NATO allies did not reveal his intention to abandon them and end U.S. global leadership. It’s actually worse than that, at least from our perspective. Trump is alienating allies without reducing U.S. defense commitments to them. He isn’t surrendering U.S. leadership so much as defiling it.


Peter Berkowitz discusses Micah Goodman’s new book about pragmatic ways forward in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Another name for the ambition to solve the unsolvable is messianism. Easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians depends on Israelis on the left and right overcoming their messianic inclinations. It also requires Palestinians to overcome theirs. And American presidents to overcome theirs.

It is not every day that an Israeli author wins the Man-Booker prize (in fact, this is the very first time). Here is Jonathan Freedland’s interesting interview with author and bereaved father David Grossman:

“There is life and there is joy and there is our granddaughters and friends and writing books. There are many things,” he says, his voice quiet. “Yet in order to do almost anything, you have to act against the gravity of grief. It is heavy, it pulls you down, and you have to make a deliberate effort to overcome it. You have to decide that you won’t fall.

Middle East

Daniel Byman and William McCants argue that the US shouldn’t take sides in the Qatar crisis:

As long as the United States wants to provide security for the Arab Gulf nations and fight terrorism, it cannot afford to pick sides in a destabilizing fraternal squabble. That would undermine the very purpose of U.S. involvement in the first place, and risk incurring disaster. Instead, Washington would do well to encourage its allies to resolve their differences while pushing all of them to do better on counterterrorism and curtailing government-sponsored hate speech.

Tom Stevenson examines Egypt’s current social and economic state of emergency under General Sisi:

Against the backdrop of declining quality of life, increasing hardship for the poorest and the unrelenting threat of radical extremism, the regime has felt compelled to maintain high levels of political repression. All this, while doing little to address the basic demands of the Egyptians who took to the streets in 2011 to unseat Mubarak. Opponents of the regime remain divided and fatigued, but the situation has put serious strains on the social and political fabric.

Jewish World

Jeffrey Woolf muses on the “intermarriage wars” going on in the Conservative movement:

Over the past days, the Jewish media (including Facebook) has been abuzz over suggestions by three Conservative rabbis, Amichai Lau-Lavie, Ben Hoffman, and Daniel Stein to embrace intermarriage (Lau-Lavie and Stein) and patrilineal descent (Hoffman). Having watched the trajectory of the Conservative Movement over the past five decades, I am sure that both positions will be adopted, despite the stated objections of the head of United Synagogue. The reason I say this is that such a development would be consistent with the underlying philosophy of the Conservative Movement.

Jewish mother expert Marjorie Ingall, whom we recently had an exchange with, shares her thoughts on the current state of the Jewish father:

So where does that leave American Jewish dads today? Who are they, and what do they stand for? It seems that in a more diverse Jewish world, generalizations about Jewish dads are relics, much as they are for Jewish mothers. Diversity, acculturation, and secularization mean that Jewish dads, for better or worse, are just American dads.