Compendium #3

This site is not the only place to find my writing; I have been published at numerous other outlets across the web. In this recurring series, I’ll post some choice passages from these outside pieces and show you where to find the rest. Think of this as a mere tasting of the full smorgasbord. Without further ado, here’s Compendium #3, covering October 2023 through early December 2023.

Accusing Israel of Genocide Is a Moral Outrage, National Review, October 26, 2023

In this piece for National Review, I discussed the bogus claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians in its war with Hamas, as well as the idea that it was a state founded on that infamy. In reality, Israel is the target of a genocidal ideology, not the perpetrator.

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A Modest Proposal – United Nations Edition

** This is the first in a recurring series, in which I offer some modest proposals – in the venerable tradition of Jonathan Swift – for American and international politics. **

The United Nations – that paragon of international diplomacy, antisemitism, dictator-worship, and uselessness – has been a waste of time since its inception. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi stated, with respect to the spaceport of Mos Eisley, that “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”; clearly, he has never seen the UN complex in Turtle Bay. Every year, thousands of foreign diplomats, including some of the planet’s most vile leaders and their toadies, descend on this unfortunate neighborhood in midtown Manhattan for a circus of the absurd. Year-round, the UN is populated by bureaucrats galore, who, when not spending their time attacking America and its allies (notably the world’s only Jewish state), squander money on idiot boondoggles, promote evil autocracies to the Human Rights Council, and publish antisemitic school textbooks for Gazan kindergartners.

The UN has failed to maintain peace, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity since its foundation, in which it was intended to do all of those things. In many cases, it has dramatically worsened the conditions it was meant to ameliorate; “peacekeepers” in Haiti caused a cholera outbreak during their daily breaks from raping locals, other UN-funded troops failed to stop genocidal massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia, and, most recently, UNRWA workers in Gaza joined with Hamas in taking Israelis hostage. For all of its failings, at least the League of Nations had the good sense to close shop after it fell on its face for two decades. The United Nations is going on 80 and it still hasn’t figured out that it causes more problems than it has ever solved. Oh, and the United States is this organization’s largest benefactor, most powerful member, and its physical host.

It’s beyond time we all said enough. Enough of the anti-Americanism. Enough of the corruption. Enough of the failure. Enough of the blithering idiocy couched in diplomat-speak. Enough of the vaunted “international community.” Enough of the United Nations. In that vein, here is my modest proposal as to how we should move forward.

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The Wonders of Modernity

Despite the constant criticism, we should all be immensely thankful to be living in the present.

Like many Americans, I tend to find myself pondering over gratitude at this time of year. Whether that is sparked by the increased presence of friends and family, the Zen-like process of preparing a delicious shared meal, or merely an attempt to come up with something good to say at the Thanksgiving table, appreciation is on my mind. Of course, my mind goes first to the personal: my wife and daughter, my family in general, my loyal (and loud) chihuahua, my friends. Then come more general things like (relative) health, prosperity, happiness, and career success. But once I’ve bounced these more typical thoughts around my head for a bit, I continuously return to one broad idea: the glories of the present.

That may sound odd coming from a historian, but I feel it deeply. I adore the past about as much as it is possible to. My office is adorned with historical maps, posters, books, and tchotchkes. My favorite novels are in the public domain. I name houseplants after nineteenth-century British politicians (I’ve got Lords Balfour and Salisbury already). I could probably sink the Titanic (well, maybe the S.S. Minnow) with the number of history books I own. I have busts of both Napoleon and Wellington. I think about the Roman Empire every day.

But I firmly believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that today is the best possible time for a human to be alive. Not only is the 21st century an incredible time to be a member of homo sapiens, the past was far, far worse to live in than most people can imagine. Let us count the ways.

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“Settler Colonialism” is Just History

Resettlement, mass migration, and civilizational change are not historical outliers, but the historical norm. Lambasting them as evil is the peak of absurdity.

The term ‘settler colonialism’ has been widely bandied about in regards to Israel since the Hamas atrocities of October 7, mostly by leftists seeking to vilify the Jewish state and excuse or ‘contextualize’ the mass murder carried out by Palestinian terrorists. It has been echoed in protest movements, by online activists, and in serious news and opinion journalism. It has been applied not only to Israel as a nation, but to the United States and most of the West as well. The argument goes that any sort of resistance to such “settler colonialism” for the purpose of reclaiming “stolen land” is justified, if not necessary. The denizens of these purportedly-imperialist nations are therefore fair game for violent “resistance.” In the now-infamous words of a Yale professor (!): “Settlers are not civilians. This is not hard.” Those who use this terminology to make their preferred political points may sound intelligent to the layman, as they are using academic jargon in such a confident manner. But what does this term actually mean? And does it apply to Western history or the Israeli-Hamas conflict?

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War Is Hell

Far too many observers of the Israeli retaliation against Hamas see war as a theoretical construct, not a battlefield reality.

The famed Union Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman is widely credited with popularizing the phrase “war is hell.” And he would certainly know, seeing action at some of the war’s bloodiest battles and captaining the controversial March to the Sea, where Union soldiers would run roughshod over Confederate lands from Atlanta to Savannah. That march, replete with the utter devastation of civilian infrastructure, farmland, and property, helped break the back of the Confederacy and has remained a textbook example of total war. The term ‘total war’ itself was a product of World War I, which saw entire societies mobilized for what they all saw – and some experienced – as existential combat. The sequel, which killed even more people and included the most heinous act of genocide in the modern era, was the last of these sorts of conflicts – or so many thought.

After the end of the Cold War – which was itself something of a totalizing rivalry – the mood in the West was triumphant, not just over Soviet Communism, but over History itself. Gone were the days of existential conflict, replaced by a world of progress where genuine alternatives to the liberal democratic capitalist world order were nowhere to be found. These naïve optimists were, however, flat out wrong. Alternatives to the American order have reared their ugly heads: from the CCP’s brand of techno-totalitarianism, to Vladimir Putin’s throwback imperialism, to the militant antisemitic Islamism of Tehran and Hamas, oppositional ideologies abound. And those ideologies are more than happy to engage in totalizing, existential conflict. We have seen that in Ukraine for the past 600-plus days, and we are seeing it in Israel now.

Make no mistake, the Hamas terror of October 7, combined with its genocidal ideology and the support of regional powers like Iran, poses an existential risk to the Jewish state. If Hamas is not utterly annihilated, Israel will face a future of constant attack from all fronts meant to eradicate the nation itself – and massacre its population in the process. Hamas and Iran have made this into a total war; Israel has recognized that reality and is responding in kind. And that’s where we run into problems.

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