Clausewitz in Middle-Earth: Although the setting feels medieval, the War of the Ring is recognizably a modern war. (Graham Macaleer, 5/24/24, Law & Liberty)

Clausewitz recommends war planners identify “the ultimate substance of enemy strength,” to find the “single center of gravity” of the enemy’s combat power. For Sauron, this is the One Ring and its place of origin, the fires of Mount Doom. Gandalf and Lord Elrond are clear-eyed: the West’s only hope is to get the Ring to Mount Doom and have it thrown into its fires. Clausewitz approves: “In war, the subjugation of the enemy is the end, and the destruction of his fighting forces the means.” About this concept, Clausewitz writes, “A center of gravity is always found where the mass is concentrated most densely. It presents the most effective target for a blow; furthermore, the heaviest blow is that struck by the center of gravity. The same holds true in war.” The Ring is the center of gravity of Sauron’s army, and, for the allies, Frodo is most able to deliver the “heaviest blow.”

The rootedness of Hobbits, twinned with Frodo’s patience and open, compassionate spirit, is “where the mass [of the West] is concentrated most densely.” Rootedness secures cohesion—a property under constant threat in war—and the moral forces so basic to combat power, according to Clausewitz. This is what leads Elves to dub Frodo “Elf-friend.” Frodo sets out on his quest for love of the Shire, but it is his gentleness towards Gollum, and his ability to grasp the higher things hinted at in Gandalf’s words about Sméagol, that gain final victory. It is a strategic advantage to the West that they know Sauron’s center of gravity, but he is ignorant of theirs. He only learns of the existence of the Shire late, once the die of the war is already cast, and he takes no time to learn its character, preoccupied as he is with finding the Ring’s whereabouts. The same ignorance undermines Saruman. He mocks Gandalf for his interest in the ways of the Shirelings, but it is Hobbits that trigger the Last March of the Ents.

In a letter, Tolkien says of Frodo:

Frodo undertook his quest out of love. … His real contract was only to do what he could, to try to find a way, and to go as far on the road as his strength of mind and body allowed. He did that. I do not myself see that the breaking of his mind and will under demonic pressure after torment was any more a moral failure than the breaking of his body would have been—say, by being strangled by Gollum, or crushed by a falling rock.

Clausewitz says all war is a series of duels and it is striking that Tolkien depicts the duel between Sauron and Frodo in terms of gravity. Long time bearer of the Ring, Gollum goes about on all fours—“Look at him! Like a nasty crawling spider on a wall. … Like some large prowling thing of insect-kind”—and Frodo is drawn to the ground, increasingly hunched over by the weight of the Ring about his neck. “In fact with every step towards the gates of Mordor Frodo felt the Ring on its chain about his neck grow more burdensome. He was now beginning to feel it as an actual weight dragging him earthwards.” Ultimately, Frodo will be prostrate on the ground, unable any longer to contend with the Dark Lord. This is when Sam, the gardener—expert in raising things from the soil—lifts Frodo up and carries him to Mount Doom.

Why Reagan vs the USSR was never a fair fight.


For many American Jews protesting for Palestinians, activism is a journey rooted in their Jewish values (Atalia Omer, 5/21/24, Religion News Service)

When I asked Rebekah – a pseudonym for a college student in the American South whom I interviewed for my book – how she understood her Jewishness, she told me: “I have always maintained that the basis for my activism was my Jewish ideals, the radical equality I had absorbed at home.”

For Rebekah and many other American Jews, the cultural memory of the Holocaust, and the common refrain “Never Again,” inspires their activism for Palestinian rights.

“Growing up in Hebrew schools, you grow up with the nightmarish Holocaust films,” she stressed. “The conclusion of this education should have been clear: ‘You can’t do it to another group of people!’”

This lesson is reflected in the cry “Never again to anyone,” heard at demonstrations over the past few months.


Reflections on Revolutions: a review of Age of Revolutions by Fareed Zakaria (Max J. Prowant, 5/21/24, Law & Liberty)

According to Zakaria, we are living in a revolutionary age, both in our domestic politics and in the world at large. Domestically, the traditional left-right divide is changing. For decades, the dividing line between left and right was economic in nature; conservatives wanted tax cuts, deregulation, and a smaller federal government whereas liberals wanted to preserve and expand a host of entitlement programs. Both, however, operated within a broad liberal framework that located the ends of government in the protection of individual rights. That is no longer the case. The divide now concerns the “open” versus “closed” societies where moral and ideational issues are more determinant of a person’s vote than tax cuts and spending. Internationally we are seeing a similar “revolution” against the US-backed liberal order uniting the world through free trade, collective action, and easy immigration. This revolution, led by an array of demagogues and populists, prefers tighter borders and national identity instead of globalism.

Resistance to the moral obligations that are imposed by our having been Created is understandable, but futile. It’s particularly hard to convince young people, who are brought up in our diverse society, that some of their friends are qualitatively lesser.


How to win in Ukraine: pour it on, and don’t worry about escalation: The Biden administration has been too cautious. There’s still time to change that. (ANDREW RADIN | MAY 22, 2024, Defense One)

Shifting U.S. policy in several areas would improve Ukraine’s military situation with minimal risk of Russian escalation. First, the United States could rescind its insistence that U.S.-provided munitions only be used on Ukrainian soil, and stop pressing Ukraine to refrain from attacks on Russian territory. Given that Ukraine suffers daily casualties from attacks on purely civilian targets, retaliation against Russian infrastructure is more than fair game and can help to even Ukraine’s odds by degrading Russia’s logistical capacity. Ukraine would bear the brunt of any Russian response, but Kyiv is prepared to take that risk.

Second, the United States could expand its visible U.S. military presence in Ukraine. Western advisors need to be in Ukraine to understand the status and needs of Ukraine’s forces to provide the necessary qualitative superiority. Increases in U.S. advisors or even trainers can be distinguished from any kind of combat role. If, tragically, U.S personnel were to be killed in a Russian attack, the Biden administration would have significant latitude to control its response.

Third, the United States should look to expand its operations in space and cyberspace in response Russia’s cyber attacks against U.S. space providers and jamming against NATO allies. In a recent RAND report on strategic stability in space, we argue that reversible actions like jamming are useful options for the United States because can signal to an adversary and provide an additional threat of punishment without increasing the scope of conflict. Given Russia’s use of space communications, for example, such actions also can have a temporary operational benefit. Russia could escalate with increased cyber attacks or other activities in response but would risk exposing their exploits and losing the opportunity to use such attacks in the future.

Additional U.S. action could also catalyze other allies to increase their support, as allies traditionally look to the United States for leadership. Germany would not provide Leopard tanks until the United States provided Abrams. Perhaps further U.S. support would lead to Germany to provide Taurus, its own long-range cruise missile. From a narrow U.S. perspective, greater U.S. involvement is an opportunity to test new capabilities and gain experience helping a partner facing a numerically superior foe. Such experience could be very relevant for helping Taiwan resist Chinese aggression.

To be sure, avoiding direct military conflict with Russia is of paramount interest.

No, it isn’t. That’s the mistake we made in the Cold War. Destroy the oil fields and challenge Vlad to respond. He’d last as long as Saddam.


Beyond Schmitt (John Ehrett, 5/20/24, Ad Fontes)

Unlike Vermeule, these Protestant thinkers are not drawn to Schmitt because of his fascination with executive administration. Instead, many Protestant commentators on Schmitt take up a theme far more basic to his thought: his claim that the essence of the “political” is the distinction between “friend” and “enemy.”

There is, of course, a sense in which this definition is trivially true. If there were no disagreements between people, there would be no “politics” in any familiar sense of the term. But it is the sheer bleakness of Schmitt’s characterization of the “enemy” that distinguishes his paradigm. In his best-known work, The Concept of the Political, Schmitt argues that the distinction is not just descriptive of, but constitutive of, politics as such.[6] That is to say, in the strictest sense politics is not merely about the organized human pursuit of some common good or other. It requires, at its root, an other destined for destruction.

Schmitt makes the matter quite clear: the “enemy” is one whom one seeks to annihilate. Concepts of “friend” and “enemy,” on Schmitt’s model, “receive their real meaning precisely because they refer to the real possibility of physical killing. War follows from enmity. “War is the existential negation of the enemy.”[7] An irreducibly violent agonism, which must inform how leaders and citizens alike relate to external “others,” lies at the very heart of politics as such.

If Schmitt is right, then anyone engaged in the business of politics must ask a fateful question: Who, then, is my enemy?

The very question—an inversion of the parable of the Good Samaritan—rings odd to Christian ears. What about Jesus’s command to love your enemies? It seems strange to identify individuals (functionally) excluded from the horizon of Christian concern.

Identitarianism is anti-Christian.


Israel Does Not Know How To End the Gaza War: Military and political analysts now say the conflict is unwinnable, but no one has an exit plan (Lisa Goldman, May 21, 2024, New/Lines)

Israel is in a “plonter.” The Hebrew word, which translates as a knot that defies untangling, is often used to describe an intractable situation. It’s a word one hears frequently from Israeli political commentators these days, as the army grinds through its seventh month of war in Gaza without having achieved the two goals stated at the outset of the campaign — the destruction of Hamas’ military capacity and the release of the captives. Now the prevailing opinion of establishment experts — journalists, policy specialists, senior military veterans — is that those goals are unachievable and the war unwinnable.

But neither the political leadership nor the army’s high command has thought of an exit strategy, let alone a plan for the day after — assuming there will be a cease-fire at some point. From the Israeli perspective, all the options are bad. A return to the status quo ante, with Hamas resuming its governance of Gaza, is not on the table. Even if the reinstatement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party as the governing body in Gaza were desirable, the obstacles are practically insurmountable (in 2007 Hamas engineered a violent putsch to oust Fatah’s leadership from Gaza). Among Palestinians, the PA is widely considered to be corrupt and ineffective, with no authority to govern. Israel’s far right wants to reestablish the military bases and settlements that were evacuated in 2005; the army’s senior command has vociferously rejected this idea. But no Israeli leader has offered a practical suggestion that would fill the power vacuum created by the war. Nor has the United States or any other outside body offered a workable, practical solution. And so the world watches as the war drags on and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza grows more acute.

You can’t exterminate Hamas without exterminating the Palestinians, since it is the political party they support. (Abraham Lincoln did not get rid of the Democrats, just the Confederacy.)

The Palestinians, like every other people, are endowed with the right to self-determination. Recognize the nation and let them elect Barghouti president with a Hamas legislature.


The Case For Open Borders: Journalist John Washington debunks common anti-immigrant myths and explains why free movement is a human right. (NATHAN J. ROBINSON, 5/17/24, Current Affairs)

One of the strangest things is that the places in the country that have the largest immigrant populations, like New York City, people there don’t think it’s going to be a threat to their culture if there’s immigration because they know that the whole vibrancy of the city is built on its diversity.

Except maybe for Mayor Adams and most of the NYPD police force. His arguments are really insulting to history, to the legacy that the current status of New York City as a city was really built by immigrants, or, going back to our last point, by invaders. Does he think that 170,000 people over a little bit more than two years is a threat? Actually, Adams has described it as an existential threat to New York City. It’s almost laughable, but it’s actually just stupid.

You can point back to so many different moments in New York City’s history and say, actually, the percentage of people who were coming at that moment in the early 20th century, and in the mid-19th century, 30 percent of the population was coming in a six-month period. Right now, it’s about 1 percent of the population coming over in a two-year period, to a robust economy. What’s going to change in New York City? There’s going to be some more stands in Queens—what is the actual change that we will see in New York? It takes some work to help orient people and to welcome them. But also, these people are barred from working right now—most of them are. Adams, to his credit, has actually addressed that point that we should give them work visas and let them actually do the work that they came here to do rather than trying to force them to rely on handouts.


Hope and Optimism on the Planet of the Apes (Tyler Hummel, 5/17/24, Voegelin View)

As a story told from the apes’ perspective, it is a strangely optimistic trilogy. The ape’s near-literal exodus from confinement to the promised land creates one of the strangest Moses allegories in contemporary fiction, while still being about humorous talking monkeys. The human characters that form the ensemble never return between movies, due to being implicitly killed off. Caesar, Maurice, and Koba are the most empathetic and consistent characters of the trilogy, and the story of apes seeking their freedom—united by brotherhood and loyalty—is the lone spot of hope in a franchise where the only possible ending is the end of the world and the fated end of mankind.

They’re endowed by their Creator with the right to self-determination.


The myth of “woke” indoctrination at American universities (JUDD LEGUM, MAY 16, 2024, Popular Information)

Open Syllabus, a non-profit group, collects syllabi from colleges and universities. The group has collected over 5.5 million syllabi at more than 4,000 American institutions of higher learning. The data is not comprehensive because Open Syllabus relies mostly on publicly available data. But it is the most robust database of what is actually taught on campus in the U.S.

Data collected by Open Syllabus reveals that, in 2023, “woke” terms like “critical race theory,” “structural racism,” or “transgender” appear in just 0.08% of college and university syllabi. These are all legitimate areas of inquiry but are derided by critics as evidence of academia’s decline. In any event, the data shows they are not significant components of college and university curricula.

Even generic terms that encompass these terms appear in relatively few syllabi. The term “race” — allegedly an obsession of the modern university — appears in only 2.8% of the syllabi collected by Open Syllabus in 2023. Moreover, the prevalence of “race” in syllabi has remained relatively consistent over the last 15 years. Similarly, “gender” appeared in 4.7% of syllabi in 2023 — a rate that has held fairly steady since 2008.