TAC Bookshelf for the Week of July 1

By TAC Staff

Matt Purple, managing editor: Some lighter fare from me this week, starting with the Weimar Republic. There’s been a surge of interest in interwar Germany as of late, probably due to its eerie parallels with our own times: the instability, the rush to political extremes, the hedonism. The show Babylon Berlin captures this fraught atmosphere well, as did in its own day Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye to Berlin.

Set between 1930 and 1933 and published in 1939, Goodbye to Berlin spotlights the bohemianism of its namesake: the cabarets, the seductions, the gay relationships. Yet whereas Babylon Berlin sends it whirling around your head with a faint, passing whisper of “darling,” Goodbye quietly hones in on its individual characters. Its narrator, an English writer, professes to be “a camera with its shutter open, quite passive”—and his lens picks up a good deal of humor and joy, a city jarringly normal in many ways. But it also captures the anti-Semitic darkness lurking just beneath. Even the most amiable characters in Goodbye are liable to surprise with Nazi hatreds. Near the beginning, two heretofore sympathetic women listen with glee as another woman in the flat below them is savagely beaten by her fiancé, courtesy of their having deceived him for no reason other than that she is a Jew. Near the end, a mob of young Nazis assaults a man so badly that his eye is left hanging out of its socket. This is not a sickness imposed from above: the vicious prejudices of average people feed directly into the stomping boots later on. Quietly indicted here are not just the Nazis but much of Berlin, those who cheer on fascism and those who, as Isherwood says, acclimate themselves to it “in accordance with a natural law, like an animal which changes its coat for the winter.”

Isherwood was himself an English writer, who traveled to Berlin both to be with his friend W.H. Auden and, like so many other foreigners, to revel in the city’s permissive culture. And perhaps because he lived so actively, no other novelist has portrayed so well the fine-grain causes of why Germany went the way it did. The sheer prescience of Goodbye has made it a valuable historical artifact, while its mix of tension and glamor fits it naturally onto the stage and silver screen. It was the inspiration for the play Cabaret, as well as the origin of Sally Bowles, Weimar’s archetypal fictional nightclub singer.

From hell on earth to actual hell, which David Bentley Hart doesn’t think is an eternal sentence. Hart has a new book out, That All Shall Be Saved, which argues that those who believe that eternal damnation awaits the sinful are reading something far more brutal into Christianity than was ever intended. At issue are questions of justice—whether a just God could ever inflict such punitive punishments—and of freedom—whether anyone is ever totally free in choosing to sin—all of which Hart illuminates brilliantly and which I’m not remotely qualified to …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Rebecca Grant: Will Trump’s small step into North Korea be a big step toward denuclearization?

By Rebecca Grant Trump deserves credit for getting North Korea to stop testing long-range missiles, but faces a much greater challenge convincing Kim Jong Un to get rid of his nuclear weapons. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Judith Miller and William Tobey: Trump takes risky gamble meeting with Kim and walking into North Korea

By Judith Miller President Trump’s trip Sunday to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and his historic decision to cross briefly into North Korea was a made-for-TV diplomatic spectacular. But it was also a test of whether personal diplomacy can trump (so to speak) longstanding definitions of a country’s national interests. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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The Nuclear Deal Saboteurs and the 2020 Election

By Daniel Larison

John Bolton and his allies on the National Security Council continue their efforts to drive Iran out of the nuclear deal, and they are pressuring Trump to force the issue in the next year:

National Security Council officials are pressing President Donald Trump to force Iran out of its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers before the 2020 election, warning him that Tehran’s defiance and its expanding nuclear work could pose political problems for his campaign, two sources familiar with the discussions told McClatchy.

National Security Advisor John Bolton and his aides are exploring aggressive sanctions moves that would target the nuclear agreement at its core and potentially collapse the deal outright. His camp within the West Wing is making a case that Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement was not enough – and that only full termination of the accord will complete the circle on his 2016 campaign promise and secure his legacy with voters.

The Trump administration has been seeking to drive Iran out of the deal for more than a year, so it isn’t surprising that the same hard-liners that have supported the policy up until now are trying to get as much as they can out of Trump while they still can. There is no question that Iran hawks want to create an even bigger crisis with Iran, and they want it as soon as possible. The odd thing in this report is the argument that the hard-liners are using to appeal to Trump’s vanity.

Bolton and his allies want Trump to think that failing to force Iran out of the deal will be a political liability for him, but it is much more likely that Iranian withdrawal would expose Trump to much more well-deserved criticism and political backlash. Trump’s general election opponent would have a field day if the nuclear deal collapsed because of the Trump administration’s pressure campaign. It would prove how dangerous and destabilizing Trump’s conduct of foreign policy is, and it would also confirm that he fails at everything he attempts. Above all, it would make him look foolish and irresponsible, and that would reinforce the argument that he needed to be voted out.

So far Trump has been able to get away with his cruel and destructive Iran policy because the costs have mostly been borne by the Iranian people, but that policy also put the U.S. and Iran on a collision course that has brought our governments dangerously close to war. War with Iran is a political loser for Trump, and causing Iran to abandon the nuclear deal would prove that his policy is as irrational and reckless as his critics said it was. Because the Trump administration has disingenuously claimed that they are trying to get Iran to negotiate, they cannot say that forcing Iran out of the deal means their policy “worked.” According to their own stated goals, it would mark the Iran policy as an unmitigated failure. The only way that they can claim any kind of vindication is …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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A Think Tank Dedicated to Peace and Restraint

By Daniel Larison

Stephen Kinzer comments on the creation of a new think tank, The Quincy Institute, committed to promoting a foreign policy of restraint and non-interventionism:

Since peaceful foreign policy was a founding principle of the United States, it’s appropriate that the name of this think tank harken back to history. It will be called the Quincy Institute, an homage to John Quincy Adams, who in a seminal speech on Independence Day in 1821 declared that the United States “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” The Quincy Institute will promote a foreign policy based on that live-and-let-live principle.

The creation of a think tank dedicated to “an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing” is very welcome news. Other than the Cato Institute, there has been nothing like this in Washington, and this tank’s focus will be entirely on foreign policy. The lack of institutional support has put advocates of peace and restraint at a disadvantage for a very long time, so it is encouraging to see that there is an effort underway to change that. The Quincy Institute represents another example of how antiwar progressives and conservatives can and should work together to change U.S. foreign policy for the better. The coalition opposed to the war on Yemen showed what Americans opposed to illegal and unnecessary war can do when they work towards a shared goal of peace and non-intervention, and this institute promises to be an important part of such efforts in the future. Considering how long the U.S. has been waging war without end, there couldn’t be a better time for this.

TAC readers and especially readers of this blog will be familiar with the people involved in creating the think tank:

The institute plans to open its doors in September and hold an official inauguration later in the autumn. Its founding donors — Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation — have each contributed half a million dollars to fund its takeoff. A handful of individual donors have joined to add another $800,000. By next year the institute hopes to have a $3.5 million budget and a staff of policy experts who will churn out material for use in Congress and in public debates. Hiring is underway. Among Parsi’s co-founders are several well-known critics of American foreign policy, including Suzanne DiMaggio, who has spent decades promoting negotiated alternatives to conflict with China, Iran and North Korea; the historian and essayist Stephen Wertheim; and the anti-militarist author and retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich.

“The Quincy Institute will invite both progressives and anti-interventionist conservatives to consider a new, less militarized approach to policy,” Bacevich said, when asked why he signed up. “We oppose endless, counterproductive war. We want to restore the pursuit of peace to the nation’s foreign policy agenda.”

Trita Parsi and Andrew Bacevich are both TAC contributors and …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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A Think Tank Dedicated to Peace and Restraint

By Daniel Larison

Stephen Kinzer comments on the creation of a new think tank, The Quincy Institute, committed to promoting a foreign policy of restraint and non-interventionism:

Since peaceful foreign policy was a founding principle of the United States, it’s appropriate that the name of this think tank harken back to history. It will be called the Quincy Institute, an homage to John Quincy Adams, who in a seminal speech on Independence Day in 1821 declared that the United States “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” The Quincy Institute will promote a foreign policy based on that live-and-let-live principle.

The creation of a think tank dedicated to “an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing” is very welcome news. Other than the Cato Institute, there has been nothing like this in Washington, and this tank’s focus will be entirely on foreign policy. The lack of institutional support has put advocates of peace and restraint at a disadvantage for a very long time, so it is encouraging to see that there is an effort underway to change that. The Quincy Institute represents another example of how antiwar progressives and conservatives can and should work together to change U.S. foreign policy for the better. The coalition opposed to the war on Yemen showed what Americans opposed to illegal and unnecessary war can do when they work towards a shared goal of peace and non-intervention, and this institute promises to be an important part of such efforts in the future. Considering how long the U.S. has been waging war without end, there couldn’t be a better time for this.

TAC readers and especially readers of this blog will be familiar with the people involved in creating the think tank:

The institute plans to open its doors in September and hold an official inauguration later in the autumn. Its founding donors — Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation — have each contributed half a million dollars to fund its takeoff. A handful of individual donors have joined to add another $800,000. By next year the institute hopes to have a $3.5 million budget and a staff of policy experts who will churn out material for use in Congress and in public debates. Hiring is underway. Among Parsi’s co-founders are several well-known critics of American foreign policy, including Suzanne DiMaggio, who has spent decades promoting negotiated alternatives to conflict with China, Iran and North Korea; the historian and essayist Stephen Wertheim; and the anti-militarist author and retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich.

“The Quincy Institute will invite both progressives and anti-interventionist conservatives to consider a new, less militarized approach to policy,” Bacevich said, when asked why he signed up. “We oppose endless, counterproductive war. We want to restore the pursuit of peace to the nation’s foreign policy agenda.”

Trita Parsi and Andrew Bacevich are both TAC contributors and …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Bradley Blakeman: If Democrats’ impeachment of Trump is so urgent, why are they taking the summer off?

By Bradley Blakeman If Democrats do, in fact, leave for the summer and halt their impeachment efforts, that will tell you everything you need to know about their true intentions. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Harry Kazianis: Trump’s unconventional North Korea strategy — is it worthy of a Nobel Prize?

By Harry J. Kazianis Donald Trump’s strategy for dealing with North Korea always involved taking the old rulebook on dealing with the Kim regime and lighting it on fire. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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