State of the Union

Director of Development Wanted

The American Conservative (TAC) seeks a director of development to lead and manage its fundraising infrastructure in support of TAC’s mission of recovering and extending the insights of prudential conservatism in light of contemporary circumstances. TAC addresses such fundamental themes as:

  1. In foreign affairs, America must be guided by realism and restraint.
  2. Domestic policy should serve the well being of the American middle class and the mediating institutions of civil society.
  3. The Constitution’s protections of citizens against the power of the state must be reclaimed and jealously guarded.
  4. The ideal of self-government is best served by the promotion of localism and decentralization.
  5. In America today what passes for “conservatism” too often fails to conserve our best traditions—and therefore must be challenged.

TAC pursues its mission by publishing hundreds of essays, articles, reviews, and blog posts each year in The American Conservative print magazine and at theamericanconservative.com; by training and providing an outlet for young journalists; and by hosting special conferences and events.

Duties include:

  • Managing and prioritizing all development-related tasks
  • Cultivating relationships with current donors
  • Writing, calling, and meeting with potential donors
  • Willingness to fly and able to drive; travel will account for roughly 20% of job’s time
  • Planning and coordinating direct mail solicitations
  • Managing donor database; tracking and recording all donor data and communications
  • Writing letters and completing grants for potential foundation supporters

Candidates should understand and have enthusiasm for The American Conservative’s work and mission, possess strong writing and communications skills, and have experience in successful non-profit fundraising. At least 1-2 years of development experience preferred. The job is located at TAC’s offices in the heart of Washington, D.C., although we are open to other arrangements depending on the candidate’s circumstances. Competitive salary and benefits commensurate with experience.

Applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, writing sample, and three references to TAC president Jeremy Beer at jbeer@theamericanconservative.com.

A 2016 Foreign Policy Report Card

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Presidents have more latitude in foreign affairs than in domestic policy, and the trend over the past two administrations has been for presidents to be more hawkish than their campaign pledges led voters to expect. George W. Bush promised a “humble foreign policy.” Instead, he gave us the Iraq War. Barack Obama was elected in part to end Bush’s wars. But he too pursued regime change, with Pyrrhic success in Libya and abortively in Syria.

These examples are alarming precedents for the next administration. The Democrats and Republicans vying for their parties’ nominations have staked out a range of positions on the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, as well as on the nuclear deal with Iran and relations with Russia in light of Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine. The different magnitudes of U.S. military spending the contenders propose also suggest something about how interventionist each will prove to be. Campaign statements are not, however, a sure guide to what anyone will do in office.

TAC has assessed the the five Republicans and two Democrats who remain in the contest and graded their policies on these issues. We award good grades for restraint and bad grades for policies suggestive of interventionism. We have considered only a few telltale foreign-policy issues, and while we believe these accurately reflect the overall character of these contenders, they are an admittedly incomplete and imperfect measure. Nevertheless, they are informative.

This report card is not a voter guide: it is a summary of these leading figures’ views on key questions of war and peace. Our purpose is to inform the widest possible readership, in a concise manner, about the state of an ongoing public debate—one that will have consequences for every American in the years after Obama leaves office.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton has a record of supporting unilateral military interventions, particularly for humanitarian reasons. She seems more likely to escalate the situation in Syria than her former boss Obama, and the role she played in destabilizing Libya is well known. Clinton provides only vague answers on military spending, making room for a more hawkish stance in the future.

  • Military Spending: Clinton claims she will create a high-level commission to examine defense spending, but declines to provide details about what would actually be cut. She implies that she would often defer to the Pentagon: “I think we are overdue for a very thorough debate in our country about what we need, and how we are going to pay for it. Very often, leadership of the Defense Department wants to eliminate certain spending, or wants to change it, and they’re stopped by the Congress.” Grade: C
  • Russia: Clinton has defended the merits of a “reset” when she was secretary of state, but has also likened Russia’s seizing of Crimea to what Nazi Germany did in the 1930s. She favors sending lethal aid to Ukraine. Clinton has been a supporter of bringing more countries into NATO as senator and secretary of state, including advocating for membership for Ukraine and Georgia when she was still in the Senate. All are policies likely to provoke Russia, not improve relations. Grade: C
  • Iraq War: Clinton originally supported the war. Now she calls her decision a “mistake.” Grade: C
  • Libya: Clinton has defended pushing for a war of choice in Libya: “We had a murderous dictator, Gadhafi, who had American blood on his hands … threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people.” The intervention created a power vacuum, and today many parts of the country are overrun by ISIS. Grade: F
  • Syria: Clinton has endorsed both a safe zone and a “no-fly zone” in Syria. While she has said that this would be done in coordination with the Russians, it’s unclear how such a policy would work in practice. Grade: F
  • Iran: Clinton supported the deal as “part of a larger strategy toward Iran” that contains Tehran’s power as sanctions are lifted. “Diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection—it is the balancing of risk.” Grade: A
  • Final Grade: D

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is the least hawkish of all the candidates. He supports diplomacy and restraint abroad, and has an established record of voting against military interventions in the Middle East. He made a rare deviation from this anti-interventionist stance on Libya.

  • Military Spending: “Given its staggering human and monetary costs, war should be a last resort. Exhaust all other options first, but keep a robust military at the ready.” Grade: B
  • Russia: Sanders endorses current administration policy of imposing sanctions to penalize Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, but does not appear to support sending lethal aid. He has opposed NATO expansion (at least going back to the second round that expanded the alliance into the Baltics and eastern Europe). Grade: B
  • Iraq War: He opposed the Iraq War in 2003, and still opposes it now. Grade: A
  • Libya: Sanders voted for a Senate resolution calling for the end of the Gaddafi regime and requesting U.N. intervention. Grade: D
  • Syria: Sanders believes that the U.S. should not take the lead in the fight against ISIS. Ideally, he would prefer if Middle Eastern nations could work to fight Islamic extremism. “We have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region—Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan—all of these nations, they’re going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are going to have to take on ISIS. This is a war for the soul of Islam.” Grade: B
  • Iran: Sanders firmly supported the Iran Deal: “… the test of a great nation is not how many wars we can engage in, but how we can use our strength and our capabilities to resolve international conflicts in a peaceful way.” Grade: A
  • Final Grade: B

Donald Trump

When it comes to foreign interventions, Trump can’t seem to make up his mind. He supported regime change in Libya in 2011, but wants to withdraw completely from Syria. He would review the Iran deal and has made comments that could indicate he supports a smaller defense budget, but offers no concrete stance.

  • Military Spending: Trump has no detailed plan for the defense budget, and makes only vague comments about it: “I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us. But you know what? We can do it for a lot less.” Grade: C
  • Russia: Trump wants increased diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia. He is interested in working with Russia in Syria and has repeatedly said that he would get along very well with Putin. He does not care if Ukraine joins NATO or not (“Whether it goes in or doesn’t go in, I wouldn’t care. If it goes in, great. If it doesn’t go in, great.”) On Ukraine, he tends not to criticize Russia and does not offer help from the U.S., but would rather Europe get involved in our stead. “I don’t like what’s happening with Ukraine. But that’s really a problem that affects Europe a lot more than it affects us. And they should be leading some of this charge.” Grade: B
  • Iraq War: Although Trump likes to say that he firmly opposed the Iraq War back in 2002, there are no public records of him doing so. Now he calls the Iraq War a huge mistake. Grade: C
  • Libya: In 2011 Trump supported humanitarian intervention in Libya and the removal of Gaddafi, but now he says that it was a huge mistake. Grade: D
  • Syria: Trump believes that Russia’s military moves in Syria are targeting ISIS and that the U.S. shouldn’t interfere. “We always give weapons, we give billions of dollars in weapons and then they turn them against us. We have no control. So we don’t know the other people that we’re supposed to be backing.” Grade: B
  • Iran: Trump says he wouldn’t tear up the deal at this point, but he would “police” the deal to make sure Iran doesn’t break the agreement. Grade: B
  • Final Grade: C

Ted Cruz

Cruz has called the Iraq War and intervention in Libya a mistake, but wants to “carpet bomb” ISIS, arm the Kurdish forces, and establish a no-fly zone in Syria. He would call for a significant increase in defense outlays.

  • Military Spending: Cruz wants to dramatically increase military spending. He voted for an amendment to increase the defense budget to what some estimated was $697 billion. Grade: F 
  • Russia: Cruz supports arming Ukraine, and mistakenly believes that the U.S. is obligated by treaty to aid them. It’s unclear if he misunderstands what the Budapest memorandum required of the U.S. or just assumes that the U.S. has made some other security commitment to Ukraine: “We have a treaty obligation to stand with them.” Grade: F
  • Iraq War: Cruz has no record of support or opposition back in 2002, but now says: “Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn’t go into Iraq. At the time, the intelligence reports indicated that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction that posed a significant national security threat to this country. … We now know in hindsight, those intelligence reports were false.” Grade: C
  • Libya: Cruz thinks that the 2011 intervention was a mistake: “Qaddafi was a bad man, he had a horrible human rights record. And yet, he had become a significant ally in fighting radical Islamic terrorism. … The terrorist attack that occurred in Benghazi was a direct result of that massive foreign policy blunder.” Grade: A
  • Syria: Cruz supports a no-fly zone, and wants to “carpet bomb” and “saturation bomb” ISIS in Syria. He would arm the Kurdish forces. Grade: F
  • Iran: Cruz wants to tear up the recent agreement: “If I am elected president, on the very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal. If there’s anyone up here who would be bound by this catastrophic deal with Iran, they’re giving up their core responsibility as commander in chief.” Grade: F
  • Final Grade: D

John Kasich

Kasich is a mixed bag in terms of hawkishness. He wants to work with the Iran Deal and criticized the nation building mission in Libya. But he has announced plans to increase the military budget and supports a no-fly zone in Syria.

  • Military Spending: Though Kasich says he wants to increase military spending by $102 billion (17%) between 2017 and 2025, this is far slower growth than the defense budgets suggested by Rubio and Cruz. This is consistent with the stance he took in Congress, when he was known as a “cheap hawk.” Grade: C
  • Russia: Asked about Putin’s aggression, Kasich said “it’s time we punched the Russians in the nose” because of their role in both Syria and Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Kasich is on record advocating for the U.S. arming Ukrainian forces. Grade: F
  • Iraq War: Kasich originally supported the war, but now says: “I would never have committed ourselves to Iraq.” Grade: C
  • Libya: Kasich opposed the state building mission in Libya: “Libya was a terrible mistake. Frankly, that’s something that people ought to be thinking about in regard to Hillary. You know, they talk about Benghazi, which is very legitimate, of course it is, but we should never have deposed Gaddafi. That was a terrible mistake. The guy was working with us and now we’ve created chaos in that country.” Grade: A
  • Syria: Kasich has called for the U.S. to provide “moral leadership,” including a no-fly zone and a coalition of ground troops in Syria. “You enter that no-fly zone, you enter at your own peril. No more red lines, no more looking the other way. If any hostile aircraft should enter that, there will be a great consequence to them.” Grade: F
  • Iran: Unlike most of his fellow Republicans, Kasich would not tear up the Iran Deal: “You’re going to rip it up and then what? Then what are you going to do when you rip it up? To just say that we’re going to walk away—we’ve got to remember that we do have allies and we want to call on them to work with us and a lot of them are signing up to this.” Grade: A
  • Final Grade: C

Marco Rubio

Rubio is an unabashed hawk. He scores poorly in every category, eschewing diplomacy supporting every military intervention. Unsurprisingly, Rubio also wants to increase defense spending.

  • Military Spending: In March 2015, Rubio introduced an amendment to increase defense outlays to what proponents estimated was $697 billion. The measure, which failed 32-68 in the Senate, was also supported by Ted Cruz. Grade: F
  • Russia: Rubio is all for arming Ukraine, and attacks the administration for not doing it. Rubio has also been a strong supporter of NATO expansion, including support for bringing Georgia into the alliance. As recently as last year, he expressed support for letting Ukraine join NATO if it wanted to. Grade: F
  • Iraq War: Rubio is unapologetic in his support for the war: “George W. Bush enforced what the international community refused to do. And again, he kept us safe, and I am forever grateful to what he did for this county.” Grade: F
  • Libya: Rubio strongly supported the intervention in Libya in 2011. “When an American president says the guy needs to go, you better make sure that it happens because your credibility and your stature in the world is on the line.” Grade: F
  • Syria: Rubio wants a no-fly zone and an expanded air assault mission. He says that it is “critical” that a Sunni force confront ISIS and is interested in approaching Jordan and Egypt for the multinational ground coalition he hopes to form. He says the U.S. must make it clear that Russia should not be involved in a coalition. Grade: F
  • Iran: Rubio has said repeatedly that he would rip up the Iran Deal on his first day in office. Grade: F
  • Final Grade: F

Ben Carson

Carson can be relied upon to embrace the hawkish line in almost every area. He plans to renege on the Iran Deal his first day in office and increase the military budget to 2012 levels. He has condemned the Iraq War, but with no official stance from back in 2002, he is merely following suit with the other candidates. Carson supports military intervention in the Middle East, partly to diminish Russia’s influence in the region and prevent Putin from gaining a foothold there.

  • Military Spending: Carson argues that “our armed forces are too small, too old, out-gunned and under-resourced.” He wants to permanently suspend sequestration and restore the defense budget to 2012 levels. Grade: F
  • Russia: Carson wants to work with Russia in Syria but afterwards push them out and marginalize their role in the Middle East. He would deter Russian aggression in the Baltic states by providing lethal assistance to Ukraine, maintain current sanctions, pressure their “energy-dependent” economy, and reinvigorate missile defense plans (particularly in Poland and the Czech Republic). Grade: D
  • Iraq War: Carson made no public statements in 2002 since he was not in the political realm at the time. On the campaign trail he has stated that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake, but has said he would still have supported regime change: “I would have gotten rid of the problem of Saddam Hussein some other way.” Grade: D
  • Libya: Carson wants a preventative strategy to keep ISIS from expanding into Libya. He leans heavily on his advisors and has repeatedly said he would consider renewing airstrikes in Libya if the military brass advised him to do so. Grade: F 
  • Syria: Carson wants to “formally declare war on the Islamic State; lead the formation of a military coalition of moderate Arab nations; isolate the Syrian and Iraqi portions of ISIS; urge U.S. allies to recruit and train Sunni Syrian men to establish a military force; and deploy America’s military resources to work with indigenous forces to establish a safe zone for refugees.” Grade: F
  • Iran: Carson plans to withdraw from the deal: “Of the Obama-Clinton administration’s many foreign policy mistakes, its nuclear agreement with Iran poses the most dangerous, long-term threat to the United States and the world. … As president, I will withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement on Day One.” Grade: F
  • Final Grade: F

Summer Interns Wanted

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The American Conservative is currently accepting applications for a summer editorial assistant position. The deadline for applications is Friday, March 11.

Editorial interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the website and print magazine. This internship offers real experience in all the moving parts of a media organization and exposure to both editorial and marketing projects.

Responsibilities include:

  • Preparing pieces for the web, writing headlines, curating images
  • Managing TAC’s presence on social media platforms
  • Contributing headlines and story ideas
  • Proofreading, fact-checking, and editing
  • Blogging for the web and writing for the print magazine
  • Devising strategies for audience development and engagement
  • Helping with event planning and special projects

Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.

All candidates should possess:

  • Eagerness to work tirelessly on a small but ambitious team
  • Superb writing and editing ability
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Love of considered, lengthy journalism as well as an appreciation of horse-race politics
  • Excellent news/culture/opinion judgment
  • A background in intellectual conservatism and keen understanding of The American Conservative’s sensibility

Past experience with a news or opinion publication is preferred, though not required.

Interns will join our team in Washington, D.C., from May to August, and will receive a stipend. We will review applications on a rolling basis, so applicants are encouraged to submit their materials before the final deadline. College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should e-mail their responses as Word document or PDF attachments to intern@theamericanconservative.com no later than March 11.

Required:

  • Résumé
  • Cover letter
  • A 500-word writing sample appropriate for our website, offering a fresh perspective, original analysis, and a clear, evidence-based argument. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a link to a blog post or article you have published elsewhere that would have been well-suited for publication in The American Conservative.

Optional (Pick 2 or 3):

  • Propose three ideas for web articles (1-2 sentences each).
  • What are the two most interesting media accounts you follow on Twitter and why? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our coverage and analysis on the web? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our fundraising efforts on the web? (100 words max.)
  • Write two Facebook posts and two tweets about articles or blog posts that appear on our homepage today.
  • Which two contemporary writers have influenced your thinking the most? (100 words max.)
  • How would you describe the American Conservative reader? (100 words max.)

We also consider applications submitted through partner organizations—including the Koch Institute, Collegiate Network, and National Journalism Center. We’ll post more information about our fall 2016 internship in the coming months.

The American Conservative’s 2015 Books Symposium

Be sure to check out last year’s installment as well. Happy reading!

 

Catherine Addington

In The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott takes the broad highland swath of Southeast Asia known among academics as “Zomia”—a rugged, mountainous region with a population of 100 million that encompasses parts of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, China, and India, and arguably extends as far west as Afghanistan—as the focal point for a study of state evasion.

The book is a bit overwhelming to a reader unfamiliar with Southeast Asia, and written largely in the deliberately inaccessible manner of highlanders and anthropologists alike, but the skeleton of his thesis comes through provocatively. He argues that the “hill peoples,” as they are known, should not be thought of as “ancestors,” as-of-yet “unreached” by the “civilization” of the valleys, but rather as refugees from the state itself and all the pests thereof: land-grabbing, disease, and conscription. The behaviors that “valley peoples” see as backward—linguistic and geographical isolation, ethnocultural flexibility, intense religiosity, nomadic agricultural patterns—were in fact deliberately developed to resist the “internal colonialism” of state control.

Though Scott is adamant about framing the book as a historical depiction, quickly becoming irrelevant in contemporary geopolitics as states expand even into previously unconquerable Zomia, he perhaps doesn’t see the timeliness of his own argument. Our own foreign-policy debate is all about civilizational narrative: what could ISIS possibly be offering that we aren’t? How can states possibly deal with nonstate actors? Why are there some places we just can’t tame? Scott doesn’t offer answers, but he asks the questions from the opposite side. It’s a welcome change in perspective.

Catherine Addington is an editorial fellow at The American Conservative.

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Andrew J. Bacevich

Biographies are a dime a dozen. Biographies worth reading are hard to come by. Here are three recent ones that received less attention than they deserved—comprehensive, well-written, and, to my mind, gripping accounts that illuminate something more than the life of a particular person. First is The Publisher: Henry R. Luce and the American Century (2010) by Alan Brinkley. Second is The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (2012) by David Nasaw. Third is Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2014) by Charles Marsh. You don’t have to like Luce or Kennedy to appreciate that they deserve to be ranked among the most consequential Americans of their day, each a larger than life figure leaving an imposing legacy. As for Bonhoeffer, his journey toward eventual martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis bears compelling witness to what it means to be a Christian in an even darker time than our own.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military Historyis due out in April.

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Bradley J. Birzer

While almost every person under the age of 60 recognizes the genius of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythological creations as found in his published writings (which remain among the best selling of all-time best sellers), few realize that this Oxford scholar of Beowulf and all things medieval, this niggler of all Western legends, and this very middle-class husband and father was also an extremely good artist, as well as passable amateur cartographer. Since Tolkien’s death in 1973, five books of his art have appeared, with Hammond and Scull having expertly editing three of them. This most recent, The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, is not only glorious but is also a vital corrective to the cinematic horrors and travesties created by Peter Jackson’s six films. Tolkien, a real master of water colors and fantastic landscapes, fails only in figure drawing. As with his writing style, Tolkien ably matches the style of his art with the subject matter at hand. Hobbiton is ideally agrarian and republican while Mordor is wickedly mechanical and uniform. Most tellingly, however, Tolkien’s art is, somehow, humane.  Even after nearly eight decades, his paintings remain fresh and timeless. Rather than shock as so much modern art does, Tolkien’s art simply invites and welcomes.

Bradley J. Birzer is the author of Russell Kirk: American Conservative and co-founder of The Imaginative Conservative.

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Gene Callahan

“Acedia” is the Latin word for the deadly sin of “sloth.” We often think of sloth as roughly synonymous with “laziness” (thus the animal name), but in his powerful book Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire, R.J. Snell explains that this is only one aspect of how it was traditionally characterized. In fact, in the Christian tradition, acedia often involved a “frenzy of pointless action.” The connection between this traditional understanding and the modern usage is that this frantic activity does, in fact, stem from a form of laziness: being too lazy to hunker down and commit to some full course of action. Monogamy is hard work; it is easier to flit from lover to lover. Reading a great novel is tough going: why not bounce around the cable channels? Even committing to a conversation for 15 minutes seems too much for many of our contemporaries, who cannot resist checking for text messages every 30 seconds.

The cure, Snell argues, is “staying in the cell”: the monk’s phrase for what to do when acedia hits, which is simply to refuse its invitation to dart hither and thither and instead keep one’s constancy of place. The idea bears a striking resemblance to the Zen Buddhist treatment for the same problem, which is to keep sitting through the fidgets. This, and a lot more, from Cormac McCarthy to Charles Taylor to Milan Kundera, is packed into this slim but weighty volume.

Gene Callahan teaches economics and computer science at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn and is the author of Oakeshott on Rome and America.

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Marian Kester Coombs

How many books have I never read because continually hearing about them created either a false sense of familiarity or a rebellious resistance? I finally came to open Wilkie Collins’s enduring classic The Woman in White because it was on my shelf in the form of a vintage leather-bound volume inscribed by my ten-year-old mother in 1934; and because I have reached the age of “If not now, when?”

Anyone who reads The Woman in White knows that it is not only a riveting suspense tale, but is formatted in an intriguing, inventive ways—as letters, journal entries, memoirs, legal depositions, and the like, all in distinct voices. The slow revelation of the mystery is delicious. The style is Victorian but not overly so, and virtually every paragraph draws the reader deeper into the maze of the Secret…

The Woman in White is a feminist novel in the sense that most if not all 19th-century novels are: the greatest audience for them was female. In strong female characters the novel does not disappoint. Restive female readers were surely gratified by the valor and virtues displayed by the heroine, Miss Marian Halcombe, in defense of her helpless and outrageously wronged sister Miss Laura Fairlie. (I was also tickled to see my own outmoded name in print for a change.)

“The primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story,” wrote Collins. Simple as that.

Marian Kester Coombs writes from Crofton, Maryland.

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Donald Devine

Ronald Reagan was the man of our times. Who says so: how about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary? Craig Shirley has now written the closing chapter in the Gipper’s consequential life, Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Like its subject, the book is a class act. This is Shirley’s third work on the former president’s life, with his Reagan’s Revolution on the 1976 election and Rendezvous With Destiny about the victory in 1980. He knows his subject intimately. While this volume has a note of sadness approaching Reagan’s last years, it also is consoling in that it demonstrates that his legacy will be long-lasting. Shirley is especially good in his clear writing style and no-nonsense storytelling. There are thousands of anecdotes and scores of witticisms. And Reagan is there, cheerful and generous through it all. The section on the funeral is especially difficult to read, but the outpouring of affection reminded me that my own nonpolitical children waited on those long lines at their own initiative. He was truly a transformational president who rescued America from 1970s “malaise” and restored confidence in America and its values. Whether it lasts beyond him is up to us, and this book may be just what is needed to inspire such perseverance.

Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition, and Constitution, and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term.

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Rod Dreher

The best book I read all year was Laurus, a remarkable novel by Russian writer Eugene (Evgeny) Vodolazkin, a professional philologist of the Middle Ages. Reminiscent of the work of Umberto Eco and Gabriel García Márquez, Laurus tells the story of an unlikely Orthodox Christian holy man in 15th-century Russia and his adventures, hardships, and triumphs in a time of plague and war. A mysterious sense of sanctity illuminates every page of this novel, but filled with a sense of earthy sensuality, Laurus is far from a neat, pious tale. Depicting goodness in an authentic way is one of the most difficult things for a novelist to do, but Vodolazkin, miraculously, succeeds. It’s a terrific tale, and you emerge from this book with a sense of the world’s re-enchantment and a renewed belief in the holy, in the reality of a transcendent order, in a world grown indifferent to its presence.

Laurus gave me hope. The Divine Comedy gave me my life back. I tell that story in my 2015 book How Dante Can Save Your Life, which grew out of a long series of TAC blog posts. A follow-up to my 2013 memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, this book tells the story of the surprising kinship I found with the medieval Tuscan poet at the lowest point of my life. To my astonishment, Dante’s Divine Comedy turned out to be a life-changing guide to spiritual self-examination, and it led to profound inner healing. How Dante Can Save Your Life is not an academic book but an accessible work of literary self-help, in a Christian vein. Pope Francis has encouraged his flock to read Dante on this Year of Mercy. How Dante Can Save Your Life, if I may say so, is excellent preparation for the divine poet, written by and for non-specialists.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

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Philip Giraldi

I read Being Berlusconi: The Rise & Fall From Cosa Nostra to Bunga Bunga earlier this year in part because I am acquainted with some of the Italian politicians identified in the “rise” part of the book. The author, Michael Day, a British journalist who has been based in Rome and Milan, has produced a lively account of a man who seems to defy all conventional wisdom in his trajectory as a business-tycoon-turned-politician who eventually became something like a caricature of himself. One might reasonably argue that Berlusconi, shaping today’s political landscape for better or worse, has been the most dominant figure in Italian politics since Giulio Andreotti resigned as prime minister in 1992.  

As if peeling an onion, the book works its way through the multiple personalities and complexities inherent in the Berlusconi phenomenon in an entertaining fashion to explain how he got away with it all for as long as he did. But for me the truly most interesting aspect of the book is its relevance to contemporary American politics. I keep thinking of Day’s observations about Berlusconi whenever I read about Donald Trump’s latest antics. Trump is, indeed, the American Berlusconi, artlessly playing on national anxieties in the most outrageous fashion to maintain his political base. Nor is it a mere coincidence that both Trump and Berlusconi are billionaires, as that has provided them with the freedom to thumb their respective noses at conventional politics and politicians, which, in the end, is a large measure of their appeal.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

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Samuel Goldman

Ernst Jünger’s Eumeswil is not a new book. First published in 1977, it received an English translation in 1993. But the German original is inaccessible to most readers, while the translation is expensive and long out of print. This edition makes the masterpiece of Jünger’s later thought available to a wide American audience for the first time.

Jünger’s preoccupation in this period was the “anarch,” or radically free individual. In Jünger’s view, freedom can be sustained only through an act of ironic distancing that combines superficial acceptance of conventional life with spiritual withdrawal. What distinguishes the anarch from the anarchist, Jünger argued, is that the anarchist is really an optimist who believes unfree society can be replaced by a free one. The anarch, by contrast, recognizes that every society is based on constraint and coercion.

Despite its political implications, Eumeswil is not a conventional work of theory. A bildungsroman set in a postapocalyptic future, it blends philosophy, poetry, and natural science in Jünger’s precise but intentionally alienating prose style. Jünger’s main interlocutors—Vico, Nietzsche, Max Stirner, the French Symbolists—belong to European high culture. Readers who come to Eumeswil with knowledge of Anglophone science fiction, however, may notice surprising parallels to Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun

Eumeswil can be read as part of Jünger’s lifelong reflection on his flirtations with radical Right in the 1920s and ‘30s. Although he was never a member of the NSDAP, Jünger’s reactionary nationalism and aestheticized depictions of violence promoted the Nazi seizure of power. Like his 1939 novel On the Marble Cliffs, Eumeswil thus considers issues of collaboration and tyrannicide. Should a free man sacrifice his life to eliminate a dictator? Jünger confronted the question himself as a peripheral member in the Stauffenberg conspiracy against Hitler.

Jünger’s mature conclusion is pessimistic. Personal resistance is futile in comparison to the inexorable forces of history. The anarch is not a revolutionary. He is a pessimist and an aesthete, whose freedom consists in his capacity to imagine himself as a member, not of a better world, but of a different one.

Samuel Goldman is assistant professor of political science at The George Washington University.

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Leon Hadar

Reading about the origins of World War I continued to occupy my time this year, and not only because there have been a stream of excellent histories about the topic since we marked the centenary of the Great War two years ago. My interest in the subject also stems from the recognition that the evolving international system that is becoming more multipolar in nature, and driven in large part by considerations of balance of power, resembles on the one that existed in Europe from much of the 19th century until it crumbled in 1914.

So it may be appropriate that the first sentence in Dominic Lieven’s The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution, which was completed long before the current Ukraine critics exploded, reads: “As much as anything, World War I turned on the fate of Ukraine,” suggesting that notwithstanding changing ideological orientations, Russia and Germany are once again at the center of European and world politics.

Lieven’s study is not a “revisionist” work, but unlike other books on World War I it attempts to place Russia “where it belongs, at the very center” of the war’s history.

In the “fiction” category I recommend Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, which has been reviewed by other TAC editors. I am not sure that the designation “fiction” is appropriate, if one considers that the book that imagines France coming under the rule of Islamists came out before the attack on Charlie Hebdo and was published in English before the more recent ISIS terrorist assaults in Paris.

Leon Hadar is a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm, and teaches international relations at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Alan Jacobs

Beyond any question, the four volumes by Elena Ferrante commonly called the Neapolitan Quartet constituted the most powerful and memorable reading experience I had in 2015. That’s an opinion shared by many, it seems, but I have yet to see a review of, or essay on, the story—and it is a single story: Ferrante herself thinks of it as one novel in four volumes—that captures its depth and richness. Most critics assimilate the story to pre-existing categories: it gets called a portrait of female friendship, an exploration of the costs of a rigidly sexist culture, and the like. But no standard political or social framework is adequate to the subtlety of Ferrante’s portrayal of human lives, both in their day-to-dayness and in extremis; and one character in particular, Raffaella Cerullo, known to the narrator as Lila, a girl and then a woman by turns open and hidden, confident and fearful, brilliant and defeated, generous and cruel, completely evades any attempt at comprehension. (But since that narrator—Elena Greco, or Lenù—reveals Lila to us, and Lila’s life is always entangled with hers, it may be best to say that they make an unforgettable pair.) What, fundamentally, is the story about? Loves that are indistinguishable from hatreds; the compelling power and appalling narrowness of a intensely localized upbringing, and the disruption of both the power and the narrowness by technological modernity; the many paths and meanings of womanhood; the profound corruption of a society clinging to the merest shreds of religious habit when the living force of Christianity has departed. Or: life.

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

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Philip Jenkins

When future historians struggle to choose the single dumbest remark to emerge from the lips of Barack Obama, his portrayal of ISIS as “a JV team” must stand at or near the front of a crowded field of candidates. Dealing with that movement, and preventing its jihadi insurgency going global, will be a primary task of the next administration. For that task, the next president will need first class intelligence, and among several good books now available, The ISIS Apocalypse  by William McCants is by far the best. It is based on an exceptional range of primary sources that are otherwise little known, many in Arabic. At every point, the author emerges as an acute and clear-minded analyst, with an enviable historical grasp.

McCants stresses two critical themes that are far too rarely stressed in general discussions. One is the intimate connection between the Islamic State and the mechanisms of the defunct Iraqi Ba’ath state, its military and its intelligence apparatus. The other is the movement’s profoundly religious content. This is grounded not in generic appeals to Qur’anic tradition, but rather to very deep-rooted apocalyptic ideas that can be traced to the early years of the original Caliphate. Those ideas boomed astonishingly during the general collapse of Arab states and societies during the ironically named “Arab Spring.” Reading McCants, you realize just how absurd is any attempt to pretend that this movement is somehow not Islamic, or not even religious.

Philip Jenkins is the author of The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels. He is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and serves as co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.

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Daniel McCarthy

The current issue of The American Conservative highlights more than one book that deserves mention in a round-up of the year’s best. Bradley Birzer’s Russell Kirk: American Conservative is the indispensable guide to the life of the man who recovered a genealogy for conservatism amid the ruins of World War II. There are many more sides to Kirk than his most famous work, The Conservative Mind, suggests, however: Birzer uncovers Kirk the early libertarian, influenced by Marcus Aurelius and Albert Jay Nock; Kirk the gothic novelist and writer of short stories, anthologized alongside Stephen King and Ray Bradbury; as well as Kirk the Christian humanist, the disciple of T.S. Eliot who somewhat uneasily shared a soul with Kirk the Goldwaterite. Birzer’s book is for conservatives (and not just conservatives) easily one of the most notable of 2015.

Kirk himself would, I suspect, also take note of another title featured in TAC‘s latest issue, the University of Chicago’s new translation, by Margaret Grave, of Seneca’s Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius (as this edition is styled). I’m cheating a little here because in fact the translation of Seneca’s letters I’ve recently read isn’t Chicago’s but the old Penguin classic by Robin Campbell. Campbell’s is less comprehensive than Grave’s edition, but even a slender volume of the great Roman Stoic’s letters is tonic for the spirit. Seneca was a pre-Christian humanist of sorts—though he counsels his friend Lucilius against drowning in erudition—and he readily draws not only upon the poetry of Vergil but even on the maxims of Epicurus to show that truth can often be found far afield from the authorities of one’s own school of thought. It’s a lesson worth remembering as the furies of another election season approach.

Daniel McCarthy is editor of The American Conservative.

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Scott McConnell

I loved Submission by Michel Houellebecq. I read it in French, early this year, which for me is commitment, 15-20 pages an hour with a dictionary. It provides really shrewd insight into the various mindsets, or facets of them, of contemporary French multiculti liberalism and  reactionary identitarianism. Houellebecq is France’s most important writer, and a kind of reactionary—so quite an accomplishment for a country where it is still unconsciously assumed that art and culture must be of the left. He is acutely conscious of the social weaknesses of the secular liberal society now threatened by Islamic immigration/fertility/devoutness. You can find many people who admire the book debating its political meaning or intent, which is quite a trick for a political novel.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

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William Ruger

Police tactics and equipment have become salient topics in American politics in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore. Law-enforcement agents today are often armed like soldiers in a war zone rather than peace officers aiming to protect and serve their communities. While recent events have shown the need for special units for special circumstances, SWAT teams are utilized all too often in this country for more pedestrian purposes—not infrequently with bad results for individual liberties and for the police officers trying to do their dangerous job. When the police are over-armed, utilizing vehicles built for war, it separates and alienates officers from individuals in the community. Recently, New Haven police chief Dean Esserman spoke eloquently about this loss of faith and what can be done to fix the problem. As he put it, “you don’t know us anymore. We’ve become strangers in the community.” Given our country’s origins and founding ideals, how did we get here? Why does a town like Johnston, Rhode Island with a population of 30,000 receive millions of dollars in surplus Department of Defense equipment including bayonets?

Radley Balko’s detailed history of the militarization of policing, Rise of the Warrior Cop, is a must-read book that answers these questions and more, and is even more relevant now than when it was published in 2013. And if this topic is of interest, I’d also recommend the new documentary “Peace Officer” which touchingly looks at police militarization through the lens of a former sheriff who started a SWAT team that decades later killed his son-in-law.

William Ruger is the Vice President of Research and Policy at the Charles Koch Institute.  He is also the author of Milton Friedman and co-author of Freedom in the 50 States.

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Timothy Stanley

Peter Longerich’s Goebbels: A Biography smacks of “definitive.” Based upon the propaganda minister’s private diaries, it paints a picture of a narcissist who needed Adolf Hitler to affirm his genius. One could read the relationship as symbolic of fascism as a whole: the father flattered, the nation rallied and the horror came.

Joseph Goebbels was not without talent. Longerich shows how he turned the crude Nazi propaganda machine into something that better reflected the cosmopolitan tastes of the 1930s public, almost Hollywood in elegance. And for all of those who have asked why the Nazis didn’t leave a longer cultural legacy, the answer is partly a failure to launch. In theatre, for instance, the hierarchy found that Nazi-themed works were poorly written and dull—so they stopped commissioning them. The films we remember with a shudder from the Third Reich are Leni Riefenstahl’s documentaries of sweaty men marching with shovels, or else the racist dross of “The Eternal Jew.” But this was also a regime that, at the height of the war, poured money into “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” which was about as politically radical as the “Police Academy” movies.

Nazism was fanatical and ideological. But the system and its followers often required adaptability to flourish. Longerich shows how Goebbels used the language of Catholicism, socialism, and racism to navigate the ups and downs of a career typically spent on the edge of influence. Ultimately, the Nazi state was a personal one. Goebbels was nearly ruined by an affair that imperilled his marriage to Magda—a woman beloved by the Fuhrer. At the end, however, they were all united in death.

Timothy Stanley is the author of Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration between LA and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics.

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Eve Tushnet

It’s easy to find books that take one side or another on the questions the prevailing culture presents. It’s much harder to find books that challenge the questions themselves, asking us to take up new or neglected questions instead. My friend Wesley Hill has written a slender, heartfelt book that intervenes in our often dispiriting debates over family structure, gay people, “emerging adulthood,” and Christianity, by asking a long-neglected question: what would it look like to shape one’s life around friendship, in a culture which no longer recognizes friends as kin? Could friendship serve as the molecular unit of the church? Could friendship be an arena for sacrifice, care, and sanctification? In Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian, Hill takes up these questions with the help of art, literature, a deep knowledge of Scripture, and personal experience. This is a conversation-starter, not a treatise. It isn’t the last word. It’s simply a beautiful and provocative set of essays that will challenge all its readers and inspire many of them.

Eve Tushnet is a TAC contributing editor, blogs at Patheos.com, and is the author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith, as well as the author of the newly released novel Amends, a satire set during the filming of a reality show about alcohol rehab.

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What to Conserve

This article from the January/February 2016 issue hasn’t yet been published online. For now, it’s just available to subscribers—to read it right away, subscribe here and access the digital edition of the magazine. If you’re already a subscriber, log in here.

Spring Interns Wanted

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The American Conservative is currently accepting applications for a spring editorial internship position. The deadline for applications is Tuesday, November 17 .

Update: the deadline for applications has been extended to Friday, November 20.

Editorial interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the website and print magazine. This internship offers real experience in all the moving parts of a media organization and exposure to both editorial and marketing projects.

Responsibilities include:

  • Preparing pieces for the web, writing headlines, curating images
  • Managing TAC’s presence on social media platforms
  • Contributing headlines and story ideas
  • Proofreading, fact-checking, and editing
  • Blogging for the web and writing for the print magazine
  • Devising strategies for audience development and engagement
  • Helping with event-planning and special projects

Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.

All candidates should possess:

  • Eagerness to work tirelessly on a small but ambitious team
  • Superb writing and editing ability
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Love of considered, lengthy journalism as well as an appreciation of horse-race politics
  • Excellent news/culture/opinion judgment
  • A background in intellectual conservatism and keen understanding of The American Conservative’s sensibility

Past experience with a news or opinion publication is preferred, though not required.

Interns will join our team in Washington, D.C., from January through May, and will receive a stipend. We will review applications on a rolling basis, so applicants are encouraged to submit their materials before the final deadline. College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should e-mail their responses as Word document or PDF attachments to intern@theamericanconservative.com no later than November 17.

  • Required: Résumé, cover letter, and a 500 word writing sampleappropriate for our website, offering a fresh perspective, original analysis, and a clear, evidence-based argument. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a link to a blog post or article you have published elsewhere that would have been well-suited for publication in The American Conservative.

Optional (Pick 2 or 3):

  • Propose three ideas for web articles (1-2 sentences each).
  • What are the two most interesting media accounts you follow on Twitter and why? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our coverage and analysis on the web? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our fundraising efforts on the web? (100 words max.)
  • Write two Facebook posts and two tweets about articles or blog posts that appear on our homepage today.
  • Which two contemporary writers have influenced your thinking the most? (100 words max.)
  • How would you describe The American Conservative reader? (100 words max.)

We also consider applications submitted through partner organizations—including the Koch Institute, Collegiate Network, and National Journalism Center. We’ll post more information about our summer 2016 internship in the coming months.

Wanted: A Postwar Policy

Michael Hogue
Michael Hogue

Lessons are learned slowly in politics, and nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy. Thus the Democratic Party is poised to nominate for president a woman who as a senator voted for the Iraq War and as secretary of state was responsible in large measure for the disastrous U.S. involvement in Libya. The Republican 2016 aspirants, meanwhile, have figured out that claiming the Iraq War was a success won’t help them win even relatively hawkish GOP primary voters—yet most talk as if new confrontations with Iran, one side or another of the Syrian civil war, Russia, or China present no hazards worth worrying about. They are as gung-ho for the next war as any neoconservative was for the Iraq invasion.

But on the margins are signs that change is indeed coming to American foreign policy, however slowly. Among Hillary Clinton’s challengers in the Democratic contest are a former Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee, who unlike Mrs. Clinton actually voted against the Iraq War; a Vietnam veteran and former Reagan administration secretary of the Navy, Jim Webb, who in 2006 was moved to run for and win a seat in the U.S. Senate by his outrage at the Iraq War; and a sitting senator, Bernie Sanders, who opposed the war when he was in the House of Representatives and has voted against the Patriot Act while serving in each chamber.

That two of these alternatives to Clinton come originally from the Republican Party is an indication of just how dramatically foreign policy can reshape the political landscape, even when conventional wisdom holds that voters simply don’t care about world affairs. The Democratic Party is gaining strength, including from people who were until recently Republicans, because of its relatively less interventionist positioning.

Many Republicans understand this, and one, Sen. Rand Paul, has made an effort to devise an alternative to the foreign policy that has led both the party and the country into hardship. That his attempt has been so far unsuccessful goes to show how slowly political change develops—and how closed a party can be to new ideas, even when they are clearly in its self-interest. (The fact that Paul has tried to appeal to some of the most hawkish elements in the party even as he aims to formulate a new kind of Republican realism has only made matters more difficult for him.) Other 2016 hopefuls in the GOP are stranded in a limbo of ignorance: their advisors are drawn almost entirely from the ranks of neoconservatives and other hawks, and even when the candidates themselves feel that there is something wrong with the words coming out of their mouths, they have no alternative script to turn to.

thisarticleappearsPolicies are the end products of a long chain of manufacture, which typically begins with scholars, writers, and other dealers in ideas. The progressive tilt of academia has always provided Democrats with a deeper and wider reservoir of intellectual talent—whatever itsflaws—than Republicans have had access to. The GOP has depended instead on a handful of foundations, think-tanks, and media outlets that have tended to police one another’s orthodoxy. These institutions were hawkish during the Cold War, and by the time that ended they were too invested in ideological conformity to risk a re-appraisal of U.S. foreign policy. When the Cato Institute opposed the first Gulf War in 1991, conservative movement kingpins such as Steve Forbes and William E. Simon cut funding to the dissident libertarian think-tank.

Realists and relative doves on the right have been doubly pariahs for a long time—rejected by a left-leaning academy and a right whose institutional inertia maintains a Cold War mentality. (And worse, freed of the constraints that superpower competition imposed during the Cold War, much of the right has embraced an unabashedly imperial “exceptionalism.”) But as bankrupt policies impose their costs on politicians as well as taxpayers and soldiers, Republicans and Democrats alike start slowly feeling the need to think anew. Our job is to help them do so.

Watch the Summit on Realism and Restraint

Photo credit: Tim Markatos
Photo credit: Tim Markatos

On November 4, 2015, The American Conservative partnered with The Charles Koch Institute and the Department of Political Science at The George Washington University to produce the Summit on Realism & Restraint: A New Way Forward for American Foreign Policy.

Panelists and speakers discussed conservative alternatives to the interventionist and isolationist camps in Washington, and how a revival of realism and restraint can improve America’s prospects.

If you missed the livestream catch up with the videos linked below, as well as our editors’ livetweet —and be sure to join the discussion on Twitter yourself using the hashtag #newwayforward.

The program for the conference was as follows:

8:30am Welcome
Samuel Goldman, Department of Political Science, George Washington University
Daniel McCarthy, editor, The American Conservative
8:40am Opening Remarks
Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.)

9:00am Conservative Realism and Restraint: What’s the Right Foreign Policy?
moderated by Benjamin Schwarz, national editor, The American Conservative
William Ruger, vice president, The Charles Koch Institute
John Lenczowski, president, Institute of World Politics
Daniel Larison, senior editor, The American Conservative
Kori Schake, research fellow, The Hoover Institution; contributor, Foreign Policy

10:15am Elites and the Public: How Foreign Policy Is Made
moderated by Scott McConnell, founding editor, The American Conservative
Robert W. Merry, contributing editor, The National Interest
Michael Desch, professor of political science, University of Notre Dame
Emma Ashford, visiting research fellow, The Cato Institute
Leon Hadar, senior analyst, Wikistrat

11:30am What Religion Means for U.S. Foreign Policy
moderated by Catherine Addington, editorial fellow, The American Conservative
Damon Linker, senior correspondent, TheWeek.com
Samuel Goldman, assistant professor, George Washington University
Noah Millman, senior editor, The American Conservative
Fr. Thomas Zain, vicar general, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

12:30pm The State and Modern War
moderated by Daniel McCarthy, editor, The American Conservative
Philip Giraldi, executive director, Council for the National Interest
William S. Lind, author, the Maneuver Warfare Handbook
1:15pm Closing Remarks

Follow TAC’s Coverage of the Third GOP Debates

amcon livetweet pic

Tonight, CNBC is hosting two debates for candidates in the Republican 2016 presidential primary.

The 6pm debate includes Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum. The 8pm debate features Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Carly Fiorina.

Our writers and editors will be covering the debates live on Twitter, and reacting on the site afterwards. Daniel Larison previews the debates here and Noah Millman analyzes the current state of the race here. For live coverage and analysis of tonight’s events, keep up with the hashtag #CNBCGOPDebate and follow:

Rod Dreher @RodDreher
Daniel Larison @DanielLarison
Daniel McCarthy @ToryAnarchist
Lewis McCrary @LewisMcCrary
Samuel Goldman @SWGoldman
Gracy Olmstead @GracyOlmstead

As always, we will be curating the conversation @amconmag, and continuing coverage into tomorrow here on the main site. Join us!

Front Porch Republic Takes (Upstate) New York

Our friends at Front Porch Republic will be hosting their fifth annual conference, “Sustainable Localism: Sages, Prophets, and Jesters”, this weekend in Geneseo, New York. TAC‘s own Jeremy Beer will be speaking on Booth Tarkington, while panels are held on sustainable localism, Christopher Lasch, and more. New Urbanism icon James Howard Kunstler will deliver the keynote address. Expect Bill Kauffman to have plenty of appreciation for his backyard to pass around.

Here’s the schedule. Interested potential attendees can register here.

Panel 1:  Prophets, Sages, and Jesters of Sustainable Localism 

Chair:  Mark Mitchell

Jason Peters:  “The Holy Earth and Liberty Hyde Bailey’s Front Porch Cred”

Jeff Polet:  “Laudato Si and Localism”

Jeremy Beer: “Life on Both Sides of the Tracks in Indianapolis: The Non-Intersecting Lives of Booth Tarkington and Oscar Charleston”

Panel 2:    The Life, Thought, and Legacy of Christopher Lasch

Chair:  Russell Arben Fox

Eric Miller   “Putting the Porch in Its Place: Christopher Lasch’s Republican Hope”

Robert Westbrook:  “Death and Dying in a Front Porch Republic”

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn: “At Home with Nostalgia and the Gravity of Sentiment”

 

Lunch:  College Union Patio or Ballroom

 

Keynote:  James Howard Kunstler “Looking for Sustainability in All the Wrong Places”

 

Panel 3:  Urban Design:  Buffalo As Representative City

Chair:   Jennifer Rogalsky

Catherine Tumber:  “Provincial Cities and Spatial Democracy in the Age of Global Warming”

Tim Tielman: Paleo-urban Principles for the Modern Town”

Panel 4:   In God’s Country

Chair:  Michael Sauter

Bill Kauffman: “Pat and Barber:  An Education in Place and Politics”

Abbot Gerard D’Souza:  “Monastic Stability: In One Place with God and the Brethren”

Follow TAC’s Coverage of the Second GOP Debate

Photo courtesy of Catherine Addington

Tonight, CNN will partner with Salem Communications to host two debates for candidates in the Republican 2016 presidential primary.

The 6pm debate will include Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum. The 8pm debate will feature Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, and Carly Fiorina.

Our writers and editors will be covering the debates live on Twitter, and reacting on the site afterwards. Daniel Larison previews the debates here. For live coverage and analysis of tonight’s events, keep up with the hashtag #GOPDebate and follow:

Rod Dreher @RodDreher
Daniel Larison @DanielLarison
Samuel Goldman @SWGoldman
Jonathan Coppage @JonCoppage
Gracy Olmstead @GracyOlmstead

As always, we will be curating the conversation @amconmag, and continuing coverage into tomorrow here on the main site. Join us!

The One Nation Principle

This article from the September/October issue hasn’t yet been published online. For now, it’s just available to subscribers—to read it right away, subscribe here and access the digital edition of the magazine. If you’re already a subscriber, log in here.

#GOPDebate: Live Coverage and Analysis

Photo courtesy of Catherine Addington
Photo courtesy of Catherine Addington

Tonight, Fox News will partner with Facebook to host two events featuring the 17 Republican presidential candidates: a forum for the seven lowest-polling candidates at 5pm ET, followed by a debate for the ten highest-polling candidates at 9pm ET.

The 5pm forum will feature Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum. The 9pm debate will include Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.

Our writers and editors will be covering the debates live on Twitter. For live coverage and analysis of tonight’s events, keep up with the hashtag #GOPDebate and follow:

Daniel McCarthy @ToryAnarchist
Jonathan Coppage @JonCoppage
Rod Dreher @RodDreher
Daniel Larison @DanielLarison
Samuel Goldman @SWGoldman

As always, we will be curating the conversation @amconmag, and continuing coverage into tomorrow here on the main site. Join us!

A Technical Note

United Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Wall Street Journal aren’t the only organizations that have encountered technical turbulence lately: on Tuesday an item was incorrectly published on Noah Millman’s blog due to an error in our system. The problem has now been fixed, and we apologize to Noah and to our readers for the mix-up.

You can find Noah’s latest posts here at: The Necessity of Greece’s Separation and Obergefell and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Post a comment

Fall Intern Wanted

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The American Conservative is currently accepting applications for a fall editorial internship position. The deadline for applications is July 22.

Editorial interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the website and print magazine. This internship offers real experience in all the moving parts of a media organization and exposure to both editorial and marketing projects.

Responsibilities include:

  • Preparing pieces for the web, writing headlines, curating images
  • Managing TAC’s presence on social media platforms
  • Contributing headlines and story ideas
  • Proofreading, fact-checking, and editing
  • Blogging for the web and writing for the print magazine
  • Devising strategies for audience development and engagement
  • Helping with event-planning and special projects

Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.

All candidates should possess:

  • Eagerness to work tirelessly on a small but ambitious team
  • Superb writing and editing ability
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Love of considered, lengthy journalism as well as an appreciation of horse-race politics
  • Excellent news/culture/opinion judgment
  • A background in intellectual conservatism and keen understanding of The American Conservative’s sensibility

Past experience with a news or opinion publication is preferred, though not required.

Interns will join our team in Washington, D.C., from August through December, and will receive a stipend. We will review applications on a rolling basis, so applicants are encouraged to submit their materials before the final deadline. College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should e-mail their responses as Word document or PDF attachments to intern@theamericanconservative.com no later than July 22.

  • Required: Résumé, cover letter, and a 500 word writing sample appropriate for our website, offering a fresh perspective, original analysis, and a clear, evidence-based argument. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a link to a blog post or article you have published elsewhere that would have been well-suited for publication in The American Conservative.

Optional (Pick 2 or 3):

  • Propose three ideas for web articles (1-2 sentences each).
  • What are the two most interesting media accounts you follow on Twitter and why? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our coverage and analysis on the web? (100 words max.)
  • How could we improve our fundraising efforts on the web? (100 words max.)
  • Write two Facebook posts and two tweets about articles or blog posts that appear on our homepage today.
  • Which two contemporary writers have influenced your thinking the most? (100 words max.)
  • How would you describe The American Conservative reader? (100 words max.)

We also consider applications submitted through partner organizations—including the Koch Institute, Collegiate Network, and National Journalism Center. We’ll post more information about our spring 2016 internship in the coming months.

Personnel Is Policy

Best of TAC: Gay Marriage

Photo: Lasse Kristensen/shutterstock

As the Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage, consider these classic TAC essays on this polarizing subject:

Justin Raimondo — “The Libertarian Case Against Gay Marriage

Jon Huntsman — “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause

Margaret Liu McConnell — “Less Perfect Unions

Daniel McCarthy — “Why the Right Can’t Win the Gay-Marriage Fight

Noah Millman — “Protecting Religious Freedom Without Invidious Discrimination”

Austin Bramwell — “Pleading the Fourteenth

Andre Archie — “What Same-Sex Marriage Means

Daniel McCarthy — ”Who Defines Marriage?

Rod Dreher — “Sex After Christianity

Noah Millman — “Time’s Arrow and the Marriage Debate”

Daniel McCarthy — “Why Marriage Isn’t About Reproduction Anymore

Samuel Goldman — “Gay Marriage Derangement Syndrome

Two Republican Parties

This article from the May/June issue hasn’t yet been published online. For now, it’s just available to subscribers—to read it right away, subscribe here and access the digital edition of the magazine. If you’re already a subscriber, log in here.

Summer Intern Wanted

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The American Conservative is now accepting applications for the summer internship. Join a start-up team dedicated to conservative realism and reform.

Editorial interns gain experience in all aspects of producing the website and print magazine. This internship offers real experience in all the moving parts of a media organization and exposure to both editorial and marketing projects.

Editorial Assistant responsibilities include:

  • Preparing pieces for the web, writing headlines, curating images
  • Contributing headlines and story ideas
  • Proofreading, editing
  • Conducting research
  • Managing TAC’s presence on social media platforms
  • Blogging for the web and writing for the print magazine
  • Devising strategies for audience development and engagement
  • Participating in team meetings

Clerical duties, such as answering the phone and handling the mail, are also involved.

All candidates should possess:

  • Eagerness to work tirelessly in a small but ambitious team
  • Superb writing and editing ability
  • Strong communication and organizational skills
  • Love of considered, lengthy journalism as well as an appreciation of horse-race politics
  • Excellent news/culture/opinion judgment
  • A background in intellectual conservatism and keen understanding of The American Conservative’s sensibility.

Interns will join our team in Washington, D.C., from May through August, and will receive a stipend. College students or recent graduates who would like to apply should compose responses to three of the questions or tasks below and send them, along with a résumé, to intern@theamericanconservative.com by March 13. We will review applications on a rolling basis.

  1. Required: Write a short article (500 words) for our website offering a fresh perspective, original analysis, and a clear, evidence-based argument. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit a link to a blog post or article published elsewhere that would have been well-suited for publication in The American Conservative.
  2. Propose three ideas for web articles (1-2 sentences each).
  3. What are the two most interesting media accounts you follow on Twitter and why? (100 words max.)
  4. How could we improve our coverage and analysis on the web? (100 words max.)
  5. How could we improve our fundraising efforts on the web? (100 words max.)
  6. Write two Facebook posts and two tweets about articles or blog posts that appear on our homepage today.
  7. Which two contemporary writers have influenced your thinking the most? (100 words max.)
  8. How would you describe The American Conservative reader? (100 words max.)

We also consider applications submitted through partner organizations including the Collegiate Network and the National Journalism Center. We’ll post more information about our fall 2015 internship in the coming months.

For those past their own internship years who want to help launch the careers of outstanding young journalists and set the agenda for the next generation, please consider donating to our internship program here.

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What a Magazine Is For

Political magazines in the English language have a history of about 300 years. The Spectator, produced by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele between 1711 and 1712, was one of the first and most influential—its name lives on today in the conservative-leaning Spectator published in London continuously since 1828. That slightly junior Spectator is the lineal ancestor of many American periodicals, including on the right Albert Jay Nock’s Freeman of the 1920s; National Review, modeled after the 1950s iteration of the Freeman; and indeed The American Conservative today. The general pattern of the Spectator-inspired magazine has been short items and editorial matter in the front, longer articles in the middle, and reviews at the back.

It’s an enduring format, but more important than the organization inspired by The Spectator has been a public mission dating back to Addison and Steele. Magazines of the sort they founded not only played an indispensible role in fostering a culture of political and literary civility in the century following the English Civil War, they also cried out for civil liberties, fought to establish precedents for free speech, and promoted an intellectual ferment that spilled over to colonial America—and led to revolution. Culture and polemics mingled in the pages of smart, passionate magazines and pamphlets engaged in ongoing argument with one another.

Inevitably, periodicals came to align with political factions. But the original ideal of The Spectator had been disinterestedness and a commitment to a broad public—Addison described his aim as bringing “Philosophy out of closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and in coffee-houses.” And the best political magazines over the next three centuries were never entirely partisan affairs: even when their editorials railed against one party or enthused over another, their back pages and cultural essays appealed to the literate public at large—though, to be sure, literary brawls could be as bruising as political ones. Nevertheless, no good magazine was ever monolithic.

Magazines evolved a dual mission, to be part of the political fray while also representing life apart from politics. Yet lately the role long played by magazines has been displaced by other, more monotonous media—particularly television.  Even the Internet, for all the diversity of views it makes available, has tended to lead politically minded readers to speak and listen only to their fellow combatants in the trenches of ideology. The tradition of independence from partisan fury is not dead, however: having survived three centuries, it will not soon surrender, beleaguered though it may be.

The American Conservative does all it can to resist the tide of expedience and fights for the spirit of the old republic of letters. In these early years of the 21st century this battle is as important as anything in politics per se. Will the tradition of a shared literary and civil culture thrive again, or at least weather the hurricane of modern partisanship? Or will America sink to the boredom, anger, and paranoia of thoroughly politicized media—of Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow reruns without end? The long tradition inaugurated by Addison and Steele is cause for confidence; time is on culture’s side, even if money and numbers are not. 

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