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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

A Hard Time Forgiving

The editorial from the November-December 2023 issue of The American Conservative.

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We did not expect that an article about Arab terrorism in the Middle East would be timely when we commissioned it. The 40th anniversary of the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut is on October 23. To honor the occasion, Andrew Doran suggested writing about Larry Gerlach, the lieutenant colonel and battalion commander who was wounded that day. Since that fateful morning in 1983, Gerlach has overcome his injuries to enjoy a long life, happy marriage, strong faith, and many grandchildren.

“I told a priest I had a very hard time forgiving the terrorists,” Gerlach tells Doran. “He said, ‘You don’t have a choice.’ Well, I’m working on it. Some days I’m better than others.” Gerlach is thinking not of his own injuries but of the 241 members of the U.S. military who died that day, including the battalion’s sergeant major. The mastermind of the attack, Imad Mugniyeh, was only killed in 2008, taken out by a one-casualty car bomb. The Christian obligation to forgive did not prevent Gerlach and his wife from feeling a sense of closure and justice when they heard the news.

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Migrants from that part of the world have made their way to the West in large numbers in recent years. One place they have landed is the Isle of Portland off the southern coast of England—specifically, a barge parked in the harbor. Chris Brunet (whose scathing dispatch from Mexico appeared in the May/June issue) traveled to Portland to see how the locals are reacting to having hundreds of migrants dumped on their town by a supposedly Conservative government. 

Another place they have ended up is the San Fernando Valley. Steve Sailer calls them the Peoples of the Three Defunct Empires: Soviet, Ottoman, Persian. From the Armenians of Glendale to the ex-Soviet oligarchs of Bel-Air, many of these white ethnic immigrants have moved to Los Angeles since the end of the Cold War. Why did they pick this particular spot, out of all the places in the world? Sailer has a theory, which he explains in “The Utopia of the Nuclear Family.” 

While the men in gold chains were taking over the LA suburbs, a group of American Christians were moving to a small college town in Idaho. The community that has grown up in Moscow under the leadership of Pastor Douglas Wilson is inspiring to many, alarming to a few, and a major development in the American religious landscape whatever you think of it. Could the success of Moscow be replicated elsewhere? Anyone who admires what Moscow has accomplished will want to read Wilson’s advice.

Lastly, we at TAC try to publish things that you can’t read anywhere else. We certainly succeeded with the essay in this issue by Hunter DeRensis. Did you know that Eisenhower’s first head of the Internal Revenue Service resigned on principle and thought the income tax was unconstitutional? Or that he ran for president in 1956 to give disaffected conservatives an alternative to Ike? Most histories date the end of the Old Right to the death of Robert Taft in 1953, but the movement had an epilogue in the 1956 campaign of T. Coleman Andrews and Thomas H. Werdel. The story of this forgotten episode, which as far as I know has never been written up anywhere else, can be found in this issue’s features section.