The Antique Animal

Here’s a claim you encounter from time to time: The invention of the horse collar eliminated slavery in medieval and early modern Europe. The continent still had plenty of peonage servitude, of course; the serfs in Tsarist Russia, for example, were hardly a beacon of freedom unto the world. Still, where direct slavery persisted in the Ottoman lands and sub-Saharan Africa, and would roar back in the European possessions of the New World, something in Europe caused slavery to fade. And from the fading, there would build the abolitionist movement that would eventually turn the West against even the idea of slavery.

How Not to Secure Israel

Israel IDF

“Surprisingly, perhaps, Israel does not have a formal national security strategy, or defense doctrine, to this day,” writes former Israeli deputy national security adviser Charles D. Freilich. Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change is his effort to move Israel closer to creating one. According to Freilich, David Ben-Gurion was the only “sitting leader to conceptualize an overall national security strategy,” and with the dramatic changes to Israel’s security situation since, a new one is needed. He may be right, but the reader leaves this book hoping that Freilich isn’t the one to develop it.

The Harrowing of Hell

Jerusalem Gears Up For Easter Celebrations

The best way I’ve found to put the question is this: Are the Gates of Hell broken in, or broken out? Did Christ on Holy Saturday descend to Hell in his glory as the risen king, smashing the gates in as he strode forth to claim the souls of the patriarchs and prophets? Or did he ascend from the depths of Hell in his Resurrection, gathering up the souls around him and breaking open Hell from the inside as he ascended into Heaven?

Stimulating Mind and Morals

Scientific progress “can be made only through research that is scrupulously ethical,” Nature magazine declared this spring. And why not? It’s a sweet thought, a pious thought in the church of right feeling: a sentimental dogma that all good things must cohere because, dammit, they’re all good, aren’t they?

A Digitized Childhood

From Pierre, South Dakota, to Annapolis, Maryland, state boards of education are all striving—with the best will in the world—to ensure that all children have computers in their little hands. From Juneau, Alaska, to Tallahassee, Florida, state governments are all working—in accord with a great moral certainty—to connect all children to the Internet.

Enlightenment, Meh

In 2011’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, Harvard’s Steven Pinker painstakingly documented the fact that violence has declined over the course of human history and explored the reasons why. The book, like most of Pinker’s prior work, was stunningly well-argued and an indispensable treatment of its subject.