Criticizing the underpinnings of liberal democratic government is in vogue again. Populism is shaking some people’s faith in the wisdom of voters, and others, such as Patrick Deneen, argue outright that liberalism has failed. Some consider Evangelical Christians the big winners of 2016, but the ongoing debate about supporting President Donald Trump betrays their unease about the American system. From a reformed Protestant prospective, pastor and author Jonathan Leeman brings his own criticism to bear on the liberal order and ultimately concludes there’s something there worth conserving.
When liberal historian John Patrick Diggins informed Arthur Schlesinger Jr. that he was writing a biography of Ronald Reagan, Schlesinger urged him not to make Reagan “look too good.”
But unlike Schlesinger, who made “his” president—John F. Kennedy—look too good (i.e., an Arthurian king who would have ended the Cold War had he dodged Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets), Diggins was an old-fashioned historian, the kind who followed the evidence no matter where it led.
Who could doubt that the best thing America has experienced since the Second World War is the collapse of the Soviet empire? Victory in the Cold War finished off the deep threat of international communism backed by major military power. It freed the United States from entanglement in proxy wars with the Soviet Union, and it released from the national consciousness the high tension of possible global thermonuclear war. “The biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this,” George H.W. Bush would later write. “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War.”
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.
“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.