Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
This past week, at least a dozen French people, most of them journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, were gunned down during an editorial meeting by the brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi, two French Muslims who may have returned recently from waging jihad in Syria. French citizens crowded into public squares across the country to vent their grief and wave signs reading “I am Charlie.” Foreign leaders professed their willingness to rally behind the values that France shares with the West. President Obama described France as “the culture and the civilization that is so central to our imaginations.”
The events of January 7 were indeed an attack on French values. But, more important, they were an attack on France. The two terms are used as if they were interchangeable. They are not. The big difference is that states can fight back against terrorism. “Values” cannot. Values matter, but to invoke them too eagerly risks leaving the impression that one lacks the stomach for an antiterrorist fight.
The state depends, according to the classic definition of sociologist Max Weber, on its “monopoly on the legitimate use of force.” This is the case no matter what a state’s values are. Terrorists are a special kind of threat to states. They don’t just break the rules the way ordinary criminals do. They compete with states in a business where there is not supposed to be any competition. That is why the United States has traditionally responded to acts of terrorism by reasserting its monopoly on force. This does not mean the state has to use violence. But it must signal a willingness to do so. In the wake of the September 11 bombings, George W. Bush’s response was muscular to the point of controversy. It should be remembered that Bill Clinton responded to the 1995 bombings of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a similar forwardness, even supporting an expansion in the use of the death penalty for terrorists. The bombing was the turning point of his presidency.
At least since the firebombing and destruction of Charlie Hebdo’s old offices by angry Muslims in 2011, protecting the magazine’s premises has been a benchmark of the French government’s competence. Last week’s attack—the realization of a long-announced jihadist objective—is a blow to the national prestige. No state is perfect or clairvoyant, but all have a responsibility to pick up the pieces. French president François Hollande is poorly positioned to do so.
This is not all his fault. France’s membership in the multinational European Union makes it less than a fully sovereign country. It must defer to its neighbors even in matters of self-defense. No pro-European politician has ever frankly admitted this to French voters. France, for instance, has no death penalty to expand the way Clinton did—and it will not get one as long as it remains a member of the EU. The National Front, a party with roots in right-wing opposition to France’s withdrawal from its North African empire, became the country’s largest party in European elections last spring. That rise will now be retrospectively attributed to leader Marine Le Pen’s stance on immigration and Islam—wrongly. The party’s rise is due to its attitudes on sovereignty.
Nations exist, in the final analysis, to protect their citizens and their culture. The more such protection is deemed necessary, the more the EU appears feeble and unloved. Its leaders must sense that they are being ousted from the European public’s hearts. In response to the latest attack, EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said that action was necessary on terrorism, but not yet, since “you can get it wrong by going too far or not going far enough.” The EU’s unelected defense chief, Federica Mogherini, urged calm. “Press freedom is a fundamental value of Europe,” she said at a conference in Riga. “Fighting terrorism is a key challenge, not just in terms of politics and security, but [as] a cultural challenge.”
Such values do indeed unify the countries of Europe, but at a level too shallow to permit the forging of action. It is inspiring to see protesters in the United States and Europe rallying behind the slogan “I am Charlie,” but this unity is also shallow. If the Frenchmen marching through their city squares really were like the martyred editors of Charlie Hebdo, then the terrorists of the future would no longer have any reason to fear them. To say “I am Charlie” risks sounding like an assertion of one’s innocence and harmlessness. The terrorists, meanwhile, are plotting their next attack.
Dec 1, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 12 • By LEE SMITH
As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months. However, even as the interim agreement is set to expire November 24, it seems the Iranians have not responded to the Obama administration’s offer. And why would they? The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract?
Nov 3, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 08 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Supposing Republicans win a big victory on November 4. What then?
First, celebration. Republicans are sober and conservatives are . . . conservative. Neither group has a reputation as party animals. But The Weekly Standard gives them permission—nay, we urge them with the full authority of our weighty editorial voice—to let themselves go for one night. Pop the champagne corks. Put on the party hats. Go wild with the funny little noisemakers.
Nov 3, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 08 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
At long last, the conventional wisdom about the 2014 midterms is here: It’s an election about nothing.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By LEE SMITH
Last week Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the U.N. General Assembly and the White House to warn against letting Iran become a nuclear threshold state. He may be too late. With the Obama administration walking back its longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its centrifuges, the clerical regime in Tehran will soon be on the threshold of a nuclear breakout.
This fact is not lost on the White House. Recent appointments and statements underscore the administration’s new posture toward Iran—détente.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
How to introduce students to conservative thought? It’s hard. The colleges and universities aren’t interested. The media and popular culture are hostile. What if young Americans nonetheless become aware of the existence of such a thing as conservative thought? How to convey its varieties and complexities? Even tougher. You can write articles and put things online, but there’s an awful lot competing for young people’s attention these days.
But there’s good news nonetheless. Help has arrived. Its name? President Barack Obama.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Republican voters are down on the sluggish GOP officials they elected, and the officeholders whine about the unreasonable people who voted for them. Republican backbenchers complain about their lame leaders, and GOP leaders grumble about their unruly followers. Right-wing pundits despair of unimaginative Republican pols, and the hard-headed pols are impatient with impractical commentators. Conservative activists loathe the GOP establishment, and the establishment is terrified and contemptuous of the base.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By JAY COST
Pundits throw out all sorts of numbers to explain the Republican defeat in the 2012 presidential election. So here’s our number: $65,000. That is a rough estimate of the household income of the average 2012 voter. Republicans lost because Mitt Romney did not do well enough with this voter or those near him on the income scale.
Sep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” President Obama told the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 26. He repeated the thought in his pre-Labor Day weekend press conference on August 28. A week before, the day after the murder of James Foley, Obama had remarked, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.”
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Tuesday, August 19, an American citizen, James Foley, was savagely killed. The group of jihadists known as ISIL had previously killed and brutalized tens of thousands of non-Americans. But they killed Foley because he was an American. They titled the grotesque video of this particular act of barbarism “A message to America.”
Aug 18, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 46 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It was something of a puzzle, according to the headline in the August 7 New York Times: “Islamic Militants in Iraq Are Widely Loathed, Yet Action to Curb Them Is Elusive.” On the one hand, the article pointed out, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, “is on nearly every nation’s public enemy list, as well as the United Nations’ list of terrorist organizations facing sanctions.” What’s more, ISIS’s barbarism has been publicized and its threat to others is clear.
Jun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
In the largest turnout in a congressional primary in the history of Virginia politics, the voters of the Commonwealth’s 7th Congressional District last Tuesday decisively chose not to renominate their seven-term representative, now serving as House majority leader, who had massively outspent his little-known challenger.
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that. That’s what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into [a] war theater should expect not just from their commander in chief but the United States of America. . . . The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule.
Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
On May 23, a young man killed 6 people and wounded 13 others near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, before turning a gun on himself. But you probably knew that, because the incident was unavoidable in the news. Despite all of the national coverage, the student-government-run newspaper at UCSB, The Bottom Line, had a unique perspective on the crime and could have provided invaluable coverage. Yet they decided not to cover the story: