Our Best Stuff for You to Read on a Holiday Weekend
Crime and policing, an early look at 2022 midterms, and a reflection on one man’s sacrifice for this country.
Hello! I hope your Memorial Day weekend is off to a good start. I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to the unofficial start of summer more than usual. A challenging school is over, everyone in our family has had at least one vaccine dose, and concrete signs of a return to normalcy are everywhere: Plexiglas shields are coming down, floors have glue “scars” where stickers indicating spacing for social distancing have been scraped off, and people are standing up and mingling at bars again. Joe Biden had promised that we might be back to normal by July 4, but at least in Ohio, we’re a little ahead of that pace and this feels more like an “Independence Day” than a Memorial Day.
But it’s important to remember the real purpose of the day (and weekend) that many of us mark with family picnics, graduation parties, and neighborhood gatherings: to honor those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of this great country.
We’ve written a few—maybe more than a few—pieces on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Tom Joscelyn has been critical both of the “deal” that the Trump administration signed with the Taliban, and with Joe Biden’s decision to bring our remaining troops home even though the Taliban has not held up its supposed end of the deal and is in fact closing in on provincial capitals. It’s frustrating to think of the danger we are inviting by not leaving a number of troops in the country to help keep the Taliban and al-Qaeda in check, because of the many geopolitical risks it creates.
But on a more personal level, it makes me incredibly sad to think that the sacrifices of those who died might essentially go for naught.
Marc Anderson lived across the street from me for much of my childhood. I don’t remember when the family moved in, or how long they stayed. But even after he moved away, we crossed paths at school and we both competed in track and field. I was a mediocre distance runner; he placed in the top six in the shot put three years in a row at the state championship meet. He went on to compete at Florida State and twice earned All-ACC honors.
He was also a damn good human being, and from a young age. One winter morning—I think I was in second grade—my mom packed my lunch and handed me my backpack and I set off on my walk to school. I noticed that the snow from the night before was well past my knees but didn’t think much of it. (It was the late 1970s, in case the “walking to school alone in second grade” didn’t clue you in.) I got to the school and the crossing guards weren’t out yet, which I thought was weird. But I stayed put. I’m not sure how long I stood there, but soon I saw my neighbor Marc. He laughed and asked what I was doing, and then he explained that we did, in fact, have a snow day. He proceeded to walk me home and even a few times lifted me up and practically carried me since the snow was so deep.
I didn’t see Marc much after high school. But after I graduated from college, I went to buy my first car and there he was, working at the dealership. He wasn’t a salesman, but he asked what other cars I’d been looking at and chuckled at a few of my lesser choices. He convinced me that the car I’d come to look at was, indeed, the best choice. He probably should have gotten the salesman’s commission on that 1995 Eagle Talon.
Marc had gone to college to study engineering but decided he wanted to be a teacher because, as his family later told the New York Times, he thought he could do more good that way. But there aren’t a lot of full scholarships for shot putters. He ended up going into the military in 1998 to help pay off his student loans and, as with track and field, he was pretty good at that too. He became an Army Ranger, and when 9/11 happened he was off to war.
In March 2002, he and his fellow Rangers were conducting a mission to rescue a wounded soldier during Operation Anaconda when their Chinook helicopter was forced down by enemy gunfire, and he was killed in the ensuing firefight. It was a terrible week for U.S. force—seven other Americans died in that battle, at a time when there had been only a couple dozen deaths in our war effort.
Those of us in Generation X were lucky, in a way, that we came of age in a time that warfare tactics had changed (and, in the wake of Vietnam, a time of considerable distaste for large-scale wars in foreign countries). We didn’t lose tens or hundreds of thousands of our brothers and friends to armed conflict. But that doesn’t make individual deaths any easier.
Have a wonderful weekend, and please take a moment to remember those who gave their lives so that you can do so.
This week, David and Jonah teamed up (kind of) to take us on a journey back to the 1980s. Not on purpose. In fact, Jonah went back just one year in his midweek G-File, using the fiasco of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) as a launching point to discuss what happens when people try to live without law enforcement (spoiler alert: things went downhill quickly). He looked at the “defund the police” movement one year on and reminded readers that fighting crime is the original purpose of government: “Crime—particularly violent crime—causes people to prioritize safety and security. This is a fact of human nature, and an entirely justifiable one. Get on the wrong side of that priority, and you can’t get elected to do the other stuff you want to use government for.” David starts his Thursday French Press by asking everyone to read Jonah’s newsletter, and then points out that our current moment, with rising crime rates and the Communist threat from China, feels a lot like 1980. “There exists an urgent moral and cultural necessity to combat rising crime. There similarly exists an urgent moral and strategic necessity to confront and contain Chinese expansionism and Russian militarism. If crime continues to rise and if foreign threats continue to emerge, there’s a clear path for the Republican Party to assume its (recent) historic role. “
OK, OK, I’m cheating a bit here, cramming THREE articles into one blurb. But they are related. We have learned that election season never really ends, and 2022 is already upon us. The Senate will likely get the bulk of the attention in these midterms: It’s a 50-50 split right now, early predictions are that it’s going to be difficult for either party to make big gains, and the GOP is dealing with a few open races because of retirements. And so here we are. Andrew checked in on Missouri, where Mark McCloskey is challenging scandal-ridden former Gov. Eric Greitens in the race to replace the retiring Roy Blunt. McCloskey first gained fame—or infamy—when a video emerged showing him waving a gun at Black Lives Matters protesters who walked by his house in a gated St. Louis neighborhood. Meanwhile, Audrey reports on Rep. Mo Brooks and his Trumpian agenda (read “election integrity”) in the Alabama race. And Ryan covers both parties’ early entrants in Pennsylvania, where Pat Toomey is retiring. He notes that even though the election is a year and a half away, our current dynamics are shaping the field: Two Republican frontrunners are competing for the support of former President Trump and two Democrats are pushing leftist agendas while trying to avoid the label “progressive.”
It was a brazen move by a reviled dictator: Last Sunday, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko used the ploy of a fake bomb threat to scramble a military jet and have it force a commercial airliner to land in Minsk. On the plane was dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was promptly arrested along with his Russian girlfriend. The move was met with internatioal outrage. But outrage is not enough, as David J. Kramer and Eric Edelman argue. The West should move to designate Lukashenko as a terrorist, for starters. But democratic nations also need to deal with Vladimir Putin, who backs Lukashenko. “Left unaddressed, this move by Lukashenko creates an incredibly dangerous precedent and it will only be a matter of time before other authoritarian leaders repeat Lukashenko’s gambit,” they write.
And here’s the best of the rest:
In Vital Interests, Tom Joscelyn addresses the elephant in the room: The lab-leak theory is gaining credence, only the Chinese Communist Party knows the true origins of our pandemic, and they ain’t talking.
The delays in the vote for the January 6 commission kept Haley from reporting on its failure in the Senate, but she’s got a great item on progress—or lack thereof—on the infrastructure front in Uphill.
Both parties have demonstrated an unwillingness to discuss entitlement reform for years. But Brian Riedl reports on a bipartisan proposal to shore up Social Security and Medicare that is modest but has real potential.
I wish you could have seen the look on the boss’s face when Alec told him I had signed off on a piece in which he would try to cook and eat cicadas. But Steve acknowledged that we’re all about reporting, and so this well-reported piece would fit our mission. Check out the results!
Remember last week we told you The Hangover was coming? It’s out! Check out Chris Stirewalt’s introductory podcast and first two interviews with Eric Cantor and Richard Brookheiser, looking at what went wrong for the GOP in 2020.
On the other pods: On Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah cover Florida’s new social media law, yoga in public schools, and—while I’m a little unclear how this relates to jurisprudence—talk to Ryan and Alec about eating cicadas. Jonah discusses woke corporations and what the reaction to them says about the conservative movement in a wide-ranging solo Remnant. And on The Dispatch Podcast, the gang takes a look at which parts of Biden’s agenda might actually make it into law.