Lessons Learned at Lawnparties

By Natalie Fahlberg ’18

When most people think of Princeton, they probably think of Brooks Brothers, croquet, and elitism. Before matriculating, I really didn’t believe that these stereotypes would be true. However, they came alive during my first Lawnparties experience. All of the upperclassmen told me prior to last Sunday:

“Lawnparties is the best day of the year!”

“Lawnparties is the best thing about Princeton!”

“Lawnparties will be the best part of your Freshman experience!”

Let me first mention the many positive aspects of Lawnparties. It was a beautiful day, the upperclassmen were welcoming, and the music was stellar (special thanks to Tower for reminding me of how awesome JoJo is). I personally had a fantastic time, and was really impressed with the music, how happy everyone was, and the day in general.

Although there was so much potential for Lawnparties to be as enjoyable as I was promised, there was one aspect of the day that seriously made me question the whole tradition. What unsettled me about Lawnparties was how some freshmen thought they needed to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and even speak a certain way.

My boyfriend, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, came for the weekend, because I wanted him to experience Princeton and understand why I love it so much. I can’t tell you how many comments he received about Penn being “that huge state school,” or “a second tier Ivy.” One student we met while taking pictures in Prospect Garden even told my boyfriend, “oh, Penn, that was my safety school.” He wasn’t joking.

When people become elitist about the elite school they go to, there’s a problem. This attitude definitely constrains our worldview, and causes us not to think outside of the “Orange Bubble” and remember that there are many amazing schools out there besides Princeton. This may be why some people out there view Princetonians as preppy rich kids rather than genuine intellectuals.

My boyfriend took these comments with grace and a smile, but I have no doubt that he left on the Dinky that day very disappointed with Princeton. Frankly, I was embarrassed. I later told myself that there is little, if any, difference between the quality of a Penn education and the quality of a Princeton one. Why is everyone pretending there is? Why do people get satisfaction from being downright jerks to their equals from another school during Lawnparties?

While upperclassmen know that Lawnparties is a mockery of the Princeton stereotypes – many of them told me this beforehand – I don’t think some freshmen quite understood the joke. They feel obligated to act in a certain way, forgetting the irony of Lawnparties, making it a reality. Most of my friends went out and bought new outfits specifically for the day (I’ll admit, I bought a dress from Lilly Pulitzer in August with Lawnparties in mind, and I am no foreigner to the land of J. Crew).

But there definitely is a difference between dressing up in good fun and dressing up in order to perpetuate a self-fulfilling stereotype of preppy elitism.  Many of my non-Princeton friends saw my photos of Lawnparties on Facebook and asked if Princeton kids always dress like this. It definitely is hard to explain this tradition to people who don’t understand that it’s supposed to be a joke.  They just assume that it’s the standard for students here.

It seemed to me that most freshmen came into the year with a distorted view of how to act at Lawnparties, and at Princeton in general. If I’ve learned anything during my short time at Princeton, it’s that you don’t have to act, dress, or speak a certain way.  I’ve met all kinds of people (from hipsters to jocks) who come from all kinds of backgrounds (from castles to slums). Princeton admissions officers carefully comb through 30,000 applications a year to create the incredible heterogeneity of this student body.

Lawnparties was fun — but my genuine hope is that it doesn’t define the rest of the Class of 2018’s attitude towards stereotypical Princeton elitism. If you like Vineyard Vines, great. If you don’t, that’s alright too! Everyone here is his or her own person, and that “good ole boy” Princeton is long gone. Ultimately, Lawnparties should be a day to dress up nicely and have fun, but not to fulfill the stereotype that others may have for our wonderful school.

 

Princeton, The Orange Bubble

A Whale of an Outrage

By Josh Zuckerman ’16

It would not be absurd to assume that the vast majority of civilized peoples do not approve of whaling. Personally, I find the practice disgusting, abhorrent, and barbaric. This is not because I am an animal-rights activist or have any specific penchant for whales, but simply because I oppose the slaughter of an endangered and intelligent species for something as unnecessary as overpriced delicacies. That being said, I find myself today in the unlikely position of having to adamantly defend Japanese whaling against an even more despicable product of so-called civilization—the International Court of Justice.

On March 31, 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Japan to immediately cease its whaling operations in Antarctic waters. Simply put, this ruling infringes upon Japanese sovereignty. In order to understand why opponents of the international, global order should support Japan despite its fondness for harpooning our blubbery friends, a brief overview of the ICJ is necessary. Established in 1945, the Court’s mission “is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States.” In addition to dealing with one of the problematic and perennial questions of international relations—how (and if) international law can truly exist—the Court must also navigate contentious issues regarding its jurisdiction. The United States, for example, wisely refuses to acknowledge the Court’s jurisdiction; after losing the case Nicaragua v. United States, the US withdrew from the Court’s jurisdiction and used its Security Council veto to prevent implementation of the ruling.

Japan’s defeat is truly terrifying primarily because the Japanese contested the jurisdiction of the Court. The legal nuances of the Court’s jurisdiction are rather subtle. Generally speaking, it “can only deal with a dispute when the States concerned have recognized its jurisdiction.” The full ruling with regard to jurisdiction is difficult to decipher without expertise in international law and the history thereof. However, the important part is that the Court denied Japan’s request that it “adjudge and declare that it lacks jurisdiction over the claims brought against Japan by Australia.”

This brings up yet another interesting point—how does Australia possibly have legal standing to sue Japan over its whaling activities? The whales do not belong to Australia; no property of the nation or its denizens is being injured. At issue is a 1946 treaty called the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which limits most forms of whaling that are conducted for non-scientific purposes. Japan and Australia are both parties to the treaty. Is Japan violating the treaty? Probably—although it insists its whaling activities are conducted for scientific purposes, this claim is dubious at best. As a fellow party to the treaty, Australia has every right to express consternation with Japan and to seek redress for its grievances. However, the notion that such redress can come from the ICJ is outrageous.

The idea that a supranational and objective body can peacefully solve all disputes that arise between nations, while comforting given the postwar context of the ICJ’s creation, is rather naïve. Ideological defenders of the ICJ will make an argument that sounds something like this:

Premise 1: Nations do not always abide by treaties.

Premise 2: When a nation violates a treaty, it generally hurts the other nations that have signed the treaty.

Premise 3: A nonviolent mechanism to enforce treaties is necessary.

Premise 4: Nations are biased in favor of their own self-interest.

Conclusion: Because nations are biased and cannot be trusted to meet their treaty-driven obligations, an institution like the ICJ is needed to compel nations to fulfill their promises.

I do not dispute the premises, only the conclusion.

Given that these premises are true, how does it follow that the creation of the ICJ is foolish? As I have previously mentioned, it constitutes a major violation of national sovereignty. Forcing Japan to amend its own laws, given the absence of any human rights violations, is despicable and intolerant of a foreign culture. Consider a similar case in which the ICJ ruled that Texas’s gay marriage ban violated human rights or that the United Kingdom has no right to maintain its current lack of separation of church and state. As one can clearly see, the ICJ has no moral right to force a nation to alter its domestic laws.

Furthermore, the ICJ is laughably dumb from a realistic or pragmatic standpoint. The whole point of a court system is to force an unwilling party to abide by the law. In order to force someone to do something, coercion is obviously needed. This is why national court systems work; they have coercive power. If a Japanese woman breaks Japanese law, a Japanese court can throw her in Japanese prison. Whaling is not against Japanese law. I am no expert on the Japanese legal system, but the Japanese have clearly interpreted the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in such a manner that permits its citizens to hunt whales.* What is the point of a justice system that cannot enforce its decisions? The UN, thank God, has no army, police force, or prisons; UN peacekeepers in the light-blue helmets will not sail the seven seas arresting Japanese whalers. Therefore, the UN cannot possibly compel Japan to abide by its decision. Japan, of course, may abolish its whaling program at any moment it wishes.

*—Shameless moment of self-promotion: In American law, treaties are not binding upon citizens unless enforced by a subsequent domestic law. See my article in the December 2013 Tory for more on this point.

This brings up an important question and brief digression—why does national sovereignty even matter? This is not the forum to answer this question from a normative standpoint. A pragmatic approach will therefore suffice. The alternative to national sovereignty, of course, is international sovereignty, a system in which a supranational organization such as the UN or EU makes decisions for each of its member states. These institutions are designed to be far more culturally, economically, and politically heterogeneous than their constituent nations. They therefore lack expertise regarding specific nations or cultural ties to specific people. The problem this creates is best illustrated with a specific example. Although utterly inept and hopelessly incompetent, our current Congress is far more capable of ruling the United States than the UN General Assembly is.  At least Congress is familiar with America, its laws, its economy, its people, and its political tradition. While the EU, if in charge of the US, would immediately disregard the cultural importance of the Second Amendment, the majority of Congress would not. Similarly, Congress would act to ban whaling, but the Japanese National Diet has no desire to do so.

However, if Japan does not want to abide by the treaty, who can possibly force it to do so? What alternatives to the ICJ exist? Australia clearly wants Japan to cease whaling. If it is passionate enough, it can always resort to economic sanctions or military force, both of which would be extreme overreactions given Japan’s economic prowess, commitment to democracy and human rights, and status as a key ally of the West. The best alternative to the ICJ (and most other governmental actives), therefore, is the free market. If nations or their citizens are sufficiently appalled by whaling, they can boycott Japanese goods in order to bring about change.

Australia is clearly unwilling to take matters into its own hands, and rightfully so, given that there is no rational way to coerce Japan into a cessation of its whaling activities. It is utterly shameful that our friends down under have resorted to the ineffective and immoral ICJ in order to attempt to exert its will. Japanese whaling will end if and only if the Japanese people willingly decide to abandon the hunt for moral or economic reasons. Until then, I can only hope that whales will swim quickly.

Asia, World

A Harvardian’s View of Academic Freedom

By Tal Fortgang ’17

Sometimes you deal with your ideological opponents’ best and most nuanced arguments. Other times, you deal with an opinion piece that appeared in the Harvard Crimson on Feb 18.

Reasonable, freedom-loving Americans, dig in your cleats. This is a hanging curve right down the middle.

In the editorial, Harvard undergraduate student Sandra Y.L. Korn advocates the usurpation of academic freedom—the marketplace of ideas that characterizes institutions of learning and critical thought—by what she calls “academic justice.”  “Justice” would be “a more rigorous standard” of research and discussion, one which unfortunately might not allow for the author to research the meaning of “rigorous,” which is the exact opposite of what she proposes.

Korn’s premise claims some arguments and opinions deserve more credence than others. On its face, that is of course true, but one must wonder why, if an opinion is so self-evidently wrongful and bad, it needs to be censored completely to be rejected. Wouldn’t bad research and bad talking points lose credit on the merit of content? Does Korn have no faith that people can distill good points from bad, or is she convinced that those with whom she disagrees are moral hazards to anyone who might listen and, horror of horrors, be persuaded?

Justice resides solely on Korn’s side, of course, because she knows everything there is to know about all things and is wholly qualified to determine what has academic merit—what is “just” (this elusive question was one that even Socrates could not answer). And she is prepared to deliver judgment. That is, with the help of her “university community” she presupposes has the same ideas of what constitutes “oppression.” Certainly, everyone agrees about what exactly constitutes “racism, sexism and heterosexism,” and how uniquely awful is any research done that “counters our goals.” Heteronormativity is sacrilege; liberal-normativity is necessary.

Furthermore, no mention of what the “goals” are is actually made, though the implication is that the University has been transformed from a place of critical thinking to a hub of activism, something Korn seems to take for granted. It is that fundamental misjudgment that characterizes Korn’s work: she simply fails to see the futility and folly of devoting “educational” institutions to activism.

Korn’s main targets, the “oppressors” who stand to lose from the proposed change in academic standard, include Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government at Harvard, one of the few conservative voices of Harvard’s faculty. Perhaps he draws Korn’s ire because he’s the only one standing in the way of another A on the transcript; or maybe it’s his politics. It is indeed shocking that Korn desires “to stop him from publishing further sexist commentary under the authority of a Harvard faculty position.” It is ironic that she target an ideological opponent in the name of “social justice,” which incessantly touts the benefits of diversity. Presumably this includes diversity of opinion as well. But that is, after all, the best way to win arguments: don’t let your counterpart speak.

That stark element of Korn’s argument fails to hold water even from a simple logical standpoint, but it seems far more nefarious considering the history of manipulating the publication of research for predetermined political ends. Her proposal reeks of Lysenkoism, and reflects an atmosphere of political correctness that is vaguely Soviet, very disheartening, and quite frightening.

The grounds for shutting down Mansfield’s opinions stems from a quote from his 2006 book, “Manliness.” Wrote Mansfield, with ellipses provided by Korn: “to resist rape…a woman needs a certain type of ladylike modesty.” Now, the simple fact that a man used the word “rape” should certainly be grounds for dismissal. But, in the sake of what one might call justice, it’s worth noting that the context in which Mansfield wrote the above was that it takes “more than martial arts” to defend against rape, it takes “a certain ladylike modesty enabling her to take offense at unwanted encroachment.” In other words, women need a deeply ingrained sense of self-worth and propriety to muster the rage the beat the daylights out of a wanton attacker. Horrifying.

Next, unsurprisingly and justifiably in the name of justice, Korn decries the Syrian government that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Just kidding! She supports the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel, the Middle East’s lone democracy and bastion of full gender and religious equality. Korn reminds everyone in this one-sided debate in which Palestinians are unfailingly the victims and Israelis the malicious aggressor that “only those who care about justice can take the moral upper hand.”

I’m not sure a more despicable sentence has ever been penned in a campus publication. Put aside for a moment the admirable historical amnesia from which Korn seems to be suffering, wherein she forgets how Israel had to defend itself from the thugs in its neighborhood time and again and again and again and again and again. To somehow paint the Palestinian cause as the “moral upper hand” is completely disingenuous, not to mention downright offensive to Zionists, supporters of Israel, who do in fact care about “justice”—though they are not so imbecilic as Korn as to try and monopolize the term .  It’s pretty funny, though, that Korn advocates boycotting Israeli institutions (something Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is by the way in his tenth year of his four-year term, does not advocate) depriving them of the very right that separates Israel from all nearby countries—academic freedom. A boycott of Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, or Iranian institutions would be futile, because citizens of those countries are already denied basic freedoms. In trying to demonize Israel, Korn and her BDS comrades have exposed its greatest strength.

Portraying Israel as the bad guy, the potential target of “academic justice,” is shortsighted and certainly not “rigorous.” But it should be no surprise that someone with such a perverse sense of the place of the university in America would choose Israel as a target. It’s just too easy to hold them to a higher standard than their rather belligerent neighbors, to fail to empathize with any pro-Israel perspective, to consider for just a moment everything Israel has been through that may compel them to act the way they do. It’s all part of one exceptional system of narrow-mindedness to which Korn subscribes, where there is freedom of speech for me, and not for thee.

Korn’s ideas seek to undermine the foundations of this great nation with an under-informed, cavalier naïveté that ignores hundreds of years of philosophical debate regarding the value of all speech. The proposal is shallow, pathetic, flippant, and unbecoming of a student at a top university. If academic justice truly reigned, Korn would be stripped of her editor’s post and sentenced to four years of critical thinking.

Political Theory

The “Conservative” Case Is Not The Case: A Response to Evan Draim’s Opinion On Marriage”

By Ben Koons ’15

Where does a judge go to find the authority to strike down properly instituted laws, which were approved with the consent of a popular majority and entered into that state’s constitution? In his recent blog post, Evan Draim ’17 wrote that a federal judge in such a situation ought to strike down such a state law on the basis of its violating human rights and endangering the future of marriage. At the very least, that is the only basis he provides for such a ruling. Strangely absent are any arguments based on the Constitution. It is striking that he is advocating judicial activism of the rankest sort. Even if people disagree with the following argument against governmental recognition of same-sex couples, they should really hesitate to put their political will into effect through judicial means. Of all the errors in his article, this anxiety to change the law even in unconstitutional ways is one of the most disturbing ones.

Evan’s argument aims to show why conservatives and then Christians should support same-sex marriage. In his first part, he argues that marriage’s value lies in its encouraging “people to live according to conservative values.” To him marriage is important because it releases both the couple and their children from dependence on the government. I completely agree, and consequently we should be wary of any attempts by the government to “reform” marriage because when the government’s ability to reform is identical to its ability to interfere. Then he goes on to conclude from the goodness of the marriage institution that the best means of protecting it is to expand who may participate in it. This might also be true although only within reasonable limits (e.g. there is no natural barrier to the marriage of first cousins, but there are good genetic considerations not to allow them to marry). I certainly do think that encouraging cohabiting opposite-sex couples (especially ones with children already) to marry is essential to sorting out America’s socioeconomic problems. Finally he argues that one way to expand the institution is to allow same-sex couples to participate in it. The question then becomes whether the institution that encompasses both opposite-sex and same-sex couples is the same thing as the institution of marriage. The other question is how these same-sex couples will be able to fix the two actual problems that the institution suffers today: frequent divorces and unmarried cohabiting couples. Both of those problems have obvious consequences for children who as a result do not grow up in a household with both of their birth parents or an adoptive, opposite-sex married couple.

Can two people of the same sex marry? Let us avoid the semantic debate over that controversial eight-letter word and focus on the relationships themselves. Only once we understand marriage reality can we decide whether to redefine the institution. Is there any distinction between Fred with Ted and Mindy with Cindy versus Fred with Mindy and Ted with Cindy? Clearly the distinction will not be the inherent worth of the persons themselves but what sort of relationship they have. Emotionally the pairings might look similar, but there is an obvious distinction. Fred and Mindy can have Tim, Tom, and Jim, whereas Fred and Ted together are necessarily infertile. On the other hand if Mindy is sisters with Tammy and they raise their niece Jill, what is the distinction between this couple and two lovers Fred and Ted who raise an adopted child Doug? The government’s interest is making sure that children are raised by their parents, which is the ideal family structure (http://www.familystructurestudies.com/).

Marriage is distinctive for three reasons. First the ‘marital act’ constitutes a special kind of union between two people. Intercourse is not only the meeting of two minds. It is necessarily a biological act but one which we can consent to. All other biological functions are performed by individuals except reproduction, and thus the act by which we reproduce is especially important. Second, the marital act first and foremost has new life as its distinctive good. Evan mentions financial security as a marital good, but clearly this good is not present in all marriages. The only goods that makes marriage distinctive are the children it brings into the world. Finally, marital commitment is distinctive because its essential act requires this exclusivity. One can be friends with several people because the activities distinctive to friendship can involve several people. But with intercourse two is the number. If our biology were different and it required a group of nine left-handed people to have children, then for those people marriage would be a different institution. This is merely a sketch of the differences, but surely it’s clear that there is a relevant distinction between same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage.

So how would state recognition of same-sex couples benefit the marriage institution? Since SSMs are of a different kind from real marriage, they would not increase the number of marriages. It would not be the case that more people would get married, just that the government recognized more marriages. This just means that the government would inflate its statistics so that it would like progress is being made, but as conservatives we should be skeptical of the self-serving nature of the government. Next more SSMs would mean many same-sex couples without children (unlike opposite-sex couples, it’s expensive, inconvenient, and not sexually pleasurable for them to get a child in the first place) would get preferential tax cuts. Conservatives want to simplify the tax code and get rid of special-interest exemptions, but this would just expand the number of exemptions. Furthermore, the “Grand Bargain” whereby same-sex marriage would be recognized concurrently with the religious freedom of those who dissent from it has failed (http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/07/5884/). Religious institutions that refuse to compromise their ethical principles on the marriage issue will increasingly find themselves pushed out of the public square (e.g. the end of Catholic Charities’ adoption services in Massachusetts). The more present danger is the secularization of businesses. Rather than a business being a place where owners can act in accordance with their religious beliefs, they will increasingly be realms where the ideal of secular “neutrality” will dominate. See for example the recent case of a baker being ordered by a court to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Finally, the most destructive consequence of a redefinition of marriage would be the least tangible. It would be the disappearance of the traditional definition and original institution of marriage and its replacement by a new definition. Since the traditional view of marriage emphasizes the marital act, the revisionist definition has to emphasize the affective intensity of the relationship. Thus no longer will children be central to a marriage but instead the friendship of the two parents. In friendship though, one can find oneself drifting away from friends and decide that it’s best to end the friendship. Such a move in a marriage can be devastating to the children. The traditional definition also emphasizes the friendship between the two parents but the essential shared activity of these friends is not merely good conversation, it’s the intercourse that makes children. Thus even if marriage is seen as a type of friendship under the traditional definition, it would be a friendship with a selfless goal outside of the friends. The revisionist view of marriage would make the couple itself the highest goal of the relationship with children as mere accessories.

A similar threat is that fathers would become dispensable in the revisionist definition. As Evan says, studies show that two women can raise a child just as well as the biological parents. Now these studies are laughably bad (even by social science standards) if you look into them (see http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/10/11115/), and they don’t compare to the quality and rigor of Mark Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study, which shows how the children of parents in same-sex relationships perform worse on nearly every measure. Yet his view that the studies show how dispensable fathers are is fairly typical, and if same-sex marriage spreads, his misinformed view rather than Regnerus’ study will become more common. The law shapes how we see the world, and if the law dispenses with fathers, then society will conclude that they’re not needed for child success. As the then-Senator Obama said in 2008,

But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it. You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

The second part of Evan’s article is entirely predicated on the arguments from the first part. If it is the case that there is no difference between the marriage of a same-sex couple and the marriage of an opposite-sex couple, then of course it follows that it would be uncharitable (and hence un-Christian) to oppose same-sex marriage. I would reject the protasis of this condition (the “if it is the case…” clause), but since Evan accepts this clause, then he is led to the conclusion that “it is inherently un-Christian to deny other adults that privilege [of marrying].”

All Biblical Christians though should hesitate to make such a point. It is an even stronger claim than that which some liberal theologians make, who say that the biblical prohibitions on homosexuality were context-specific and that one is not bound to follow them. It is stronger than the claim of liberal theologians who say that the biblical view of marriage at least allows for same-sex couples (even though this was never put into practice). Rather his claim is that it is un-Christian not to support state recognition of same-sex marriage. If he is right, then Christianity is completely wrong because it misunderstands what love is. St Paul wrote, “Because of this did God give them up to dishonorable affections, for even their females did change the natural use into that against nature; and in like manner also the males having left the natural use of the female, did burn in their longing toward one another; males with males working shame, and the recompense of their error that was fit, in themselves receiving.” This is not a throwaway line in the epistle. It is one of his main examples of the fallen human condition, a subject which is itself one of the central themes of the letter.

St Paul says that the sexual desire between two men or two women is a “dishonorable affection,” which is “against nature.” It would be one thing to say that St Paul was making an acceptable moral claim in his own context and deny that his conclusions apply to our own society, but it is quite another to say that state recognition of same-sex couples is a “necessary step to guarantee human rights.” To make such a universal claim is to implicitly criticize St Paul. I take it that this would not be Evan’s intention, and so he’ll have to explain how he avoids rejecting St Paul’s authority just because he’s been convinced by a few years of hearing too many liberals and not yet understanding the conservatives.

Social Issues

E Pluribus Pluribus: Coca-Cola and the American Identity

By Tal Fortgang ’17

Since Super Bowl XLIII was played on Feb. 3, the blogosphere and some media sources have been up in arms about a performance some found more offensive than that of the Denver Broncos. I refer of course to the firebrand Coca-Cola advertisement, which featured several children singing “America the Beautiful” in various languages, overlaid with clips of people representing different ethnic, religious, and other groups. This was a celebration of diversity meant to represent America as a melting pot, a potpourri of peoples made special by its multiculturalism.

I have to hand it to the execs who thought this multi-million dollar minute through: you managed to convince our friends on the left to admit that America is indeed beautiful—somehow there were few concerns about the veritable national pride the ad promoted; nor were there many cries of unwarranted exceptionalism, flaunted by the evil corporatist conspiracy to subject minority groups to do their bidding.

The ad did arouse some grumbling among conservatives, notably Glenn Beck, who suggested that the ad was divisive, and former Florida Representative Allen West, who on his blog posted quotes from George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt that emphasized “it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American,” and thereby assimilating (at least to some extent) by accepting mainstream American culture and the English language.

The mainstream media had a field day with the trolls of YouTube and Twitter, who are now conveniently representative of conservative Americans, with Time dubbing them “America the Ugly.” It’s hard to disagree with denunciations of the outright xenophobia that was occasionally stirred up. But there is a nuanced gripe to be had with the ad, more along the lines of Roosevelt’s quote above.

Part of the American triumvirate of abstract guiding principles is E pluribus unum: From many, one. It was upon this principle that our country flourished, welcoming persecuted peoples fleeing poverty and pogroms alike. E pluribus has never been particularly hard to fulfill, as a country as prosperous as the United States easily draws the huddled masses who—legally—may prosper too. Unum, though, has become a point of contention more recently, with the popular rejection of the notion of American exceptionalism and a growing tendency to see one’s self as a “global citizen.” Just because someone happens to live in America does not mean that they need to conform to any kind of American standard. We have, thus, E pluribus…pluribus.

Allen West and other critics of Coca-Cola’s ad are not fighting back against people of other colors or orientations. They see a widespread embrace of multiculturalism as a value superseding traditional national values in primacy—that’s what bothers them. Assimilation, as they see it, is the recognition that one now holds American ideals dear, and don’t want to nationalize, so to speak, their own values.

I wasn’t bothered by the commercial. “America the Beautiful,” as many have been quick to point out, is just a song, and I have no reason to believe that the people depicted in the ad aren’t hardworking people who deserve nothing but praise, and as a Jew,, I thought the guys with yarmulkes looking out at the Freedom Tower was a nice touch.  I don’t quite think it’s the horrifying manifestation of the issue its critics think it is, but I recognize that multiculturalism isn’t as unilaterally beneficial as some would have you believe; it’s a complicated issue. The balance between intercultural understanding and E pluribus unum is tough, and both are important. That’s the issue.

The media depriving one side of its nuance isn’t atypical, especially when the ‘racist’ label can be slapped on for good measure. Let’s not be so quick to demonize those who feel uneasy about things that to us are uncontroversial.

Social Issues

A Conservative Case for Marriage Equality

By Evan Draim ’17

Within a few days, a federal district judge in my home-state of Virginia will likely rule on the constitutionality of the commonwealth’s Marshall-Newman Amendment, which only permits marriage between one man and one woman. Frankly, as a conservative Republican and as a Christian, I hope that the amendment is struck down.

Republicans value marriage so highly because it encourages people to live according to conservative values. For instance, by enabling two people to share resources, marriage makes couples more financially secure, thereby reducing their dependence on government. In addition, marriage binds people into permanent, monogamous relationships, enabling couples to more effectively raise children. Although gay couples cannot reproduce, today there exist multiple other ways for same-sex couples to acquire offspring, such as in-vitro fertilization or adoption (which is often cited by the pro-life movement as a viable alternative to abortion). Numerous studies have confirmed that gay parents are just as capable as heterosexual ones. The benefits of marriage exist regardless of a couple’s sexual orientation, and therefore conservatives have an interest in ensuring that as many couples as possible enter the institution, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Due to the separation of church and state, Christian doctrine cannot explicitly guide any court opinion, but faith no doubt motivates many people’s core principles and underlying values. As Christians, we are taught to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Since you most likely want the ability to gain the benefits of marriage for yourself and enter into an expression of commitment with the one whom you love, I believe it is inherently un-Christian to deny other adults that privilege. Also, we are all creatures of God- whether gay or straight- and God does not make mistakes. By denying certain individuals the ability to marry their loved ones, you are telling them that their relationship (and, by extension, their sexual orientation) is somehow inferior or “not as good” as your own. Not only does the government lack the authority to make or enforce such a claim, but by condemning someone’s God-given traits, that sentiment also criticizes the actions of their divine Creator.

Admittedly, marriage today is threatened- not by the gay couples trying to get INTO the institution, but rather by the straight couples opting OUT. Only 51% of Americans are married, compared with 72% in 1960. Luckily, same-sex partners can actually help save the institution of marriage by making it relevant again and reversing a downward trend in marriage rates. I hope my fellow Virginians will join me in supporting this necessary step to guarantee human rights and save the future of marriage for future generations.

Virginia should be for ALL lovers.

Politics, Social Issues

Iraq’s Sisyphean Fate

By Ashesh Rambachan ’17

A few years before the complete withdrawal of American forces at the end of 2011, Iraq was falling apart. In 2006-2008, engulfed in a bloody civil war between Sunnis and Shias, stories of sectarian cleansing poured out of Iraq. Shia militia, specifically the Mahdi Army led by Muqtada al-Sadr, would slaughter innocents and force entire neighborhoods to relocate. Satellite images, by studying changes in light pollution at night, would later show that entire neighborhoods of Sunnis abandoned their homes in an attempt to escape violence. In 2007 alone, al-Qaeda, composed largely of Sunnis from abroad, killed over 2000 civilians in a series of bombings across the country. According to the Iraq Body Count Project, an independent group based in both the US and UK, nearly 30,000 civilians lost their lives in 2006. In 2007, over 25,000 Iraqi civilians were killed. During this time, conditions were so dire in Iraq that Parag Khanna, senior fellow at the New America Foundation referred to the nation as “The Former Iraq” and as a “black hole” at the heart of the Middle East.

Amazingly, by 2010, conditions drastically improved. The United States responded to the wave of violence by “surging” troop levels to over 160,000. As suicide bombers claimed more and more innocent lives, Iraqis became disgusted by the brutality and turned away from terrorist organizations. This culminated in the famous rejection of al-Qaeda in Iraq led by Sunni leaders, now known as the “Anbar Awakening.” By 2010, the average number of civilian deaths per month plummeted to just over 340 innocents from a high of nearly 2500 civilian deaths per month in 2006. According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, monthly attacks fell to an average of 358 attacks in the first quarter of 2011, the lowest rate since 2004. Along with a sharp reduction in violence, Iraqi security forces became less dependent on US forces and more able to respond to attacks on their own. By mid-2010, Iraqi army and police forces totaled over 650,000. It seemed as if the Iraqi people and armed forces were ready to stand up as the United States began to stand down. So, when the US Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government expired at the end of 2011 and the US withdrew all remaining combat forces, our hopes were high for Iraq’s future.

Sadly, it appears that the Iraqi people have been condemned to a Sisyphean fate. The enormous strides made in Iraq from 2008 to 2011 have begun to careen back down the mountain. As quickly as violence subsided after the US surge, it continues to skyrocket since the American withdrawal, undoing years of progress. Sectarian attacks are once again on the rise. Since April, nearly 5000 Iraqis have been killed in bombings across the nation. In the first quarter of 2013, on average, 804 attacks have occurred per month. To make matters worse, al-Qaeda is now claiming responsibility for the majority of bombings, which are becoming more intricate and complex. Suicide bombings are now coordinated to strike multiple locations across the country at the same time, a clear sign of increasing resources and manpower. What is most alarming is that the Iraqi armed forces are now unable to contain the violence. The Iraqi army withdrew from large towns, such as Falluja and Ramadi, in the largely Sunni province of Anbar. Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mosul, al Qaeda openly collects “protection money” from residents to fund its bloody operations.

What’s changed? Without the United States military forces, there is no third-party to mediate between Sunnis and Shias. Representing over 65% of Iraq’s population, Shias dominate Iraq’s federal government and have largely locked Iraqi Sunnis out of the upper echelons of power, while stacking the armed forces with Shias as well. Before 2003, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Sunnis, while the minority, dominated all levels of government, meaning this role reversal for Sunnis is even more jarring. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who is a Shia, is using the federal government to intimidate and arrest his Sunni rivals. At the end of 2011, the Iraqi government issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, forcing him to flee the nation.  At the end of 2012, Iraq’s armed forces raided the home of Iraq’s Sunni finance minister, Rafi al-Issawi, sparking Sunni protests across the nation’s southern provinces. On April 23, in an attempt to stamp out these protests, the Iraqi army surrounded and raided a camp of protestors in the city of al-Hawija, killing scores of innocents. The list of Sunni grievances against the Iraqi government goes on.  As Sunnis feel more and more disenfranchised by the Iraqi government, they turn to other methods to make their voices from heard from street protests to outright violence. Ominously, the Sunni militias that laid their arms down during the Anbar Awakening are now beginning to rearm.

As sectarian tension continues to soar, Iraq’s geography only makes matters worse. Insurgents and terrorists frequently enter and exit Iraq via its western border with Syria. Al Qaeda groups operating in the two nations have merged their organizations and now operate under the name “The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.” Weapons and money flow from terrorist groups operating in Syria into the coffers of terrorist organizations operating in Iraq.  To the west of Iraq lies Iran, the largest Shia nation in the world. During the sectarian civil war in Iraq from 2006 to 2008, Iran poured money and arms into Iraq, supporting radical Shia militias and their leaders, many of which are now part of the Iraqi government. Iran continues to have an enormous amount of influence in the Iraqi government, as its pressure and arm-twisting of Shia politicians may have played a large role in crafting the current Shia governing coalition after the 2010 Iraqi elections. As a result, many decisions made by the Iraqi government reek of Iranian influence. For example, Iraq allows Iran to use its airspace as it supports and resupplies the Shia regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. It is a distinct possibility that Nouri al-Maliki has the implicit support of Iran in his crackdown on Sunni opposition.

Rising violence in Iraq has no ready solution. Iraqi instability is deeply grounded in the broader chaos gripping the Middle East and the historic animosity and distrust between Shia and Sunni communities. Sectarian conflict in Iraq threatens the entire region and the world. Geographically, Iraq lies at the center of the Middle East and, as we have seen before, violence leads to enormous spillover effects on neighboring nations. Iraq now produces over 3 million barrels of oil per day, making it one of the largest oil producers in the world. Any disruption in Iraqi oil production would have a significant impact on global oil prices. It is in American interests to be proactive and help alleviate the sources of sectarian conflict in Iraq before things spiral out of control.

The United States still maintains a close relationship with the Iraqi government, even after the complete withdrawal of American forces. However, this close relationship does not mean that US officials ought to support the Iraqi government unconditionally. On his recent visit to the White House, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki requested US military assistance, specifically the provision of attack helicopters, hellfire missiles and reconnaissance drones. He even requested F-16 fighter jets. Al-Maliki argued that these tools are necessary to confront the uptick in violence and the increased strength of al Qaeda in Iraq. However, as we have seen, the cause of rising violence in Iraq is political. It is intimately tied to the perceived disenfranchisement of Iraqi Sunnis. F-16’s, Apache Helicopters and drones will, therefore, not effectively contain the violence.

It has been reported that President Obama has approved this request for military aid, a request that should have been denied. The United States should have used this as an opportunity to force Nouri al-Maliki to address the political grievances of Sunnis. The US had important leverage, but refused to use it. By quickly approving this request, US officials demonstrated that they continue to support Nouri al-Maliki, despite his authoritarian actions. This will only encourage his behavior of harassing and intimidating Iraqi Sunnis. If the pattern of intimidation and aggression between the two communities continues, Iraq will once again reclaim its title as the “black hole” in the heart of the Middle East. Sadly, by approving Iraq’s request for unnecessary military assistance, the US may have accelerated Iraq’s descent back into chaos.

Foreign Policy, World

A Call for Cooperation

By Josh Zuckerman ’16 and Nicholas Zarra, University of Pennsylvania ’16

The state of conservatism in our nation is apparently a dire one. Republicans have won the popular vote in only one presidential election since 1992. The Supreme Court has recently dealt devastating blows to liberty and federalism in cases such as NFIB v. Sibelius and Arizona v. United States. Most importantly, Obamacare, the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, and drastic expansions of unemployment benefits and food stamps has further entrenched the role of the welfare state and government-mandated redistribution of wealth. Conservatives are also losing key battles in the court of public opinion. Following the disastrous election of 2012, in which President Obama easily won reelection and Democrats gained seats in both chambers of Congress, the Republican Party has been placed on the rhetorical defensive, often being blamed for the inaction and divided government resulting from the irreconcilable differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

However, further examination of the situation of conservatism in America will reveal that, while conservatives have suffered significant defeats in the public policy arena, the ideological foundations of the movement retains widespread public support and popularity. A recent Real Clear Politics poll average shows 52% still oppose Obamacare. Rasmussen found that only a third of Americans believe stricter gun control laws would have prevented the recent Washington Navy Yard Shooting. Most importantly, Gallup has announced that a record 65% of all Americans now believe the government has become too powerful. Liberals’ recent political victories are therefore representative of public disenchantment with America’s conservative leadership rather than with the principles it espouses. Americans do not oppose conservatism; they merely are consternated with the current vessel in which it is being delivered to the public.

As the American people are clearly receptive to conservative arguments, the proper conveyance thereof is of paramount importance in today’s political climate. As polls and the ballot box have shown, Americans are rejecting the messenger rather than the message. In the proper forum, therefore, the promotion of healthy discourse on conservative values is an easily obtainable goal.

Traditionally, the university has been a societal leader in promoting discussion, dialogue, and examination of political and philosophical ideals. Universities are home to students and professors who are dedicating a portion of their lives to the pursuit and understanding of knowledge. Such a population is, of course, inherently open-minded and receptive to political ideals.

Over the past several generations, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania have been among the world’s leading institutions of higher education. Blessed with incredibly gifted and passionate students and professors and an abundance of educational resources, these two universities are cradles of political and philosophical activity, having produced notable conservative alumni such as James Madison, James Wilson, Jon Huntsman, Ted Cruz, and Samuel Alito.

Sadly, these two Ivy League universities have become bastions of liberalism in recent years. Left-wing student bodies, in combination with the liberal faculties that have lamentably dominated America’s finest universities, have created adverse political environments for young conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and others who reject the liberal consensus. However, while many students at these universities condemn conservatism, they are open-minded and intellectual enough to respect, acknowledge, and consider its arguments.

Since 1984, the Princeton Tory has been the premier voice of conservatism on its campus. Delivering six yearly magazines to every dorm, dining hall, and academic department on campus, the Princeton Tory has a large audience of Princetonians. The Statesman is a new voice to the campus conservative scene and is a natural reaction to a poor political climate on campus. Just like The Tory, The Statesman strives to fairly represent an intellectual-conservative message and to move debate forward via its printed publication and the actions of its members.  However, neither publication has a significant reach beyond its respective university’s community. As each publication consists of intellectually like-minded members, the Princeton Tory and the Statesman have decided to cooperate in pursuit of the following goals:

1)   To better spread each publication’s conservative message through the promotion of each other’s content.

2)   To improve the content of each publication through collaboration on jointly written dialogues, articles, and debates.

3)   To intellectually enrich our campus’s respective student bodies through the delivery of a greater quantity of political and philosophical commentary.

4)   To increase the amount of each publication’s readers through the introduction of each other’s articles to new markets.

5)   To better the status of conservatism on each campus through increased intercollegiate communication.

6)   To aid each other’s publications and online content through the sharing of ideas, knowledge, and technological skills.

7)   To ultimately extend the scope of the above goals in cooperation with conservative magazines at other peer institutions.

8)   To unite these like-minded individuals in order to foster and strengthen intellectual and personal relationships.

The Princeton Tory and the Statesman are excited about the opportunities that working together will present. It is time to put aside faux rivalries in sports and embrace our similarities in order to help achieve our common goal. Our cooperation will lead to mutual benefit, not only for our respective publications, but also for the status of conservatism on Ivy League campuses and throughout the United States as a whole.

Princeton

Domination in the Old Dominion: Cuccinelli Bests Opponent in Debate

By Evan Draim ’17

Once again Ken Cuccinelli demonstrated through tonight’s Virginia gubernatorial debate that he is the most experienced, qualified candidate to lead the commonwealth for the next four years. While Cuccinelli’s performance was impressive in its own right, he was no doubt aided by Terry McAuliffe’s awkward delivery and lack of knowledge on critical issues. Here are three things we learned from tonight’s discussion:

1.) Terry McAuliffe spends more time trying to define his opponent’s policies than his own. In unscripted debates, candidates naturally gravitate towards discussing what they feel most comfortable talking about. It should be no surprise, therefore, that every time Terry was asked a question about his own record, he quickly changed the subject to address an aspect of his opponent’s past. Because he has spent so much time focused on attacking Cuccinelli, Terry apparently has not had enough time to craft a specific agenda of his own. When asked whether he knew what the price tag would be for his education plan to hire more teachers, McAuliffe gave a 5 minute long answer that can be summarized in one word: “no.”

2.) Ken Cuccinelli came across as the much more personable, relatable candidate. Admittedly Republicans at times tend to struggle with showing concern or empathy for the average voter (President Obama utilized this weakness of Romney’s to appear the more compassionate candidate during the last Presidential cycle). However, in this debate, Cuccinelli clearly showed a genuine concern for the everyday issues of Virginians whereas his Democratic opponent was the one whose answers seem scripted, rehearsed, and sometimes downright heartless. When answering a question about whether to give local school boards the ability to start the school year earlier, McAuliffe said it should not be allowed because the state would lose too much money in tourism revenues. Ken Cuccinelli right pointed out that “children outweigh tourism.” The Attorney General also talked about his work to protect women who are the victims of sexual abuse, innocent men who have been unfairly sentenced (e.g. Haynesworth), and the victims of human trafficking.

3.) Terry McAuliffe is an opportunist while Ken Cuccinelli is the real deal. McAuliffe spent much of the debate trying to pander to his audience rather than engaging in a substantive discussion of issues. When pressed on his support for stricter gun control in the commonwealth, McAuliffe retorted that “I’m a hunter” (a fact which I still have a hard time believing). While talking about his support for gay marriage, he said that he was “out early on the issue” even though he did not actually endorse same-sex marriage until after DOMA was already decided, and the momentum was moving that way. In probably the most annoying display of pandering, hetried to adopt a regional southern dialect at times during the debate that failed miserably (reinforcing further his stereotype as a carpetbagger from New York). Cuccinelli spoke in specific terms and was willing to answer any question the moderators threw at him no matter how irrelevant or stupid (and there were some dumb questions). He thoroughly described everything from his tax plan to his record as Attorney General to his commitment to fighting corruption. No one should have any doubt that Cuccinelli would know how to govern on day one!

 

Politics

Free Trade and the Democratic Process

By Ashesh Rambachan ’17

“The First Law of Economics: for every economist, there is an equal and opposite economist. The Second Law of Economics: they are both wrong.”

This joke is quite famous amongst economists because it cuts to one of the field’s defining characteristics: disagreement. From financial regulation to fiscal policy, the answer you get seems to depend on the economist you ask. That is why it is so surprising to read quotes such as these from a wide variety of sources:

“More jobs, more investment, more growth. The only reason for business not to throw everything it has behind TTIP would be if there were a bigger global trade pact to be had.” – The Economist, February 16 2013

“A balanced deal that reduces trade barriers and offers sensible regulatory standards could give a significant boost to the global economy and renew America’s most important alliance.” The New York Times, February 20, 2013

“The proposal for freer transatlantic trade is potentially transformational.” Mohamed A. El-Erian, CEO of investment company PIMCO, Project Syndicate, March 6, 2013.

They all are referring to, of course, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free trade zone between the United States and the European Union. In theory, free trade is an economic no-brainer. It removes distortionary tariffs and quotas that prevent nations from truly trading based on the principle of comparative advantage. As a result, free trade reduces prices for consumers, increases their purchasing power, and vastly increases the size of potential markets for businesses.

The eye-popping estimates of the benefits of TTIP seem to support the economic theory on free trade. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it would easily become the largest free-trade zone in the world, covering 50% of global output, 30% of global trade and 20% of foreign investment. Furthermore, the Center for Economic Policy Research, a think tank based in London, estimates that TTIP would increase US annual GDP by nearly $100 billion, during a period of high unemployment. If we just examine the benefits of TTIP, this would be a policy no-brainer.
However, it’s also important to understand specifically how these gains will be achieved. On average, tariffs on trade between the US and EU are less than three percent. That is quite small, especially when compared to other nations. On average, India applies a tariff of 15%, Brazil 13%, and China 11%. The large estimated gains from TTIP will have to come from something beyond simple tariff reductions; they will likely come from reducing “non-tariff trade barriers,” differences in laws and regulations that make it difficult for an American business to export to Europe and vice-versa. For example, Europe famously blocks the import of all genetically modified food.

More broadly, these non-tariff trade barriers exist because Europe and the United States have philosophically different approaches to regulation. When the European Union crafts regulations regarding, for instance, food and drug safety, it ascribes to what is known as “the precautionary principle.” Essentially, European Union regulations place the burden of proof on businesses. Manufacturers, in order to sell a product, have to demonstrate to regulators that the product is not dangerous. In the United States, on the other hand, the burden of proof is on regulators. Regulators must show that the product is dangerous in order to keep it off the shelves. As the Washington Post explained on February 13, 2013, “The E.U.’s rigorous standards are incongruous with U.S. food and product safety policy, and it makes it harder for America and Europe to sell goods to each other.” Indeed, the potential gains from removing these non-tariff barriers are, once again, potentially large. In fact, the Congressional Research Service estimated in a 2012 report that, reducing these non-tariff trade barriers alone could increase annual American GDP by nearly $53 billion.

If we just look at the numbers, TTIP seems to present us with a no-lose scenario. It looks like a simple way to jumpstart growth in the United States. However, are these ends worth the means? Specifically, should the US be willing to, in economic jargon, “harmonize” regulations and laws with the European Union? This is something that hasn’t been, but needs to be debated publicly.

Regulations and other laws that affect trade should be crafted democratically with the input of citizens, businesses and lawmakers. Instead, negotiations over TTIP place legislative power into the hands of trade negotiators. Unelected negotiators have the power to make decisions that may affect the products millions of Americans consume and thousands of business produce. Is that a democratic process? Obviously not. Negotiators need to continually inform the American people about the issues being debated and the changes being considered. Only when the public is properly informed, can TTIP spur a much-needed public discussion about the regulations we, as a nation, set. As the next round of trade negotiations begins this October, it is important that we continue to follow them closely, staying engaged every step of the way to ensure that TTIP reflects our democratic will and not the fancies of unelected officials.

 

Foreign Policy