Traffic statistics at DanielPipes.org indicate that the following ten articles are my most read writings published in 2020, in ascending order. (Gary Gambill of the Middle East Forum kindly provided the tabulations and summaries.)
10. How Fares Western Civ? (Fall 2020)
I address the steady disappearance of Western civ courses in American universities and why this leaves tomorrow's leaders ill-equipped to understand what works and what does not in the modern world. I recommend Rodney Stark's remarkable 2014 study, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (ISI Books), as an antidote.
According to Stark, modernity is almost entirely the "the product of Western civilization." The Judeo-Christian conception of God as "the rational creator of a comprehensible universe" was essential to the rise of scientific inquiry in Europe, and by extension the industrial revolution. This, in turn, made possible European colonialism, which for all its problems spread modernity – education and the rule of law especially – to the colonized and thereby improved their quality of life. "To the extent that other cultures have failed to adopt at least major aspects of Western ways, they remain backward and impoverished," writes Stark. The multiculturalist determination to deny these truths is fundamentally misanthropic and destructive.
9. Reservations about the Trump Peace Plan (January 29)
The plan for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict announced by the Trump administration early this year was commendable for taking Israeli security concerns seriously, but I sounded two notes of caution. First, Israel does best when it acts independently on its interests, not when it cedes leadership to Washington.
The Trump plan is based on promising the Palestinians benefits and giving them hope.
Second, like every previous and failed scheme to solve the conflict, the Trump plan is based on promising the Palestinians benefits and giving them hope. Instead, a viable plan "should paint a picture of despair." Palestinians should be warned that "they will gain no resort area, no new trade regime, no vast financial aid, much less sovereignty and prosperity until they unequivocally accept the Jewish state of Israel and do so over a protracted period."
8. Israeli Arabs Say No to Palestine (February 4)
The Trump peace plan raises the possibility of Israel ceding a territory known as "the Triangle," a region of inhabited by some 300,000 Israeli Arabs, to a future State of Palestine in exchange for Palestinians giving up their claims to areas of the West Bank inhabited by Jewish Israelis. The problem with this proposal is that the overwhelming majority of Triangle residents prefer to stay in Israel. Israeli Arabs may bluster contempt for the Jewish state, but they appreciate the many benefits of living in it.
7. Conspiracy Theories in a Time of Virus (March 17)
Conspiracy theories blaming the COVID-19 virus on the United States, Britain and Israel fit a pernicious medieval pattern that goes back to the twelfth century and the Crusaders in Europe. While these conspiracy theories are preposterous, they obstruct understanding the virus, dealing with it, and containing the damage. These lies, which the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian governments actively spread, require refutation.
6. Why I'm Voting for Trump (October 20)
Many of Donald Trump's personal credentials and attributes fall short of what I look for in a president, and for this reason I favored rival candidates in the 2016 Republican primaries and cast my vote for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson in the general election that year. To my surprise, however, Trump governed as a conservative on those issues I consider most important. Despite my continuing aversion to Trump's immorality, vulgarity, and egotism, I worry more about the Democrats' uniquely radical program and therefore endorse Trump in 2020.
5. Erdoğan's Turkey Is Not Coming Back (April 20)
Many in the U.S. foreign policy establishment see Turkey's growing hostility to American interests as a temporary aberration, akin to Mohammed Morsi's coming to power in Egypt in 2012-13. Consequently, they downplay the authoritarianism and Islamist ideology of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and favor business-as-usual treatment of Turkey as a U.S. ally in hopes that this unfortunate interlude will end with a cheery return to the good old days.
There is "little reason to expect that Americans will find a friendlier reception in Ankara after Erdoğan goes."
I argue that Erdoğan and his ruling party are transforming Turkey in what can best be described as a slower-motion version of Iran's Islamic revolution, and that there is "little reason to expect that Americans will find a friendlier reception in Ankara after Erdoğan goes." I offer eight policy recommendations to deal with the new Turkey, including economic disengagement and the removal of U.S. troops from the country.
4. When Muslims Leave the Faith (August 5)
In the West, conversions to Islam attract a great deal of media attention, but Muslims who leave Islam have a far greater impact than do converts to Islam. About 100,000 American Muslims abandon Islam each year. By example, and often through passionate advocacy, these ex-Muslims push believers to think critically about their faith, contributing to a general decline in religiosity now conspicuously underway among Muslims, especially among the youth.
3. Nasser Died Fifty Years Ago: He Lives on in Egypt (September 28)
On the 50th anniversary of the death of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, I assess the lasting damage done to Egypt by his eighteen years in power (1952-1970). Nasser's brutality toward dissidents has persisted under his successors, the dogged hostility to Israel he worked so hard to cultivate has outlasted the peace treaty signed forty-one years ago, and retired military officers still dominate an economy unable to meet the population's basic needs or produce goods the world wants. I pessimistically predict that "another fifty years hence, the Egypt of 2070 will yet suffer under his influence."
2. This Time, the Far-Left Surge Might Succeed (June 14)
The United States is witnessing a far-left surge similar in some respects to the one I witnessed as a student in the 1960s, but with a decidedly more dangerous real-world impact.
Back then, Democratic politicians and labor leaders resisted leftist pieties; they submit to these now. During the 60s, the schools, media, and arts then tolerated a range of viewpoints hardly imaginable in this era of suffocating progressivism, cancel culture and de-platforming. Unlike the hippies in their colorful Volkswagen microbuses of yesteryear, "today's deeply grounded movement could succeed in taking over," I argue, and "Western civilization is in play, threatened from within."
In 2016, I worried that Donald Trump's unbridled impulsiveness and populism would lead him "triangulate between Democrats and Republicans," sending the country in an uncertain direction. To my surprise, however, he governed as a resolute conservative in areas such as education, taxes, deregulation, the environment, and judicial appointments. Even his foreign policy has been conservative, from confronting China and Iran to singularly supporting Israel. Although I don't agree with all his policies (protectionism, an indifference to public debt, and a soft-spot for Turkish strongman Erdoğan, to name a few), I "agree with about 80 percent of Trump's actions, a higher number than any of his predecessors', going back to Lyndon Johnson," and so, I will "do my small part to help Trump get re-elected by writing, giving, and voting."
Five of the top ten concern not the Middle East and Islam, my specialization, but the Left and other negative forces in the United States, the West, and around the globe. This reflects my growing interest to address larger issues, especially cultural ones. The precise topics also reveal my primary concerns:
- Middle East and Islam: 2 concern the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and 1 each about Egypt, Turkey, and Islam.
- The other five: 2 concern Donald Trump and 1 each about conspiracy theories, the American Left, and Western civilization.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.