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The Lessons of 2023

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2023
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by Outside Contributor
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13 Comments
Lessons Learned in 2023 on white board with red marker

2023 was a rather bad year.

Not as bad as 2024 is likely to be, or as 2020 was.

But bad.

Nonetheless, we ought to learn from the bad as well as the good. So, in a spirit of reflection, I offer a few lessons we ought to remember from this crummy year.

Lesson No. 1: Lots of people do not think like we do. And failure to recognize the truth of this lesson leads to failures of imagination that in turn lead to suffering and death.

When Hamas slaughters infants in their cribs, rapes women in front of their husbands and takes them captive back to Gaza, and tortures and murders civilians, that isn’t because of some outsized grievance. It’s because they do not have the same values as Westerners. Pretending that members of Hamas are simply freedom-loving people who seek material prosperity, quiet family lives and tolerance for those who think differently isn’t just wrong; it’s catastrophically wrong. It’s also leading foolish Westerners to believe that appeasement of Hamas sympathizers will somehow alleviate Hamas’ evil terrorist behaviors, or that current deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip is the result of Israeli indiscrimination rather than Hamas’ stated war objective of maximizing civilian casualties for the international media.

That’s a lie. And it’s a dangerous lie. It’s the same lie that led to 20 years of terror buildup in the Gaza Strip, funded and then ignored by the West. It’s the same lie that has led to thousands of deaths, both Israeli and Palestinian. It’s the same lie that led the West to import millions of radical Muslims into its heart, endangering both the social fabric and the future of the West itself.

Which brings us to lesson No. 2: The next generation is in serious moral peril. As a recent Harvard-Harris poll showed, 79% of young Americans (18-24) agree that white people are oppressors and people of color are the oppressed; a similarly frightening two-thirds of young people believed that Jews are part of the oppressor class and “should be treated as oppressors.” This bodes ill for the future of republicanism: If Americans can quickly be classified as oppressor or oppressed not based on behavior but based on group identity, we will revert to the tribalism that destroys nations entirely.

Lesson No. 3 of 2023: Weakness breeds aggression. From Afghanistan to Crimea, weakness in the face of America’s enemies breeds aggression. Russia moved on Ukraine not predominantly because it feared NATO’s dominance, but because it sensed Western weakness; right now, the Iranian government is flipping the activation switch on all of its proxy terror groups in the Middle East because of perceived Western cowardice; should the West fail to confront the Houthis in the Red Sea, undoubtedly China will see the West’s unwillingness to expend even minor military resources to retain open trade lanes, and will threaten Taiwan. The same is true with regard to America’s southern border: an open border breeds waves of illegal immigration, which is precisely what we have been seeing. Conversely, strength means facing hard realities and making sacrifices in order to confront them.

Lesson No. 4 from 2023: what goes around comes around. Always.

This has been true for quite a while when it comes to American politics: voiding the judicial filibuster means the other party will cram through nominees on a party line vote; militarizing the executive order will allow the other party’s president to do the same. Today, Democrats seem excited to weaponize the Department of Justice in order to target former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate to face off against President Joe Biden. What are the chances that precedent will be utilized by Democrats’ opponents in the future? Refusal to acknowledge this reality means an endless cycle of escalating reprisal that ends only with actual conflict.

One final lesson: incompetence has consequences.

We live in the richest and most powerful country in human history. That truth obscures the effects of incompetence at every level. But not for long. Eventually, the people tire of the incompetence of their leaders – and when they tire of the incompetence of leaders from all sides, they seek radical change to the systems themselves. Often, such changes are more perilous than the incompetence they seek to rectify. Which means that perhaps intermediate institutions – say, political parties – ought to flex their muscle in order to press forward competent people rather than caving to the whims of the moment.

So long, 2023.

Here’s to a better 2024.

Ben Shapiro, 39, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and co-founder of Daily Wire+. He is a three-time New York Times bestselling author; his latest book is “The Authoritarian Moment: How The Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent.”

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Max
Max
3 months ago

Nice article. Overall, the societies of the world do not pay attention to history thus leading to the same mistakes of the past to keep on reoccurring time and time again. To anyone who believes that Hamas and other Islamic radicals groups are just trying to preserve their society, look at their Koran and their teachings — DESTROY the Jewish people — DESTROY or CONVERT the rest of the world. This has been their way nearly 1400 years and it is not going to change.

Kim
Kim
3 months ago

My family is mostly conservative. One member who isn’t and another who is are both on the fence when it comes to whether Hamas or Israel is to blame for the conflict. I couldn’t believe my ears when the first one spoke up, and was flummoxed to hear that another relative felt the same way.

One thing they have in common is listening to NPR. I sometimes tune in to that station just to hear what they’re saying and, perhaps more importantly, how they’re saying it. They can try to cloak their bias behind measured, lovely voices, but, once you start looking for the nuance, their position becomes clear. Maybe some are on the fence. Some are definitely in favor of Hamas if only because thousands more Palestinians have died than Israelis. But I’ve heard no one in support of Israel’s victory in this conflict. They wouldn’t dare say it on NPR!

Those who listen to the detailed accounts of what’s happening over there know that Hamas hides behind their citizens, schools, and hospitals. 20,000 dead Palestinians in Gaza makes it look bad for Israel. This is not Israel’s fault; it is the fault of the Palestinians because they voted for Hamas to be their governing body! Hamas started this war! Hamas committed unspeakable atrocities against peaceful, innocent Israelis. And in every war, innocent people die.

Here’s a shocker, if it’s true. (Ben, do you know?) I heard this a few nights ago, on middle-of-the-night talk radio (I don’t recall the source–Red Eye Radio? a Cincinnati station? a New York station?). A reporter stated that, for years, while Palestinians were permitted to work in Israel, some informed their Hamas leaders of weakly defended neighborhoods, military offices, and locations where the greatest carnage could be carried out. They’d been planning this for years!

When I heard this, I emailed yet another letter to those 2 relatives. One simply won’t hear any more about it and can’t favor one side over the other. The other asked how I could subject myself to listening to such horrible news, to which I replied that I just want to know the truth–who’s right and who’s wrong. That’s the only way we can make informed judgments on difficult issues. We had better start opening our ears, asking questions, and getting all the information so we’ll know how to proceed and whom to support. That’s a whole lot more responsible than sucking up to the loudest fringe constituents, the biggest donors, or the most influential news anchors.

Yes…a better 2024.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
3 months ago

Put into words the antisemitic left understands: “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Joe Biden has got to go!” “From the river to the sea make Joe Biden hist-o-ree!” All set to the beat of a drum circle of course.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
3 months ago

2023 was a disaster. kYLE l.

Laura Bentz
Laura Bentz
3 months ago

Who is going to do the necessary sacrifices to save this country? I doubt anybody. Neither party has done much so far. So, put on your seatbelt. 2024 will be a bumpy ride. And that’s pretty much guaranteed. When you ignore the Constitution, then nothing but turmoil will commence…

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