Conversations (2)

Thank you both again for joining us, if I may pose one final question to each of you.

Bodo, there is a notion that member countries must have domestic support and compatibility with NATO's stated goals. Yet, the latest polls out of Montenegro presenting mixed results from the general population, with roughly 40% polling each for vs. against.
Isn't there a risk of lowering standards for membership?

And to Jeffrey, you've written at length about your vision and strategy for detente - how leveraging Georgia & Ukraine present an opportunity to smooth over the rising tensions between Russia and the West. Those countries specifically are clearly the most at-risk of needing military assistance to protect their borders, and therefore couldn't the argument be made that they are actually more deserving, or in need, of NATO's backing?
In an attempt to bring back the conversation more directly to the topic of the day with the US Senate vote scheduled for Monday.

I note, we could go nary a single question without a lengthy discussion on how this decision effects Russian relations? Is Montenegro then, in this instance, just a pawn in a larger game?

Is there any room at all to parse the country out of the bigger picture where we can question, as US Senator Rand Paul suggests, what is the value Montenegro adds to the Alliance as a whole? Or is it like Sen. McCain declares, that anyone who does not support their accession is "working for Vladimir Putin?"

Making sense of the world through Bronze-Age myths unsubstantiated by evidence of any sort does not seem to me to be a reasonable (let alone admirable) way of making sense of the world.  Especially not now, with science having dispelled so many of the mysteries that gave rise to such myths in the first place.

But to each his or her own, as long as no one forces such beliefs on the rest of us.  Justice Scalia has the authority to do so.  He was, after all, the starting point of our talk, and he believes in the Devil.  And as I said, he has given us plenty of reason to think he cannot adjudicate fairly or impartially, without influence from his religious beliefs.

Thanks, Zach, for the chance to debate these issues with you.

All best wishes,


This is a popular meme: religious people use faith to console themselves rather than accept the cold reality that we are born and then die.  The problem is that it doesn't jive with how many religious people live their lives.  Again, maybe I'm too inside, but the religious people I know do not believe in God -- consciously or subconsciously -- simply because they are afraid of going to hell or for the promise of reuniting with loved ones in the afterlife.

I make that point because I think the reason we come to such different conclusions on this issue is that you and I experience religion and religious people differently.  The religious people you describe reject all science in favor of faith, angels & demons. The religious people I know believe in God because that is how they have made sense of the world around them.

Everyone has ideological baggage.  We all have certain things we believe are true in a way that should apply to everyone and things that we believe but do not impose on others.  I would hope that Justice Scalia or any judge for that matter can separate their own personal beliefs from how they decide the law.  It is as much a challenge for Justice Scalia as it is Justice Ginsburg, but as you said Justice Scalia has let you know about his biases upfront.

*One historical note: antisemitism predated Christianity.  Josephus and other works of late antiquity describe the Romans disliking the Jews because they kept to themselves socially and did not assimilate into society.  

Jeffrey, thanks so much for taking part in this discussion.  No pressure, but since you were my guest, if you have something you'd like add, I will give you the final word.