“Perhaps,” writes The Weekly Standard‘s Christopher Caldwell, “we assume too much in asserting that the open democratic republics of the West are compatible with ‘religion.’” Surprising words coming from a senior editor of the neocon magazine, but nothing compared to what follows: “What lessons,” he asks, has America drawn from the French fracas of the question of whether to veil or not to veil (or not allow other people to veil)? “None. It has decided to gloat instead.”

Hints of a conversion at the Standard? A new neocon embrace of strict church-state separation and France as a warning instead of a threat? Not quite. Caldwell falls back on the hackneyed “clash of civilizations” thesis, but as always at the Standard, distinguished for excellent writing in the service of tired agendas, it’s a glorious fall.

Caldwell is right — America can learn from France’s veiled anti-Islam. And religion writers can learn from Caldwell’s bare-naked rhetorical cosmopolitanism.