Monday, December 7, 2009

So we're told that "The neocons aren’t warlike on Israel’s behalf; they’re just plain warlike..."

This (Beinart below) is a deceptive analysis. In attempting to argue that Zionism is not an important factor in American foreign-policy decisions, Beinart uses the walnut-shell of Manicheanism. Undoubtedly the neocons are manichean. The real issue is and always has been: how important is Zionism to the neocons’ and liberal hawks’ thinking?

Beinart is himself a liberal hawk and Israel lobbyist who supported the Iraq mistake. It seems from this column that he is supporting the Afghanistan mistake too. Beinart is hardly a neutral observer. Last year he conducted private sessions for AIPAC big-funders on how to influence the 2008 election. He also published a book pushing the Iraq war as a good thing for the Arab world in which he made no mention of the Israeli occupation.

Beinart really ought to begin any honest analysis by telling us: How important were his Israel feelings to his support for Iraq? But he doesn’t. He’s hiding behind the Zionist neocons, whom he seems to distance himself from even as he behaves like them.

It is important to remember that neoconservatism came out of the Jewish community (per Heilbrunn, Ginsburg, Garfinkle, and Friedman, all authors on the subject); and that neocons became neoconservative in some large measure because of support for American militancy on behalf of Israeli militancy following the scary Yom Kippur War. Norman Podhoretz went all the way with this ideology, and supports the idea of World War IV with the Muslim world with Israel as the front line. Many other neocons, and liberal hawks who were influenced by the neocon ideology, would endorse that strategy. I wonder how much of that stuff Beinart believes. Beinart is right that Afghanistan brings a different set of motivations. Many of the liberal-hawk Israel-lobbyist types– the Tom Friedman’s of the world– are now against Afghanistan. And surely there are some realists who support the Afghan surge out of concern for Pakistani nukes. But the issue that Beinart seeks to obscure, because of his own Zionist warmaking resume, is, How important is Zionism to the intellectuals who are pushing war in the Middle East? (Philipp Weiss, here)

... and Peter Beinart In the DailyBeast, here

The neocons firmly support Obama’s Afghan surge. Peter Beinart on the myth behind their motives—and why the plan could hurt Israel.

"For famed political scientists Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer, Barack Obama’s Afghanistan surge is bad news. It is bad news because they opposed Obama’s decision, believing that escalating the Afghan war is folly. But more interestingly, it is bad news because Obama’s decision blows a hole in the thesis that made them famous: that America wages war in the Muslim world, in large measure, because of the Israel lobby........

Now we have that placebo: Afghanistan. This time, the Israel lobby is on the sidelines. AIPAC’s Web site doesn’t even mention the Afghan war, and Israeli political leaders have been mostly silent on the issue. In fact, the Israel lobby has reason to be downright skeptical of an Afghanistan surge. What pro-Israel groups like AIPAC really care about is economic pressure, and perhaps military action, against Iran. Doubling down in Afghanistan makes that harder. After all, the more invested the U.S. military becomes in victory over the Taliban, the more fiercely American commanders will resist air strikes against Iran, since they know that Iran could easily retaliate across its almost 1,000-mile border with Afghanistan, killing U.S. troops and foiling U.S. plans.

So if the Israel lobby played a major role in luring America into the Iraq war, you’d expect its absence from the Afghan debate to have made a difference. But it hasn’t. It’s not just that the Obama administration decided to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan without any pressure from Jerusalem. It’s that virtually all the prominent “neoconservatives” who allegedly backed the Iraq war out of concern for Israel backed the Afghan surge too, even though this time, Israel and its lobbyists took no position.

Neoconservatives backed the surge because although they are Zionists, Zionism is not their foreign-policy ideology (sigh, sigh...); Manicheanism is. What distinguishes neoconservatives from liberals is their belief that conflict is inherent in international affairs. What distinguishes neoconservatives from realists is their belief that international conflict is, above all, ideological: that it pits “free” nations (which they sometimes define in slippery ways) against tyrannical ones. Foreign policy, in other words, is a ceaseless battle between good countries (which have governments like ours) and bad ones (which don’t). This Manicheanism leads neocons to unstintingly back Israel over its Arab and Iranian adversaries. But it also leads them to back democracies like Poland and Georgia in their conflicts with Russia, and democracies like India, Japan, and Taiwan in their rivalries with China. Before the 9/11 attacks, in fact, neocons like William Kristol spent as much time warning that the U.S. needed to get tough with China as they did warning that America needed to get tough with Iraq.

Now that same Manichean worldview has led the neocons to support an Afghan surge. The irony is that in so doing, they’re making U.S. military action against Iran less likely because even if the neocons think America can double down in one war while simultaneously launching another, America’s military leaders know that we probably cannot. In other words, Walt and Mearsheimer are wrong: The neocons aren’t warlike on Israel’s behalf; they’re just plain warlike.(sigh, sigh, sigh...) And in this case, their refusal to choose some wars over others means that military action may not be on the table when the Israel lobby wants it most. Who knew the neocons were so anti-Israel?"

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