Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Joe Klein and Conservative Loyalties

Joe Klein of Time poses the possibility that Jewish neo-conservatives have divided loyalties between the United States and Israel.
The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked--still smacks--of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives--people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary--plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.

Klein is implying that Jewish neo-conservatives might be trying to employ American power to benefit Israel because they're Jewish.

This strikes me as completely wrong.

Klein's comments would be more to the point if Jewish neo-conservatives were different from non-Jewish neo-conservatives. But I didn't detect any difference between the neo-conservatism of William Bennett, Francis Fukuyama, and Joe Lieberman over Iraq. They all wanted to establish American military hegemony in the Arab world and viewed that hegemony just as much in terms of eliminating Israel's enemies as advancing American interests.

Likewise, conservative blogs like RedState, Powerline, and Confederate Yankee all seem more concerned with Israeli security issues than American.

In other words, it's American conservatism and neo-conservatism in general rather than "Jewish neo-conservatism" in particular that has divided loyalties. The right loves Israel because they've viewed Israel as a "model imperialist" since the raid on Entebbe way back in the 70's. The right idolizes Israel's imperial aggressiveness--Isreal's willingness to maintain military occupation over the Palestinians for so long, the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the targeted assasination of Palestianian leaders, and so on. For the American right, Israel is the proper model of how the United States should conduct itself as a military power and supporting Israel is a matter of supporting the kind of country they would like America to be.

In other words, conservatives have divided loyalties between Israel and the United States because they think more highly of Israel than they think of America. If Israel was a bigger fish in the world pond, I don't doubt that a number of American conservatives would have moved there in the same way that Canadian conservatives like Charles Krauthammer and David Frum moved to the U. S.

Actually conservative loyalties toward Israel are narrowly gauged as well. They would be completely unconcerned if the Israeli Labor Party, leftists, and anti-war activists were driven into the sea. Just as they identify with conservative America rather than the whole of the country, the American right identifies with the Netanyahu faction of the Likud party, the settler movement, and the ultra-orthodox parties rather than the whole of Israel.

In other words, the American right is loyal to the Israeli right because they admire the militant imperialism of the Israeli right. That doesn't have anything to do with the Jewishness of the Israeli right or the Jewishness of some Jewish neo-cons.

The American right's romance with Israel is all about the ideal of an "aggressively imperialist state." It just happens that Israel is an aggressively imperialist Jewish state. If Australia were an aggressively imperialist state, American conservatives would admire them just as much.

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