Politics & Policy

Jews and War

Listening to the ugly losers.

“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

To paraphrase Dickens, if that’s what Jim Moran says, then Jim Moran is “a ass.” Of course, few people who’ve followed Moran’s fertile career of asininity needed to hear about this to make their mind up about that.

But the issue of the Jews and war is in the air these days; it’s certainly in my e-mail box. It’s certainly in the backroom rhetoric of Pat Buchanan and those who claim to be more conservative, more pure, more “paleo.” It’s a staple trope of Chris Matthews who talks about Jews in the administration the way Tailgunner Joe talked about Communists in the State Department and has dedicated countless segments of his show to the “takeover” of the GOP by the pro-Israel neoconservatives.

So let’s talk about “the Jews” and “the war.”

I use quotation marks because to discuss “the Jews” is already a bit of a slander. There are Jews against invading Iraq, you know? The New York Times, long considered the in-house newsletter of the Zionists, has actually been editorializing against war for quite a while, while the WASPier Washington Post has boldly gone the other way. Thomas Friedman — America’s most influential pundit on Middle East affairs — favors disarming Iraq, but certainly doesn’t support George Bush’s method of doing it. Eric Alterman, Todd Gitlin, Michael Lerner, Tony Kushner, and Robert Reich are just a few of the Jewish noses I’ve counted against war with Iraq. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find more. Why, just look here.

You might notice from that small list that most of the Jews against war with Iraq are — surprise! — liberals. Funny thing, that. Liberals tend to be against the war and Jewish liberals tend to be against the war too. Weird.

Weirder still: Jewish conservatives tend to be in favor of the war. Now that is bizarre. And, as I look around, it dawns on me that gay conservatives tend to be in favor of forcibly disarming Saddam if necessary, while gay liberals generally insist that inspection will do the trick. And, you know, tall conservatives also favor war but tall liberals tend to be against it. My God, it’s true everywhere I look: left-handed conservatives, pro-war. Left-handed liberals, antiwar. Bald conservatives: pro, bald liberals, anti. It’s almost like there’s a pattern here.

Okay, I’m having fun at the expense of people who think they are being incredibly brave and manly for daring to tell the world that Jewish conservatives share a position with other conservatives. But they don’t say Jewish conservatives are in favor of war, they say “the Jews” are in favor of war. They loudly invoke the hook-nosed roll call of Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, and — before he joined National Review — David Frum, but then they mumble and whisper through the roster of the Jews’ Gentile bosses: Rumsfeld, Powell, Ashcroft, Card, Cheney, and, let’s not forget, George W. Bush, scion of the famously less-than-philo-Semitic Bush clan.

But that’s what Jews are: string pullers, whisperers; clever people with clever ideas. Their loyalties aren’t to Bush or America, they’re to puppeteers like Bill Kristol, King of the Neoconservatives. That’s why Chris Matthews could sleep with an untroubled conscience after asking a reporter about the Jews in the White House: “Are they loyal to the Kristol neoconservative movement, or to the president?” And: “Is Bill Kristol, leader of the neoconservatives….taking over the Bush White House?” “Does the president think Cheney is an honest broker or a neoconservative….”

Let’s look at my invaluable colleague and friend, David Frum. For much of last year, Chris Matthews, Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, and others have had their dresses over their heads about the perfidious neoconservative influence Frum has had on the president. You see, Frum wrote two of the three words in the phrase “Axis of Evil,” while his devout Christian boss, Mike Gerson, added the word “Evil” to the phrase and, more importantly, added the phrase to the speech the President of the United States delivered. But somehow the neocon Frum pushed the country to war, while Gerson is merely a humble Christian servant of the president. Except, the funny thing is, Frum isn’t a neoconservative: He was never liberal nor Communist, he is libertarian on economics and culturally quite conservative. He is, however, a Jew and a foreign-policy hawk and he’s been in the employ of The Weekly Standard: three strikes. He must be guilty, taking orders from Ariel Sharon.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m making too big a deal out of this — even though that’s to be expected of someone named Goldberg. It’s just that, you see, I’m very confused. Whenever I pay attention to the supposed keepers of the faith supposedly to my right, I hear that the Republican party has been “hijacked” by warmongering neoconservatives. I’m told that inauthentic conservatives have taken over the GOP and are dragging the real conservatives and the whole country unwittingly to war. What’s confusing about this is that, according to all of the polls, the vast majority of Republicans are in favor of war and an increasing majority of Americans favor war too. The latest CBS poll has 90% of Republicans favoring war. The Washington Post/ABC poll has a mere 86% of Republicans favoring military action. If the Republican party and the nation have been hijacked, the Stockholm syndrome has kicked-in, big time.


I shouldn’t be too hard on the beautiful losers — to borrow Sam Francis’s half-accurate phrase for the paleos who wandered into their own exile. Almost every day, the elite media tells us that the neocons are running everything. Just this week the New York Times ran a near parody about The Weekly Standard’s influence on the Bush administration, all but making the case that Baghdad will be renamed Kristolgrad in a month or so. Serious magazines and journals of opinion from across the ideological spectrum, consistently refer to conservatives who favor war as “neoconservatives” — which many unfortunately read as Jewish conservatives — despite the fact that most conservatives favor war and there’s nothing inherent to neoconservatism which requires being Jewish.

Yes Commentary, the neocon organ published by the American Jewish Committee favors war. But Tikkun, its Jewish opposite steadfastly opposes war. And National Review — where no Jews regularly attend editorial meetings or write editorials (or get paid what they deserve! — in my humble opinion) — favors invading. The National Interest, a realist publication if you go by what it actually says, favors toppling Saddam. Crisis, a Catholic magazine, and First Things, run by a Catholic, both lean on the pro-side of what they say would be a “just war,” and many of their leading writers are far from ambiguous in defense of war. Rush Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Bill O’Reilly John O’Sullivan, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Kelly: the list of non-Jewish pro-war conservatives and conservative organizations goes on and on. Hell, Young Americans for Freedom (!) sells “Give War a Chance” buttons on their website and tramples French — not Israeli — flags at their protests. If the party was ever really hijacked, the kidnapped are now flying the plane and guarding the doors.

But let’s look outside the rarefied world of magazines and conservative organizations. Michael Kinsley offers a clever defense of Jim Moran, accurately noting that the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, really is very powerful. Alas, what Kinsley doesn’t offer is any evidence that AIPAC has actually lobbied particularly hard in favor of war or had any notable success doing so. Maybe they have. But boldly pointing out the influence of AIPAC in defense of Moran — who claims he was talking about religious leaders, not the Israel lobby — doesn’t prove the lobby actually pushed for war, does it? AARP is very powerful too, but before I dedicated a column to defending someone who says AARP is inordinately pushing this country to war, I might be tempted to find some evidence that they are. The AIPAC website, which Kinsley quotes at length, doesn’t seem to be beating the war drums too loudly.

Also, their supposedly pliant vassals in Congress aren’t so pliant when it comes to war. In 1991, when another war allegedly for the benefit of Israel and their amen corner was on the horizon, the majority of Jewish members of Congress voted against authorizing the use of force while, obviously, the majority of non-Jews voted aye. Last October, a majority of Jews did vote in favor of the use of force, but at a lower rate than the body as a whole. Funny thing about those Jews, they can get 4,000 tribesmen out of the World Trade Center in time, but they can’t get them to vote for war when they need them.

But let me back up for a moment. I don’t want to merely deny, deny, deny. Of course, there’s some “there” there when it comes to Jewish conservatives and interventionist foreign policy. Buchanan & co. giggle with excitement over their brave declaration that Jewish conservatives are pro-Israel. Well, who could deny such a thing? But it’s hardly as if the Perle-Wolfowitz-Kristol-Abrams crowd is only in favor of supporting Israel. These guys wanted to “bomb before breakfast” to defend the interests of the United States in such myriad and sunny locales as Grenada, Nicaragua, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, etc. Consistency should stand for something. Surely, these weren’t all dry-runs for a war for Israel? I mean for a while there The Weekly Standard seemed to be getting beer muscles for a fight with China. Someone needs to explain to me why that would be a good idea for Israel — or for America for that matter. (It’s a good thing the Standard’s influence over the administration then wasn’t so total as it is today).

I don’t dispute that Jewish-American conservatives might see the world a bit differently than, say, Irish-American ones. As Edmund Burke said, example is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other. Jews have learned from the example of the Holocaust that turning your back on evil only abets evil. That’s Elie Wiesel’s argument, but he’s just a Jew. Of course, Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel see it the same way.

I think it’s totally fair to point out that the Holocaust and the plight of Israel feeds into Jewish thinking about politics. Tragically, in my mind, Holocaust victimology has made too many Jews dismayingly liberal. But for the conservatives, it’s made them hawkish. Hawkish in the defense of American principles and interests. That Jewish conservatives see the only democracy in the Middle East as something worth protecting shouldn’t shock anyone. And it’s perfectly fair to argue that some Jewish (and non-Jewish) conservatives overemphasize the importance of Israel (I await the cries of pacifism from Chris Matthews when Ireland is invaded). I’m not necessarily making that charge, but I think it’s certainly an arguable proposition.

But maybe instead of Richard Perle secretly receiving orders from Ariel Sharon, he might actually believe what he says. After all, if the “Dark Prince” thinks it’s in America’s interest to risk American blood and treasure in defense of our Taiwanese or South Korean allies, is it so treasonous that he might think we should do it for our Israeli ones as well? Apparently so, according to Buchanan. He claims that Perle & co. are “colluding with Israel” at the expense of the United States. Funny how he whimpers about “neocon smears” but has no trouble charging treason.

Anyway, one wonders how this is supposed to work. “Neocons” are supposed to have one set of motives for war, which they keep secret, but they persuade the president, the vice president, the entire Cabinet, Tom Delay, Denny Hastert (not to mention Dick Gephardt and Tony Blair), the Republican party, the conservative establishment and the majority of American citizens with an entirely separate set of arguments? I know Jews are expert manipulators, but presumably they cannot create a whole separate case of facts. And, one hopes, our leaders are persuaded by the facts as they see them not the Jedi mind-tricks of some cosmopolitan scribblers who eat smoked fish on Sundays.

But even if they — “we,” I suppose — could manage this, would it matter? In a democratic system, private motives matter much less than public arguments. Nobody has been saying publicly, “Let’s do it for Israel!” I haven’t. No one at NR or NRO has. No Republican has. So presumably, the public hasn’t been persuaded by that argument because nobody has made it. The case for war is a long checklist which includes, strategic, moral, economic, and political rationales. We’ve debated those rationales for a very long time now and one side has lost.

Sure, Jim Moran might be right. If the “Jewish Community” were more opposed to this war, it might not happen. But that’s not because the Jews are pushing this war. Rather, it’s because the moral arguments are such that Jewish Americans are persuaded like most everyone else, ideological differences notwithstanding, by the president’s case. A rising moral tide lifts all boats, even Jewish ones. Though I would bet that support for this war is stronger among Republicans generally than it is among Jews generally.

And that’s why Moran, Buchanan, Matthews, Novak — and more leftists than I can count — should be ashamed. They’ve lost an argument. They lost it on the merits and they don’t like it. In their arrogance or bitterness, they assume they couldn’t have lost the fight fairly, and so they look for whispering neocons and clever Jews (or, in other contexts, nefarious oil traders). This is an ugly, ugly way to argue because it forces the opposition to prove a negative and it questions the patriotism of people who’ve never said an unpatriotic thing. In short, they are sore losers, and the farthest thing from beautiful.


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