The Corner

The Rise of the Therapeutic

One of the saddest developments in the last few years has been the easy moralizing that masks abject cowardice, hypocrisy, or fear.

The other day Bill Clinton was on the stump warning about right-wing extremism and its polarizing rhetoric–at about the same time a Hillary staffer started in on John McCain in Hanoi.

Then there was the de rigeur European outrage over Guantanamo, followed by refusal to accept its extradited prisoners to their countries of origin.

France protests over Israeli overflights of Lebanon, and is silent at the violations by Syria and Hezbollah under its nose.

What all these incidents, foreign and domestic–Jimmy Carter is the best exemplar of the therapeutic sense–reveal is grandstanding morality followed by real silence instead of honesty: Bill could have said the resort to the invective has polarized our entire political landscape as we saw with the Durbin/Kennedy/Kerry remarks about Nazis, Abu Ghraib, and terrorist American soldiers; the EU could have said that in such an existential war there are no good choices in incarcerating non-uniformed terrorists; the French could have called for all sides to respect Lebanese autonomy, etc.

It’s got to the point now anytime I hear of moral outrage, I automatically assume that the lecturer is himself amoral.

That is why Israel–aside from the political questions involved–is so important: it is a litmus test of contemporary character: without oil, international terrorists, or a half-billion people, its support rests on principled sympathy with democratic society; while opposition to it hinges on, among other things, realpolitik dressed up as “concern” for (fill in the blanks) “refugees”, “reciprocity”, “UN resolutions”, etc. The latest to lecture us in moral terms on the dangers of tilting toward Israel, is, of course, the ever vacuous Gen. Clark, who can’t distinguish between a democracy that was attacked and tried to strike back at military targets, and a terrorist cadre that attacked and targeted only civilians.

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