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Guest article

Editor's note

The following guest article is written from a nationalist perspective, while the editorial orientation of The Last Ditch is free-market anarchist and anti-nationalist (in the sense of supporting nation-states and their interests). However, in the current circumstances what we have in common with Mr. Blythe far outweighs that about which we disagree. I am not just pleased but downright excited to be able to post this product of his ultra-sharp pen.

Nicholas Strakon
Editor-in-chief
 
November 17, 2001


 

Who wants this war and why

By GILBERT BLYTHE

 

In the October 29 issue of The Weekly Standard, a leading neoconservative magazine, William Kristol and Robert Kagan write that "when all is said and done, the conflict in Afghanistan will be to the war on terrorism what the North Africa campaign was to World War II: an essential beginning on the path to victory." After what they call "but an opening battle," they predict a war that will "spread and engulf a number of countries" and that "could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously."

In the turmoil that would follow, Kristol and Kagan think it likely that Israel could reoccupy the West Bank and depose Yasser Arafat; that several moderate Arab governments could be overthrown; and that America's war against terrorism could "resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid." They add that in a conflict of such scale, some countries might use biological or chemical weapons. Though they do not say so explicitly, they are telling us to prepare for World War III.

What is most remarkable about the essay is its unruffled tone. The authors could be offering advice on brands of toothpaste rather than urging us into a war that could cause incalculable destruction. How many people do they think we should be prepared to kill? Five thousand? Five hundred thousand? A million?

Not even small wars end predictably. War on the scale Kristol and Kagan envision, in an age of weapons of mass destruction, could have catastrophic consequences, but they tell us that such a war is necessary in defense of "the West."

They are hardly alone in calling for all-out war. Charles Krauthammer, Norman Podhoretz, William Safire, Morton Kondracke, Don Feder, Ben Wattenberg, and Mona Charen have all done so as well. In the Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz is the most prominent advocate of a multi-front war.

Let us state it plainly: All these people are Jewish. Not all Jews are as eager as these are to shed Muslim blood, and a few non-Jews are equally eager, but Jews have unquestionably distinguished themselves in their ardor for war.

Why is it necessary to point this out? In any passionate conflict, there is a difference between neutral observers and partisans. Participants in any fight — as well as their relatives — can seldom be objective about who is wrong or right. That is why we would not expect to hear the whole truth about the Indo-Pakistani conflict if we asked only Indians or only Pakistanis.

When it comes to the events of September 11, Jews are not neutral observers; they are partisans. That is because Israel, and our relations with the Jewish state, are central both to the terror attacks themselves and to the way in which we should respond to them. It is no secret that American Jews have a passionate commitment to Israel, so it would be foolish not to evaluate what they say in light of that commitment. On issues related to Israel, many Jews have understandably strong interests that are different from those of non-Jews, but the country as a whole should be careful not to be swept up in such partisan passions. Excessive concern for narrowly Jewish interests could damage broader American interests.

Jews with access to the official media have taken a virtually unanimous view of the events of September 11 in insisting, first of all, that American support for Israel has nothing to do with why so many Arabs hate us, or why 19 fanatics were willing to die trying to kill as many of us possible. They prefer to divorce the deaths of nearly 5,000 Americans from our alliance with Israel because they worry — with good reason — that gentiles might rethink that alliance if large numbers of Americans should begin to die because of it.

Most Jews have instead argued that Arabs attacked the United States not because of anything America has done but because it is a symbol of freedom and democracy. David Harris of the American Jewish Committee is entirely typical when he says, "From the moment that the World Trade Center toppled, I think Americans understood that this was an attack on all of us. If Israel didn't exist, it still would have happened." Norman Podhoretz even wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Arabs dislike Israel only because Israel is friendly with the United States, and not the other way around!

Shortly after the attacks, Elie Wiesel was reported as saying, "What happened had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Israel, and America knows that." Such a categorical — even defensive — statement suggests that Wiesel may not be entirely convinced of his position. And, indeed, a Zogby poll taken about the same time as his remarks showed that 73 percent of Americans thought the attacks were inspired, at least to some degree, by U.S. policy in the Mideast. Widespread though this view obviously is, it almost never appears in print, and it certainly has not led to public discussion about the connection between terrorism and our support for Israel, or the wisdom of that support.

Jewish spokesmen have promoted the view that terrorists attacked the United States because it is a beacon of freedom. For example, Roberta Goldstein, who will be the next national chairman of Israel Bonds, says that "we are dealing with lunatics who are opposed to a free society."

There is no evidence for that argument, and that fact only highlights its partisan quality. No bin Laden spokesman or known terrorist has ever said he hated America because it is "free" or democratic. Bin Laden has a list of specific grievances against the United States, one of which is American support for Israel. In his statement immediately after the United States began bombing Afghanistan, he gave that reason special prominence, warning that Americans would not live in security until Palestinians lived in security.

But even that blunt statement had little effect on most Jewish commentators, some of whom simply claimed bin Laden was lying. However, a terrorist generally has no reason to lie about his motives, because if he has a purpose in resorting to terror, that purpose cannot be achieved if he keeps it a secret.

If Arab hatred for America really did have nothing to do with our support for Israel, and the terrorists really had launched an attack against freedom and democracy — if Arabs had, in effect, already begun the "clash of civilizations" Kristol and Kagan say they want to avoid — then there might be some justification for the multi-front war The Weekly Standard wants us to fight. But al Qaeda is not at war with "the West." It has announced no quarrel with Europe, which epitomizes "the West" and was for centuries the traditional enemy of Islam. Al Qaeda has shown itself to be a practical organization that thinks it can use criminal violence to change certain policies in the Middle East. It is we who will set alight a civilizational conflagration if we do the bidding of many Jews and expand the war.

Another common Jewish argument — Kagan and Kristol make it in The Weekly Standard — is that Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Ladin are perfect parallels, and that Israel is no less justified in killing Arafat than America is in killing bin Laden. That is a remarkable non sequitur, coming, as it usually does, from people who have just told us Arabs hate America, not for anything we have done but because of the ideals we stand for. One cannot possibly believe that and then claim Arafat and bin Laden are moral equivalents.

Jews and Arabs have not been fighting for 50 years because of metaphysical disagreements about "freedom" or "democracy." The bloodshed is over a very concrete question: Who owns the land?  Every single death can be traced back to that entirely ordinary but intractable disagreement. But if, as Jewish commentators would have us believe, the United States was quietly promoting domestic tranquillity only to be suddenly attacked by crazed Arabs, there is no parallel between Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden. Palestinian violence has a well-recognized origin and cause, whereas the nearly unanimous Jewish view is that al Qaeda's violence against America is utterly unprovoked. That spurious parallel has the purpose of portraying Palestinian violence as pure, unprovoked evil that justifies the harshest forms of suppression.

And where will this Americo-Israeli fight against pure evil lead? Kristol and Kagan calmly predict that an inevitably broader war against terrorism could unseat the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Jordan, with their possible replacement by radical Islamic regimes. The implications for America would be "enormous," they explain (of course, it is the implications for Israel that would be "enormous," but this they leave unsaid); and they add that "American intervention in some form would be a near certainty." American intervention? We don't know how to organize a plausible successor to the Taliban, a band of outcasts and eccentrics that had diplomatic relations with only two countries. And yet The Weekly Standard expects us to march into Cairo, the heart of the Arab world, and impose a government on the Egyptians! It is folly even to imagine such a thing.

The struggle of good against evil that many American Jews are promoting just happens to be a war against Israel's enemies. Kristol and Kagan want us to destroy the military capacity of Iraq, Syria, and perhaps Iran, and forcibly install pliant governments in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. They want us to fight a major, multi-front war that would root out conservative Islam and smash every nation that has ever threatened Israel. Maybe that would be good for Israel, but what about us? A long, bloodthirsty campaign on that scale, even if it appeared successful for a time, would cost the lives of countless Americans and ensure for us the everlasting hatred of the world's Muslims. It would raise up a dozen new Osama bin Ladens, who would think of ever more clever and sickening ways to seek revenge. America would become a constant battleground.

This view of the conflict — in which our support for Israel plays no role, in which al Qaeda's objectives are metaphysical rather than practical, and which requires years of bloodshed that would have the effect of making the Middle East safe for Israel — is very damaging to American interests. But it greatly advances a certain view of Israeli interests, which is why it is important to examine the motives of those who are promoting it.

If China and India were to go to war, as they have done in the past, no one would expect Chinese-Americans or Indian-Americans to take an objective view that reflected strictly American interests. They would do everything they could to make us pick sides and back their old homeland, even if it were not in our interest. They would also try to convince us that choosing sides was  in our interest, and that staying out of the fight would be a betrayal of American values. That is natural and to be expected.

What Jewish-Americans are doing is also natural and to be expected. They are dressing up a narrowly partisan interest in red, white, and blue, and some non-Jews will mistake it for an American flag. But those of us who are not Jews or Arabs, who are not partisans in their decades-long fight, must realize that cousins of combatants are not neutral observers. Jews have much more influence in this country than Arabs and have skewed the debate about how to respond to terrorism in a direction that serves Jewish and Israeli interests more than American interests.

It is legitimate and necessary to point that out. Jews have every right to try to encourage the use of American military might in ways that suit them, just as every other group has, but we should not be blind to their motives. Unless the rest of us understand those motives, we could find ourselves mired in an unwinnable war against all of Islam, and under constant attack at home from Arabs whom we have given every reason to hate us.

It is vitally important that we understand what has caused this war. The longer it goes on and the more countries it involves, the more it will take on a life of its own and the more obscure its origins will become. In every war, as casualties mount, revenge and blood lust are increasingly what drive the killing, and what may have been strictly political disagreements that prompted the conflict recede into irrelevance. The more Muslims we kill, the more likely it is that other Muslims will see the war as an assault on all of Islam, whether we mean it that way or not. And as Muslims manage to kill more of us in return, Americans will increasingly see the conflict in the same religious and civilizational terms.

***

What response to the terror of September 11 would be in American interests? We cannot let murderers go unpunished, so we must take action against them. However, it is folly to pretend that Palestinian grievances have nothing to do with the rejoicing that swept the Muslim world when the twin towers collapsed. Virtually every nation in the world — except for the United States and Israel — believes that peace and justice require that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders. Instead, in violation of repeated Security Council resolutions, Israel continues to build settlements on conquered land. The United States is the only country that finances, arms, and backs that process, which, to Arabs, is a campaign of perpetual aggression.

The United States is the only power that can persuade Israel to accept a settlement that appears just in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the entire world. If Israel returns the land it conquered in 1967, Palestinians and other Arabs will lose their greatest reason to hate us, and peace may finally come to a region that badly needs it. We could have cordial relations with all nations in the region.

A few senior members of the Bush administration understand this, and that is why they oppose a multi-front war, and emphasize the need for a Palestinian state. And that is why some of them, Colin Powell in particular, have been the targets of bitter criticism from Jews.

If we do not bring about a solution that is acceptable to the majority of Muslims, the war on terrorism will never end and we will never win, no matter how long and hard we fight. We cannot root out Islamic terror unless we root out its causes. We will never even recognize its causes if we fail to understand the motives of those who obscure those causes, and who no doubt believe they speak for America but whose counsels are not in our best interests.

A broad, enormously destructive conflict can be avoided only if we carefully limit our military targets. Al Qaeda and its direct supporters cannot be permitted to plot further violence against us, and it may necessary — with the support of the international community — to take further measures to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons. However, we must make all decisions of that kind with a strict eye to what is good for the United States.

President Bush tells us that this is a war against terrorism. Whether he realizes it or not, Arab terrorism will stop only when the Palestinians have a satisfactory state. American Jews will use their considerable influence to direct American policies to other ends, but our leaders must recognize that in this conflict, satisfying Jewish interests will endanger American interests and cost the lives of many Americans.

Gilbert Blythe is the pen name of a Washington-area journalist.

 

© 2001 WTM Enterprises


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