Oh, what the hell.  I’ll go there.

Glenn Greenwald, after reeling in the traditional red herrings, gets to the point:

Ultimately, what is most notable about the “debate” in the U.S. over Israel-Gaza is that virtually all of it occurs from the perspective of Israeli interests but almost none of it is conducted from the perspective of American interests.  There is endless debate over whether Israel’s security is enhanced or undermined by the attack on Gaza and whether the 40-year-old Israeli occupation, expanding West Bank settlements and recent devastating blockade or Hamas militancy and attacks on Israeli civilians bear more of the blame.  American opinion-making elites march forward to opine on the historical rights and wrongs of the endless Israeli-Palestinian territorial conflict with such fervor and fixation that it’s often easy to forget that the U.S. is not actually a direct party to this dispute. […]

Even for those Americans who, for whatever their reasons, want endlessly to fixate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who care deeply and passionately about whether the Israelis or the Palestinians control this or that West Bank hill or village and want to spend the rest of their days arguing about who did what to whom in 1948 and 1967, what possible interests do Americans generally have in any of that, sufficient to involve ourselves so directly and vigorously on one side, and thereby subject ourselves to the significant costs — financial, reputational, diplomatic and security — from doing so?

It’s one thing to argue that Israel is being both wise and just by bombing the densely populated Gaza Strip.  It’s another thing entirely to argue that the U.S. should use all of its resources to support Israel as it does so.  Those are two entirely separate questions.  Arguments insisting that the Gaza attack is good and right for Israel don’t mean that they are good and right for the U.S.  Yet unstinting, unquestioning American support for whatever Israel does is just tacitly assumed in most of these discussions. The core assumption is that if it can be established that this is the right thing for Israel to do, then it must be the right thing for the U.S. to support it.  The notion that the two countries may have separate interests — that this may be good for Israel to do but not for the U.S. to support — is the one issue that, above all else, may never be examined.

Greenwald’s right, you know.  Actually, it’s worse than that, and bigger.  Foreign policy decisions made during the Cold War or WWII – and let’s leave the historians to argue the merit of those decisions in the context in which they were made – are never reëvaluated.  Defense priorities justified by the possibility of repelling a Soviet invasion of Western Europe far outlast the threat, and even the Soviet Union.  Other priorities can be appended, but the foundational assumptions, materially and rhetorically, haven’t changed much in 65 years.  History passes us by.

This isn’t quite true – Reagan happily shifted the default American position away from Nixon/Kissinger/Greenwald realpolitik towards his own Cold War Manichaeism, and WPE shifted it even further own Nazis => Soviets => “Terror” Conservation of Evil transference.  (Both, significantly, increased the defense budget to combat threats which bore less and less resemblence to the 40’s-50’s Nazi/Soviet model.)  That these were both became “popular” at the time, I think, serves as a useful counter to both Greenwald’s and Cohen’s attempts to quantify the normalized public opiniovector on this issue: the public doesn’t make policy, because the public is a fool.  Lacking any personal interest, most people will idly object to people getting bombed; a minority who has an partisan interest in foreign race wars certainly exert more influence than those who don’t particularly care; these people also tend to be very, very, very crazy.  We elect leaders to lead, not to follow, and effective leadership (and/or PR) can draw the public to your position.  And even if this fails to move the public, there is always the under-appreciated last resort of material policy success.  Luck is a factor here, but a realistic appraisal of the present situation and a calculated response plays a significant role.

Finally, it’s worth observing that, over 6 decades of various strategies backed by great expendatures of political and actual capital from several international actors, nothing fundamental has been resolved.  You can distract the players with talks, or pay them to abstain from overt violence, but there appears to at least one critical vacuum of leadership or public willingness to resolve the issue, and that’s just not something you can provide from the outside.  Hope to be proven wrong, nothing lasts forever, trying is better than giving up, etc., but it’s hard to find much encouragement for the idea that the US and the international community can do much besides manage the situation into a marginally more stable state.  Wars based on blood and land and Gods and mythical histories can go on.  Paying people to do counterproductive things can’t help.

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