22.9.06

Bush’s Useful Idiots

LRB | Tony Judt : Bush’s Useful Idiots:

On the silence of the liberal intellectual when Israel is involved. On that most sacred of sacred cows: pro-Israeli policies.

Bush’s Middle Eastern policy now tracks so closely to the Israeli precedent that it is very difficult to see daylight between the two. It is this surreal turn of events that helps explain the confusion and silence of American liberal thinking on the subject (as well, perhaps, as Tony Blair’s syntactically sympathetic me-tooism). Historically, liberals have been unsympathetic to ‘wars of choice’ when undertaken or proposed by their own government. War, in the liberal imagination (and not only the liberal one), is a last resort, not a first option. But the United States now has an Israeli-style foreign policy and America’s liberal intellectuals overwhelmingly support it.

The contradictions to which this can lead are striking. There is, for example, a blatant discrepancy between Bush’s proclaimed desire to bring democracy to the Muslim world and his refusal to intervene when the only working instances of fragile democracy in action in the whole Muslim world – in Palestine and Lebanon – were systematically ignored and then shattered by America’s Israeli ally. This discrepancy, and the bad faith and hypocrisy which it seems to suggest, have become a staple of editorial pages and internet blogs the world over, to America’s lasting discredit. But America’s leading liberal intellectuals have kept silent. To speak would be to choose between the tactical logic of America’s new ‘war of movement’ against Islamic fascism – democracy as the sweetener for American involvement – and the strategic tradition of Israeli statecraft, for which democratic neighbours are no better and most likely worse than authoritarian ones. This is not a choice that most American liberal commentators are even willing to acknowledge, much less make. And so they say nothing.

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