Sunday, January 22, 2006
American Jews And Iraq
True or False: Most American Jews support Bush's actions in Iraq. Guess what? The answer is FALSE, as this American Jewish Committee link from last year shows. I found this out purely by chance today, talking with a American Jewish progressive activist. It pleasantly surprised me, because of the Jewish persons who I know from face-to-face meetings, and who are willing to speak out about Iraq, most of them are getting their notions of Iraq from Richard Perle's Jerusalem Post. (Then again, conservatives of all cultural persuasions tend to be more vocal than are liberals.)
The old saying goes: "You can't cheat an honest man." I'd revise that to add "and you can't cheat people who aren't looking to get something for nothing, or who are operating in the real world."
The PNAC Platoon -- Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al -- wanted to replace the regional bases the US lost when the Shah of Iran was toppled in 1979. But with the hardliners of the Iranian régime ever-more-entrenched over the last decade (in large part due to hideous blunders on the part of Team Bush, as even Michael Portillo, an up-and-coming Tory leading light in the UK, sadly admits), the chances of persuading the Iranians to allow the US back in went from slim to none.
So then the PNAC Platoon's eyes turned towards Iraq. And Ahmad Chalabi, convicted embezzler, was waiting to tell them exactly what they wanted to hear, true or not.
Point of clarification please. Who is a fascist?
So, fortunately for the survival of the species, it's either too much work or too difficult to knock us off.
The same applies to international affairs. Israel is a terrible thorn in the side of the nations of the Middle East, and not so much for the reasons that are discussed openly. It is a thorn because it is a clear example of the West walking in and planting a military presence in their midst. I mean, how would you feel if Osama grabbed New Hampshire?
But how much is it worth to Iran to get rid of Israel? Up until relatively recently, not a lot, and however much they wanted to, it would have been outlandishly difficult. It's far away, across nations that would never agree to let Iranian troops march, and would require weakening the home defense in a manner that would invite trouble from regional rivals.
The occupation of Iraq and the nuclear buildup in Israel change Iran's strategic equation. We tend to reflexively think that more strength = more security. But many times in international affairs, it's better not to be too strong-- at least not publicly. "Walk softly and carry a big stick," as TR said.
American Jews are as diverse as any group. There is, however, a much higher level of education among Jews than among most Americans. So, they tend to understand these subtleties.
Not all, of course. A few of the most virulent racists I have met have been Jews, both Israeli and American. The saying, "The only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian" falls from Israeli lips as easily as "Israel should be wiped from the map" falls from the lips of certain Iranians.
Ironically, the balance of power in Israel shifted to the Likud when there was mass migration of less-educated Russian Jews, as well as less-educated Jews who had lived in Arab/Muslim nations and had some very real grudges. And of course, some pretty nutty Americans. Israeli politics makes Italian politics look simple.
The people who read and think and understand history see that invading Iraq and-- Heaven forfend-- Iran or Syria would make Israel much, much less secure.
Does that make it clearer how the Jewish author you were listening to might have been anti-war?
Ahmad Chalabi has strong ties to Teheran, so much so that the suspicion is that he helped trick the US into invading Iraq precisely as a means of neutralizing Iran's two biggest enemies, whilst endangering a third.
Imagine you're among the hard-line mullahs running Iran, and it's 1992. Your most hated enemy is your next-door neighbor, Iraq and its secular Ba'athist régime. Your most powerful enemy is the United States, which is still smarting after you kicked out their puppet Shah and the US' military bases that he was protecting. You'd like to figure out a way to weaken them both.
Suddenly, it becomes blindingly obvious: Trick the more powerful of your enemies into invading the one that is weaker, yet nearer! Not only will the more powerful enemy get bogged down in a hopeless quagmire, but with the secular régime gone, your co-religionists in Iraq will soon take over the joint, converting your bitterest enemy into your warmest friend even as your second-bitterest enemy flails away helplessly.
And that's exactly what happened.
More blogs about politics.