other, less clearly marked but of at least equal portent, is whether
the United States ought to consider itself at war with the Arab
world as a whole, or indeed with the entire Islamic world. Now that
several months have past since 9-11, one can see emerging in the
leading neoconservative journals and elsewhere the enthusiastic
celebration of this expanded "war of civilizations."
stunning new entry appears in the
latest City Journal a brightly-edited neoconservative
quarterly heretofore devoted to the (now comparatively mundane)
matters of urban governance and public morals. Victor Davis Hanson's
excoriation of Muslim backwardness and gleeful anticipation of the
coming struggle bears comparison to the war fever that swept through
the literary and ruling classes of Europe in August 1914. Not
for lack of trying does Hanson fail to reach the standard of war
enthusiasm set that fateful summer by Walter Rathenau, Thomas
Mann and of course Rupert
has come back, as a king, to earth
paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we are come into our heritage."
A CASE FOR
main point is that Muslim civilization is decidedly inferior to
the West, it can now invent and produce virtually nothing, and it
will soon find that it has created in the United States "a
very angry and powerful enemy that may be yours for a long, long
time to come." To round out this picture, City Journal
adds a piece (by Peter Huber and Mark Mills) on the snazzy new digital
technologies will allow Americans to watch, track and kill anything
that moves, thus ensuring our victory over Muslim terror.
arguments are not entirely groundless: there clearly is a Pan-Islamic
malaise that of a once resplendent civilization which has in
the past four centuries been outstripped, first by the West and
now by North Asia, in every educational and technological measure.
The result is a fair portion of resentment, and whose extreme end
is the cult of Osama bin Laden and jihad ideology.
question is whether this resentment adds up to a case for total
war or, whether (far more realistically) anti-Western sentiments
coexist with admiration and a desire for emulation. If so, that
segment of Islamic resentment which is actively terrorist can be
surgically removed from the whole.
conclusion that the entire body of Islamic civilization is ill and
terminally hostile requires him to argue his way past a few inconvenient
facts. According to him, because the Muslim world is unwilling to
admit its civilizational "inferiority" it has to look
about for excuses. Hence all those tiresome complaints about Israel.
In a key passage Hanson writes,
Israel did not exist, the Arab world, in its current fit of denial,
would have to invent it . . . For the Middle East to make peace
with Israel would be to declare war on itself, to admit that its
own fundamental way of doing business not the Jews makes it
poor, sick, and weak."
point here is to submerge discussion of specifics Sharon, the
Israeli occupation, the intifada, the settlements, the lack of a
Palestinian state as if they have nothing to do with anti-Americanism
in the Arab world. Arab concern with the Palestinians, Hanson claims,
is but a mask.
have to wonder whether anyone actually believes this. It would require
believing that Arab diplomatic expressions of frustration with America's
one-sided support for Israel are insincere, a lie, an "excuse."
It requires believing that after the Arabs have developed
an independent mass media which gives a disproportionate amount
of coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian war the media's fascination
with Palestine is not genuine, but a sort of Freudian displacement.
We are meant to accept that al-Jazeera
programs that its producers don't care about and its viewers
aren't interested in.
A FEW FACTS
the latest New York Review of Books, Tony
Judt sets down a few facts of the kind which Hanson believes
interest Arabs only because they don't want to face facts about
since the beginning of the intifada in September 2000, there have
been 172 Israeli civilian deaths, roughly half in Israel proper.
2194 Israelis have been injured.
that period, the Palestinians have suffered 592 civilian deaths,
and 17,000 Palestinians have been wounded. The disproportion is
noteworthy especially perhaps the wounded. The infliction of
that much suffering on a civilian population can only inspire hatred
Israelis have carried out extra-judicial executions as a matter
of policy. Thirty Palestinian suspects were killed in the latest
Israeli occupation of Palestinian towns. Many of the Palestinians
subject to the extra-judicial killings were suspected of involvement
in the group that assassinated an Israeli cabinet minister, Rehavem
Zeevi. Zeevi had called for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians
from their homeland, and was the government's main cheerleader for
a racially pure "Greater Israel." Why such a figure was
appointed minister in the government commonly described as "America's
main ally in the Middle East" is a question worth asking. Were
such a figure a cabinet minister in any European government, the
American response would be first vitriolic condemnation, then sanctions.
OUT OF BOUNDS
one who has spent an entire adult life in the conservative movement,
it is vexing that reasoned discussion of Israel and the Israel-American-Arab
triangle is far more likely to be found in the liberal journals
like the New York Review. In the conservative press, barring
a few isolated exceptions, the topic has been pushed entirely out
of bounds. As a substitute, readers are fed disquisitions on Muslim
month the British papers were astir over published reports that
the French ambassador had said regarding Israel it would be
terrible for the entire world to be dragged into war because of
that "shitty little country." The scatological description
of the Jewish state was callous and ugly, heedless of Israel's considerable
who honestly would disagree with the ambassador's
underlying thought? Any number of people have said to me that they
have no interest in becoming victims of terrorism related to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict a war in which they have no
stake and little interest in. Yet thousands of Americans have now
been killed because of that conflict assuming that the rage
that created and sustains Osama bin Laden is partially fueled by
it. How many Americans care so deeply about Israel's right to settle
the West Bank and deny the Palestinians the state promised them
by the relevant United Nations resolutions that they are willing
to give up their own lives?
such questions could not really be asked in conservative circles.
Perhaps that will change. A small sign: Ron Unz, the California-based
education activist (and sponsor of anti-bilingual education referendums)
and one of the least dogmatic figures on the American Right, recently
published a letter
to the editor of Commentary which was breathtaking in
its readiness to challenge the regnant taboos.
noting that his grandparents helped found the state of Israel, he
presented a very pessimistic view of the conflict. Israel faced
two unsatisfactory choices it could expel or exterminate
the Palestinians (the position of the outlawed Kach party, and roughly
that of the late minister Zeevi) or follow the pattern of the Crusader
kingdoms of the Middle Ages, last 70 or 80 years, and gradually
succumb as its citizens immigrated to more peaceful and hospitable
places. Unz correctly notes that the dominant raison d'etre
for Zionism has waned: Jews face serious anti-Semitism or barriers
to their own security and prosperity nowhere in the Western world.
The flow of Israeli immigrants to the United States is large and
growing and if the conflict with the Palestinians continues,
is not likely to abate. He believes Israel would never carry out
the Kach option.
my view, Unz is far too pessimistic about the prospects of a negotiated
two-state solution a peace settlement that would give the
Palestinians a home and the Israelis a real shot at making themselves
accepted in a hostile region. But if I'm wrong and Unz is correct,
how terrible would it be if Israel collapsed? We could assume the
collapse was not the result of military defeat virtually
unthinkable because of the Israeli nuclear arsenal but followed
from the cumulative individual decisions of thousands of Israelis
that fighting the Palestinians over land in the Mideast is more
trouble than it's worth.
not particularly in favor of transporting a good part of Israel's
population to the United States, but it depends what the actual
choices are. If that is the alternative to an unending war of terror
and counter-terror with the Arab world, nuclear bombs smuggled into
American cities, etc. the war of civilizations with all the trimmings
that the neoconservatives pine for, Israel is simply not worth it.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980's, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990's he worked as a columnist, chief editorial writer,
and finally editorial page editor at the New York Post. Most
recently, he served as senior policy advisor to Pat Buchanan's 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
War and the
Intellectuals: Facts and Fantasies
In the January
Campaign Is that All There is to Victory?
in the Land
Sneering at Powell, Flacking for Sharon
of the War Party
Hearts and Minds
Strategic Withdrawal Option
Open Letter to Arab Readers
Push for A Wider War
Bushes and the Palestinians: Act 2
Struggle Over War Aims
They Hate Us
Many Arabs Hate America
is Still Right
Real Plan for the Mideast
Just Mideast Peace
Liberalism on the March