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Monday, February 14, 2005


buchanan, sharansky and israel

the elevation of natan sharansky to a position of ideological verisimilitude by the bush administration in recent months has been drawing attention and criticism from around both the leftist and paleoconservative world. raimondo draws attention to pat buchanan's skewering of sharansky's militant idealism on this week's edition of "meet the press".

sharansky comes off as something of an idiot, in my humble opinion -- his utterly naive belief in the universal virtue of men and of freedom idealized and his simpleminded polarization of the world into dark and light as his ideology's litmus test defines it are childlike, unevidenced and wholly idealistic:

America was attacked because it is the leader of the free world and the world of terror where the values are very different. ... I believe that all the people, when given opportunity to choose between living in fear or living in freedom, choose to live in freedom. ... Dictatorships are very dangerous but they are very weak from inside. The moment the Free World stops supporting them, they fall apart. ... There will be no justice without democracy.
all these statements dress up the hardest of hard lines: there can be nothing but antagonism toward all who are not just like us -- or, at least, what we suppose ourselves to be.

at core, however is one grand delusion driving it all:

... the security of the United States of America, people in the United States of America, depends on the level of freedom of people in the other countries because democracies are peaceful, because the leaders of democratic countries depend on the will of their people.
this is such a horrid fallacy that one wonders where such dreamy stupidity can emerge from.

it first supposes, against all prior evidence, that all political systems overseas have a significant effect on american "security" -- a term now so overused as to be meaningless. what is indisputable is that the united states has not been invaded since 1812 -- and then by the lockean parliamentary republic of great britain. in the time since, countless authoritarian regimes have existed, many quite powerful. only one of them has so much as attempted to threaten to invade -- the empire of japan in 1941.

on this evidence, then, we're to assume that all the minor undemocratic nations are suddenly a threat to us? even those who are openly friendly towards us? because one group of fanatics committed one horrible act against us? -- an act that, as buchanan ably points out, has little to do with american freedom:

MR. RUSSERT: The president said that on September 11th, "Freedom came under attack."

MR. BUCHANAN: The president of the United States was profoundly mistaken. He has misdiagnosed the malady. He has misdiagnosed the reason for the attack, Tim. The United States was not attacked because we are free. Bin Laden was not attacking the Bill of Rights. We were attacked because the United--over here because the United States' military and political presence is massive over there. Bin Laden in his fatwah, his statement of declaration of war on the United States, said the infidels were standing on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. They want us out of the Middle East. They don't care whether we have a separation of church and state.
the entire idea is so frail that it bears no weight of inspection.

more incredibly and profoundly damning, however, sharansky's statement further supposes that empowering the people will reveal an innate condition of virtue, peace and prosperity -- a concept the opposite of which has been displayed in resplendent devastation innumerable times in history. the people are the mob -- and sharansky simply supposes that the mob is virtuous.

that simple statement of fact without ideological euphemism exposes the fundamental, delusional and complete wrongness of sharansky's core principle.

the very constitution this nation once governed itself with it evidence of his (and the neoconservatives') error. enumerated within it are the rights of men, derived of the theory of natural law -- speech, assembly, the press. are these rights provided and protected by the virtue of men? utterly not -- indeed, they are so enumerated so as to prevent the mob from denying them as might be their whim. and why would they deny them? because men are not reliably rational, nor moderate, nor virtuous. they cannot be trusted to decide what is right and moral for themselves, and prove so at most nearly every opportunity. the point, the very function of law and institutions that uphold them is to prevent men beguiled of an idea -- not simply misguided individuals, mind you, but the mass of the citizenry, the mob and its leaders -- from acting on their will precisely because such acts are so often so terribly amoral and destructive.

sharansky, in effect, denies that historically-evident fact.

worst of all, these statements of warrantless ideology in practice have brought what they must. israel, a democracy -- and recall, sharansky knows democracies are peaceful -- has fought five major wars in the space of sixty years, three pre-emptively, empowering arafat and the plo by occupying the west bank and gaza in 1967, forcing the formation of hezbollah by invading and occupying lebanon in 1982. as buchanan acidly observed:

MR. BUCHANAN: Look, every American supports the right of Israel to exist and...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...almost every American supports American weapons to Israel to defend its national security and national existence...


MR. BUCHANAN: ...however, we do believe that Israel has got to give up the occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank because this problem in the Middle East, which is caused there, is causing acts of terror -- not only against you, but against us. It is making us hated in a part of the world where the United States was never before hated, was admired, if you will.
buchanan pounded sharansky hard enough for him to reflexively tap out of the fight under a specious use of the rubric of antisemitism:

MR. SHARANSKY: Israel is the only member of the United Nations who's under constant threat of total annihilation--total annihilation. We have to fight for our rights to exist on this world...

MR. BUCHANAN: That's right.

MR. SHARANSKY: ...from the day we were born and I have to say unfortunately one of the modern problems of anti-Semitism is the denial of the right of Israel to exist.

MR. BUCHANAN: All right.

MR. SHARANSKY: They say all the Palestinians have to go back to Tel Aviv and all the Jews who came there, it's a colony. They have to leave it. That's what they hear now more and more in...
i have a very difficult time seeing what is antisemitic about opposing the conquest and occupation of the homes of palestinian arabs in 1967, or the forced eviction of millions of palestinians in the formation of israel in 1947-8. why was it not possible to leave the arabs where they were, to allow them to return? because israel was conceived as a religious state -- and for it to be both religious and democratic, those of the "wrong" religion had to be expelled (or exterminated, which was thankfully not the path taken).

is it antisemitic, then, to say that israel was wrongly conceived as a jewish state? that the incompatibility of a democratic theocracy and human decency in this case, with the fate of so many non-jews in the balance, was too great and has since been the source of almost limitless suffering and destruction? and that even now, being faced with the growth of the arab israeli population to majority status, the future of israel must be as an arab state -- because the alternative is to provide again only those awful options of eviction or extermination which are the very antithesis of the freedom sharansky so duplicitously advocates as a real weapon against arabs but an apparent inconvenience to the idea of israel, spawning so much hatred and violence?

unfortunately, i'm sure bush loves sharansky's ideas for those very reasons that have least to do with this terrible reality of israel's legacy. and that -- american leadership succumbing to such fanatic, fantastic notions with militant zeal -- is nothing less than a prescription for the final blow to our republic on the altar of perpetual war in search of attaining the unattainable.

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