Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Israel and Laissez Faire

In the course of one of his magnificently twisted rambling posts, Mencius Moldbug* addresses the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and specifically the claim that U.S. foreign policy is unduly influenced by the “Israel lobby”:

Which side of the Arab-Israeli conflict does the US support? Obviously, both are “special interests,” and an easy way to tell whose pull is stronger is to see whose side USG favors.

There’s a wrong way to answer this question and a right way. The wrong way is to start by asking: what should US foreign policy in the Middle East be?

Having answered this question, we can define the answer as the “center,” and then compare what USG’s policies are to what they should be. Ie, if USG’s policies are more pro-Israeli than the center, the pole is tilted to the right, and the Israel lobby must be stronger. If USG’s policies are more pro-Arab than the center, the pole is tilted to the left, etc, etc.

This procedure is not useful because, to answer the question, we must first judge the dispute . . .But this judgment is not relevant to the problem at hand, namely, ascertaining objectively which lobby is stronger.

So the right way is to start with an objective question: if USG’s involvement in the conflict were to cease, which side would benefit? If the answer is “the Palestinians,” USG’s involvement must logically favor Israel, and thus the Israel lobby is stronger. If the answer is “the Israelis,” vice versa. This procedure produces an answer without the need for any sort of judgment.

Looked at this way, Moldbug argues, the obvious if counter-intuitive answer to the question is that American foreign policy is objectively pro-Palestinian.

I tend to agree with Moldbug both on the procedure he uses to answer the question and on the answer that he gives. For this reason, I find claims that the U.S. needs to stop taking an uncritically pro-Israel approach to the conflict if it wants to advance peace to be somewhat baffling. Actually, it would be baffling even if you did think the U.S. approach was uncritically pro-Israel. If the Israeli and Palestinian leadership wanted an “honest broker” who would be more “even handed” in mediating the conflict there are plenty of places they could go to. That they do not do so suggests that (for whatever reason) the parties prefer pro-Israel America to any of the alternatives.

But I digress. What Moldbug views as a hypothetical to assess the bias of American policy, I see as a desirable policy in and of itself. The U.S., taking a page from Senator Aiken, should simply declare victory on the Israel/Palestinian issue and go home. That means no foreign or military aid to Israel or to the surrounding Arab nations. It means no diplomatic efforts to solve the conflict; no sanctions or security guarantees for either side.

To those on the right who urge the need to protect an ally, I would say: Israel can take care of itself. And if it can’t, if a Jewish state can only be maintained in the region with the assistance of other nations halfway around the world, then perhaps it’s time for the Jews to find somewhere else to live. If that sounds harsh, sorry, but the world’s a tough place some times. Talk about Israel’s right to exist is beside the point. No state has the right to exist. A state may defend itself, but if it can’t do so then it’s probably not long for this world.

To those on the left who want to talk about the plight of the Palestinians, I would say: Decades of diplomatic efforts have failed to bring about a resolution to the conflict. That ain’t likely to change any time soon. At about the same time Israel declared its independence, India was being split in two. As with Israel, this caused much bloodshed, and millions of people were forced from their homes. But sixty years later you don’t see a bunch of Bengali Hindus still living in refugee camps. There are plenty of people in the world who have it bad, and that no one cares about. Given that all our concern for the plight of the Palestinians has done nothing to actually improve their condition (and may have made matters worse) I see no reason to continue playing Sisyphus for peace.

* If you’ve never experienced Moldbuggery before, be forewarned that it can initially be a quite disorienting experience. Moldbug is a good stylist, but brevity is not his strong suit, and it can take a while to master his technical jargon (like our own MM, Moldbug is very down on calvinists, though he means something quite different by the term). Some of his views are also, shall we say, a little creepy.

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May 18, 2009 - Posted by | Foreign Policy, Israel

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