I posted a long essay on Kramer’s response to Walt-Mearsheimer, and one of my commenters posted a formulation of what I think represents a fairly standard line of thinking, what we might call the “commoner’s Walt-Mearsheimer,” the simple argument:
Now that the cold war is over, Israel and the Jews have ended up on the wrong side of America’s interest. I am not sure I agree with Kramer. I think it is arguable whether or not Israel is in America’s long term interest. There are over a billion Muslims whose main beef with America is its support for Israel. If the next president came in and announced a U-turn in America’s policy and sacrificed Israel, it would do much to ease the shame in the Arab world, and the move could probably be used to get help with the Iraq situation as well as create a unified front against Iran.
Agreed that this is a legitimate discussion, and deserves — demands — addressing. But let’s think clearly, and not repeat formulas from PCP that fail to understand the dynamic set in motion by Oslo, which now, in less than two decades, has completely transformed the rapports de force that have long characterized the asymmetric warfare between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and more recently have come to characterize the warfare between Islamism and the West.
First, let us consider the axiomatic foundation of the policy reading:
There are over a billion Muslims whose main beef with America is its support for Israel.
What is the evidence for this statement?
I’d say, primarily, it comes from what the Muslims — and here we’re dealing with a wide range, from diplomats to intellectuals to religious leaders — tell us about their grievances, in our languages. But what do they say among themselves? What’s being said in Arabic, rather than in our tongues? Here we need to pay attention to the Israeli situation, to the remarkable overlap and the frightening content of these concentric circles of discourse — Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim.
Once one considers the variable sources of evidence, rather than “stops” at the most obviously “targeted” discourse (i.e., in our language), then one begins to realize that this “official complaint,” may not only be a small fraction of the “real” forces at play, but it may even be a ploy. This latter conclusion certainly comes across in the remarkable revelation offered by Hassan Butts on the pages of the Guardian:
When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy. By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.
In my terminology, the dupes were doing the work of the demopaths. One could write the major part of the bizarre relationship between “Left” and “Islamism” in the 21st century in terms of this dynamic. If Butt offers us any insight into the forces arrayed against the West, against civil society, then accepting this demopathic ploys — it’s support for Israel, stupid! — as the axiomatic floor upon which one builds one’s “realistic” policy reasoning, would seem to be folly.
Once we’ve accepted this ludicrous misrepresentation, we’re offered a “solution” that actually will strengthen the very forces it pretends to deal with:
If the next President came in and announced a U-turn in America’s policy and sacrificed Israel, it would do much to ease the shame in the Arab world, and the move could probably be used to get help with the Iraq situation as well as create a unified front against Iran.
What we have here is the worst way to think about honor-shame culture. Ironically it represents precisely the kind of thinking encouraged by the ignorance of honor-shame dynamics. The very same people who reject any such discussion because that would be racist, come back with logic like this, logic that returns honor-shame issues to the heart of the discussion, but with the least real understanding of this crucial factor. On the contrary, it just capitulates to the outrageous demands of a self-destructive and immature culture that we soothe its fragile and aggressive sense of honor. This is precisely what not to do.
We must pick up on Butt’s lead: the purpose of insisting on Israel is, among other things, to distract us from Islamic theology. This is, by the way, one of the many things that our MSM systematically misinform us about. It is an essential element of the PC Paradigms, both 1 (Politically Correct) and 2 (Post-Colonial), to downplay such issues.
Israel offends Muslims for a wide range of reasons which also offend them about the USA, the West — indeed about any independent, autonomous, defiant, non-Muslim entity. Any infidel who does not show the proper attitude towards Islam, who does not submit either by conversion or deference to the will of Muslims, is an enemy to these zealots. To think that the Israelis (i.e., the defiant Jews) are the only people who offend the Islamist Jihadi’s zeal, is to make a fundamental error.
If the shame were indeed just about Israel, then maybe this is a rational argument: The West can put an end to the profoundly destructive behavior of the Arab/Muslim world by “sacrificing Israel” by tossing her as a “burnt offering” to their wounded honor. Then they can “get on” with life and behave more rationally and we can amicably resolve Iraq and even Iran. (As the commenter points out, openly embracing such really grotesque “realism” is profoundly immoral, which also has practical consequences to which I shall return.)
But let’s pause for a moment on the converse of this PCP argument: what if Israel is not the core of the problem, but the excuse, the presenting symptom, the tip of the iceberg of Islamist hostility? Think then of the catastrophically naive and foolish nature of the reasoning about “honor-shame” involved in this allegedly “rational” calculus of policy.
Let’s consider the same issue from the Honor-Shame Jihad Paradigm. Israel is a huge offense to Arabs and Muslims. It is the symbol of their failure, of their impotence under conditions of modernity, where values profoundly alien to most Muslim and Arab culture predominate. That 3 million Jews could defeat so many millions of Arabs, that Jews could establish and maintain an autonomous political entity in the midst of Dar al Islam, represents a bitter humiliation to many Muslims, especially public figures who must answer to the “Arab Street.” Israel, with its modern, technological prowess, represents everything that makes Muslims ashamed by their performance in the 20th and now 21st century.
As such, the Muslim insistence on wiping Israel out symbolizes more powerfully than any other single problem, the rejection of those cultural and social transformations demanded by modernity. In other words Arab and Muslim anti-Zionism constitute a code word, a single trope in which they bundle their rejection of the demands of modern civil society: meritocracy, self-criticism, renouncing domination as the measure of a man, substituting discourse of fairness for violence in dispute settlement, tolerating the autonomy of others and the “results” of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, raising significantly the bar of restraint that leads one to try and whiten one’s face with the blood of those who have offended.
In other words, the “sacrifice” of Israel that this “realistic policy” demands, actually submits to the demands of this violent and uncompromising hostility to modernity. It is an act of submission; it marks the West as accepting the status of dhimmi. And in so doing, the West will go take to a whole new level the consistent acts of submission that have characterized so much of Western interaction with aggressive Islam since 1970/1400. Walt-Mearsheimer is a formula for adopting the suicidal foreign policy of the Europeans.
As a friend who had been in Morocco when the French vetoed the American diplomatic maneuvers in the UN in the winter of 2003, noted:
The Arabs see this as a sign of weakness. They know that Saddam is hostile to France at a fundamental level, and that the Americans are their friends at a fundamental level. So for France to attack America and side with Saddam was a clear sign of how frightened and weak they are.
Now, as anyone who has read my French essays (2003-6) knows, I think the French, and more broadly the Europeans, have been behaving self-destructively in all this. Indeed, viewed from the perspective of the Islamists, Eurabia is nothing more than the acceptance in advance of the dhimmi yoke by Europeans who, in following the demands of Arab leaders to import Muslims, to leave them alone culturally, and to turn on Israel diplomatically, are essentially implementing their own submission.
In short, if we want to analyze the situation in terms of honor-shame — something I think we should do — then we are faced with two radically opposing readings. The “commoner’s Walt-Mearsheimer” on the one hand, and the “Preventive Dhimmi” on the other. In the former, Israel represents not only the main, but essentially the only significant source of Arab and Muslim sense of humiliation, and siding with them against Israel — or as they put it, being more even-handed in taking sides in a conflict between their irredentism and Israel’s limited ambitions — will lead to a solution. In the latter, Israel is only the most potent of their narcissistic wounds, and the larger issue of Islam facing down and eventually dominating the West represents the larger goal.
Here, Israel is a test case of the West’s character. If they dump Israel to curry favor with the Arabs, it will be the equivalent of the French turning on America and siding with Saddam. To turn on your friends and appease your enemies is a sign of weakness, and it invites further aggression.
A French journalist once commented to me that Europeans were trying to think of an appropriate day for “European Union Day” — a kind of European 14 of July. He said he asked a French Jew what he thought and the fellow responded, “Holocaust Day.” He clearly thought this response was absurd — typical Jewish self-absorption. But when one realizes that, before 1945 and the blanket rejection of anti-semitic public discourse that followed (along with the Nuremberg Trials and the Geneva Convention), Europeans had been going to war with each other in every generation of their history, it may not be so far-fetched. Given how anti-Semitism operates as a form of scape-goating that puts the cultures that embrace it in the hands of oppressive elites, this renunciation could indeed mark the point at which Europeans could finally begin to cooperate on fundamental levels. And its reversal, with the sacrifice of Israel could well mark the death of Europe and the victory of Eurabia.
Some may argue a “middle road” here, that for many Arabs and Muslims, Israel really is their only serious beef, and they would like to get on with the process of modernization, like the editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera, who sends his kids to Western schools. But these issues are not decided by votes, certainly not by majorities. The degree of triumphalism that the destruction of Israel would bring to the Arab and Muslim world would resonate throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds in ways no one can anticipate fully.
Like the thrill of watching the World Trade Center fall, this will touch people who otherwise appear moderate. As for the real moderates, who only want Israel to pay for what she’s done, they will either get swept out of the way, or find that, with the West’s craven capitulation and therefore with Eurabian conquest more realistic, they discover the charms of the maximalist goals. So, if instead of wounded pride specifically about Israel, this “Muslim problem with modernity” is much bigger, then the sacrifice will not appease, but rather incite the very behavior it is intended to get rid of. instead of “cooperating on Iran, they will all clamor of nuclear weapons, and we’ll have a proliferation of Muslim “bombs.”
According to my understanding, we are dealing now with an active cataclysmic apocalyptic millennial movement: one with millennial goals (Islamization of the entire world), an apocalyptic sense of urgency (now is the time), a cataclysmic scenario (immense destruction will precede our victory), and agency (we are the tools of Allah’s will for this destruction). God wills it; Everything is permitted. Such movements are like forest fires. When they “take,” they burn so hot that one cannot “put them out.” Throwing Israel into the maw of global Jihadi hatreds, will only make the apocalyptic flames burn hotter and higher. Like the decision to turn on the defensive shield in the Terminator, the move will prove disastrous.
But let’s consider the opposite course of action. To stand by a nation committed to democratic and modern values in the face of the Muslim temper-tantrum, to insist that learning to live with Israel is a pre-requisite of being taken seriously in the court of world opinion, to make recognition of Israel a condition of further discussions, rather than a distant goal for which Israel must pay with crippling concessions, may just be the key step necessary for the Arab and Muslim world to begin the long, painful process of achieving the maturity of modernity.
Pay close attention to Butt’s remark. The function of the “blaming foreign policy” for Islamists is not only to a) make their demands “reasonable” (as if blowing up Western civilians because you don’t like the foreign policy of that country is “reasonable”), and b) to get the West to target Israel, but also, c) to hide the real issue — Islamist theology of Jihad and the spread of Sharia to the entire world. Complaining about Israel is a sleight of hand, and a test of our (Western) integrity.
On one level this means that if we sacrifice Israel, we eliminate one of the keys to understanding the problem. Israel’s problems with Jihad (the problem from the beginning, not Palestinian nationalism), are our problems with Jihad. Israel’s experience of “withdrawing and conceding and apologizing” are keys to what we can expect when, for example, we leave Iraq, or we grant autonomy to majority Muslim cities and zones in the West.
Right now, despite the perverse fantasies of the moral relativists and their demopathic partners among the Muslims, everyone, at some level of consciousness, knows that the West is morally superior in its values and actions than the Jihadis and the corrupt Muslim regimes around the world. This includes the Muslims, who use Western values to make their demopathic case; and the “radical leftist” Westerners who would never chose to live in a Muslim country unless they had the privileges of a traitor to their own culture. By calling on the West to sacrifice Israel to their honor demands, Muslims have set up a moral test they hope — and expect — we’ll fail.
We dare not.
In the world of honor and shame, wisdom and sanity demand that one to stick by one’s friends and confront one’s enemies. The Arabs and Muslims know that Israel is part of the Western world — one of the main reasons they hate it — and they are on the other side. And will respect us for acting accordingly, no matter how much it might anger them. And if we remain firm in these commitments, we have a real chance to provoke genuine and desperately needed self-criticism on the other side. Only by behaving with such integrity does the West stand a chance to survive; indeed, such integrity may mean more than survival. It might mean inaugurating a dynamic that will lead to a peaceful 21st century.
Ironically we come to the moral dimension of the realist argument. By behaving immorally (realistically in Walt-Mearsheimer terminology), we lose our status and our ability to make any demands of our foes. It is in the nature of “constructivist” as opposed to “realist” political science that moral discourse plays a key role. One does not rise from prime divider societies to civil ones without moral commitments, among them, putting aside the “dominating imperative” of “rule or be ruled.” And when civil societies are in conflict with prime divider ones, the most critical capital the former can lose is the “moral high ground.” Only fools and moral equivalencers would think we’ve lost that ground. And once we really do lose it, by doing something so irreversible as sacrificing Israel, we’ll know what it means to have really lost it.