For those of us who came of age in the 1960’s and 70’s, a time when the Cold War was still very much a daily life-and-death concern, there was never much confusion about what Right and Left stood for in terms of U.S. foreign policy.
But that state of affairs, morally and intellectually bracing though it was, tended to obscure the fact that it had not always been that way – and that even then, at the height of the Cold War, one only had to make one’s way far enough along the political spectrum to discover where Right met Left in mutual antipathy to America and American interests.
With the U.S.-led war on terrorism now well into its fourth month, a hard, even hysterical, opposition to American policy is in full bloom in the fever swamps of both the far left and the far right. Of course, those on the left who habitually oppose U.S. foreign policy tend to do so because they believe in the myth of an irredeemably evil America, while those on the right tend to do so because they believe in the ideal of a pristinely neutral America. Different trains, same destination, and it brings to mind the isolationist impulse that, pre-Pearl Harbor, brought together leftists and rightists fiercely opposed to American intervention against Hitler.
Contrary to liberal revisionism, the now notorious America First Committee, formed in 1940, was hardly a right-wing phenomenon. As Kevin Coogan noted in Dreamer of the Day (Autonomedia, 1999), his masterful study of the links between postwar fascism and communism, “America First supporters included such leading liberals as Protestant theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick, Adam Clayton Powell Sr., and Dorothy Detzer, head of the Women’s International League for Peace….America First also received support from Philip La Follette, Wisconsin’s three-time governor and Progressive Party leader, who regularly appeared at its rallies.”
And contrary to the perception that those protesting America’s post-Sept. 11 foreign policy come almost exclusively from the ranks of left-wing academics and addle-brained actresses, there are in fact a fair number of right-wing commentators and intellectuals who take a back seat to no one in loudly advertising their displeasure with U.S. policy.
Much the same as their counterparts on the left, not a few of these right-wing dissenters are at least as hostile to Israel as they are to their own country’s actions. Actually, because most of America’s current enemies happen to reside in Israel’s neck of the woods and would just as soon kill Israelis as they would Americans, it makes it all that much easier for the ideological swamp-dwellers to connect the dots and discern some conspiratorial invisible hand at work.
Exhibit A: Joseph Sobran, the right-wing essayist whom the Monitor has previously dealt with in some detail. Asked to leave his position at National Review over a decade ago because of his incorrigibly anti-Israel writing which, critics charged, was at times indistinguishable from outright Jew-baiting, Sobran has never let up on his seeming obsession with Jews and Israel, as should be evident to anyone visiting his website and going through the archives of his columns.
“Judging from President Bush’s State of the Union message,” starts a recent and typical Sobran broadside, “what began as the War on Terrorism will be now broadened to become a War to Crush Israel’s Enemies.”
Echoing the infamous statement made by Pat Buchanan at the time of the Gulf War, Sobran charges that “Israel’s ‘amen corner’ in the American press – spearheaded by Charles Krauthammer, William Safire, William Kristol and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal – has been calling for war on Israel’s enemies (not just Afghanistan, which is remote from Israel) since September 11. For a while Bush seemed to be resisting calls for a dangerous wider war, which friendly European governments opposed; but now he is in alignment with Israel against Europe.”
Asking “Why the change?” Sobran responds to his question with the following bizarre outburst: “We may never know. But politicians are often subject to powerful backstage pressures that are hidden from the public. We can never discount the possibility of blackmail.”
Next week: More on Sobran, including his letter to the Monitor.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org