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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

Guardian’s Cartoon of Powerful Jews Manipulating Western Leaders

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Last November we posted about a political cartoon at the Guardian by Steve Bell depicting British foreign minister William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets being controlled by Binyamin Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support by these leaders during the war in Gaza.  Bell’s image evoked the canard of powerful Jews controlling western politicians for their own nefarious purposes and was hauntingly similar to more explicitly antisemitic cartoons routinely found in Arab and Islamist world.

The Guardian’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row a couple of weeks later, and actually rebuked Bell for ‘unintentionally’ using the visual language of antisemitic stereotypes.

While such cartoons often have more of an immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than lengthy essays, the damage done by such toxic ideas regarding ‘Jewish control’, in any form, should be taken seriously.  The Guardian narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in news reports and commentaries, often includes passages with the unmistakable  suggestion that Israel (and the pro-Israeli lobby) wields enormous power over ineffectual Western leaders – a theme present in a report by Harriet Sherwood and Julian Borger titled ‘Iran nuclear programme deal in danger of unravelling’, Nov. 11.  The story centered on nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) which ultimately unraveled largely due to concerns that the agreement would have eased sanctions on Iran without requiring that it cease enriching uranium.

The report by Sherwood and Borger included the following:

In a bid to contain the danger, the lead US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, flew straight from the talks in Geneva to Israel to reassure Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that the intended deal would not harm his country’s national interests.

The hastily arranged trip represented an acknowledgement of Netanyahu’s power to block a deal through his influence in the US Congress and in Europe. Egged on by the Israelis, the US Senate is poised to pass new sanctions that threaten to derail the talks before they get to their planned next round in 10 days’ time.

More immediately, Netanyahu demonstrated over the weekend that he could sway the Geneva talks from the inside through his relationship with Paris.

These passages of course strongly suggest that US congressional leaders take their marching orders from Jerusalem and that the French government’s position was not motivated by what it saw as its own national interests but, rather, as a result of the influence of the Israeli prime minister.

However, the deal was fatally flawed, according to many experts, due in part because it would have fallen short of the requirements in six resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council over the years which called on Iran to suspend ALL uranium enrichment – resolutions passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, rendering them binding under international law.

As Adam Chandler observed in an essay published at Tablet about the superficial analysis by Sherwood and Borger:

[Their argument] smacks of that paranoid, evergreen charge that all wars and international campaigns are waged on behalf of Israel, a claim that devolves from Israel into “the Jews” as it goes through portal after conspiratorial portal.

You don’t even need to believe that antisemitism is at play to nonetheless be contemptuous of the extraordinary myopia displayed in the Guardian report.  As Walter Russell Mead observed recently about the broader intellectual dynamic which unites antisemitism with anti-Zionism:

Weak minds…are easily seduced by attractive but empty generalizations. The comment attributed to August Bebel that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools can be extended to many other kinds of cheap and superficial errors that people make. The baffled, frustrated and the bewildered seek a grand, simplifying hypothesis that can bring some kind of ordered explanation to a confusing world.

Guardian “journalists” may fancy themselves sophisticated, erudite and worldly, but their frequent ‘Zionist root cause’ explanations betray both their ideological bias and the extraordinarily facile nature of their reasoning.

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Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Pushing the Boundaries of Outreach

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

One of the most difficult challenges of the 21st century was made very clear by the recent Pew study on American Jews. The fact is that except for Orthodoxy – Jewry is shrinking. I need not go into the statistics. They have been discussed ad infinitum by just about everyone. The shrinkage is due to a combination of factors mostly having to do with the lack of any significant meaning attributed to Judaism by those devoid of a religious education. Young Jews even with the highest of ethical values see no value in the religion of their forefathers. They see themselves as ethical human beings – same as anyone else with ethical values. They see all religious ritual adding nothing to their sense of ethics.

The question arises – what do we do about that? As Orthodox Jews who understand the value of the Torah and the importance of following Halacha – how can we change this new secular Jewish paradigm?

There are those who would answer: Nothing! There is nothing we can do to significantly change the attrition away from Judaism the masses are undergoing… that there has been attrition one way or another in every generation. Although they might wish things were different, they say it is virtually impossible to influence the minds of the vast majority of Jews whose secular – even ethical values were formed by a society devoid of Torah.

They will therefore say that we Orthodox should instead turn inward and work on ourselves and that the future of Judaism rests with us. While I understand that mentality and would certainly agree that we all need to work on our ourselves – I strongly disagree that we ought to ignore the rest of Jewry. We are not talking about a few Jewish souls here. We are talking about the vast majority of them. Fully 90% of all American Jewry is not Orthodox. Are we simply to just write them off? I don’t think so.

Thankfully neither do all the outreach organizations. They have had much success in reaching out to our secular brethren. But it is still a drop in the bucket. We Orthodox remain only 10% of the total. We may be growing, but a lot of that is internal because of our higher birth rate. The amount of successful outreach is still relatively small.

One way to reach more people is by interdenominational interaction. The problem with that is that some of the greatest religious leaders of the 20th century – including Rav Soloveitchik – have forbidden doing that. They forbade religious interaction of any kind because it would grant them tacit recognition. We cannot be seen to recognize movements that legitimize heretical thought. I understand and appreciate that.

Which is why the actions of the well intentioned Yeshiva Chovevei Torah are so problematic. Outreach is what motivated them to host leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism at a round table discussion during the installation of their new president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin. That certainly does seem to legitimize them. Both in the eyes of the leaders themselves and in the eyes of those who attended the session. While I support YCT’s intentions, I believe they have crossed a line here. As much as I would love to see cooperation between the denominations towards the goal of outreach that we all share – it cannot be at the expense of undermining our theology.

I know that YCT argues that such interactions do not validate heterodox movements. But it is impossible for those who attend to not see it that way – watching them all discuss their religious views as equals at the same table.So even though I agree with their motives, I disagree with what they did. That leaves the problem unsolved.

But there are other ways that we can participate with them and at the same time not be seen to recognize them. One way was when Yosef Reinman, a right wing Orthodox Rabbi from Lakewood, co-wrote a book with Amiel Hirsch, a Reform rabbi he had befriended… and then went on a book tour with him.

He was immediately – roundly criticized by the Agudah Moetzes for violating the ban on interacting with heterodox rabbis. They asked him to stop the tour and withdraw his book. He acceded to their requests but lamented the fact that he was now impeded from making the inroads he had started making with Reform Jews he would have otherwise never met.

Hamas Threatens Egypt, Israel and Palestinian Authority

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

As Egypt steps up security restrictions along its border with the Gaza Strip, Hamas and some Palestinian terror groups have been holding “military parades” in a bid to show that they are prepared for war.

The parades, which saw hundreds of heavily armed militiamen march through the streets, are mainly intended to send a message of warning to Egypt’s new rulers against any attempt to launch a military offensive inside the Gaza Strip.

Some Hamas leaders are convinced that the Egyptians are preparing to launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip under the pretext of combatting terror in Sinai.

However, the show of force by Hamas and its allies is also designed to send a warning message to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas believes that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are directly involved in an Egyptian-led scheme to overthrow their regime and bring Mahmoud Abbas’s forces back to the Gaza Strip.

The parades are also intended to send a warning message to Abbas as to what awaits him and his loyalists if they dare enter the Gaza Strip with the help of Israel and Egypt.

Given Hamas’s growing isolation in the aftermath of the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo and the Egyptian authorities’ severe and unprecedented restrictions along the border, there is no underestimating the threats coming out of the Gaza Strip.

If the leaders of Hamas believe that the Egyptians are determined to undermine or topple their regime, they will not hesitate to initiate a new military confrontation with Israel.

In public, Hamas leaders and members say that the “military parades” are aimed at sending a warning message to Israel, and not Egypt.

But in private, several Hamas leaders and spokesmen admit that the biggest and most immediate threat to their regime is coming from Egypt.

The Egyptian authorities see the threats as being directed first and foremost toward Egypt.

This explains why Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy this week deemed it necessary to warn Hamas of a “harsh response” if it threatened his country’s national security. Fahmy said the response would include “military and security choices.”

Days before the warning, hundreds of gunmen belonging to Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, staged a provocative march near the border with Egypt, carrying photos of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and chanting slogans against the “military coup” in Cairo.

In yet another sign of mounting tensions between the two sides, Egyptian border guards stationed along the border with the Gaza Strip have been hurling abuse and threats at Hamas policemen and Palestinian farmers, Palestinians living in the area said this week.

Palestinian fishermen have also fallen victim to the standoff between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.

Last week, five fishermen were each sentenced by an Egyptian military court to one year in prison for fishing in Egyptian territorial waters.

Earlier, Egyptian naval forces detained and severely beat other fishermen for approaching Egypt’s territorial waters.

Despite the show of force, Hamas would never dare to initiate a military confrontation against the Egyptian army. Hamas will find it easier to fire rockets at Israel than launch terror attacks against the Egyptians.

Hamas is fully aware that such a confrontation would spark a harsh response from the Egyptians — one that would surely lead to the collapse of its regime. Previous confrontations between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces would then look like children’s games compared to a clash with the Egyptian or any other Arab army.

That is why Israel needs to be prepared for the possibility of another war with Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip.

Why Ted Cruz Speaks for Me

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Ted Cruz and his allies get it.  They get that Americans can’t afford to have Obamacare implemented against our groaning, near-collapse finances.  They get that we are disgusted (and alarmed) at the idea of being the GOP’s economic attrition strategy for the 2014 election: the strategy that says, “Let things get as bad as they’re going to with Obamacare, and then people will finally blame the Democrats.”  The problem with that strategy is that someone has to pay the price for it – has to accept the financial losses, which for many people could be disastrous, even permanently life-changing – and that someone is us.

Cruz – and Mike Lee in the Senate, along with Matt Salmon (AZ) and others in the House – show that they get what the stakes are, by being willing to take a big risk on a deliberate strategy.  They’re making an attempt they could actually be defeated in:  to galvanize the rest of the GOP and get it to take a risk.

Contrast that with the bet-hedging and consultation-begging we see from the GOP leadership.  Here’s where my confession of populism comes in:  I don’t recall ever having such a sense of revulsion against the air of protecting privileged insularity that hangs over Beltway insiders, both politicians and pundits.  As we understand it, GOP leaders sent unsolicited “opposition research” to Fox News on Sunday, in order to undermine Cruz in his appearance with Chris Wallace.  Karl Rove excoriated Cruz on the Sunday show for failing to properly “consult” with his colleagues.  Tucker Carlson, Charles Krauthammer, and even Brit Hume took up the cry on Monday’s Special Report, accusing Cruz of grandstanding, and personalizing their criticisms of him to a startlingly petty degree.

Meanwhile, as the GOP impugns Ted Cruz’s motives with slam-book-quality allegations, it quietly accepts Obamacare exemptions and special subsidies for Congress.  The whole scenario seems like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington come to life.  All that’s missing is misleading photos of Cruz making bird calls.

But the truth is, this isn’t Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – because the plot of Mr. Smith turned on a relatively small matter, one that might have had symbolism for the operation of the whole government, but that in a literal sense affected only a small number of citizens.  The implementation of Obamacare is the biggest issue America has dealt with since how to get rid of the atrocious institution of slavery, and what “union” and “states’ rights” mean.  It profoundly affects everyone who will ever be an American from this day forward.  Issues don’t come any bigger.   Obamacare is about government’s relation to the citizen; about what government can dictate and control in our lives; and about what our economic liberties will mean, not in a decade, not a year from now, but tomorrow — and for the rest of our life as a nation.

From where I sit, it looks like Ted Cruz gets that.  He gets that we can’t just sit still, paralyzed by bad press and Democratic talking points, and let these questions be decided through the back door by the implementation of brain-deadening regulations.  He gets that that’s what’s happening.  He recognizes that a time comes when risk must be taken: when it just isn’t good enough for the well-worn remedies of consultation and deferral to produce the same unsatisfactory outcomes that they always do.  This time, the cost of taking that risk-averse route is too high.

Cruz did what he had to do on Fox on Sunday, remaining on message with admirable rhetorical discipline.  What he said was an accurate and succinct representation of the alternative he and his allies are offering:  fund the government without Obamacare in fiscal year 2014, as the alternative to funding it with Obamacare.  Delay implementation of the individual mandate, if that’s the best deal we can get, but go for the most we can get while still funding the government.  Don’t shut it down.  I found him to be effective in getting his point across.

But the old-school GOP leaders won’t get onboard with that message, apparently preferring to emphasize that they haven’t been consulted with.  They might as well just concede the terms of the fight to the Democrats and have done with it.

There are an awful lot of Americans out here who don’t know when the next shoe is going to drop, as the predator in the dark stalks their jobs, insurance, and finances.  Despising these people and their worries about Obamacare and the trend of big government – in the manner of Harry Reid – is as much bad karma as it is bad politics.  Yet senior Republicans seem to join Reid in being annoyed with the people for not wanting to play the role of the sacrifice in an electoral-politics ritual.

Instead of deferring an Obamacare fight to a future point we can’t guarantee we’ll even reach – i.e., after a Senate victory in 2014 – Cruz and his allies propose to fight today, on ground we can at least define clearly and prepare for in the present.  Are they right?  There are arguments pro and con.  But I don’t hear GOP leaders making any of those arguments in a forthright or convincing manner – or in any other way, for that matter.

One thing we can guarantee: we, Republican leaders and voters, won’t come to a unified position on that by refusing to address the question on the terms proposed by Cruz and his allies.  Cruz is trying to force the issue, which accords it the weight and immediacy that I give it.  He’s carrying my water.  If GOP leaders want to lead, they need to get out in front of this issue.  Go in strong with Cruz to make the strategy theirs – give the people something to applaud or reject – instead of merely sniping from the shadows.

Back in the USSR

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Those among us who are middle-aged or older will remember a song by the Beatles called “Back to the USSR”. Ever since the minor crisis regarding the Asad regime’s use of chemical weapons, this song has been stuck my head.

This minor crisis has revealed, emphasized and demonstrated what we wrote about here long ago, which is the weakening of the Western bloc, especially the United States, and the return of the opposing group to the center of international stage under Russian leadership.  Putin’s article in the New York Times openly expressed his opinion about the old-new international situation, in which the world has stopped being a unipolar system, and has gone back to being a bipolar system, as it was until the end of the eighties, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the allies in Eastern Europe left it in favor of joining with the Western, democratic world, and afterward, the European Union.

The Russian Bloc is based on non-democratic countries that are hostile to the West, whether from a cultural point of view, like China and Syria, or a religious point of view, like Iran. Countries where democracy is limping along like Venezuela and Nicaragua, also join up with Russia, who doesn’t bother them too much about marginal matters like human rights and political freedoms. North Korea also enjoys China’s and Russia’s political protection, especially in the UN Security Council.

Today’s anti-democratic glue is apparently better than the glue of Slavic identity that formed the “Warsaw Pact” because it is a world view and a cultural perspective. Back then, membership in the Soviet bloc was forced on the states (for instance, in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet invasion of 1968), while today, states freely choose to belong to the Russian bloc. It is not yet a consolidated and unified bloc, but one definitely sees that this union of anti-democratic forces is winning ever more diplomatic territory in the international sphere. There is an important military aspect to this alliance, due to the supply of Russian weaponry to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Many countries in the world compare the behavior of the bloc under Russian leadership to the conduct of the West under United States’ leadership and conclude: The United States betrays her friends and abandons them, while Russia is faithful to her friends and defends them. When the world analyzes what the United States has done for states and rulers in recent years it finds Mubarak, who was abandoned by President Obama with the start of demonstrations against him; the president of Tunisia – bin Ali – who was forced to flee from the demonstrations without even one of his European friends  to rescue him; the United States abandons its friends in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia in the face of Iran’s threatening buildup; the West does not back Israel in its efforts to maintain its security and its strategic assets, and urges it to establish another Palestinian terror country in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, overlooking most of the territory of the State of Israel.

On the other hand, the world sees that Russia defends Iran and its nuclear project in the Security Council faithfully, and even supplies its reactors and the means of defending them; Russia is faithful to Asad and supplies him weaponry, ammunition and means of defense necessary for his survival; Russia supplies China with raw materials and places of employment.

In Economic matters as well, the West appears weak relative to Russia. Since six years ago, the Western economy – Europe and the United States together – has been caught in a structural crisis, not in a recession from which it is relatively easy to emerge. It seems that the unification of currency (the Euro) and production standards are not enough to make Europe into one body, so divisive forces exist there that even threaten the stability of some countries: the region of Catalonia wants to secede from Spain, and the Scots apparently will leave the United Kingdom in another year. Europe is addicted to Russian gas, and to oil that, by Iran’s “good will”, is allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz on its route from the Emirates to Europe.

Regarding the issue of Syrian chemical weapons, the West has seemed like a crumbling and disintegrating body, with no leader and no shared agenda. The British parliament is against war, the French is for it, and the American administration says that it’s getting ready to attack, Congress doesn’t support it, the American army is preparing for war and the State Department puts forth a compromise. The right hand does not know what the left is doing, and each one acts according to a different agenda. This is no way to build a bloc of states that is capable of executing a mission that everyone agrees is ethically justified: to defend the citizens of Syria from chemical weapons. And when ethics ceases to be the leading cause for the West, what is left of its values?

Shooting the Syrian Elephant

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.
The majority of Americans do not want to invade or bomb Syria. The majority of American leaders do. Such a disparity between the leaders and the people is not wholly unique, but it arises in this case not from the usual disparities of power or corruption.

Americans don’t want to fight Syria because it is no threat to them. American leaders admit that Syria is no threat to America. They want to bomb Syria because they feel that they ought to do it. And they feel that way because behind the power of the West stands the will of the East.Long before Animal Farm of 1984, George Orwell wrote a short essay about his time in the east. It’s titled “Shooting the Elephant.”

Orwell’s narrator is told of an elephant that has run riot and he dutifully follows up the report. “We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes.

“Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant.”

Substitute chemical weapons for elephant and the story becomes a familiar one.

Eventually, Orwell encounters a dead body and sends back for an elephant gun while a crowd gathers behind him eagerly waiting for him to shoot the elephant. “I had halted on the road,” he writes. “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant – it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery – and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided.”

It is likewise a serious matter to start a war. But the issue, whether with Obama’s red line or Orwell’s elephant is credibility.

“But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it.”

We now have to go into Syria because the crowd expects it of us. They have been clamoring for us to do it forever, listening impatiently to our excuses and dismissing them. And our function in the region has come down to shooting the elephant. It’s what the crowd wants us to do. And our leaders find themselves with no other role in international affairs except the hollow role of puppets.

“And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East.

“Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.

“I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

The United States, which had never intended to become an empire, now finds itself wearing a mask. Its leaders assert that it has to shoot the Syrian elephant to protect its credibility because the crowd of the Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis and the Turks want us to do it.

They expect us to do it. They have gathered to see us do it. They will see us do it.

Even Obama, for all his complicity with the power plays of the Muslim Brotherhood, seems unenthusiastic about shooting the Syrian elephant. But he knows that it has to be done because what else is there to do? Either we bomb Syria or admit our impotency. Either we play imperialists or get laughed at.That was the dilemma of Orwell’s narrator. It is also our dilemma. Orwell’s narrator was playing his part in a decaying empire that had lost its sense of purpose. It could do little else except order around the natives only to find that it was the one being ordered around.

America has no sense of purpose. Its leaders want to bomb Syria, but can articulate no sensible reason for doing so. They resort to humanitarian gibberish, but they would never move to stop genocide in Africa. Their motives are not humanitarian, they are conformist. They are conforming to the expectations of the foreign pressures of a region that they hope to order and govern.

“When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys,” Orwell warned. In attempting to civilize the Muslim world, we have instead been forced to live by its rulers. We have not brought our order to them. They have brought their order to us.

Our interactions with them take place along the predetermined paths of their choosing. They decide what they want from us and we decide how quickly to give it to them. They decide that we should shoot the elephant and we stand around playing with the elephant gun, hoping that we can avoid this whole mess.

“And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool,” Orwell writes.

That is the admission of the moment. We must bomb Syria to avoid looking like fools.

Obama drew his red line and now he must shoot the elephant. Even he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about it, but he will shoot it.

To buy time, he has turned to Congress, hoping its proceedings will immunize him from the fallout or somehow convince Assad to step down. But he knows better. Despite his anti-colonialist roots and despite his membership in a radically anti-imperialist movement, he has been drafted once again in the cause of shooting elephants, carrying the white man’s burden and the liberal man’s burden to the east.

The question is not whether Syria ought to be shot, but why are we shooting it. And the answer is that it isn’t our choice. That answer reveals a great deal about our dysfunctional international policies and where they have gotten us.

We have been penned up, not by Haliburton or secret oil deals, so much as by our own need to live up to our own image abroad. Americans, who for the most part live insular lives, are unmoved by the elephant-shooting currents that tug at the likes of Obama or McCain. They feel no need to go shoot an elephant in some other country because the natives expect it of them. But our leaders increasingly live foreign lives with little consideration for the natives of the country that they govern. They give in to impulses like amnesty and gay marriage because of a steady pressure from a narrow crowd that insists that they are inevitable. Now they will give in on Syria because of that same crowd.

That sense of pressure reveals the hollowness of the men within. Men of strong moral courage do not commit crimes because the crowd expects them to. It does not kill to avoid being mocked. It is the hollow empire of hollow men that is compelled to such final extremities, acting out a farce to avoid the inevitable revelation that the emperor is naked and his empire has run out of pants.

The Republican Party is what it is because it lacks that sense of moral conviction. It takes positions for convenience. Its leaders respond to the pressure of the crowd, whether it is to oppose Obamacare or to support amnesty, they take on positions which they do not believe because they are expected of them.The Syrian elephant is only one more such position. One more hollow act of political conformity by men with political instincts but no sense of greater direction.

It is not so much that bombing Syria is wrong as that the armed forces of a nation cannot and should not be in the hands of men who take serious steps without any conviction that they are doing the best thing for their country, who act only because they are told that it is expected of them. Nothing rots the morale of an army faster than such commanders and nothing destroys a nation faster than the knowledge that, in the words of Hillary Clinton, nothing truly matters but the politics of it.

If we are going to shoot elephants then we should do so for our own reasons. Once we begin shooting elephants because it is expected of us, we become little better than the masters of a hollow empire waiting to be told by the world what to do.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/sultan-knish/shooting-the-syrian-elephant/2013/09/10/

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