Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New Blog

I invite all my fellow anti-Chomskyites to my new blog By Benjamin Kerstein. Enjoy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chomskyite Billionare Pleads Oppression

Its always a bit odd when extremely powerful and influential people, such as Ivy League professors, nationally televised commentators, ex-presidents and internationalist gozillianaires claim to be laboring under the yoke of brutal oppression and terror. For oft-discussed reasons, this phenomenon seems to manifest itself almost constantly when Israel and its enemies are involved. George Soros, perhaps the richest Chomskyite in the world, has unsurprisingly penned his own sob story, which appears in -- where else? -- the New York Review of Books. The irony is thick on the ground when one of the richest men in the world claims to be the aggreived victim of brutal repression. His bone to pick is, of course, American policy in the Middle East and its "discussion", claiming that "The current policy," of which Soros of course disapproves, "is not even questioned in the United States. While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed. The debate in Israel about Israeli policy is much more open and vigorous than in the United States." This is amusing if only because Soros' quite stridant criticism is appearing in the same publication which publishes a near constant stream of anti-Israel opinion and even played host to Tony Judt's call for the dismantling -- i.e. destruction, for those uninterested in euphemism -- of the Jewish State itself.

Soros, like his less Chomskyite colleague Donald Trump, appears to suffer from an unfortunate character flaw typical of extremely rich men: the belief that making enormous amounts of money qualifies one to pontificate on literally anything and everything. He claims, for instance, that:
The Bush administration is actively supporting the Israeli government in its refusal to recognize a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, which the US State Department considers a terrorist organization. This precludes any progress toward a peace settlement at a time when progress on the Palestinian problem could help avert a conflagration in the greater Middle East.
Some of us, who know from bitter experience that Hamas is not "considered" a terrorist organization but is a terrorist organization, may find such refusal an admirable display of all too rare political courage. We may also believe that the greatest threat to peace in this area and the most likely cause of a "conflagration" in the Middle East is radical Islamic groups such as, well, Hamas. But I digress.

Soros, like his colleagues, who publish in major journals and hold Ivy League jobs while claiming to be silenced and oppressed, does identify the ostensible source of his suffering. His is hardly an original thesis, and not at all surprising. It is, of course, AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group which all anti-Israel idealogues love to hate, as they hate anyone who dares to express the radical idea that Zionism is a good thing and Israel deserves to not only survive but to thrive without the threat of war and terrorism. Soros' case, however, makes even less sense than those of his colleagues. Since he is desperately trying not to invoke a conspiracy theory -- even as he does precisely that -- he instead ties himself in knots trying to equate various unrelated critiques into a single, ominous phenomenon. He claims, for instance, that
Supporters of Israel have good reason to question AIPAC's advocacy and they have begun to do so. But instead of engaging in critical self-examination, AIPAC remains intransigent. Recently, the pro-Israel lobby has gone on the offensive, accusing the so-called progressive critics of Israel's policies of fomenting anti-Semitism and endangering the very existence of the Jewish state.
Soros then cites Alvin Rosenfeld's paper for the AJC as an example. It is, perhaps, pointless to remark that the AJC is not AIPAC, and that Rosenfeld's paper was a perfectly legitimate exercise in intellectual criticism. Such subtleties are likely lost on a man who cannot tell the difference between a Congressional lobby and a personal critique of Israel's naysayers. In ancient times, such as ten years ago, the conflation of disparate Jewish opinion into a single, monolithic, oppressive force would have been called antisemitism, but we are now, apparently, more civilized than that. And, of course, we would not wish to cause the obviously delicate Mr. Soros further pain and suffering.

On the question of AIPAC itself, Soros invokes the usual boogeymen, such as the "neocons" -- a completely meaningless term which has come to mean anyone or anything of which the left disapproves -- and charges
AIPAC's mission is to ensure American support for Israel but in recent years it has overreached itself. It became closely allied with the neocons and was an enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq. It actively lobbied for the confirmation of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations. It continues to oppose any dialogue with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. More recently, it was among the pressure groups that prevailed upon the Democratic House leadership to drop the requirement that the President obtain congressional approval before taking military action against Iran. AIPAC under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission, and far from guaranteeing Israel's existence, has endangered it.
What Soros, not surprisingly, seems not to understand, is that AIPAC's mission is not to "ensure" American support per se, but rather to advocate the position of the Israeli government. For better or worse, all of the supposed evils which Soros decries were based on the policies of the elected Israeli government and for good reasons: the Bolton nomination led many to hope that the racist attacks on Israel in the UN would be more passionately and effectively opposed, the Iranian threat is obvious, and opposition to "dialogue" with Hamas has been the avowed position of the Israeli government for years. How encouraging apartheid-style policies in the UN or undertaking policies of appeasement towards Iran or Hamas helps the cause of Israel's existence is beyond me, but it is not unusual for advocates of brutality -- such as rapists or abusive fathers -- to claim that they are acting in the best interests of their victim. Which does not, of course, makes such assertions even slightly true. Soros, in the interests, apparently, of gravitas, asserts his bona fides. He is a "critical thinker."
But now I have to ask the question: How did Israel become so endangered? I cannot exempt AIPAC from its share of the responsibility. I am a fervent advocate of critical thinking. I have supported dissidents in many countries. I took a stand against President Bush when he said that those who don't support his policies are supporting the terrorists. I cannot remain silent now when the pro-Israel lobby is one of the last unexposed redoubts of this dogmatic way of thinking. I speak out with some trepidation because I am exposing myself to further attacks that are likely to render me less effective in pursuing many other causes in which I am engaged; but dissidents I have supported have taken far greater risks.
What "risks" Mr. Soros is facing are unclear to me, since AIPAC is obviously not going to throw him in the gulag. Perhaps his wealth has made him oversensitive to criticism. As Balzac once said: "Behind every great fortune lies a crime." Mr. Soros may be nursing an existential guilt we can only guess at, and for which any criticism at all is simply too much to bear. This is not an excuse, however, for such egregious bad faith as that evidenced in his statement. He claims to be "a fervent advocate of critical thinking." He is not. He is a censorious liar and a monomaniacal paranoiac. Like all judge-penitents, the principle he invokes applies only to himself. The idea that others may apply "critical thinking" to George Soros himself, and reach conclusions unfavorable to him and his opinions, seems impossible for him to concieve. Instead, he denounces any and all dissidents as oppressive, slanderous, tyrannical, undemocratic criminals. Hypocrisy is, of course, the last refuge of cowards. But the coward who believes himself a courageous prophet is not merely pathetic, but dangerous, because the lengths to which such men will go to realize their demented utopias are unlimited and they all end, ultimately, in murder.

Soros, however, is not up to such ominous standards. He is simply another in a long line of self-righteous egomaniacs -- witness Jimmy Carter -- unable to fathom the fact that people less wealthy and successful than him could reach different opinions and conclusions than himself, so he begins looking for insidious other forces to explain his failure to persuade the world to follow his unrequested advice. Nietzsche made a cogent observation during the opening decades of political antisemitism that the antisemite was by nature an example of the slave mind, one who is unable to overcome his own shortcomings and realize his will to power. Rather than blame himself, the antisemite seeks out the Jew as the source of his own impotence. Soros, in his frenzied invocations of invidious hidden enemies, ought to take heed.

Cross posted at Kesher Talk.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Never Again

Seems to be the message a great many of this nation's veterans are sending us. Those who have written the history of the '60s like to pretend that the entire population of America was in the streets protesting the war in Vietnam, but the truth is that a huge swath of the baby boom generation went to war, remain proud of their service, and justifiably remain incensed at the betrayal they experienced on their return. They seems determined to make sure that this generation of soldiers and vets is not betrayed and erased the way they were. The shadow history of the '60s has just taken to the streets to attack the remnants of the establishmentarians. I, for one, rejoice.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jewish Self-Hatred on the Right

Gershom Scholem, the great scholar of Jewish mysticism, once criticized his friend Hannah Arendt for lacking what he called ahavat yisrael, a love of Israel. There are, of course, numerous permutations of this concept, but for me it has always meant the love of one's people, their struggles, their history, their labors and their creative will. Camus once said that a mission exists for any human group which knows how to derive pride and fecundity from its labors and its sufferings. This has always been my sense of chosenness and my sense of Zionism. Unfortunately, there are those among us -- and always have been -- for whom ahavat yisrael means nothing at all. Or worse still, it means the rejection and condemnation of all who do not meet their exacting standards of what yisrael ought to be. Most of the time I deal with the leftist form of this disease, i.e. those who claim that their love for the Jewish people demands that they destroy it through assimilation or universalization. But the problem is by no means confined to the left. This post brings home the darkness that exists on the other side of the political spectrum.
Israpundit recently posted Tovia Singer’s interview of Gil-White. I had a discussion with him today in which I expressed my difficulty in thinking of our leadership so darkly.

He reminded me that during the Greek occupation we had our Jewish Hellenists. During the Roman occupation we had our priestly class in bed with the Romans. In both cases the Jewish people rose up and took their future into their own hands.

Similarly Jewish leadership was far from blameless in not doing more to rescue Jews. In fact they worked against it. They got us into the disastrous Oslo process.

Now Jewish leadership has worked to demonize Israelis living in J & S, otherwise known as settlers, and persecuting them. Just look at Amona. The establishment including the media, academia and the GOI is planning to get Israel to withdraw. This is so even when the Jewish masses oppose such withdrawal.

If we have learned anything from Jewish history it is that we shouldn’t trust our leadership. They do not represent the interests of the people.
The author writes later in the comments section:
They say that people deserve the leaders they vote for. I am trying not to be fair or even to judge but to advocate for a higher standard and for accountability.

I am also calling for a different mindset. Starting with Ben Gurion Jews and Israel have been sold down the river. We have been lead in the direction of appeasement, capitulation and concession from the start.

We need leaders like Jabotinsky who had Jewish pride and was prepared to fight for our rights. Our leaders don’t even mention our rights. They emasculate them. They are embarrassed by the Jewish particular. They want to be like everyone else and to be loved by everyone else.
One doesn't know quite what to do with this kind of lunacy. Its very dissonance seems to shut down any possibility of rational engagement. The idea that David Ben-Gurion; perhaps the one indispensible man in Israeli history, the man without whom the State of Israel would never have been declared in the first place, let alone form an army, win its initial wars of survival and absorb a million immigrants; sold the Jews down the river is sickeningly totalitarian in the enormity of its falsehood. If Ben-Gurion is a traitor then we are all traitors. The standard of loyalty has been reduced to nothing more than adherence to the ideals of the author. What these ideals precisely are I have no idea. They seem to be a random accumulation of vaguely Kahanist fantasies. The notion, for instance, of the "Hellenists" is a classic Kahanist trope. Besides the fact that it is a two thousand year old anachronism, it is, essentially, nothing more than a means of extricating from the Jewish people any and everyone who does not agree with those who employ it. Am I a "Hellenist" because I believe that Israel should withdraw from most of the West Bank? Do I fear the Jewish particular because I think that Ben-Gurion was a great man and not a traitor to his people? Am I not one of Israel because I fear the messianic psychosis expressed by this author? Because I dare to note that when "the Jewish people rose up and took their destiny into their own hands" against the Romans the result was annihilation, genocide and exile?

As for "working against" rescuing Jews, I simply have no idea what this is supposed to mean. If Israel has not done enough to be a refuge for Ethiopian Jews, Soviet Jews, Ashkenazi and Sephardi alike, then nothing will satisfy its purient critics. This is not even to mention operations such as Entebbe, which actively put the lives of Israeli soldiers at risk on foreign soil to rescue not only Israeli citizens but Jews of many nationalities.

The citing of Jabotinsky is telling indeed. We are told that Jabotinsky had Jewish pride and was prepared to fight for Jewish rights. This is true. I admire Jabotinsky as much as the next man. There is, however, a difference between me and this author: I have actually read his work. Jabotinsky was uncompromising, yes. But he was also the quintessential political realist. He was, in fact, the least messianic of the early Zionist leaders. Yes, he desired the restoration of Jewish pride. Yes, he opposed many of Ben-Gurion's policies which he viewed as unduly accomodationist. Yes, he advocated defiance as a form of political action. But he never entertained the fantasy that the Jewish people were invulnerable. He never branded his enemies traitors because of their political beliefs. His aim was to instill pride -- and thus power -- in the Jewish people, not to divide it into "Hellenists" and "real" Jews. And indeed, if any Zionist leader was wholly engaged in the world outside of Jewish tradition it was Jabotinsky. This was a man who based his philosophy on European liberalism and took the Italian nationalist leader Garibaldi as his model. He respected Jewish tradition, but was never beholden to it. He was a model of the "normalized" Jew he sought to create, a normalization based on the negation of the ghetto and the exile. In other words, a Jew who based his identity on nationalist principles and not on religion. What Jabotinsky would have to say about the appropriation of his name by those who would label the majority of the Jewish people traitors is impossible to say, but I doubt he would view it as a positive development.

More to the point, since I am writing here of Jewish self-hatred, we can see where this self-referential and self-fulfilling philosophy, this endless closed circle is taking us: to something very much like antisemitism. I have said from time to time that Kahane was an antisemite. I am generally greeted with open mouths and shocked expressions. While I sometimes enjoy rendering people speechless, I am not being frivolous when I say this. The philosophy we have here before us renders, for all intents and purposes, every Jew who does not agree with it a "Hellenist". That is to say, a traitor. By definition, therefore, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people are wholly condemned. Most of us, after all, are not Kahanists or any variation thereof. We are enjoined, of course, to hate and despise traitors, and to consider them our enemies. Any philosophy that hates, despises and makes an enemy of the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people can bare no other name than antisemitism. And antisemitism in the hands of Jews can bear no other name than self-hatred. This self-hatred is, of course, brethren to its left wing counterpart. It concieves of itself as a voice crying in the wilderness to a stiff-necked and corrupted people. A people becoming progressively unworthy of salvation or even, perhaps, existence. There can be no answer to it except the simple dictum of the Sages: the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. They meant hatred between Jews. This hatred, baseless as it is, insane as it is; as self-hatred is, of course, inherently insane; is, for me, the most terrifying and ominous threat in an era which sometimes seems to be nothing more than an infinite architecture of the ominous and the terrifying.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


The Chomskyite world has never lacked for it. Back in my former and much unhappier life I was a resident of the gray-cold hell city of death known as Boston, Massachusetts. Yes, the capital of liberal America, where everyone loves Chomsky and everyone loathes the Jews. I still remember being told by a cracker Irish kid from Southie about how he'd "Jewed" somebody and then going the next day to a political science class at Boston University to be told by the professor that Israel was the cause of 9/11. At least the various ethno-class divisions in the gray-cold hell city of death can find solidarity around something.

At any rate, the gray-cold hell city of death's newspaper of record, The Boston Globe, which could well be a charter member of Chomsky's fan club, reports that Chomsky is now the prime signatory of a petition on behalf of an academic who claims he was denied a post at MIT because of racism.

What makes this amusing, of course, is that Chomsky is something of flaming racist himself. While he confines himself to such politically correct forms of bigotry as claiming that the Jews are "priveleged people" who want "total control" over American society and invoking Rousseau's image of "half-naked savages" to describe the Third World, it is nonetheless incumbant upon us to call the thing what it is. The Boston Globe, if it weren't too busy congratulating itself over its latest condemnation of whatever Israel has done this week to defend its right to exist, might have noted this slight contradiction. Perhaps I should be sanguine on the matter, and simply confine myself to being grateful for one more reason to be happy that I now live in Israel.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another Jewish Radical Goes Completely Insane

I knew Michael Lerner was a Chomskyite idiot. I did not know that he was completely insane.
The book in which Lerner’s essay appears is billed as having been “inspired by” David Ray Griffin’s “The New Pearl Harbor,” a seminal text of the so-called “9/11 Truth” movement. The new book includes an essay by Griffin in which he makes the case that the September 11 attacks were likely “orchestrated, like many previous false-flag attacks, by U.S. agents as a pretext for a war to expand the American empire.”

In his own essay for “9/11 and American Empire,” Lerner wrote: “For those who watched the reactionary political uses made of this tragedy, it’s easy to conjure up a variety of possible conspiratorial motives that would have led the president, the vice president, or some branch of the armed forces or CIA or FBI or other ‘security’ forces to have passively or actively participated in a plot to re-credit militarism and war. We’ve learned enough about the subsequent ways that the Bush administration lied to the American public to no longer be shocked if there had been some active involvement by them in these deeds.”

But, Lerner immediately added, “Neither would I be surprised if, when all the archives were opened and all the communications revealed, it turned out that there was some other non-conspiratorial explanation for elements of the story that currently seem to make no sense.”

Lerner told the Forward that he has good reason to be suspicious of the government.

“I’ve had a lot of personal experience of government lying and doing things that are very destructive and pretending that they weren’t doing it,” Lerner said. “I was part of antiwar demonstrations in which violence was done and the violence later turned out was being done by police agents. I had that personal experience…. After that, nothing surprises me about what this government would do to achieve what its perceived ends are. Nothing would surprise me. That doesn’t mean I believe it. That doesn’t mean that I believe that that’s actually happening right now.”
This guy's giving Tony Kushner a run for his money in the tiresomely earnest psychopath department. I'd say that we can come up with some very cogent reasons for being suspicious of Michael Lerner. Perhaps we could talk about the ways in which the anti-war movement has lied to the American public. I can certainly speak from personal experience on that issue. This is not even to mention the movement's awesome responsibility for the deaths of millions of innocent people in Vietnam and Cambodia, or its support for tyranny from Eastern Europe to Cuba. But I digress. When discussing forms of political insanity one should not seek logic, reason or simple human decency from its practitioners. As for Lerner himself, Jewish radicalism has a long and rather depressingly futile history, and Lerner is exceptional only in that he seeks to hijack halachic Judaism itself for his revolutionary purposes. Most Jewish radicals of the past have had the good sense to ignore religion or dismiss it entirely. Lerner's desperate need to desecrate the Torah for his own purposes is both cheap and insulting, but I suppose that if I were an "agnostic" in regards to certain historical truths I might need faith in my corner as well.

To see where other conspiracy theories have brought us, check this out. I can't wait for the movie on the 9/11 conspiracy, and there will be one. Count on it.

There's No Problem with Antisemitism in the United States

Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel told Haaretz on Thursday he escaped a kidnap attempt in a San Francisco hotel last week.Wiesel, 78, whose novels deal with his experience as a Holocaust survivor, said he was grabbed by a stranger in an elevator at the hotel he was staying at for a peace conference and ordered to follow at the risk of violence...

A driver's license in the name of Harry Hunt, a member of a Holocaust denial group, was found in a car parked near the hotel. Hunt has not been located since the event.

A posting on a virulent anti-Semitic Web site Tuesday by a person identifying himself as Eric Hunt claimed responsibility. "I had planned to bring Wiesel to my hotel room, where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, 'Night,' is almost entirely fictitious," Hunt wrote on the site. The poster also said "I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks and had hoped to get Wiesel into my custody, with a cornered Wiesel finally forced to state the truth on videotape."
I really don't know what to say about this. Its scary and psychotic and not at all surprising. I do remember a time when there didn't have to be security guards in front of synagogues in the town where my parents live. I think American Jews have, in some ways, consented to a slow deterioration in their situation. I have my own ideas about why this is, one of them being that the Jews in America have totally lost their capacity for communal violence, whereas other ethnic groups have managed to maintain it and therefore retain some deterrance capacity against this sort of thing. I realize that this isn't a pleasent thing to hear, but one ought to be realistic when people are out there trying to kill you. Whatever the reason may be, it worries me greatly.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jewish Liberalism and Its Discontents

The NY Times, in its infintely conventional wisdom, has suddenly discovered that Jewish liberalism has some fairly major issues. Occasioned, apparently, by an AJC report attacking various "liberals" for being insufficiently dedicated to Israel's continued existence. The Times, of course, starts out with some major semantic problems, since most of the aforementioned accused cannot be accurately described as liberals at all. We are presented -- again -- with Tony Judt, who advocates the dismantling of Israel in favor of a "binational", i.e. Arab, state. As I have noted before, advocating such measures in regards to a country of 6 million people is difficult to describe as "liberal" by any definition of the term. Judt defends himself by, as per usual, revealing his extraordinary ignorance.
“The link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created,” he said, adding that he fears “the two will have become so conflated in the minds of the world” that references to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust will come to be seen as “just a political defense of Israeli policy.”
I will not even bother to deal at length with Judt's claim that the link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is in any way new. Such a wretched distortion of history is either willfully ignorant or consciously deceptive. My guess, judging by Mr. Judt's record, is the former. As to his "fears" as the Times describes them, I can say only that the obscenity he describes exists already and has existed for decades, though it is no fault of Israel's defenders that this is the case. Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust are, of course, only part of the argument for Israel's existence, but they bear an immeasurable weight, and must be dismissed by its enemies. Those who wish Israel to simply go away -- Judt among them -- cannot make a reckoning with the history which brought it into existence. To do so would preclude holding their chosen position. The reduction of catastrophe to politics is, therefore, inevitable on the part of those who reject Israel's existence. A fact with which Judt may well wish to struggle, rather than simply trot out antique rhetorical vulgarities.

We move on, of course, to Tony Kushner, a necro-socialist psychopath who has won the Pulitzer Prize for his writing solely on the basis of the passion with which he reinforces establishment prejudices. Screenwriter of the asinine Munich, a film upon which I have already said all I wish to say, Kushner is probably the stupidest literary presence in America today. Having been subjected myself to one of his public rants, there is little one can say for him besides his obvious need for psychotherapy and a few history lessons. He plays, of course, upon the emotions, and not the intellect, since he doesn't have one, and comes up with this stirring defense.
“Most Jews like me find this a very painful subject,” Mr. Kushner said, and are aware of the rise in vicious anti-Semitism around the world but feel “it’s morally incumbent upon us to articulate questions and reservations.”
This, of course, means absolutely nothing and can be interpreted as meaning absolutely anything. One could argue that it is morally incumbant upon us to articulate "questions and reservations" regarding Tony Kushner himself, but that would seem to be beside the point. We are dealing here, after all, with a man who has the intellectual maturity of a five year old. We shall move on to more interesting subjects.

One of whom happens to be Alan Wolfe, a man whose writings I have recently criticized. His response is, quite frankly, bizarre.
Mr. Wolfe, who has written about a recent rise in what he calls “Jewish illiberalism,” traces the heated language to increasing opposition to the Iraq war and President Bush’s policy in the Middle East, which he said had spurred liberal Jews to become more outspoken about Israel.

“Events in the world have sharpened a sense of what’s at stake,” he said. “Israel is more isolated than ever,” causing American Jewish defenders of Israel to become more aggressive.
I have already noted my opinions regarding what Mr. Wolfe calls "Jewish illiberalism". Needless to say, I consider it a far more positive development than he does, at least to the extent that liberalism must, inevitably, attempt the destruction of Judaism if it is to continue to exist. What is at issue are not historical events but the inevitablities of an ideology which cannot and will not accept Judaism as anything but a temporary anomaly to be dispensed with on the way to total dominion. The very phenomenon of Jewish liberalism itself is proof of this.

I say proof because of what Jewish liberalism in fact is. Jewish liberalism is not, after all, simply liberalism. It is liberalism that is, in some way, acknowledged by its practitioners, if only obliquely, as something specifically Jewish. Jewish liberalism is, in other words, a statement of unconscious discontent with liberalism as it is. With the liberalism which is, in my opinion, imperial universalism. Jewish liberals are sensing or seeking the particular in the universal, the limited in the unlimited, the ethical in the all-accepting nihilism. In this sense, there is at least some hope for Jewish liberalism. But we must regard those of its practitioners who express their discontent with the Jewish, and not with the liberal, elements of their ideology, as those who are looking for salvation in their discontents, and not seeking a way out, or a way up. A way up which I believe does exist in the possibility of difficult freedom. The difficulty here, of course, is of a different and far more tragic nature.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Some Worthy Reading

The new issue of Azure, to which I have occasionally contributed, is now available on the web. Anti-Chomskyites may especially enjoy my friend Noah Pollak's well-deserved castigation of French foreign policy.

Why We Fight the Thieves of History

Last night, I was treated to the unfortunate experience of watching a thoroughly reprehensible piece of Riefenstahlian propaganda called Why We Fight. Manipulative, simple minded and slanderous, this "documentary" purported to expose the evils of "the military-industrial complex" (how long, I ask, does it take for a hideous cliche to die?) and its sinister influence on American foreign policy. While seeminly unable to make up its mind whether war itself is evil -- which would imply only a banal and useless pacifism -- or whether only American war is bad -- being, as it apparently is, the tumerous growth of an insatiable imperial project -- the film nonetheless clearly rested on a single point: all wars of the post-World War II era have been manufactured by the "military-industrial complex" in order to serve its economic interests. This is, of course, pure Chomskyite paranoiac conspiracy theory and is impossible to either prove or disprove, since it is based on theoretical conjecture and absolutely no evidence whatsoever. By definition, therefore, it is ahistorical and anti-intellectual balderdash. Which is, of course, the point. All totalitarian ideologies stand on an unfalsifiable article of faith. The ostensibly anti-war left (or right, for that matter, although this film is clearly the product of the former) is no different in this regard.

What I wish to analyze, however, is the presence in the film of a particular and much abused historical document: president Dwight David Eisenhower's farewell address. Delivered on national television on 17 January 1960, this address has, by one of the ironies inherent in history (or anti-history, depending on how you look at it) become one of the central texts of the "military-industrial complex" conspiracy theory, not least because it appears to mark the first appearence of the phrase itself. Oft-quoted by anti-war talking heads of both the left and right, excerpted for Oliver Stone's masterpiece of anti-history JFK, which charged the complex in question with the murder of the president of the United States, this address has been sanctified by Why We Fight in extraordinary fashion, the filmmakers going so far as to place a still photograph of Eisenhower giving the speech on the film's poster.

The usefulness of such a source cannot be overstated. The charges of scurrilousness, irresponsible rhetorical hysteria and flatulent radicalism are inherently undermined when faced with a personage such as a former and much revered president of the United States. And not merely that, but a former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. The man upon whom the great responsibility of winning World War II ultimately rested. In the presence of such a witness, gravitas is instantly bestowed upon the prosecutor.

The question, therefore, becomes a simple one. Did Eisenhower in fact say what he is purported to have said? Does his statement in fact reflect the overall ideology which is being foisted upon us by those who make use of it? The answer, and this should not be a surprise, is a resounding negative, and a simple examination of the complete document, rather than the few strategic excerpts emphasized by its hijackers, makes this eminently clear.

Eisenhower begins his speech with some statements of thanks to, among others, the Congress and the American people. He praises the bipartisanship which has marked his term, a bipartisanship, incidentally, abhorred by anti-war leftists. Radical anti-historian Howard Zinn has, in fact, spent an entire chapter of his magnum anti-opus A People's History of the United States denouncing precisely this consensus Eisenhower lauds. The body of the speech does not begin until the fifth paragraph.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts, America is today the strongest, the most influential, and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace, to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt, both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily, the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.
As can be easily seen, this is hardly a call for disarmament or isolationism. It is, in fact, precisely the opposite. It calls for strength, perseverence, sacrifice and involvement. It posits America as the great hope for human peace and freedom and demands that America continue to stand against "a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method." In other words, communism. Its only caution is that this task be undertaken with care and intelligence. That we must not rely only upon our military and economic power, but also upon the skill with which we apply this power. Eisenhower, in other words, is not negating military power. Quite the opposite. He assumes that it will and must be applied and that we must be ready to do so with skill and willingness. He speaks fearfully of failures born of our "arrogance or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice." In other words, of isolationism and decadance. If we can credit Eisenhower with any prophetic powers, it must be in his comprehension of the dangers of weakness, cowardice and moral arrogance. In other words, of the anti-war movement.

This becomes even clearer two paragraphs later:
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
As can be obviously seen, Eisenhower is hardly a pacifist. He sees the "military establishment", that permanent boogeyman of anti-warriors both past and present, as a "vital element" in attaining America's strategic goals, goals which are altruistic, noble, and of the utmost global import. It proposes, moreover, an indefinite timetable for these goals, and implies that not only current aggressors but potential, other agressors must be taken into consideration as well.

Now we come to the heart of the matter. The following paragraphs compose Eisenhower's primary statement on the "military-industrial complex" and its possible discontents. It is important to display them in full.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual --is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Far from a spluttering malcontent howling at unseen forces of sinister power, what we see here is a naunced, careful discussion well worthy of an aging and experienced statesman at the end of his career. Eisenhower is noting certain necessities: the necessity, and imperative necessity, for the armaments industry, and some elementary and quite sensible concerns about its effect on American society. He states in no uncertain terms that "We recognize the imperative need for this development." In his view, it is something "we have been compelled to create." The reasoning here, seen in historical context, is obvious. The United States has risen to global preeminence, something Eisenhower considers a highly positive development (and which the anti-war movement deplores as imperialism) and therefore cannot risk, for its own sake and for the sake of freedom and peace around the world, to be the isolationist, essentially disarmed nation it was in the past. America can no longer risk, according to Eisenhower, the state of unreadiness that led, for instance, to the early disasters of World War II in the Pacific. It is not unreasonable to imagine that he was also thinking of 1930s Europe, who's unreadiness for war certainly contributed to the policy of appeasement in regards to Hitler. The "military-industrial complex" therefore, is not a sinister plot or a war-mongerer's cabal. It is, rather, an essential "vital element" in maintaining America's position as the world's defender of peace and freedom. It is hardly a surprise that Eisenhower's hijackers regularly ignore this part of his statement and concentrate on what follows as if it took place in a vacuum of history. The vacuum, of course, where they themselves reside.

Eisenhower does indeed render some cautions. They are not, however, criticisms. They are warnings, calls for a measure of reasoned vigilance. He understands that all concentrations of power, and not only military ones, can be a threat to democratic governance. He proposed therefore, that we should "take nothing for granted." This does not, however, imply an abandonment of American hegemony, a return to isolationism, nor a blanket condemnation of American society as inherently manipulated and corrupted. It is, rather, a call for balance. For moderation. For the compromise essential to democracy. Eisenhower does not desire a revolutionary assault, but rather "the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together." In other words, Eisenhower calls for the proper use, the proper channeling, of these enormous energies, towards the goals of the American project. Namely, the projection of American power abroad in order to defeat political evil and ensure peace and freedom. Precisely the goals that this document's hijackers consider a manufactured pretense for war profiteering. Eisenhower states the responsibility he places upon himself and his successors in this regard in rather moving fashion
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
It is precisely these "supreme goals", as Eisenhower concieves of them, that the makers of Why We Fight, the anti-war movement, and innumerable other scurrilous manipulators of Eisenhower's words wish to thwart. It is precisely this integration that they wish to prevent. It is precisely the victory which Eisenhower desires that they wish to turn into defeat. The fact that they regularly stoop to manipulating, distorting and ultimately violating the words and the creed of a man who stood his whole life against everything they represent in pursuit of this goal tells us a very great deal about what and who we should be cautious of. It may not, in fact, be the "military-industrial complex", but rather the domination of our media and intellectual elite by liars, cowards, and thieves of history that constitutes the greatest danger to our freedoms, to peace, and to the supreme goals of our free society.

The complete text of president Eisenhower's farewell address can be read here.