January 9, 2009

American Exceptionalism

Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell introduced a Senate resolution yesterday that strongly backs Israel against Hamas in Gaza, and it passed unanimously.

Americans are really exceptional. Nearly alone are we willing to side with a democracy against an avowedly genocidal terrorist army that seeks to eradicate it.

UPDATE: The House of Representatives did the same. 390 voted for it. Four Democrats voted against it, as did Republican Ron Paul from Texas.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 9, 2009 9:35 AM
Comments

It doesn't bother you that American politicians march lock step without any apparent thought to defend the interests of a country almost 6000 miles away from our borders? Is that really the kind of exceptionalism we want to show? In Germany, the UK, France, and, most importantly, in Israel herself, politicians actually debate these issues. Not in the US. That's not healthy for the future of Israel or for the US.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 10:06 AM

Vanya,

Just because you're out of step with both the Democratic and Republican parties doesn't mean your opponents reached their conclusions without thinking it through, or without arguing with the likes of yourself.

No, none of this bothers me. It would bother me if some of our senators took the side of a terrorist army, however, or thought it appropriate to split the difference between a terrorist army and a liberal democratic ally.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 10:13 AM

Thank you, Michael, for giving credit where it is due. I rarely laud Dirty Harry Reid, but in this case (((((((((((((((((((clapping)))))))))))))))) is earned.

Posted by: DagneyT Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 10:15 AM

What about the U.S. abstention on the U.N. Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire? This seems like a sort of stab in the back, but I'm not sure yet. Surprisingly little commentary on this so far. The Israelis have rejected it, which would seem to indicate they see it as a stab in the back as well.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 10:33 AM

Reading prose such as

"Nearly alone are we willing to side with a democracy against an avowedly genocidal terrorist army that seeks to eradicate it."

makes me uncomfortable. It has the kind of black-and-white mentality that can lead to great misery for everyone. It is also worth noting that the U.S. Senate is notoriously detached from U.S. public opinion. Said public opinion is much more evenly split in the matter on how to best go about bringing a peaceful and just solution to the Middle-East nightmare than the one-sided unhelpful resolution your post celebrates would indicate.

Posted by: Persephone Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 12:05 PM

Israel is an important US ally and friend. So is Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, Malaysia and other muslim countries.

We need to find a way to partly accommodate all our allies. I don't think this resolution will be viewed favorably by PM Maliki, the Iraqi Parliament, and the Najaf Marjeeya.

Can't we phrase these resolutions in a way that reaffirms American support to the our Palestinian allies? Can't we simultaneously reaffirm our publicly stated position opposing segregated gated community settlements in the West Bank?

Israel isn't going into Gaza to save the Gazans (like when the Iraqi Army went into Basrah and Thawra/Sadr City in 2008, or when the Marines and 1st Iraqi Army Division went into Falluja in 2004.) Israel isn't solving the long term challenges of the Gazan people. What is Israel's long term plan and strategy in Gaza, let alone the West Bank?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 12:21 PM

Hamas is never going to accept a two-state solution. Their very raison d'etre, as stated in their founding charter, calls for the utter destruction of the state of Israel, for all Jews living there to be murdered or expelled, and for a Muslim sharia law state to be established on all of the land. Following their charter, they have continued to relentlessly rocket Israel towns since they seized power in Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup in 2006.

For Israel to live side by side in peace with a Palestinian state - which is their only choice if 1) they are not utterly destroyed and 2) attacks upon them from Gaza do not continue forever - they must find a way for Hamas to be replaced by a governing Gazan entity that DOES accept a two state solution. That entity is not, and never will be, Hamas. And Hamas will not go gently into that good night.

So Israel is doing what they can to consign Hamas in Gaza to political oblivion, in the name of peace, and the long-term protection of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens. It isn't pretty to look at (no military action is), but the only available alternatives are either vastly more permanent or massively more horrific violence - or both.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KA08Ak01.html

Posted by: Salamantis Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 12:53 PM

"Nearly alone ..."

Yes, all too true.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 1:07 PM

I have no problem with these resolutions, though where are these brave and moral senators when it comes to condemning the constant expanding of illegal settlements in the West Bank and other confiscated Palestinian land.

This is double standard.

Posted by: realist000 Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 2:06 PM

Persephone,

It has the kind of black-and-white mentality that can lead to great misery for everyone.

If it happens to be the truth, then it doesn't matter whether its a "black & white" statement, does it? And how can the truth lead to "great misery"? The truth is supposed to set us free! lol. That's one of the most odd claims I've ever seen somebody make. Either you don't believe that the US is the only country strongly supporting Israel, or you do believe it... but think the US should lie about it?

It is also worth noting that the U.S. Senate is notoriously detached from U.S. public opinion.

Well, yeah... I suppose about 80% of the American public is notoriously detached from US public opinion, if we are considering Cindy Sheehan to be the official spokesman for the American public.

Senators are a bit "safer" from answering to their constituents than members of the House, but you can be sure that the House and the Senate (both) didn't pass such a clear and unambiguous statement of support, if it went against what they were hearing from the voters back home.

Said public opinion is much more evenly split in the matter on how to best go about bringing a peaceful and just solution to the Middle-East nightmare than the one-sided unhelpful resolution your post celebrates would indicate.

lol. Do you live in Berkeley? I don't know anyone who claims to know what the best solution is, but I also don't know anyone who takes the side of Hamas. The closest to that comes from a few people I know who want the US to mind it's own business and let them fight it out. But I doubt they mean, by "we should mind our own business", that we make official statements attacking Israel. That doesn't qualify as "minding our own business", does it?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 2:24 PM

"Said public opinion is much more evenly split in the matter on how to best go about bringing a peaceful and just solution to the Middle-East nightmare than the one-sided unhelpful resolution your post celebrates would indicate."

Persephone, considering the illiteracy of the American populous, and the 40-50 years of public schooling that has provided the left with their "base", it's amazing that the split is not more "progressive" or "liberal" than it is!

Posted by: DagneyT Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 2:37 PM

Anand asked a good question when he asks:

Israel isn't solving the long term challenges of the Gazan people. What is Israel's long term plan and strategy in Gaza, let alone the West Bank?

I second that query. I am not being facetious...I really want to know Israels long-term strategy is. Anyone?

Posted by: Persephone Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 3:45 PM

See above, Persephone; I already posted a good candidate.

Posted by: Salamantis Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 3:57 PM

programmmer_craig:

You write
That's one of the most odd claims I've ever seen somebody make. Either you don't believe that the US is the only country strongly supporting Israel, or you do believe it... but think the US should lie about it?

Let me explain: When someone writes a sentence like
"Nearly alone are we willing to side with a democracy against an avowedly genocidal terrorist army that seeks to eradicate it."

Then the implication is that here is a democracy (all good) pitted against an avowedly genocidal terrorist army (all bad). Kind of like in Grimm's tales. However the real world is more complex than that in a way that would bore you to tears if I tried to explain it here. See
this article
for more background.

Posted by: Persephone Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 3:59 PM

Persephone,
Israel's long term strategy in Gaza is only relevant if it is responsible for Gaza. But since what it wants is an independent and peaceful Palestinian state that includes Gaza, the citizens of that new nation will be responsible for it, and their own "long term strategy" is the only one that matters.

Posted by: Gene Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 4:03 PM

>>Then the implication is that here is a democracy (all good) pitted against an avowedly genocidal terrorist army (all bad). <<

Hilarious. You realize you're implying that "an avowedly genocidal terrorist army" (which, by the way, is a spot-on description of Hamas) is NOT all bad. Wow.

Posted by: Gene Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 4:16 PM

Sorry Salamantis, I didn't see your post...but ok, so you're saying that Israel is currently engaged in a preemptive military campaign to eradicate Hamas, something which the Israeli leadership so far officially denys. Do you think this is the way to do it? I'd bet my maximum safe-bet amount (50 cents) that in two years Hamas will be stronger than ever, mostly due to the Israeli action in Gaza and the resulting radicalization of the surviving Palestinians. The future will tell. I'd like to see Hamas disappear more than anyone on this site, but all this killing is counterproductive and stupid. I guess what I mostly accuse the Israeli leadership of is incompetence and an over-reliance on military power in achieving it's goals.

Posted by: Persephone Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 4:18 PM

Persephone,

Then the implication is that here is a democracy (all good) pitted against an avowedly genocidal terrorist army (all bad).

That statement was very similar to statements Winston Churchill made when Britain was the only holdout in Europe against the nazis. Was Winston Churchill wrong? Was he saying something that wasn't true? Was he being too "black and white"? Was it "dangerous" for Winston Churchill to point out an obvious truth?

I really don't understand what your position is here. Do you think terrorists better than nazis?

Kind of like in Grimm's tales. However the real world is more complex than that in a way that would bore you to tears if I tried to explain it here...

I understand. I used to try to rationalize it away when my own government did things that I thought were betrayals. It made me feel kind of... unclean. So, I don't anymore. For example, I think Ronald Reagan is the best President the US ever had. But, when he abandoned the mission in Lebanon due to terrorist attacks, he made a serious error that in many ways has put us (the US and the whole world) in the position we are in today. I feel much better saying that, than trying to convince myself that he had good reasons for what he did, and the alternatives would have been worse. If you prefer to keep things fuzzy that's up to you, but clarity is something I value, and it doesn't sit well with me when I try to re-arrange my considered opinions to suit a world view that I might find more pleasing. Juan Cole does that, and Juan Cole sucks. I don't want to suck as much as he does.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 4:25 PM

programmer_craig, you write

...That statement was very similar to statements Winston Churchill made when Britain was the only holdout in Europe against the nazis.

One for the Guinness book: You are actually comparing Israel's current military offensive in Gaza to Britain's resistance to the Germans during WWII? With, let me get this straight, Israel in the role of Britain and Germany in the role of the Hamas? Wow. I was not aware that the Hamas wanted to take over the world and that they were blockading Israel. If I was of German (or British) origin I would strongly object to this. But I find it hilarious how far the human mind can bend when it wants to rationalize reality. Well, maybe you are young and unsure of WWII historical facts.

Posted by: Persephone Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 4:50 PM

The long term challenges of Gaza are Gazans' challenge; they elected Hamas. Not a promising start.

John Bolton's idea, which he realizes doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell, is have Egypt absorb Gaza ---which would please the muslim brotherhood, like Cairo doesn't have enough on its plate.

Hopeless? Endless? Yeah, maybe so.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 5:09 PM

Persephone,

One for the Guinness book: You are actually comparing Israel's current military offensive in Gaza to Britain's resistance to the Germans during WWII?

No, that isn't what I did. I compared the statement made by the US congress today to statements Winston Churchill made. I asked if you also thought Churchill's black & white and very similar statements were also "dangerous".

Paraphrasing other people incorrectly, just so you can ridicule them for things they (didn't) say, is something Juan Cole does. Do I need to repeat the mantra?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 5:34 PM

Persephone, the Israelis have already tried just giving back land for peace; it got them 6000 rockets launched on Israeli towns from the land they relinquished. Trying to talk to someone who has piously, passionately and devoutly vowed to kill you just provides them with a good shot.

And I see you embrace the 'weed' theory of terrorism; kill terrorists, and more sprout up to take their place. Well, that happens until you kill enough of them that others are unwilling to die replacing them (see Iraq). And it is better to allow them to overgrow the place? I heartily approve of their decision to employ military power, and note that they have been doing so most efficiently and effectively. The Gaza campaign so far bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Lebanon Summer War.

The comparison between Hamas and Hitler is apt. They both live to kill Jews, and want(ed) their view to eventually rule and dominate the world. Plus, through Arafat's uncle, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was Adolph's personal friend, there is a clear ideological geneology between the two.

Posted by: Salamantis Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 11:49 PM
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