The big question for Monday is whether Romney will continue his shift to moderate Republicanism by making a sensible, realist foreign policy speech in his scheduled Virginia address. Or whether, as I suspect, he will double down on neoconservative arguments, criticizing Obama for “apologizing” (a lie), stressing American exceptionalism (anything we want to do is OK with God), and lament that a tiny sliver of distance has opened up between American policy and his hero Bibi Netanyahu. My bet on Romney is that while his moderate domestic policy instincts are genuine, so is the Bibi-worship, and the latter won’t be jettisoned.
Meanwhile, I’d like to call attention to this fine essay on the futility of nuclear weapons by William Pfaff. It’s perceptive and profound, but I especially enjoyed the dry footnote on Israel’s use of the word “existential” to describe the problem Iran’s nuclear program poses for it.
So has been the embellishment of the threat with invention of the adjective “existential,” implying that Israel’s existence is at stake. The (indirect) relevance of this exists only in one sense of the (originally French and philosophical) term’s dictionary definition: that of an “intense awareness of contingency, preceding the affirmation of essence or identity.” This may or may not be what Israeli propagandists had in mind.
Those of us who as adolescents puzzled over the meaning of “existential” in the 1960s (I had a girlfriend who would proclaim with complete self-confidence that I would understand existentialism if I saw “Shoot the Piano Player”) can only marvel at Israel’s appropriation of it.