The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties [bold mine-DL]: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel. ~Joe Klein
This was almost a throwaway line at the end of a post that was principally about the “surge,” but that hasn’t stopped Klein’s critics from unloading on him with both barrels. What Klein actually seems to be saying is not that these people possessed divided loyalties, but that their support for the war created an impression and raised the question. Well, it did raise the question. That is the extent of what Joe Klein said.
As Robert Stacy McCain’s response makes clear, pro-Israel war supporters think it is right to “support America’s ally against America’s enemies,” which is why I have never quite understood the hypersensitivity about the claim that war supporters backed invading Iraq because they thought it was good for Israel. Yes, of couse, they also thought it was good for America. As it happens, they were quite wrong on both counts, but to see the reaction to the suggestion that the war was waged for Israel’s benefit or at least to some degree on Israel’s behalf you would never know that these are the people who support a strong alliance between the U.S. and Israel. According to such people, it is a smear or an accusation of treason or “dual loyalty” to say that someone supports a particular policy because he believes it is in the best interests of the U.S. and Israel, when that same someone is profoundly mistaken about the strategic interests of the U.S. and Israel. But the heart of the critique is not an attack on loyalty, but on the kind of judgement and ideological obsession that concluded that invading a Near Eastern state essentially without provocation and installing majoritarian democracy in Iraq would benefit American and Israeli security. In fact, it freed Iran’s hand and made life much more difficult for Israel; the costs to the United States are obvious. The real point is that these people have terrible judgement when they are assessing what is in the interests of both the U.S. and Israel, and as Mearsheimer and Walt argued the policies that “pro-Israel” hawks advance are generally damaging to the security of both countries. The even better answer to the question cui bono? when discussing neoconservative foreign policy is this: nobody.
If you believed that one of our allies was being threatened by a particular state, it seems to me that you would make defending that ally an important part of your argument to go to war against that state, or at the very least you would acknowledge that defending that ally against a perceived threat was an important part of the rationale for the war. The angry reaction to the mere idea that the war in Iraq had something to do with Israel, much less the more robust Mearsheimer/Walt argument that the war would not have happened but for “pro-Israel” forces pushing for it or another form of this argument stated in TAC, reveals a very strange attitude towards the relationship with Israel. The relationship is supposed to be fundamental and non-negotiable, but we have to pretend that the rest of our Near Eastern policy is not driven to a significant degree by sustaining that relationship. Also, we simply must denounce anyone who questions whether American and Israeli interests converge as often as official policy implies they do.
The entire discussion is surreal. It’s as if we were discussing North Korea policy without ever referring directly to South Korea and Japan, for fear of making it seem as if our policy has something to do with the security of our allies. Thus we have had the absurd contortions that require people to say that third-rate despotisms on the other side of the world pose a threat to the United States, when the real concern is the security of allied states that can, of course, defend themselves perfectly well without our aid.