It surprises me that this non-story about Petraeus’ “mild, unsurprising” remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to generate any reactions. I don’t have much more to say about the original dispute, and there is no need to respond in detail to Andy McCarthy’s lengthy denunciation of Petraeus (via Andrew), but as part of a larger pattern I find hawkish conservative attacks on Petraeus both fascinating and depressing. The attacks are fascinating in that they show how exacting and unreasonably high the standards are to be considered truly “pro-Israel” in some conservative circles, and they are depressing for the same reason. If Petraeus, or Tom Campbell, or even Obama and Biden cannot be acknowledged as perfectly conventional supporters of Israel, and if their views are going to be warped and distorted beyond recognition as “anti-Israel,” what chance does anyone else have of critically thinking about the relevant issues without receiving even worse treatment? Then again, the attacks have become so unreasonable and the misrepresentations so severe that the enforcers may be losing their touch.

It is also worth noting that Max Boot, who has been Petraeus’ lead defender in all of this, seems to think that he has been policing the extremes of conservatism by repudiating anti-Petraeus conservatives just as others had done before in denouncing Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran. What Boot misses is that McCarthy and other Petraeus attackers are the ones assuming the role of ideological enforcers against another ostensibly “anti-Israel” figure. The bile being directed at Petraeus is the same that has been directed at Buchanan and Sobran for decades. The one ultimately derives from the other. The vicious habit of casting out people for legitimate differences of principle and policy in the most hateful way has started coming back to haunt movement conservatives in unexpected ways. What is remarkable is that Petraeus’ “deviation” is so minimal as to non-existent. Whatever “red lines” there are on the subject that one is never supposed to cross, Petraeus hasn’t even come close to crossing any of them.

To borrow a phrase from Philip Klein, it’s pretty amazing the lengths that some extreme “pro-Israel hawks” will go to in order to distort the facts.