Tim Stanley comments on the reaction to Rand Paul’s recent trip to Israel:
Nonetheless, there’s reason to remain cautious. The pundits might applaud Paul’s pro-Israel rhetoric right now, but will the enthusiasm last in the heat of a presidential primary? Why should neoconservative voters choose Paul over a candidate who presumably does want to give unconditional aid to Israel – like one Marco Rubio? And will the fine balance between Zionism and non-interventionism hold up under the scrutiny of negative ads and less gushing inquiry?
There are a few things to add to Stanley’s questions. We should distinguish between the grudging approval that a few “pro-Israel” hawks are giving Paul’s recent statements and enthusiasm for him. These hawks will nod along when they hear things they like, but there has never been any question of gaining their positive support. Presumably, the best that can be hoped for is to minimize hawkish hostility. It’s important to remember that there are remarkably few “neoconservative voters,” and there is not that much demand for hard-line policies from rank-and-file Republicans. Republican voters’ views on foreign policy are much more diverse than Republican elites’ views are, and the voters most likely to prefer Sen. Paul will be among the least interested in the degree to which he endorses the status quo in the U.S.-Israel relationship.
As for the “balance” between Zionism and non-interventionism, this implies that there is some sort of opposition or antagonism between the two that requires a compromising balance, and it treats support for maximalist hawkish positions as if that were what made someone a Zionist. Neither of these is true. As Noah Millman put it last year:
The more I think about it, the more I think that contemporary use of the word “Zionist” is pernicious. It is used by self-professed Zionists to narrow the terms of debate – to imply that such and such course of action or political perspective is tantamount to rejecting Israel’s “right to exist.” And it is used by self-professed “anti-Zionists” to keep open a question that was settled 64 years ago: whether there would be a sovereign, recognized State of Israel in the first place.
When we talk about “balancing” Zionism and non-interventionism, that endorses the first of these pernicious uses of the word. It promotes the falsehood that preferring that the U.S. avoid unnecessary entanglements and conflicts requires one to be hostile to the existence of another state. Non-interventionism doesn’t require this, and could not possibly do so. There shouldn’t need to be a balance between these two things because there is no tension or opposition between them. Non-interventionism is opposed to uncritical and reflexive backing for another state regardless of what it is doing, and there’s no need to strike a balance with the latter. That is the sort of policy that should be firmly rejected no matter what other state is involved.