The Un-American Conservative

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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26 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    Hey E.D. A. Sullivan gets you and Freddie all confused. Below is A.S. and the post from the evening. Have fun.

    17 Mar 2009 06:39 pm

    We Judge Because We Care
    E.D. Kain responds to Shirky and me:

    I can’t understand the career journalists who talk with such knowing disdain and casual disregard as their industry goes down in flames. Yes, everyone wants to appear with it and cool and ahead of the curve, but when you say that you value something and yet essentially cheer its demise, that’s pretty lame. Many journalists aren’t just whistling past the graveyard, they’re chortling past it. Perhaps I’m misreading, but I don’t actually see grim humor in the face of great sadness. I see a ton of people not wanting to be seen as one of the ones who didn’t get the memo. The fear of being someone who doesn’t realize his or her industry is dying seems a great deal more meaningful to many journalists than the sadness of the collapse of an at times great and much loved American industry. Better to mock the rubes, it seems, than to mourn the loss.

    The hostility Kain senses isn’t due to schadenfreude induced glee, it’s from frustration built up over the years because those who foresaw the media blood bath coming – often bloggers and others familar with new media – were repeatedly ignored, and still are.Report

  2. E.D. Kain says:


    Yeah, I know, I emailed him about it earlier. But, er, uhm…what does that have to do with this post?Report

  3. Bob says:

    Nothing, just some information I thought you might be interested in. So fing sorry!Report

  4. Roque Nuevo says:

    No other foreign policy lobby is as active or as strong as AIPAC

    What evidence do you have to support such a statement?Report

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    Gosh Bob, a little sensitive. I’m only messing with you…

    Roque – what evidence do you have that it’s not?Report

  6. Roque Nuevo says:

    What kind of idiotic answer is that? One would think that you’re simply being flip and not interested in “advancing debate and understanding of any number of issues” like you say in your mission statement.

    You were the one who said that the AIPAC was the most powerful lobby. Did you just pull that idea out of your sleeve because it fits into your prejudices?Report

  7. E.D. Kain says:

    They may not be the “most powerful” lobby, but in terms of foreign policy and influence they have a very, very disproportionate amount of power. If you are truly denying this then well, big surprise. The problem I have debating you on this subject, Roque, is that you are very partisan. You have very entrenched ideas and beliefs on this matter, and you basically just take whatever you disagree with and apply your basic, unchanging, immovable beliefs to those arguments. Which is fine, but I’m well aware of everything you say. I’ve heard all those arguments before and so I guess I just get bored hearing them again. And again. And again.Report

  8. Roque Nuevo says:

    So now they’re not the most powerful, but the “most disproportionate.” You should get your story straight.

    I’m not denying anything; I’m just asking you to support what you say in the interests of “advancing debate and understanding of any number of issues,” etc. etc.

    Yes, Israel has a lobby. But so do other countries and other industries in the US. You say Israel’s lobby is the most powerful or the most “disproportionate,” depending… Do you have any reason for saying this besides your own prejudice? I doubt it. If I’m wrong, then show me.

    You do have a problem debating me on this subject and it’s not because I’m “partisan” and you’re not. I don’t get which “party” I’m a “partisan” of. You must mean only mean that I have my mind made up in this matter and you use the word, “partisan” because it sounds more intellectual to you. But, if you think you don’t have “entrenched ideas and beliefs on this matter” that your beliefs are the result of open minded inquiry and mine are simply “partisan” hackery then you’re more deluded than I thought.

    You can hardly support your opinions apart from saying that “everybody knows,” like you do here. When challenged, you just say that you can’t debate me because I’m wrong.

    Your “boredom” comes off like a cop-out to me.

    Let’s see if you can answer a simple question: What evidence do you have to support such statements about the Israel Lobby?Report

  9. E.D. Kain says:

    Ugh. Roque. My “boredom” is with your particular line and means of argument. You want evidence of a strong Israel lobby? Do you see any other country in the entire bloody world who benefits as much from the United States militarily as Israel? Do you know of any other nation with as many deep, deep ties to the politicians and intelligence community? I mean, read a book why don’t you? Do you know how close Israel and the CIA have been? Do you know how much we’ve relied on the Israeli intelligence community, or that they have done some pretty significant spying on us? (Which is all fine and good – all fair’s in love and war). Not only that, but you know I think it’s OK that they have a strong lobby. I think it’s natural. I don’t think there’s anything conspiratorial or despicable about it. I just think kowtowing to Israeli interests so often is not always in the best interests of either Israel or the United States. The belief in military solutions is wrong in my humble opinion. The obvious effects of Israeli pressure on US political entities to walk in lock-step with Israeli decisions to continue to use military solutions is obvious.

    What kind of “proof” do you want? Are you asking for quantifiable data that shows the “power” level of each foreign lobby on the US government? Really? You never once have supplied anything near that precise for any of your arguments. I would direct you to the dialogue over Israel itself; to the aid given; to the fact that Presidential candidates feel compelled to address American concerns first and Israeli concerns second in their campaigns. Etc. etc. etc. And so on, and so forth.Report

  10. Roque Nuevo says:

    Ugh. ED Kain.

    What kind of “proof” do you want? Are you asking for quantifiable data that shows the “power” level of each foreign lobby on the US government? Really? You never once have supplied anything near that precise for any of your arguments.

    I want any kind of proof you can come up with. I never said anything about “quantifiable data.” You make an empirical claim, after all. There must be some evidence. I certainly do provide proof for my arguments. I never just say “everybody knows” like you do.

    My arguments against you are based on Occam’s Razor. This is also considered “proof,” even if it is not “quantifiable data.”

    You seem to take the intelligence cooperation and military aid between Israel and the US as some sort of evidence for the “power” or “disproportionate” power of the Israel Lobby, which is detrimental to our own interests. This is the main point, not the limits you see in “military solutions.” Anyone can criticize Israel’s policies but attributing “disproportionate” power to Israel’s advocates in the US, when none exists, in opposition to our own “true interests” is what I call an updated Elders theory.

    Do you know of any other nation with as many deep, deep ties to the politicians and intelligence community?

    How about Saudi Arabia? Or China? Especially now that Freeman has been in the news for having such “deep, deep ties” to these nations. Don’t we have “deep, deep ties” with other allies as well? Why would such ties with Israel be so suspect in your mind?

    I suppose that in your mind we have been caught “kowtowing to Israeli interests” in the bipartisan support the Congress gave to Israel’s recent Gaza operation. You can’t imagine that Senators would have written such a resolution without undue pressure from the Zionists. Or is the “kowtowing to Israeli interests” shown in the rejection of Chas Freeman’s appointment? In your mind, this couldn’t be a matter of his incompetence and his own financial ties to China and Saudi Arabia. It is prima facie evidence of the “disproportionate power” of the Israel Lobby.

    This is where I say that Occam’s Razor is applicable.

    Here’s some information about US military aid [Congressional Budget Justification FOREIGN OPERATIONS Fiscal Year 2008]:

    The Administration requests $4.54 billion for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) in FY 2008 to provide articles and services to support coalition partners and states critical to the Global War on Terror. This program serves to strengthen the security of the United States and to promote peace in general. FMF is allocated strategically within regions with the largest proportion (54%) directed to our sustaining partners and a significant proportion (41%) to developing countries to support their advancement to the transforming category.
    FMF funding snapshot
    $3.9 billion for the Near East region, to include $2.4 billion for Israel; $1.3 billion for Egypt to foster a modern, well-trained Egyptian military; and $200 million to support Jordan’s force modernization, border surveillance and counterterrorism efforts. $300.0 million to support the armed forces of Pakistan, to include equipment and training to enhance its counterterrorism capabilities and provide for its defense needs. $129.3 million for ongoing efforts to incorporate the most recent NATO members into the Alliance, support prospective NATO members and coalition partners, and assist critical coalition partners in Iraq and Afghanistan. < $78.0 million for operational support and specialized equipment to the Colombian armed forces, focusing on specialized and mobile units of the Colombian Army. $43.5 million for FMF administrative costs. $27.2 million for Poland to maximize Poland’s capability to deploy and sustain professional forces in close support of U.S. security operations. $18.4 million for Romania to assistance in the continued integration into NATO, expand its capabilities, and support continued contributions to NATO and coalition operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    $15.7 million for Indonesia to promote defense reform and to improve maritime
    security, counterterrorism, mobility, and disaster relief capabilities.including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It’s true that Israel gets far more military aid than other nations, although Egypt and Jordan are right up there too. But you take this as evidence of the “disproportionate power” of the Israel Lobby. I don’t see the logic there. I can see that Israel is a longstanding ally and that they are “critical to the Global War on Terror.” I say we’re doing the right thing in supporting Israel because their fight is our fight. We’re allies.

    I hope you’re bearing with me here. Israel’s position today with respect to the fight against radical Islam is analogous to GB’s position with respect to the fight against Nazism in the late ’30s-early ’40s. GB was receiving a disproportionate amount of US aid then. The Elders theory was that “International Jewry” was manipulating Roosevelt’s government since such aid to GB was not in our “true interests.”

    See what I mean about the updated Elders theory? See what I mean about Occam’s Razor?

    By the way, I’m not accusing you of Jew-hatred. I just think that you’re trying to achieve political correctness. I don’t believe that you have any special animus against Israel or Jews.Report

  11. E.D. Kain says:

    I hope you’re bearing with me here. Israel’s position today with respect to the fight against radical Islam is analogous to GB’s position with respect to the fight against Nazism in the late ’30s-early ’40s.

    See. That’s why I can’t take your argument seriously. Or at least that’s one reason.

    Now, once again, I do support Israel, but not in any fight against the “war on terror” which is such an absurd and ludicrous apparition I’m surprised you even bring it into this. Israel has been fighting Arab nationalists long prior to any advent of the American “war on terror.” And the two are separate beasts, though both part and parcel of a larger US military/economic expansion into the ME. Trust me, if Israel didn’t happen to be located right in the center of our oil interests we wouldn’t be so supportive of them, though admittedly a large part of our support is also due to the sheer number of Americans who have emigrated there or who know or are related to Israelis.Report

  12. Roque Nuevo says:

    I didn’t bring in the term “War on Terror.” It was from the Congressional Budget Office report that I quoted.

    I don’t accept the term either, but I can see that we’re in a war with radical Islam, which uses terror as a legitimate tactic in their view. This is why I say Israel’s fight is our fight. This is why Israel is in an analogous position to GB back in the 30s-40s. Why is this so absurd in your mind?

    How can you possibly “support Israel” apart from the war against radical Islam? It doesn’t make any sense.

    Every time I challenge you, you shift ground. Before, you were saying that Israel and its infamous Lobby were exercising undue influence on the US government, somehow. I showed you that the simple application of Occam’s Razor tends to refute this. You now shift ground and say that Israel is some kind of cat’s paw for the US in protecting its oil interests, [i.e., Israel is “both part and parcel of a larger US military/economic expansion into the ME.”]
    You can’t have it both ways unless you’re advocating a conspiracy theory. See. That’s why I can’t really take you seriously.Report

  13. Rob says:

    It isn’t that Sullivan simply disagrees with Buchanan’s piece, he claims is contains “several truly vile comments.” He can’t name one. It is doubtful he read the column before his response…Report

  14. Marc R says:

    “That Freeman’s name was sunk by anything other than the pro Israel crowd is basically unthinkable. Who else and for what other really good reason could Freeman have been swept aside?”

    Well, Pelosi was opposed to the appointment because of Freeman’s views on China. Rep. Wolf said the same thing.

    You might want to rethink your use of the word “unthinkable.” To quote The Princess Bride, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    If you can’t imagine any other reason, that’s up to you. But there’s loads of objective evidence that there were other reasons.

    Furthermore, if it was simply a matter of being insufficiently pro-Israel, “The Israel Lobby” would have sunk or tried to sink George Mitchell and Samantha Power. They didn’t (or, more accurately, they couldn’t).

    The fact is that Freeman had lots of nasty positions on lots of things and that’s what did him in. Contra the conventional wisdom of an all-powerful Israel Lobby, being insufficiently pro-Israel is not enough to sink anyone’s nomination anymore.Report

  15. Cam says:

    @ Roque Nuevo–

    Please STFU re: Occam’s Razor. We get it; you understand logic.

    Please support this assertion:

    I can see that we’re in a war with radical Islam

    You are more correct when you say this:

    Israel’s fight is our fight

    And you ignore Kain’s argument as to why exactly their fight is our fight. Oil is a secondary issue, but

    a large part of our support is also due to the sheer number of Americans who have emigrated there or who know or are related to Israelis

    Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, some of us, on occasion, disagree with the IDF’s means toward this end. That’s all. It doesn’t make us anti-Semitic. It doesn’t make us un-American.Report

  16. Roque Nuevo says:


    Please support this assertion:

    I can see that we’re in a war with radical Islam

    Radical Islamists declared war on us and have attacked us. You can see the al Qaeda statements/fatwahs/declarations of war from 1996/1998. Many other instances.

    I say that Israel is fighting radical Islamists, like we are.

    I have never called anyone anti Semitic or anti American for disagreeing with the “IDF’s means toward this end.” You can disagree with the IDF to your heart’s content and I’ll never call you anti Semitic. This is how ED Kain wants to frame my opinions, in spite of my multiple denials. He wants us to believe that people want to silence him and others for bravely criticizing Israeli policy, etc. This is absurd. Nobody does such a thing. Nobody is trying to stop anyone from dissenting as ED Kain imagines. His repeated invocations of the Israel Lobby’s nefarious power is what I call anti Semitic. This is the topic of my comments here, not dissenting from IDF policy.

    This “Israel Lobby” theory of politics is unsubstantiated and belongs to the realm of conspiracy theory. For historical reasons, I call a conspiracy theory involving Jews “anti Semitic.” These theories have played important roles in persecuting Jews since the Middle Ages. My whole point is to get people like ED Kain to recognize this and thereby understand the “Commentary crowd.”

    I think that if ED Kain were Jewish, the same alarm bells would go off in his own mind when confronted with “Israel Lobby”-type conspiracy theories.

    Note that I do not attribute any Jew hatred to ED Kain personally. I say that he’s just trying to be politically correct and has accepted the Israel Lobby theory as part of his ideology because it sounds “critical” to him.Report

  17. Roque: My piece upblog explains in painstaking detail, with numerous citations, why AIPAC is a more active and influential lobby than any other foreign policy lobby. It also makes clear that there is nothing conspiratorial or nefarious about this conclusion, at least in the sense that E.D. has expressed it. Finally, it explains that AIPAC is actually one of the most honest and, yes, valuable interest groups around; the problem is that there are no other remotely credible foreign policy interest groups that focus on Middle Eastern policy. In other words, the problem isn’t AIPAC – quite the opposite, actually; the problem is that no one has organized in a manner that allows them to provide a credible alternative vision for Israel policy.

    This dilemma, by the way, is one that exists with respect to many, if not most, policy debates of any nature, which is why American policy (foreign and domestic) has a tendency to exacerbate unintended consequences.Report

  18. Cam says:

    Whether or not the “Israel Lobby” is real is neither here nor there. What matters is the fact that any public criticism of Israeli military action provokes a lightning storm of irrationality. People start making asinine comparisions (“what if Tijuana started bombing San Diego”) and tossing off perjoratives (anti-Semitic, un-American, anti-democratic).

    Writers can get away with it easier, but for politicians, Israeli-Arab relations is a third rail. I don’t speculate on why this is the case, I just observe that it is the case.Report

  19. E.D. Kain says:

    Exactly, Mark. It’s not nefarious at all. My point here was that the Israel lobby is strong and is acting in its own, rational self-interest like all interest groups do. My further point was that we need a diversity of voices in our foreign policy community because what AIPAC thinks is right for Israel may not actually be the case.

    Roque, you may boil my arguments down to my trying to be “hip” or “politically correct” or whatever but you’re wrong. I just disdain the sort of ME echo chamber we’ve had at the top levels of government these past few decades….Report

  20. “AIPAC is like any other strong lobby. ”

    Hardly. AIPAC was originally financed by the Jewish Agency, the settlement division of the Israeli government. It collaborates with a foreign government to influence US policy. It has an office in Jerusalem. Although nobody blogging here has ever probably read the 1963 Senate testimony on foreign agent activity in the US, the main theme was why AIPAC and its founder, Isaiah Kenen, stopped registering as agents of the Israeli government. At that precise time, individuals within and around this lobby were financing Israeli nuclear arms development in direct contravention of the Kennedy nonproliferation drive. AIPAC has broken many laws to gain the power it has. This fact-free discussion aside, the Internet is doing a fairly good job at gradually revealing how AIPAC came to be.

    No discussion of AIPAC should ever commence without a thorough review of its now deceased parent, the American Zionist Council.
    (Look it up).Report

  21. E.D. Kain says:

    That doesn’t sound very different than any other foreign policy lobby, except (as I mentioned before) in its scope and efficacy. AIPAC is an effective lobby. There are numerous reasons for this. And yes, there’s a very mixed history between the Israelis and the US in terms of working together and at odds. There is absolutely nothing surprising at all about “foreign agents” being members of AIPAC or that it has an office in Jerusalem. In fact, I would be surprised if it didn’t have an office in Jerusalem as this would be pretty odd for a foreign policy lobby whose interest is tied directly to Israel. And foreign agents abound in all governments and it’s just the way the game is played. It’s not sinister, it’s life.Report

  22. Wow, E.D. – accused of asserting an “updated Elders theory” and of engaging in a “fact-free discussion” to bolster AIPAC in the same thread! That’s a record!Report

  23. E.D. Kain says:

    Yes. I know. It’s because I’m obviously a pro-Israel Jew hater. Actually, that’s not impossible. You’ve got people like David Duke who loathe Arabs but not as much as they loathe Jews so they take the whole “enemy of my enemy” approach.

    For the record, though, I have a lot of respect and admiration for both Arabs and Jews and couldn’t give a flip about AIPAC other than the fact that I think it would be healthier to have a counterweight to their hawkishness.

    (All this, of course, due to my flagrant nihilism…)Report

  24. This isn’t about “Israelis and the US in terms of working together”. Americans working in close coordination with a foreign government have to disclose their activities and funding at the Department of Justice. AZC/AIPAC blew that off, mainly by intimidation. Other foreign country lobbyists, like Venezuela’s, have been jailed under FARA (last year).

    American citizens, working as unregistered foreign agents, have broken important US laws while working for AIPAC. You can call that effective. Bernie Madoff was an effective investment manager. Until the law caught up within him.

    It is to be remembered that there are only two foreign lobby officials under indictment right now under the Espionage Act. They are AIPAC’s.

    On a happy note, you’ve won a free copy of the book “Foreign Agents: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal”. Send an address to, and your complementary copy will arrive by media mail.Report