As Old As The World


J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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66 Responses

  1. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    America’s Israel policy is as schizophrenic as Israeli politics.  Israel’s Knesset is a parliament.   The downside of a parliamentary system resolves to the undue influence of minority factions, capable of making a dog’s dinner of every attempt at moderation.

    Let’s quit making excuses for Israel.  It has nuclear weapons and won’t submit to IAEA inspections.   The world demands Iran submit to IAEA inspections.  The USA has insulated Israel from just such inspections by its veto power in the UN.

    Put all other considerations aside for the moment.  While the USA continues along these lines, we who are concerned about nuclear weapons proliferation have enough reason to believe Israel is completely out of line and the United States is complicit in the toleration of the existing status quo.Report

    • Avatar David in reply to BlaiseP says:

      You believe that Israel is out of line in nuclear weapons proliferation?

      Have the Israelis ever used a nuclear weapon on another state? Do you believe they would ever do so?

      Have the Israelis sold nuclear technology, blueprints or materials to another state? Do you believe they would ever do so?

      Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and never has been, therefore the IAEA has no authority over them. If you believe that the IAEA should have governance over Israel, Pakistan, and India who have never signed the NPT, then you must be arguing for the formation of a total world government with binding authority to supercede the normal independent sovereignty of nations.

      Iran and Syria meanwhile are signatories to the NPT and are both out of compliance, with Syria caught building nuclear reactors using parts and plans purchased from North Korea (here I reference the IAEA report of May 2011) and Iran having been caught engaging in the smuggling of materials and blocking the inspectors that by treaty they are obliged to give full and unrestricted and un-delayed access to all facilities.

      I would be far more concerned about the state of afairs between India and Pakistan, and particularly concerned with the possession of some 80 to 120 missiles owned by the Pakistani government due to its collusion with theocratic forces and previously demonstrated tendency to dissolve itself into anarchy or military rule.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David says:

        Has Israel come into compliance with an IAEA inspections regime in the last few minutes and I’m unaware of it?


        • Avatar North in reply to BlaiseP says:

          To be fair Blaise, Israel hasn’t signed the NPT so the IAEA has no legal authority over them.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

          But as David said, Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, and thus IAEA has no formal authority.  Granted, United States foreign policy towards the nuclear programs of the four (current) non-members (Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea) are widely different.  But even with these realpolitik considerations aside, the NPT regime is itself grossly unfair in any sort of ‘all sovereign nations are created equal’* sense, (but then again so is the UNSC).  And it begs the question on why we’re really worried about nuclear weapons proliferation among nation states anyway. (i.e. why can’t one say ‘a nuclear armed world is a polite world’ – at the very least, it limited the scope of the Cold War hot wars)

          *which they are notReport

        • Avatar David in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Has Israel suddenly come into some legal requirement to submit to IAEA inspections in the last few minutes that I am unaware of?

          Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I fail to grasp why this simple concept is beyond your understanding. India and Pakistan, one a majority Hindu nation and one a majority Muslim nation, also have never been signatories. India has allowed IAEA inspections of their civilian facilities, while reserving the right to block IAEA inspections of their military facilities. This means that only 14 of the 22 reactors in India are inspected. Pakistan has not allowed any IAEA inspections of any sort.

          You simply cannot have it both ways. If you are to argue that Israel, Pakistan, and India have some legal requirement to submit to IAEA inspections based on the terms of a treaty agreement to which none of those nations are signatories, then you must be arguing for the creation of a whole-world government that supercedes the rights of ordinarily sovereign nations.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David says:

            (roars of laughter)  I will have this Simple Concept impressed upon you:  Israel is a nuclear power and has consistently avoided coming clean on this subject.   You may dance around this reality until your feet fall off.   You may ask yourself why India and Pakistan have never submitted to nuclear inspections:  the answer seems clear enough to me, that Israel has done so with impunity.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

              In the 90’s, I’ve heard it argued that it was in everyone’s best interest (and by “everyone”, I mean “people with political power”) in the region to ignore Israel’s bomb.

              “Everyone” has changed in the last couple of decades, of course.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah, sorta like Linus running away from the tsunami wave, his blanket in tow.   The caption reads “There’s no problem so big or pressing that can’t be run away from.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                If it came out that, yes, “we” knew that Israel had the bomb, “we” would have to do something.

                Since “we” can pretend that they don’t, “we” have many options available to us that would evaporate if “we” had to acknowledge its existence.

                Is this no longer the case?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                Nobody’s under any illusions.  Israel’s going to do what it feels is necessary for its own survival.   The fundamental illusion is the belief that nuclear weapons make a nation safer.   They don’t.Report

            • Avatar David in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Israel is a nuclear power and has consistently avoided coming clean on this subject.

              And I ask you again: under what legal reasoning or legal requirement do you demand that Israel do what you insist they are required to do? Or for that matter, what legal requirement exists that India or Pakistan do the same?

              The answer is very simple and can be summed in two words, “none whatsoever.”

              There is no reality for me to dance around. Israel has nuclear weaponry, just as Pakistan and India do. Israel, Pakistan, and India all have no legal requirement to submit to IAEA inspections. Under jingoistic threat from the USA, the state of India opened their civilian facilities but not their military facilities to inspections anyways. It strikes me that the real fault here is the continued behavior of the USA as a 900-pound gorilla-suited ignoramus is more of a problem to the world than the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of a nation which has had ample opportunity to use them in the past half century and yet has shown nothing but restraint.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to David says:

                This is utter nonsense. The real reason Israel doesn’t use its nuclear arsenal is because to do so would be suicide. Israel has a sufficient edge in conventional arms that it doesn’t NEED to indulge in first strikes.

                If you truly, honestly believe that 4 states out of the hundred ninety-odd that make up the nation-states of the world are in the right, and that the majority of people in the world are in the wrong for their stance on nuclear non-proliferation, I have to say, that’s substantially more arrogant and problematic than taking the stance that it would be preferable if states outside of the regulatory regime were to come into compliance with it.

                Also it’s worth noting that the nuclear agreement between the United States and India came under substantial fire from other states because it undermined some of the non-proliferation/cooperative agreement frameworks the US had pushed in the past. All done in the name of keeping India talking and at the table and providing a sweetener for compliance.Report

              • Avatar David in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                I would be thankful if you would refrain from misrepresenting my views, Mr. Akimoto.

                It is my true, honest belief that to attempt to hold a nation to the terms of a treaty to which it is not a signatory is an illegal act in violation of the basic sovereignty of nations. In the case of India, a regime of sanctions forced them to sign a treaty with the US regarding inspections. Thus far, Pakistan has signed no such treaties and not been placed under sanctions, Israel has been placed under no sanctions and signed no treaties, and the regime of North Korea, which is nothing so much as a pus-filled pimple on the buttocks of the world, has been placed under sanctions for generations and caught engaging in the trade of nuclear weapons designs and parts to nations that actually have existing treaty obligations to the contrary.

                And yet it is a group of rank bigots who insist that the nation of Israel is “the problem”, which can only be cause for a loud round of laughter and a reach for the nearest glass of whiskey.

                If Israel has nuclear weaponry (which I do not deny), and yet for 50 years has shown absolutely no intention to use it despite the constant provocations of a bigoted group of national theocrats whose stated goal is the destruction of the state of Israel and the death of all its people for professing a certain religion, then I submit that the problem is not Israel. It is certainly unlikely that Israel coming under “IAEA compliance”, as the bigots continually insist upon, would render the nation of Pakistan likely to submit to inspections, or cause Iran or Syria to cease efforts to acquire nuclear weaponry technology, or prevent the theocratic regimes now taking power in Libya and Egypt from deciding that they wished to acquire nuclear weaponisation in the future. The most likely effect of any Israeli “IAEA compliance” would be the same bigots who on this blog or off previously insisted on “compliance”, finding some new and equally spurious reasoning by which they could claim that Israeli compliance was not legitimate.


              • Avatar Murali in reply to David says:

                David, what something/someone is legally obligated to do is distinct  from what one ought to be legally obligated to do which is yet again distinct from what one ought to do which is also distinct from what one should be forced to do.

                All BlaiseP is saying is that Israel should sign the treaty and comply with its provisions (as should all nations including India, Pakistan and North Korea).

                He is not saying that there should be internatinal legal norms forcing Israel to sign nor is he saying that america should raise sanctions against non-signatories until they sign.

                Really just because you have a legal right to do something doesnt mean it is morally right for you to do so.Report

              • Avatar Dennis in reply to Murali says:

                I’ve been hearing this bullshit from anti-semites since the Carter administration, and it continues to be just as much bullshit now as it was then.

                BlaiseP is dog whistling that as long as Israel doesn’t sign the NPT, doesn’t reveal the exact count of what nuclear weapons or facilities they have, and doesn’t do some other list of things he has yet to reveal, that somehow Israel is illegitimate.

                Witness his first response to a reminder that Israel is not an NPT signatory, where he instantly demands that Israel be placed under an IAEA inspections regime for “compliance” anyways.

                Newt Ginrich is a racist dog whistler and BlaiseP is dog whistling anti-semitism, and both statements are undoubtable facts.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                Oh hush.  Israel won’t do anything on my say-so.  You’re just stinking up the joint with all this hooey, putting words in my mouth.

                Israel doesn’t have to demonstrate any sanity or responsibility for its nuclear posture.   It’s a sovereign nation.   Since Israel’s so big ‘n strong and reasonable, I strongly recommend the USA quit treating Israel like an autistic child, shielding it from the standards of civilized nations.   Damned straight.  It’s demeaning to Israel and expensive for us.    Let them fund their own military budgets.   Oh, that’s right, Israel’s kids are leaving in droves.  The only kids left are the dossim in their hundreds and thousands, all on the dole.   So much for that idea.Report

              • Avatar Dennis in reply to Murali says:

                Throw out a few more codewords. You sound like a Ron Paul 1980s newsletter.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                As long as we’re making this personal, Dennis, do you believe nuclear weapons make a nation safer?   Let’s put aside Israel for a minute and ask, do nuclear weapons make any nation safer?

                And just a word of caution.   One more accusation of anti-semitism and I will Have Speaks With My Superior.Report

              • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Murali says:

                Dennis, Blaise is hardly dog-whistling anything.  Nowhere did he challenge Israel’s legitimacy as a nation.  Back off on the accusations of Antisemitism — unless someone actually says something that qualifies, rather than something that you disagree with.

                Disagreeing with Blaise is, of course, a perfectly acceptable position. People here do it all the time!  But disliking nuclear weapons does not an Antisemite make.  Double-check your logic, please.Report

              • Avatar David in reply to Murali says:

                While I do not wholly agree with calling Mr. BlaiseP an anti-semite, I must urge caution. The following phrases definitely have a demeaning connotation and are directed at an entire nation of people, which might indeed be seen as a “dog whistle” based on the meaning from the discussions previously held about the actions of one Newt Gingrich on this site.

                The phrases I mean are:

                “quit treating Israel like an autistic child” – which obviously indicates that the speaker sees Israel as a petulant child nation, lesser in stature to other nations.

                “shielding it from the standards of civilized nations” – which is an indication that the speaker sees Israel as an uncivilised nation.

                “The only kids left are the dossim in their hundreds and thousands, all on the dole.” – I had to look up the word “dossim”, which is apparently pejorative term for ultra-orthodox Jewish children; my own nation’s slang lacks a corresponding word, unless one refers to “young muzzies.” This reads very much as a dog whistle insult to the younger generation of Israeli citizens, insinuating that they are heavily Jewish in observance and too lazy to work, instead relying on public services.

                If you did not intend to offend with your statement, Mr. BlaiseP, you should probably apologise for your conduct. I’m not an American, nor am I an Israeli, nor am I Jewish, but I can still see quite clearly where the potential for the “dog whistles” rests.Report

              • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Murali says:

                The “autistic child” line is blunt, and not one I’d use, but then, I’m not Blaise.  However, he does make it clear that Israel isn’t to his mind a special-needs case: “it’s demeaning to them.”  The criticism is directed at American policy, not Israel.

                “Shielding it from the standards of civilized nations,” in isolation, could be taken the way you read it.  In the context of the larger conversation about non-proliferation, I take it as a line about the company Blaise says Israel keeps in not submitting to IAEA inspections.  Again blunt, but not a dog-whistle.

                The “dossim” line — the fact of the matter is that what you described in your gloss, a youth-heavy, extremely religious segment that, rather than joining the labor force lives off of government welfare is the case in Israel.  It’s simmering domestic issue that’s going to come to a head one way or another in the next decade.  And I can assure you that many non-haredi Israelis would describe them in terms far less generous than Blaise’s.

                In fact, this demographic matter is considered by some on the liberal Zionist spectrum to be a grave threat to the survival of Israel as envisioned by its founding generation — and a potential brain drain that worries some on that front, too.  The non-Orthodox (not merely the secular) are out-produced by the Haredim and tend to leave Israel for at least a few years after their military service ends.  If my memory serves, there is, in fact, a net emigration of Israeli-born non-Orthodox Israelis in their 20s.  The modern Orthodox actually go and enter the labor force (and serve in the military, and live in the present century); the Haredim tend to eschew military service and the labor force in favor of welfare/study subsidies and wealthy American patrons who don’t realize (or don’t care) that they’re aggravating the situation.

                Again, Blaise was blunt — but he had just been accused of being an Antisemite.  Which was not provoked by any dog-whistle I can find in this thread.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Murali says:


                I’ll use the Jewish metaphor:

                “Israel is pissing off the diving board”

                Learn the history of that phrase, and judge the accuracy for itself. It’s not that Israel is a child — that’s a fundamental misreading of the situation.

                But it’s a well-known situation for Jews, and has inevitable disasterous consequences.

                fwiw, Jew & not Zionist is NOT a “self-hating jew”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Have Israel’s nuclear bombs prevented its enemies from any of their manifestly horrible actions against Israel?   You goddamned well know it’s done nothing.   The wars have continued and for all its much-vaunted military prowess, Israel remains as vulnerable as ever.   For every meter of wall it builds, Israel lapses that much farther into a fortress mentality, ever more confined to a prison it has built with its own labor.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David says:

                Legality?   We are speaking of sovereign states.   Each such state will operate in accordance with their own laws and will build such weapons as they feel are necessary to their own defense.   Do not speak to me of laws, David.  The veneer of civilization is very thin and I have seen what is underneath when that veneer peels up, applied as it is with cheap glue upon rotten boards.

                And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

                The USA may be a gorilla but it’s a gorilla which learned the wisdom of nuclear arms inspections.   Don’t try that sad little excursion upon the theme of what Israel hasn’t done with its nuclear weapons:  it could never do anything with them, as the superpowers could never do anything with theirs.   Maybe it’s Israel that needs to evolve a bit here and come to terms with the reality of the nuclear endgame.

                Wouldn’t it be embarrassing, if you were a caveman and your neighbor evolved — and you didn’t?Report

          • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to David says:

            I don’t think Blaise is arguing that Israel is legally obligated to submit to IAEA inspections, but that it would still be in everyone’s best interests if it did, regardless.  “Legally obligated” and “ought” aren’t necessarily one and the same.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J.L. Wall says:

              When we examine the history of nuclear proliferation, there’s a lesson to be learned from the Chinese, who once they’d put together a few dozen nuclear warheads and an ICBM capable of delivering them, stopped building nukes.   The USSR and USA went apeshit, wasting billions on them and the attendant delivery systems.

              Eventually, the USSR and USA came to the conclusion building thousands of nukes was madness.   All those nukes hadn’t saved them from anything.   Eventually, both sides stopped, knowing further bluffing was useless.

              While Israel reserves the right to self-defense, the sad fact remains, nuclear weapons didn’t save any of their owners from war, any more than a man can eliminate the dandelions in his lawn by mowing them down.   The dandelions simply adapt to bloom under the height of the mower blades.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David says:

        And yes, Israel sold weapons technology to South Africa.   South Africa said as much when it dismantled its nuclear arsenal.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Given that Israel’s nuclear capabilities are among the world worst-kept secrets, I do find the continued act of “secrecy” about them confusing.  Of course, I don’t really see a scenario in which Israel submitting to IAEA inspections convinces Iran to do the same, unless it was already willing to.  I don’t quite know what practical effect, other than less hypocrisy, such inspections would have for non-proliferation on a larger/global scale.  But I also won’t pretend that I know all that much about non-proliferation treaties/activism, so this could simply be out of my own ignorance.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        The problem isn’t the treaties so much as the side-effects of one nuclear state among many others who aren’t.  It provokes all the others to go for the bomb.

        Why should Israel get a break?  Israel’s entire existence is predicated on a war of survival.   They’ve come to terms with it as a modus vivendi, or more properly modus moriendi.   Israel’s been a nuclear state since the 1960s but it hasn’t saved them from constant war against implacable enemies intent upon annihilating them.    So it’s now one preemptive strike after the other.   Their enemies have never given them a moment’s respite and the world has done nothing, why should they behave like a good citizen of the world community?

        Everyone wants peace between the Israelis and the Arabs but nobody has a solution to the Palestinians evicted in the creation of the Jewish State.  Once, there was no such thing as a Palestinian, nor was there an Israeli.  The identities of both were forged in the same crucible.   If the pro-Israel camp exists to save Israel from destruction, a real enough threat by real enough enemies, Israel’s enemies have propped up the suffering Palestinian fellahin as an equally real victim.   There’s one difference though:  for all their weeping and moaning over the fate of the Palestinian in the anti-Israel camp, that camp hates the Palestinians and has locked them into refugee camps for generations, forbidding them to work.   Four million Palestinians, existing in a hellish twilight of anomie and deepest hatred.

        Israel ought to come clean about its nuclear weapons.   There will be no solution to any of these problems while folks go on lying about this elephant in the room.   Those weapons only serve to perpetuate the failed status quo, a status quo the superpowers rejected for themselves.Report

        • Avatar David in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Despite a state of constant war, occasionally punctuated a very intense staring contest, the Israelis have yet to unleash an atomic weapon upon anyone. I fail to see why anyone but the absolutely insane would believe that this track record indicates them as the likely aggressors in a nuclear conflict, just as I fail to see how the de-nuclearisation of Israel would do anything to cause the violent theocrats elsewhere in the region to stop seeking nuclear weaponry.

          Again, Israel is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Despite some rather vocal and bigoted individuals insisting that the state of Israel should submit to inspections regimes and “come clean” about any or all of their military projects, one would think that they are well within their legal rights to tell these inveterate wags that the state of Israeli military weapon readiness is none of their damn business.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David says:

            A nuclear weapon is an empty threat, a pistol with two barrels, the other pointed directly into the aiming eye of its holder.Report

            • Avatar David in reply to BlaiseP says:

              If so, then what other reason than rank bigotry would cause an individual to have such an immense focus on forcing Israel to submit to some form of inspections regime in the absence of any legal treaty requirement to do so?Report

            • Avatar David in reply to BlaiseP says:

              If you believe this to be the case, then I fail to see what reason other than rank bigotry would cause a person to claim such laser-guided focus on holding one particular nation to account for its possession of weapons never used and which you admit will never be used.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to David says:

                I am no bigot, nor will I be put into some little Bed of Procrustes by someone who can’t admit the obvious, that nuclear weapons have not provided any security to those who ever possessed them.    I have every reason to believe Israel’s security is of vital importance, for I have worked in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and seen the tender mercies visited on them by the Lebanese, now four millions of them in total, stacked up in the surrounding nations in what for all practical purposes are UN-run concentration camps.   At its very worst, Israel has never been so cruel to its Palestinians.

                I observe the simple truth, one you would do well to see for yourself, that Israel has not been preserved from terrorism or war by virtue of possessing nuclear weapons.  To the contrary, Israel’s persistence in clinging to the illusion of safety provided by nuclear weapons has only led it closer to the abyss.

          • Avatar Kim in reply to David says:

            Reread your first fucking sentence. It’s not HISTORY, its PSYCHOLOGY. Same reason Russia dropped the Iron Curtain — in russia’s case, they were paranoid about being invaded…

            Israel may win this war, they may win the next war, but they will NOT win the last war.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to BlaiseP says:

      This is off at a tangent but in my opinion the real problem with the non proliferation system is that it was built on an assumption that doesn’t hold.

      Specifically that nations would not try to become new nuclear powers and in return the existing nuclear powers would phase out theirs. While reductions in the US and Russia are minimal other nations will continue to see nuclear weapons as the future rather than, as they should be, a declining relic of the cold war past. In this context Israel on its own is a red herring, the nuclear powers that inspire the likes of North Korea are not Israel.

      To quote Mohamed Elbaredei

      we must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for their security


      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Matty says:

        If only nuclear weapons could ensure a nation’s security. there would be justifiable reasons to send a few of our own abroad to assuage the fears of other nations which harbour doubts about their own security.

        But nukes don’t offer such security.   There’s the continuing problem of rebuilding them.   A nuclear warhead is rather like an ice cream cone attached to a colossal grenade.   The radiation constantly chews up the electronics in the bomb and the launch vehicle.   The weapons grade plutonium has to be periodically re-refined: the warhead becomes unstable.   He who owns a nuke has a very expensive and dangerous proposition on his hands on an ongoing basis.

        The gods answer the prayers of those they would destroy.   Nuclear weapons only create insecurity and those who possess them are entered into the the grid coordinate sets of others who possess them.Report

        • Avatar Matty in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Good point the security is an illusion anyway. All the more reason to move towards a world where there are less and less of the fishing things.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Matty says:

            The security provided by nuclear weapons is the most pernicious illusion in the history of the world.   All the larger and more reasonable nations have come to this conclusion already.

            Of course Israel needs security, real security, the sort that only comes when it speaks truth to its enemies, a remarkably untruthful bunch of villains.   Everyone knows the score.   You’re not paranoid if They really are out to get you.  Pynchon’s Proverbs for Paranoids come to mind, specifically 3 and 5:

            3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

            5. Paranoids are not paranoid because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fishing idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

            These embody the entire corpus of this wretched I/P conflict.Report

            • Avatar Matty in reply to BlaiseP says:

              The security provided by nuclear weapons is the most pernicious illusion in the history of the world.   All the larger and more reasonable nations have come to this conclusion already.

              And yet the largest nations (I will ignore the question of who is reasonable) are apparently reluctant to act on that conclusion.

              I don’t want to pick on America on an American blog so I will ask instead how quickly is the Russian arsenal declining, the Chinese? Is there any current nuclear power that aspires not to be one in future?

              While the big boys pretend that nuclear weapons equal security we should not be surprised if Israel or Iran decides to play along but if we want to end the game we need to persuade all the players to leave the field.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Matty says:

                Well, exactly.   Feel free to pick on this particular American.   The greatness of America, if ever there was any, was our willingness to air our own dirty laundry.   Where we have failed to do so, the stench gets pretty awful.  Think it stinks over there?  Try living with it at close quarters.

                It’s unlikely we’ll ever see the complete abolition of nuclear weapons.   I’m not sure it’s completely desirable, though in the abstract it would make perfect sense.   What’s needed, without any equivocation or tub-thumping about national security, is an inventory and inspections regime applying to everyone.

                Remember that idiot Rumsfeld talking about Unknowns? To that list we may add the Unknown Unknowns.   If ordinary people had any idea what dangerous blobs of Einstein Brand ice cream sat on top of our missiles, they’d demand changes, if only to protect themselves.   If they knew how quickly those bombs damaged their own circuits, they’d shit themselves, I swear they would.   Anyone with any sense and a semester of high school physics knows all this.

                The one lesson we learn from history is this — we don’t learn anything from history.   The USA spent all that money on the Manhattan Project, only to have Klaus Fuchs send all that research to Stalin.  Stalin was no slouch in the crazy ruthless dictator department:  he was quite willing to slaughter millions to keep control of his regime.   But even Stalin didn’t fire a nuke.   He knew the consequences.    Mao Zedong, same story — we’re talking about the two most brutal dictators who ever lived, to whom human life meant nothing, even they couldn’t bring themselves to use nuclear weapons.

                Why should the other nations of the world behave any differently?   They’ll have to go through the same learning curve.  The USA is the only nation which ever dropped nukes on anyone.   We spent the next few decades trying to hide the atrocious evidence, lying to ourselves about the seeming necessity of dropping those weapons.   But nobody else was deceived, especially not our enemies.   They understood the stakes and never took that bet.   We didn’t either.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Thirty minutes is an awful long time to “get a joke.” (ref. Reagan’s)

                Five minutes is an awful short time, if you think that nukes have been launched. Five minutes to make a decision.

                “by accident” or “it was your fault” are both likelihoods. 20% chance of a nuclear weapon launch in the next five years…Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

              you can still get locked up if they’re really out to get you…Report

  2. Avatar Max says:

    Thanks, this sums up my feelings as well. Our only difference might be that I don’t see these tropes, even collected together, moving the country in any meaningful way toward wider conspiracy theorizing about the nefarious Jews. Perhaps if some of the nastier ideas being put forward within intellectual circles manage to escape into the wider public…but I have not seen that happen.

    What I find more frustrating is the negative impact this dynamic has on getting to a diplomatic resolution. Far too many smart people, in the US and Europe, are spending valuable time trying to unearth some vast (entirely nonexistent) Diaspora Jewish conspiracy to defend Israel at all costs – when they COULD be spending their time advancing the well-being of Israelis and Palestinians alike, and focusing on issues that can be resolved rather than meaningless detours like military aid or nuclear weapons.

    The impulse among some American intellectuals to “punish” Israel for its bad behavior doesn’t wear well on them…but more to the point, it’s impotent. America’s only possible role in the situation will be to help the parties negotiate diplomatically rather than militarily or paramilitarily. Everything else is window dressing. America will never have enough leverage to meaningfully punish either nation, just as American intellectuals will never obtain enough leverage domestically to shift the country’s opinion away from our current state of “mindlessly pro-Israel.”Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Max says:

      An abrupt cessation of monetary and technological aid would, I think, qualify as “punishment.”  This isn’t to say that Israel wouldn’t be able to defend itself if that happened — but it would move Israel that much closer to the question of budgetary priorities.  (Military vs. Social)  But I suspect we’re already seeing a budding crisis in Israel on something like this — both the housing demonstrations several months ago, and decreasing tolerance of government-sponsored Haredi welfare.  (That whole spitting on modern Orthodox schoolgirl wearing sleeves and a long dress for looking too immodest might have just accelerated this.)  The biggest obstacle to peace, on the Israeli side, may not be Netanyahu, but an Israeli identity crisis.Report

      • Avatar Max in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a number of students and faculty from a certain unnamed, modern Orthodox university in the US, who now live and work in satellite campus offices in Israel. One of the things they impressed upon me was that, if anything, the economic situation in Israel vis a vis the middle class is even *worse* than the tent protests had led me to believe. In real terms, there is no middle class in Israel, in the sense that no one outside of its small oligarchic families is able to even save money for the present, let alone plan for retirement, college, etc. When I lived there, I did so on fellowship money, so it was easy to forget about this dimension. But it’s no exaggeration to say it is the only issue that matters in domestic Israeli politics at the moment.

        It’s hard for me to see that an end to secured loans that are only able to purchase certain kinds of high-tech US military equipment could meaningfully impact that dynamic, both because much of that technology is frivolous even for Israel (Iron Dome, anyone?), and because the domestic problems are so vast that even multiple billions of dollars in aid don’t make a meaningful difference one way or the other. (See: Trachtenberg Report.) I could be wrong though, my grasp of Israeli budgeting isn’t that strong.

        Regardless, I’d like to stick with the bigger point, which is that smart guys like Andrew Sullivan could do a lot more good if they focused on workable solutions, even small ones, rather than indulging themselves in the martyrdom complex that is becoming de rigeur for “realists” who write about Israel.Report

  3. Avatar Steve S. says:

    I don’t read Andrew Sullivan so have no comment on that part, but I did read the Gawker piece a few days ago and didn’t interpret the excerpted passage the same way you seem to be.  To me they were making the interesting point that this appeared not in the self-published broadsheet of some random nut, distributed mostly to rural addresses in the mountain west, but rather in a seemingly respectable, mainstream, community newspaper.

    I can’t, of course, argue that the way I internalized this article is the “right” way, so instead I would ask, how would you communicate this information as to render it inoffensive?  How could it be worded so as not to communicate “blame the Atlanta Jewish community as a whole” to you?Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Steve S. says:

      This is the first sentence of the Gawker piece:

      Andrew Adler, the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, a weekly newspaper serving Atlanta’s Jewish community, devoted his January 13, 2012 column to the thorny problem of the U.S. and Israel’s diverging views on the threat posed by Iran.

      The paragraph I take issue with adds no new relevant information; it merely re-phrases what we’ve already been told while saying that they can’t tell whether he’s “just some crank” — that is, whether these are the opinions of an individual.  The way that they then introduce the circulation  numbers and date of founding of the paper imply that it is a reasonable possibility that he was, in fact, speaking on behalf of that community as well as himself.

      What would I have done?  I’d have cut the graf, and if the circulation numbers were, to my mind, essential, I’d have put them in the lede.Report

      • Avatar Chad in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        If anything I thought the circulation numbers helped. When I saw them I didn’t think “oh he’s speaking for his whole community” but instead, “oh that’s a bit of a podunk number, he must not be that important”, that’s just me though.Report

      • Avatar Steve S. in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        The way I read it is, the author could possibly be a crank who has acquired a platform in an otherwise venerable outlet.  Furthermore, the paragraph you would cut gives details that the opening paragraph, necessarily by journalistic convention, omits.  The opening is the classic “five Ws” and doesn’t tell me anything about the history and nature of the paper.

        I guess what I’m saying is, the paragraph in question communicates information that I would consider essential to the story.  Is there a way to communicate it without being offensive?Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    The funny thing about Andrew is he runs either hot like lava or cold like ice on subject. In his youth he was an unswerving advocate of the Israel can do no wrong camp. Now he’s flipped his rhetoric a lot. The answer, of course, is somewhere in the middle.

    Andrew does, however, demonstrate that Israel, as its freedom of security and action has widened, is beginning to lose some of the cover that it has traditionally deployed to defend its more unpleasant side (settlements, rabid right wing settlement and religious groups etc…). The idea that surrendering the territories or reaching some kind of compromise on Jerusalem would represent some kind of existential threat to the Jewish Israeli state is ludicrous and any small danger that such actions to present represent far less danger than the demographic timebomb they have strapped to themselves in the form of the very settlements they so adamantly cling to.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to North says:

      err that second settlement should be sentiment.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to North says:

      Of course, the one thing that hasn’t changed with Sullivan’s views on Israel (or everything else) is that his opponents are the enemies of all that is good, decent, and humane.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to North says:

      I get the sense that he sees Israel betraying itself (you can see this in certain problems) and then feels himself betrayed by that.

      With a different tone, I think he could have been a more productive voice when it comes to pointing out the costs of a Greater Israel vision.Report

      • His – and others’ – use of “pro Israel” and “Israel-firsters” as a perjorative has really come to bug me. Yes, there is the anti-semitic aspect of it all, which is there intentionally or unintentionally, but there’s more to it than that.  Specifically, the implication is that those who take issue with Likud – one single Israeli political party – are somehow not “pro-Israel,” even if they otherwise support a wide array of means of supporting or expressing support for Israel.

        To the extent that it has the opposite of its intended effect – ie, it winds up being perceived as lumping Kadima or JStreet-supporting Jews who still very much are “pro Israel” with Likudniks – it REALLY has the effect of spreading anti-semitism.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        Israel betrayed its starting vision back in the 1970’sReport

      • Avatar North in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        Yes that’s probably about right. On the other hand that perception isn’t entirely or even majorly wrong. It does currently appear that Israel, having established that none of her enemies is capable of destroying her, has decided that if she wants something done right she’ll have to do it herself.Report

  5. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Having heard Mearsheimer discuss the actual article when it first came out, I think there’s always been a bit of conflation being done by his critics regarding “Israel” and “Jews”. As far as I can recall, he was always clear that it was the Israel Lobby, not a Jewish Lobby that was behind the skewed foreign policy approach of the US towards Israel (which is mostly a result of his viewing the world through a Realist lens).

    I don’t think it’s helpful to continue conflating the two, particularly as the vast majority of lobbying money for Israel tends to come from Evangelicals obsessed with rapture-esque prophecies rather than American Jewry who at least seem more conflicted about the Likudnik-Far Right alliance the Israeli government is currently indulging in.

    Also…Given that there’s been accusations that the Israeli government routinely uses western allies as false flag operations to assassinate people, I’m not sure there’s a lot of room for sympathy at the moment.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I wasn’t trying to comment on what M(&W) meant when they wrote “Israel Lobby” — but I do think that Kirsch’s point about the direction the language of the conversation has taken in the years since is valid, without imputing motive to M(&W).  I should give Sullivan credit for tweaking his language over the past year or so to better reflect the point of your middle paragraph.


      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to J.L. Wall says:

        I think Kirsch is right about how the direction of conversation has gone in uncomfortable directions, but I also am not sure if that stuff wasn’t already there and is just out in the open. In many ways, by so viciously attacking M&W as “antisemitic” for their work, I think it did a lot to conflate the Israel = Jews meme, and making the discussion about JEWISH influence rather than ISRAELI influence. There’s a substantial difference here and I often think the over prickliness of people like Foxman make it easier to do the linguistic moving that Kirsch is so concerned about.Report

  6. Avatar scott says:

    I don’t question the author’s sincerity or concern, but the post seems to be an exercise in expressing vague feelings of disquiet about the broader culture with very thin facts to support them.  Color me underwhelmed.Report

  7. Avatar Phoebe says:

    Just going to weigh in re: what W-M meant by “Israel lobby.” In the book, as I recall (read it, didn’t buy it, don’t have it in front of me), the authors on the one hand insist that their concern is with supporters-of-Israel, not Jews per se. However, they also do things like point out, as if this is something to raise concern, that Jews – not euphemistic supporters-of-Israel – are more diligent about getting to the voting booth than are members of the general population. The book at once denies being about Jews and is, judging by its own content and not mere inferences, about Jews.Report