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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

By Michael J. Smith on Friday April 16, 2010 04:29 PM

One Andrew Pollack, an extremely militant Fourth Internationalist, wrote, recently, on one of my lefty mailing lists:

In a front-page article in today's Times... Obama echoes recent statements by Gen. Petraeus, VP Biden and others about how Israel's intransigence is threatening "our" interests in the war against Arabs and Muslims.

This is another reason to firmly oppose alliances with right-wingers supposedly against war, who love this "America First" approach.

Comrade Andrew modestly directed our attention to an essay of his on the "socialist action" web site, which to be sure made some good points:
[After] the announcement by Israel, made during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, that it would build 1600 new homes for Jewish settlers in Al-Quds(*)... U.S. officials feigned outrage—not because they oppose settlement construction, but because they fear the Zionists aren’t properly acting out the diplomatic charade. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the timing of the announcement was “insulting,” and top aide David Axelrod called it an “affront” that “seemed calculated” to undermine the peace talks.
Still, there was something off. Finally I hit the nub of it:
The U.S. government... needs the Israeli government as an outpost in the Middle East.
Now this is a trope you hear in Lefty discourse all the time. And maybe it was true, or at least semi-true, during the Cold War, when Sam and the Sovs each had their pieces on the board in that unfortunate region. But now it seems plainly false.

Oh, to be sure, Washington would not look with favor on a Palestine in charge of, say, Hamas, which would be a lot like a replay of the Iranian revolution. But there's quite a gap between that and a client state that doesn't know its place; a client state with its own nutty hubristic regional-superpower fantasies; a client state that routinely insults and domineers over the captain and bridge crew of the global hegemon. I mean, really, who needs that?

Comrade Andrew's well-informed but ultimately disappointing treatment of the subject reveals a certain widely-shared schematism in our understanding of empire and, for that matter, of class society. Or so I think. We too often imagine our rulers as a highly organized and self-aware monolith, when in fact they're a loose collection of rival gangs. They share an interest in milking, bilking, and suppressing us, of course, but except for the rather rare periods when that happy state of affairs seems to be in question, they don't all pull in the same direction, always or even most of the time.

Now if that's the case -- what in earth would be wrong in playing one against another, assuming our poor etiolated Left were in any position to do that? Comrade Andrew decries "alliances with right-wingers supposedly against war, who love this 'America First' approach". But if "we" -- the Left, I mean -- were actually able to help stir up or exacerbate any tension between one imperial faction and another, then where's the downside?

I can only think that Comrade Andrew's reason for not wanting to shore up any "right-wingers", of any stripe, is that like many Lefties, he sees the Left's task as primarily one of evangelism and conversion. We Lefties have a certain view of the world, and if only we could persuade enough people to see it our way -- why, then, The Masses would rise up and overthrow The Bosses. Any kind of "alliance" with any "right-wingers" would imply leaving the scales on at least some "right-wing" eyes, and defer the day of general enlightenment.

This view of social transformation and how it works seems awfully idealistic to me. But perhaps I'm just a shameless opportunist. If people want to get mad at the Zionists for threatening "American" interests, that seems not just delightful but even, in some non-trivial sense, perceptive.

Hell, I'm an American, Lefty though I be -- and what am I, chopped liver? The bastards sure aren't doing me any good, or anybody else except themselves, for that matter.

You could turn my argument against me, of course. You could say that if in fact actually-existing and actually-overreaching Zionism is more of a liability to the Empire than an asset, then taking the Zionists down a peg or two would make the Empire more rational, qua empire, and thus better-run and more formidable. So as an anti-imperialist, I ought to be cheering the Zionists on.

The more I think about this argument, the better I like it, and may start to use it myself. Support Israel! Destroy America! Hey, there's a slogan for you!


(*) In demotic non-militant English, "Jerusalem".

Comments (3)

I'm with Andrew on this one, for three main reasons:

1. the need to maintain imperial "credibility" (a.k.a. murderous caprice)

2. the need to suppress "good examples," both as object lesson and denial of precedent cases

3. the systemic pressure for a dangerous, Pentagon-justifying world

Personally, I also think there's some real client-work being done by the Israeli military operating as a deniable aircraft carrier.

I don't find much (or any?) evidence that our overseers risk their own welfare, even if they are less unified and intelligent than some would have it. The Pentagon is untouchable to all of them, and the election-by-cash selection of office-holders ensures discipline.

Had parallel thoughts, though not with the same degree of precision and insight as your own:



hey fort zion has out lasted the strategic kold war nuke fest better then the nukes themselves
okay the fort comes cheap
these marvelous settlers
cover more of their over head costs
then we did in 1766

come on father S give the kosher tots
a fair play here

i gotta side with md .more or less
because such a hollower as you conceive wouldn't survive and in fact florish
thru several large scale
gyrations in the hegemonium
the role is indeed modified
and a bit of the forward policy beaten out of em
but they are a nice iud
agin arab world emergence
popularly self determining states

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