July 12, 2007
Bush’s ‘neocons’: far from the best and the brightest
(Page 2 - Previous Page)It is disturbing to hear how "Jewish neocons" have taken over American foreign policy. Certainly a number of the key neocons are Jewish, and support for Israel is a key to their philosophy. But this is all grounded in a larger conservative tilt toward Israel over recent decades and a view of Israel's strategic value to the United States. After all, one of the first neoconservatives was Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Cheney, Bush, Rice and Rumsfeld have been the real powers in the Bush foreign policy. Without these leaders, there would be no Iraq war. Despite the notoriety of the neocons, none of them wields independent power. They are mostly useful tools to advance the administration's rhetorical arguments.
Nor do the neocons represent Jews. In fact, as the neocons have become more extreme, Jewish voters have become more and more Democratic. Unlike the Cold War intellectuals, whose migration indicated a real division and shift within the Jewish political community, the neocons are a fraternity of narrow-minded fanatics whose main base in the Jewish community is in the national Jewish lobbying organizations. The mainstream of the Jewish political community can be found in members of Congress who are strong supporters of Israel and are themselves profoundly worried about Iran.
So where does this leave supporters of Israel, who are sincerely concerned about an aggressive Iran? The people in charge of our foreign policy neither think straight nor talk straight -- a dangerous combination.
Jewish members of Congress are every bit as alarmed about Iran as the neocons, but they have to stake out their own understanding of the facts and not provide blind support to an agenda that has been a calamitous dead end for America. They should not expect the truth in these matters from the White House and its neocon allies.
We have to restore the notion of pragmatic, "reality based" foreign policy by asking tough questions about the evidence about Iran and by seeking diplomatic solutions, while not forgetting the lessons of the Cold War, that diplomacy without the threat of force is hollow. Some of the neoconservatives were right once, a long time ago, and we should listen to their advice from back then. But to follow where they are leading us today, into the abyss of global war, would be a mistake beyond reason.
Raphael J. Sonenshein is a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton.
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