Many pro-Israel and Jewish groups last week endorsed an attack on Syria, but only after agonizing about a likely backlash. And, sure enough, the first comment posted on The Washington Post version of this story was, “So how many Americans will die for Israel this time around?” This is tame stuff compared with 1940, when isolationism was shot through with shockingly overt anti-Semitism, not least in the rhetoric of the celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh.When a solid reason for going to war is not available, you pivot to shaming the recalcitrants into developing the required patriotism -- and while you're at it, play the old divide and conquer card by very lazily and derisively shuffling the right and the "left" into the same demented deck:
Isolationism is strong in the Tea Party, where mistrust of executive power is profound and where being able to see Russia from your front yard counts as mastery of international affairs. But sophisticated readers of The New York Times are not immune, or so it seems from the comments that arrive when I write in defense of a more assertive foreign policy. (In recent columns I’ve advocated calibrated intervention to shift the balance in Syria’s civil war and using foreign aid to encourage democracy in Egypt.) Not our problems, many readers tell me.
Isolationism is not just an aversion to war, which is an altogether healthy instinct. It is a broader reluctance to engage, to assert responsibility, to commit. Isolationism tends to be pessimistic (we will get it wrong, we will make it worse) and amoral (it is none of our business unless it threatens us directly) and inward-looking (foreign aid is a waste of money better spent at home).Get it? We are all Sarah Palin now, our opposition to bombing for corporate profit simply an indication of our brain cell loss. Keller's classic of a doublethink column is obviously part of the Obama administration's "full court press" underway this week to win hearts and minds. It is how they psy-op the Enemy (which, let's face it, is us.)
But judging from the reader responses to Keller's pabulum, our psyches are refusing to be opped. My posted comment:
Were George Orwell still alive to write a revised edition of "Politics and the English Language", he might have used this column as an example of the pompous verbiage necessary to get people to go along with war. Obfuscation trumps elucidation every single time.
Examples: Mr. Keller substitutes "spine in your diplomacy" for bombing the hell out of Syria. "Foreign engagement" and "activist foreign policy" become euphemisms for maiming and killing and destroying everything in sight.
And above all, instill the guilt. Because in the absence of any hard evidence of exactly who ordered the gas attacks (and the Obama administration is refusing to supply proof, even when confronted by an Associated Press FOIA request), guilt is all they've got. So absolutely, compare launching an unprovoked attack on Syria with FDR defending us against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. And while half-heartedly admitting that likening Assad to Hitler could well be over the top, do it anyway. Some of it just might sink in to guilt-ready pliable minds.
How does Mr. Keller shame us? Let me count the ways. We are anti-social, irresponsible, isolationist, selfish, cynical. We are not getting with the official program. What is wrong with us anyway, that we can't patriotically cheer murder by drone, Tomahawk missile and bunker buster bomb in order to make ourselves feel all warm and gooey inside? You'd think we didn't believe in Biblical revenge, or something.If it wasn't the New York Times and if they don't constantly threaten to cut you off at the knees if your language lacks sufficient sophistication, respect, and "thoughtfulness", I would have added this: