The Clare Spark Blog

September 4, 2013

The Syria crisis and historicism

arabs-take-syria-crisis-to-un-1327616110-3682I am in no way an expert on current relations in the Middle East, but I have found one article that seems rational and appropriately analytic, written by Caroline Glick: http://www.carolineglick.com/e/2013/08/obamas-bread-and-circuses.php#.UiduRyC71lA.facebook.

Who is supporting Obama’s recent foreign policy moves? The Wall Street Journal and various moderates, i.e., neoconservatives. As I write this short blog, those who support Obama’s desire to have a limited strike in Syria are calling their opponents “isolationists.”  These include Bret Stephens writing in the Wall Street Journal, and Ron Radosh, writing for Pajamas Media. Stephens is critical of neo-isolationism, while Radosh seems primarily concerned with the weakening of executive authority. Radosh writes “Our country cannot afford the luxury of weakening of presidential power and authority, which could stifle the ability to act when it is most needed in the future. Supporting the authority of the Chief Executive to act, does not mean conservatives and Republicans should stop being critical of the policy of the Obama administration, its half-way measures, its contradictions and its overall embarrassing incompetence. But to weaken the authority of any Chief Executive to act, including President Barack Obama, will only hurt the nation and stifle our ability to respond to aggression effectively, now and later.” it is somewhat buried within a comparison of “isolationists” before and after WW2. But are the conditions the same?

ISOLATIONISM”. It is not historically correct to label every opponent of Obama’s latest initiative in the Syria crisis as an “isolationist,” though some may be so. The opponents of American involvement in European affairs as European countries fell into the lap of the Third Reich during the 1930s (see https://clarespark.com/2013/08/31/the-devil-in-history-a-j-p-taylor-vs-r-palme-dutt/ ),  were largely from the Midwest and South: many bought the defeatist line of such unapologetic antisemites as Joseph P. Kennedy while he was Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Kennedy even warned a gathering of fifty mostly Jewish Hollywood “moguls” in 1940 that Hitler would win and that they should therefore not make anti-Nazi films, a point that is overlooked by Ben Urwand’s sensational book Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler (Harvard UP, 2013). And before that, FDR’s support of the Neutrality Act allowed the Spanish rebels to destroy a popularly elected government in Spain. FDR was worried about “the Catholic vote.”

At the time, like populist antisemites before them, Hitler and his admirers in other countries blamed all modern warfare on an international cabal of Jewish financiers who also controlled the new mass media. From J. A. Hobson onward, “the Jews” made wars for the sake of unseemly profits (see Hobson’s words here: https://clarespark.com/2009/09/18/bad-sex-in-the-new-york-times/). Such was the source of much “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. (And I have not mentioned prior French upper-class ongoing hatred of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s emancipation of the Jews, echoed by the tsarist agents who dreamed up The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, itself based on an earlier French rightist fantasy.)

This is a confusing time for Americans of both political parties. What I see missing from the commentary of Obama’s supporters is the appropriate hesitancy of intervention that is considered to be either “too little too late” or misdirected and likely to further empower Iran, Syria’s ally and patron. The opponents of Obama are not wary of any foreign intervention because of the Jew-hatred that marked “isolationism” before Pearl Harbor. The dissenters’ case is made on strategic grounds, blended with a mistrust of this administration’s competence in foreign affairs, including its appeal to a non-existent “international community.”

The moral of this short blog: Historicism is the practice of looking at conflict without specious analogies to prior conflicts. Each new conflict is unique and our opinions are largely based on guesswork and such often suspect and multi-layered statements as become public.  The best of us are groping in the dark. It is all too human to seek patterns and precedents in the past, but that may be a fool’s errand, for the historians or other experts upon whom we rely are captives to an often inaccessible record along with their biases and preferred interpretations.

While it used to be the case that historical judgments about the causes of prior wars were based on the archival record (such as it is), we have nothing to go on now but the statements of our leaders. Should we trust their veracity and good intentions? When did properly skeptical historians become “authoritative” journalists? (See https://clarespark.com/2013/05/06/the-new-left-activist-scholars/.)

March 9, 2013

Feel no pain: Rand Paul’s secret weapon

scaryangrybearThis blog is about the reasons that Rand Paul’s filibuster regarding “drone attacks” upon American soil garnered approval from individuals and pundits who may not themselves be isolationists. My thesis is that we tend to repress scary events and influences, thus providing receptiveness to anyone who proposes that we are in danger of sudden annihilation out of the sky or from trusted family members and their surrogates in the political world.

Here are some stressors. Some are recent, others are ongoing, but all of them prepare the soil for panic and paranoia: North Korea/Iranian nuclear threat, internal jihadists, 9-11, Obamacare: its cost, rationing, and “death panels,” ongoing nuclear threat leftover from the Cold War, uncertain economic future, growth of the federal government under the Democratic Party that backs off from American superpower status (making us vulnerable to internal subversion), culture war angst, the pervasive rhetoric of family while stigmatizing the “individual” as destroyer of family harmony.

(Note that the pervasive rhetoric of family in all political propaganda and advertising reinstates the parents as controlling the now infantilized “children”—even as we are mature adults. This is one cause of regression, making us ever more dependent on “leaders” or “celebrities” who do our thinking and feeling for us. And we dare not confront these “Good Kings,” for it is their anodyne that protects us from wild animals, the “nanny state”, alien invaders, and any and all sinister forces.)

It is possible that Rand Paul’s filibuster was a relief to those who feel helpless in the face of all these unresolved and perhaps unresolvable stressors (I’m thinking of parents and siblings who may or may not have been bullies). While some dismiss Rand Paul’s “stunt,” here was a surrogate action for our helpless selves, standing up to Eric Holder, and demanding an unequivocal answer regarding the safety of loyal Americans.

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My own views are contained here, and are supplemented by fine, well-researched guest blogs by Tom Nichols (an authority on international relations, nuclear threats, and war) and Phillip Smyth (a researcher specializing in Mid-East conflicts and neo-isolationism on the American Right). See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/07/blogs-on-neo-isolationism/. My blogs note the ongoing influence of such isolationists as Charles Lindbergh, and the presence of American First members or sympathizers in the sociology that followed the trauma of World War 2, and that have affected the programming of “alternative media.” It should be noted also that two of Joseph McCarthy’s most prominent enemies were active in establishing community radio: I refer to Paul G. Hoffman and William Benton. See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/.

June 3, 2011

Neo-isolationists and the Jewish Problem

Here is a comment from a Pajamas Media reader, responding to Debra Glazer’s article (6-3-11)  regarding an Orange County, California Jewish organization that has been  funding anti-Israel propaganda:

[Comment from “Nickel”:]  “It is time for the Jewish community to clean its’ own house before the looming war in the Middle East asks thousand(s) of young Americans to die fighting to help protect Isreal [sic]. The majority of Americans are willing to fight to defend Israel but not if those that are funding and organizing the destruction of Israel and the destabilization of the entire Middle East are also part of the recognized Jewish American community. Communism is not a religion it is a mental disorder and it is about time the Jewish community world wide purged its members.”

Here is the comment I left in response to this one and to another one that referred to “Jew-haters” among Jews:

[Clare:] Not all American Jews are “Jew-haters.” Recall that the major period of Jewish immigration to the U.S. lasted a short time, starting in the last few decades of the 19th century and stopped by the 1924 Immigration Act, a law that reacted to presumably communistic “Polish Jews.” Many immigrants were poor and lived in tenements and worked in sweatshops. Their descendants, thanks to the Jewish tradition of respect for education, experienced astonishing upward mobility, but that mobility was limited by a WASP elite, so that Jews were successful in the professions and in the new culture industry (radio, film, television) that WASPS spurned. In order to succeed many assimilated to the populist-progressive movement and its attendant statism (including the legitimating of labor unions), while others (especially during the Depression) became activists on the Left. The situation is now changing as the Islamic threat is obviously making headway. I hope that the comments above are not repeating common antisemitic tropes, such as the belief that Jews are a people apart. There is no “world wide” Jewish community or “Jewish Americans” with the power to purge its members. Jews are scattered, and often at odds with each other. Here is one of many blogs that takes up these matters: https://clarespark.com/2011/05/20/the-mentalist-melville-blake-and-israel/. [end comment, slightly corrected]

To elaborate on these points: the comment I quoted reiterated common antisemitic tropes,  that could be applied to collectivist rhetoric in the description of other minority groups. There is no such thing as a world-wide Jewish community. The phrase “Jewish Americans” is part of the ethnic nationalist/ multiculturalist project that separates out the hyphenated Americans from regular Americans. (On assimilation see https://clarespark.com/2011/06/02/glossary-to-some-terms-in-dispute/) now retitled “The Mass Culture Problem.”

The notion that Jews are so organized that they can purge their “communist” members reflects the myth of the all-powerful  International Jew.” Moreover, and most importantly, persons of Jewish descent who become communists renounce any ties to a Jewish identity and marry themselves to proletarian internationalism. The fact that they are still considered to be Jews is an example of “scientific racism.” “The Jews” remain defined by others because of a widespread  belief in the inheritance of racial character.

After decades of genteel antisemitism, finally, there are Jews in the Republican Party. Upper class Americans, until the Shoah, excluded all but a few Jews from their corporations, playgrounds, and secret societies in the Ivy League, not to speak of the imposition of race-based quotas in the better colleges’ admission policies. And while the “progressive”  patricians invented the New Deal and multiculturalism (with the aid of useful assimilating Jews), they neglected to put antisemitism in their reformed civil rights-inspired curricula, though a few schools sponsor “Holocaust Studies” while at the same time, further peace studies and conflict-resolution, ignoring all irreconcilable conflicts, especially those between Israel and its Arab and Iranian neighbors.

My last observation on “Nickel’s” comment: he is almost sounding like Patrick Buchanan, Ron Paul, or earlier, Charles Lindbergh in his famous America First speech, delivered on September 11, 1941 in Des Moines. “Lindy” was arguing against American involvement in a world war to save the Jews.*  Similarly, the Nazi propaganda campaign emphasized world war 2 as started by “the Jews” who were out to exterminate the German people.

“Nickel” has not gone that far, but in his racialist assumptions, he has made a disturbing linkage between the existence of Israel and all the other tumults in the Mideast, either caused or aggravated, one might assume, by the existence of the [expansionist?] Jewish state. Has Israel asked for Americans to sacrifice their lives to save them? Was the second world war an enterprise through which Americans saved the Jews of Europe? I don’t think so.

* [excerpt from Lindbergh’s speech:]”It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.

Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to  involve us in the war.

We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.” [end Lindbergh excerpt]

Did you get that, gentle reader? Jews and the New Deal [a.k.a. Jew-Deal] are alien and unassimilable to the true America.

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