Where I grew up, there were no Republicans, or at least not any my age. Among my high-school and college friends, "Republican" was a synonym for both "stupidity" and "moral depravity."
In order for my elementary school to stage a mock debate prior to the 1964 elections, I had to write pro-Goldwater speeches for two slightly dim friends, so that I could carry the torch for the savior of mankind, Lyndon B. Johnson.
The spring of my freshman year in college, school ended early, in the wake of the slaying of four anti-war protesters at Kent State University by National Guardsmen, so that students could "work for a new Congress." That meant, of course, campaigning for Democrats.
I spent that spring in Wassau, Wisconsin, working for Dave Obey, who went on to become one of Israel's most powerful and persistent critics in Congress over the past quarter century.
This personal history explains the sinking feeling in my stomach the morning after the recent mid-term elections in the United States upon hearing that the Republicans had swept to a great victory. That feeling was fleeting, however, as I reminded myself, "Jonathan, you're a Republican - or at least closer to a Republican than a Democrat."
It is still easy enough to convince me that President George W. Bush's huge tax cut was an economic disaster - a windfall for the rich that failed to provide the requisite stimulus that cuts targeted at the middle and working classes would have. Yet in a world more threatening than any we have known since the Cuban missile crisis and the days of backyard bomb shelters, domestic issues take on a diminished significance. And when it comes to foreign policy, it becomes clearer by the day that the Republicans are the only serious party.
September 11 left a world in which we are all potential hostages to terror. Only one party responded to the new challenge. The Democrats' main issue in 2002, as in 2000, was prescription drugs for the elderly, as if nothing had taken place in the interim. Since 9/11, Democrats have failed to respond with a single policy initiative. Those long accustomed to viewing themselves as deep thinkers and wise men remain firmly moored in the past.
Meanwhile, Bush the "simpleton" internalized the fact that we live in a radically changed world. "New threats require new thinking," he said at West Point last June, while enunciating a new Bush doctrine of preemption: "[We] will not permit the world's most dangerous regime to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Preemption was, as Henry Kissinger pointed out, a radical albeit necessary departure from traditional doctrines of international relations.
CONFRONTED WITH unprecedented new threats to Western civilization, Bush made it clear that America would take advantage of its status as the most powerful hegemon the world has known. The full range of American technological wizardry was unleashed to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan and, if not to destroy al-Qaida, at least to deprive it of its most secure base of operations.
Bush's critics, however, remain stuck with their memories of protesting the Vietnam war. For them, American military might, rather than serving as a cause of celebration, is viewed as lamentable, especially when that power is wielded by a Texas Ranger. The plaintive cry of a Williams College coed, at a teach-in against American involvement in Afghanistan, captured their mood. "I know that the United States is going to use 9/11 as an excuse to kill millions of people, like it always does," she said.
Viewing their own country with deep suspicion, Democrats have grown infatuated with multilateralism. They not only submit to the constraints of international coalitions and the United Nations, but eagerly speak out against those restraints - the international equivalent of a serial killer's cry, "Stop me before I kill again."
Republicans, on the other hand, are far more likely to trust in the righteousness of American arms. They see American foreign policy as the least narrowly self-interested of any country, and prefer a world policed by America to one policed by Kofi Annan and the UN bureaucracy. They cannot understand why America's ability to protect itself should be subjected to the economic interest of the French, who would not only sell their grandmothers for a drop of oil, but who look with cynical disdain at anyone who would not. And they question the UN Security Council's moral authority to dictate to America, especially when that Security Council was recently chaired by Syria, a country that killed tens of thousands of its own citizens in a few days, and holds its neighboring state captive.
Finally, by treating the deployment of American power as the worst of all evils - something to be done only when the Huns are already at the gate or even inside - Democrats have made themselves complicit in the suffering of millions. By defending Saddam Hussein from attack, they consign tens of millions of Iraqis to the clutches of a sadist who delights in torture and whose actions have led directly to the death of over a million people.
Their eschewal of power is thus neither responsible nor morally serious.
The Republicans' recognition that the defense of America requires new approaches and the willingness to use the power at America's disposal would itself be sufficient reason to cheer the Republican ascendancy. For America is today surely the best hope for saving Western civilization from the heart of darkness.
Israelis, however have special reason to cheer. Simply put, those who confidently assert the right and duty of America to defend itself and the free world are more likely to be sympathetic to Israel's need to defend itself. Not by accident are Israel's most articulate defenders among American pundits also the strongest advocates of attacking Iraq.
And not by accident do more than two thirds of Republicans favor Israel over its adversaries, while less than half of Democrats do so. As State Department official David Wurmser has astutely noted, popular support for Israel in America derives from the perception of Israelis as doughty defenders of commonly held values. Confidence in those values and the willingness to defend them typifies Republicans far more than Democrats.
To be sure, there are few limits to nations' capacity for hypocrisy in distinguishing their interests from those of others. Witness the almost comical attempts of the State Department to distinguish America's elimination of six al-Qaida operatives in Yemen by a Predator missile from Israel's own targeted killings.
The al-Qaida men, you see, wanted to kill Americans. And what did the Palestinian terrorists seek - to play patty cake?
The new Quartet "road map," which makes the EU and UN, inter alia, referees of whether the Palestinians have done enough to trigger further Israeli concessions, would impose on Israel the very same multilateral shackles that the US has resisted for itself.
Nevertheless, the more forcefully America acts to protect the lives of its citizens, the harder it is for the Bush administration to distinguish its actions from Israel's actions undertaken to protect itself from threats to its existence no less great than those facing America.