Theories of a Jewish cabal controlling American foreign policy have gone mainstream. Once largely the province of the fringe Right, conspiracy theories involving Jews are far more likely to be heard today in Democratic Party circles.
Last year, former Democratic presidential hopeful Gary Hart warned against neo-conservatives unable "to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands [i.e., Israel] from their loyalties to America." Retiring senator Fritz Hollings (D.-S.Car.) charges that the United States was pushed into war in Iraq by Jewish neo-conservatives eager to increase Israel’s security.
In the now familiar litany, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, Jews who hold, or once held, senior positions in the Defense Department, somehow duped President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld into declaring war on Saddam Hussein. Their goal: to aid the warmongering Likud-led government in Israel.
Equally worrisome is what the great American historian Richard Hofstadter called the "paranoid style" that has taken over large swaths of the Democratic Party. Michael Moore, accorded iconic status by the party faithful at last week’s Democratic convention, is the avatar of this new trend. His febrile brain spins conspiracies without end. Asked to name the epicenters of world evil, during a speech in Liverpool, he responded, "It’s all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton." The linkage of Israel with the oil companies is on a par with Saudi Prince Abdullah’s recent charge that Israel is behind Al Qaeda.
It is necessary to show how nutso the "Israel made us do it" theories are in order to understand how much they resemble an updated version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
For one thing, Operation Iraqi Freedom did little to increase Israel’s security, and may even have lessened it in the long run. Though few tears will be shed in Jerusalem over Saddam’s downfall, Israeli policymakers for years viewed him as a minor irritant compared to the much larger threat from Iran. The backlash from the war in Iraq has made the chances of concerted American-led action to forestall Iran going nuclear far less likely.
Those who attempt to explain the war in Iraq in terms of Israel tend to ignore that the world, or at least our perception of the world, changed rather dramatically on 9/11. The events of that day are to the conspiracy theorists what Palestinian terrorism is to the International Court of Justice’s security fence decision: the unmentioned fact that makes nonsense of all their theorizing.
Jewish neo-conservatives did not "deftly substitute the threat of Islam for the threat of Communism," as Simon Jenkins charges in the Times of London. Rather 9/11 revealed that Islamist fanaticism is the enemy – an enemy bent on the total subjugation of the West however long it takes. That is the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission.
Any explanation of the war in Iraq that fails to place it in the context of 9/11 fails the test of seriousness. Unless one believes, in the manner of a recent French bestseller, that 9/11 never happened or that it was plotted by Israel, 9/11 explodes the theory that Iraqi Freedom was about Israel.
The influence of neoconservatives after 9/11, as Joshua Muravchik points out ("The Neoconservative Cabal," Commentary, September 2003) owes to the fact that they had a clear analysis of what went wrong and a plan of action: wage war on terror groups and their state supporters.
In addition, support for the export of democracy has long been a central plank of the neoconservative platform. After 9/11 that project took on new urgency, as creating viable democracies in the Middle East came to be seen as the only means of draining the swamps in which Islamist rage breeds. Iraq was the test case.
Neocons also tend to favor the employment of American power to prevent mass murder, as in Bosnia. Ridding Iraq of a tyrant who had brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of his subjects, and who continued to divert billions of dollars of oil revenues to building pleasure palaces, while tens of thousands of Iraqi children died a year, was clearly attractive on humanitarian grounds as well.
Neoconservative support for Iraqi Freedom, then, was part of a well-developed worldview, not an instance of special pleading on behalf of Israel due to ethnic ties. Yes, neoconservatives, both Jewish and non-Jewish, tend to be very supportive of Israel. But they do so out of a well-developed worldview that stresses the use of American power against enemies far from home to forestall threats to the homefront, eschews appeasement, whether of Soviet communism in its day or Islamic terrorism today, favors the export of democracy and confronting tyrants.
Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld bought the arguments advanced by neoconservatives, not because their brains were taken over by agents of Israel, but out of their clear conception of American national interests.
American Jews inclined, out of force of long habit, to vote Democrat in November might consider the following: If they do so, they will be joining millions of others who have turned the work of a director who views Israel at the epicenter of world evil into a cult hit and who have no trouble believing that a small group of Jews sent American boys to die in Iraq to benefit Israel.