Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bismarck Spins While Cantor Speaks

Whether or not he actually said it, infamous 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck is often quoted as saying that no nation can run its foreign policy according to the Sermon on the Mount. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor thinks otherwise. Or does he . . .
Reaching out to the Muslim world may help in creating an environment for peace in the Middle East, but we must insist as Americans that our policies be firmly grounded in the beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was founded.

Now, I happen to disagree with Jonathan Chait's stated reasons for supporting the state of Israel: "The basis of the U.S.-Israel alliance is, and should continue to be, Israel's democratic character and desire to live in peace, in contrast to the eliminationist intentions of its neighbors." If this is so, then the US should have no dealings with Saudi Arabia, Syria (well, the right would prefer we not deal with Damascus), and perhaps even Lebanon, Iraq, and other Gulf states.

The basis for any nation's foreign policy should be what is in the best interest of that nation-state. Chait's formula - supporting Israel because it is a democracy - is a formula for limiting our dealings with the outside world to a very privileged few indeed.

As to Cantor's "Judeo-Christian tradition" as a basis for our foreign policy, I would wonder if he really understands what he is advising. Let us return for a moment to Bismarck's idea of the inapplicability of the Sermon on the Mount, and wonder if Cantor would prefer the US be meek, rejoice when we are persecuted abroad, refuse to return violence when violence is done to us, and continually seek peace so that we may be called "Sons of God".

Obviously, Cantor has no idea what he is talking about in any substantive sense. Rather, he is using buzzwords that mean something other than what he believes they do. While it might seem heresy for a left-winger to say so, Bismarck was fundamentally correct; the United States would not last long if we were to adopt the Sermon on the Mount, or any other set of Christian principles as a guide for our foreign policy. Rather than the peace-seeking, self-abnegating tradition of Jesus, Cantor is plugging the idea that we need to support Israel no matter what it does (including its low-level war of attrition against the Palestinians) simply because Israel shares a name with the historic Jewish Kingdom of the Old Testament. The name is a talisman, and conservatives enjoy mouthing support for the current state of Israel without any considerations of the multiple realities that would temper our support for the current Israeli Republic.

Decoding the double-talk and nonsense these people use is just one more service this blog hopes to provide.

Virtual Tin Cup

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