With this last bit, we not only see the accuracy of Clark’s remark, but, once again, the stunning hypocrisy of the anti-anti-Semitism brigades. It’s clear that McCain, just like Clark, sees American Jewish organizations as key players in the Iran-hawk movement in the United States, and also that he sees concern for Israeli security as motivating those groups. Nobody, however, is going to label McCain a Jew-hating conspiracy theorist — because, of course, McCain wants to help these groups push the United States into a military confrontation with Iran. Thus, McCain gets an award, and Clark gets called an anti-Semite. ~Matt Yglesias

I have earlier noted what Mr. Yglesias calls the “bizarre rules of the road in discussing America’s Israel policy,” according to which making the exact same assessment of a threat to Israel and observing that a confrontational policy suits the goals of Israeli and American pro-Israel hawks (in this case regarding Iran) will elicit two completely different reactions depending on whether or not the observer agrees with the hawks’ proposed course of confrontation.  Yglesias again:

If you’re offering commentary that’s supportive of America’s soi-disant “pro-Israel” forces, as Barone was, it’s considered perfectly acceptable to note, albeit elliptically, that said forces are influential in the Democratic Party in part because they contribute large sums of money to Democratic politicians who are willing to toe the line. If, by contrast, one observes this fact by way of criticizing the influence of “pro-Israel” forces, you’re denounced as an anti-Semite.  

Likewise, to observe in a negative or critical way that an attack on Iran is being done for the sake of Israel (or, in reality, maximalist hawkish definitions of Israeli security interests)–rather than, say, because of any legitimate American interest in doing so–is to invite derision and claims of conspiracy-mongering.  On the other hand, to call for action against Iran partly or fully for the sake of Israel (especially when in Israel), as Gov. Romney recently did, will normally earn you praise and plaudits for your “moral” leadership on a vital issue.  In the earlier post, I wrote:

Strangely, today many of the same people who denounced the paleoconservatives take it as almost a given that we should attack Iran because of the threat it poses to Israel.  They are not even embarrassed to say it quite openly: the reason why we should start a war with Iran is because Ahmadinejad has threatened Israel with special vehemence and fanaticism and has therefore gone beyond the pale.  Presumably, however, if one of the paleos were to observe that a forthcoming attack on Iran was being done for Israel’s benefit, we would be condemned again as anti-Semites.  (This is usually because we follow this identical observation with an argument for why it is not America’s fight and that our wars should be fought in our national interest, which is supposedly the wrong and immoral answer.). 

(I should add again that “for Israel’s benefit” in that post is not a claim that an American war with Iran actually is in the real security interests of Israel, but that the exceedingly hawkish ”pro-Israel” people who advocate for the war believe, wrongly as usual, that it is.)  However, when I wrote the above quote on 14 January, I had failed to notice that pro-Israel hawks who want confrontation with Iran do become embarrassed by critics of an attack on Iran bringing up certain truths about who it is that wants a war with Iran.  Again, the thinking seems to be: “we the hawks can say this, because we take the morally right policy position, and you cannot, because your position is not only immoral but must also be based in deepest prejudice.”  After all, what other reason would anyone have for wanting to keep America out of another needless, aggressive war in the Near East? 

The lesson is easy enough to learn: if you favour policies that lead to violent upheaval and conflict in the Near East as a way to supposedly secure Israel, you have special moral authority, and if you oppose these policies you are probably acting from the vilest of motives.  This is because, according to these rules, there cannot actually be honest, principled or sane disagreement about what serves the American national interest, nor even about what “pro-Israel” hawks deem to be security threats to us or Israel, just as there can be no disagreement about what should done about such threats.  It obviously damages the quality and integrity of foreign policy debate in this country when a hawkish faction in this country can define all of the terms, control all of the proceedings and exclude, by means of smears and intimidation, from the debate as inherently illegitimate any real opposing views. 

If Americans wish to avoid getting dragged into another unnecessary war, they can start by ignoring the professional corps of character assassins and smear artists who seek to politically kneecap patriots and Near East policy dissidents.  When the ADL or National Review, say, disgustingly accuses someone of such hateful prejudice, start by assuming that they are working overtime to discredit an opposing view whose arguments they cannot effectively rebut in a proper debate.  It is predictable that those with the weaker argument resort to ad hominem attacks.  What is surprising is how tolerant most people have become of this kind of fallacious argument.