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January 13, 2012 2:29 pm

Robert D. Kaplan’s Intellectual Arrogance and Moral Blindness

avatar by Arik Elman

Email a copy of "Robert D. Kaplan’s Intellectual Arrogance and Moral Blindness" to a friend

Portrait of John Mearsheimer. Photo: John Mearsheimer.

It is an open trade secret among intellectual anti-Semites that, when they find themselves in a bit of a pickle because of some small indiscretion (praising an anti-Semitic book by a Jewish renegade, for instance), they should quickly find a Jew that is willing to sing their praise. If the said Jew likes his own opinions more than his fellow Jews, so much the better. And so John J. Mearsheimer has found Robert D. Kaplan.

In his tedious piece full of discourse on the benefits of realism in international relations, Kaplan comes late to the point, but when he does, it is loud and clear: “Perhaps the only chance Israel has of not becoming an apartheid society is if an American president finds the gumption… to force Israel to withdraw from significant portions of the West Bank”. Since the solution to the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews is so simple and so obvious, and the only true enemy of peace sits in Jerusalem, Kaplan is perfectly comfortable with the poisonous “argument” that Mearsheimer and S. Walt made into religion with their book “The Israel Lobby” – that America failed to compel the Jewish state to acquiesce to its demands for territorial concessions to Arabs, despite the overwhelming leverage, because the American policymakers were stabbed in the back by the Israeli fifth column back home.

This narrow view of American interests leads Mearsheimer into some very dark moral corners, and Kaplan obediently follows. “Mearsheimer tells me that the U.S. was right to enter World War II very late; that way it paid a smaller “blood price” than the Soviet Union”, – he reports. The prolongation of the war and the American indifference to the plight of the European Jews made the Holocaust both possible and inevitable; yet Kaplan does not challenge Mearsheimer on the moral validity of this thesis, perhaps because the deaths of millions of foreigners, Jews or not, are perfectly acceptable when in line with American interest – to enjoy all the fruits of victory at minimal cost.

Now, since the American public consistently supports Israel, Mearsheimer and Walt couldn’t very well argue that the security and the long-term survival of the Jewish State is not American concern and that the American policies in the Middle East should be in tune with those of Saudi Arabia. Thus, they performed an intellectual sleight of hand, claiming, essentially, that the pro-Arab American policy won’t be selfish at all – it is perfectly compatible with the “real” Israeli interests – just not those which are stipulated by the elected Israeli leaders and supported by the Israeli public!

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Here, again, Kaplan is in perfect harmony with his “hero”. Pompously pronouncing himself “a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces” (as if the brief thrill-seeking stint is somehow compatible with the decades-long burden of reservist duty and the constant threat of terrorism and war which are part of the real Israeli experience), Kaplan goes on to pontificate about the Israeli need to make territorial concessions in order to alleviate security problems stemming from the “Arab Spring” and to commiserate with Mearsheimer about the missed opportunity to force, Eisenhower-like, the rapid and unilateral Israeli withdrawal from territories taken in the Six Day War.

In the real world, of course, both American and Israeli decisions about the future of the territories were directly influenced by the abject failure of Eisenhower’s attempt to curry favor with Arab regimes by forcing American allies into a shameful retreat. There was no “realism” in Washington’s attempt to ally itself with the forces of anti-colonialism and pan-Arabism at the expense of Israel, France and Britain – just pure arrogance and wishful thinking. Same goes for the Kaplans of today – those who believe that by virtue of their superior intellect, they understand Israel’s problems better than the benighted Jews of the Levant.

Kaplan himself admits that the Israeli security threats and geopolitical situation are much more acute that anything American policymakers have to confront. Yet he is completely oblivious to the necessary conclusion: that if the United States is truly committed to Israel’s survival, it should respect Israeli political choices, as expressed in the democratic decisions of its citizens. Despite Kaplan’s belief that Israeli governments are incapacitated by the devious “right-wingers”, Israel has proven itself able and willing to grasp even a flimsiest thread of hope for peace, giving away territory for pieces of paper, withdrawing unilaterally and frequently paying a horrifying price in blood.

When the Israeli public (which does not need Kaplans and Mearsheimers to understand the need for separation from Palestinians) will judge the geopolitical conditions favorable, it will either force the current crop of leaders to make another go at the solution, or it will replace them with those willing to try. An American attempt to force the issue by financial blackmail, in accordance with the wishes of those who, like Kaplan, are consumed with desire to “save Israel from itself”, will accomplish nothing except to destroy the near-absolute Israeli trust in American friendship and judgment. An American foray into reshaping Israel into something dreamt of in Washington think-tanks will be doomed from the very beginning – perhaps Kaplan, who supported the second war in Iraq before he was against it, should have understood this all by himself.

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