When a boy discovers he likes other boys, he is not gay, but merely “confused.” Along those lines, according to Tony Judt, those liberals interested in fighting terrorism are not, say, interested in keeping the free world free, and perhaps extending freedom to other nations where things aren’t so hot for women, gays, religious minorities, and so on, but are also “confused.” Much as Walt and Mearsheimer believe America would not help Israel but for its own confusion, a confusion that is, like all wars, like Astroturf, the fault of the Jews.
The obvious problem with the beginning of the article is as follows: it is illogical to say that liberals have changed without at least looking at the possibility that the other side, the object which Judt would have liberals fighting, might be what changed more drastically. Could it be that liberals no longer fight “them” on “the” issues because the “them” and the “the” aren’t what they were in the 1980s?
Judt nevertheless declares, and seeks to understand, “[t]he collapse of liberal self-confidence in the contemporary US.” “Self-confidence” can thus be used in a sentence as follows: “Flamboyant singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright lacks the self-confidence to sleep with the scores of heterosexual women lusting after him.” When people fail to do as you’d prefer, it is because they lack confidence.
Interestingly, Judt argues that Europe is chock full of Bush-supporting liberal intellectuals. Judt finds four in all of that continent, one of whom, Oriana Fallaci, has died since Judt’s article was written. If there is in fact a “trend,” not just a handful, of European liberal intellectuals in favor of the War on Terror, Judt does not provide any evidence thereof.
Now we come to the point of the article, the Israel-bashing. Judt explains that liberal intellectuals who support Israel do so not because Israel is a democracy, or because the Jewish nation ought to go on having a state, but because they are weak and confused. “One of the particularly depressing ways in which liberal intellectuals have abdicated personal and ethical responsibility for the actions they now endorse can be seen in their failure to think independently about the Middle East.” How is support of Israel evidence of a “failure to think independently”? Isn’t the definition of independent thought that it can lead anywhere? Independent thought is critical thought, but critical in the sense of analysis, not in the sense of, if Bush says it, it must be wrong.
Judt discusses “Israel: a country which for fifty years has rested its entire national strategy on preventive wars, disproportionate retaliation, and efforts to redesign the map of the whole Middle East. Since its inception the state of Israel has fought a number of wars of choice (the only exception was the Yom Kippur War of 1973). To be sure, these have been presented to the world as wars of necessity or self-defence; but Israel’s statesmen and generals have never been under any such illusion.” I’m not going to discuss whether all those wars were “of choice,” and will leave that to commentors, if they’re up for it.
Next, Judt reasserts the Walt-Mearsheimer hypothesis, that the US and Israel are effectively the same, that the US is led by Israel, and what with Israel being evil and all, now the US is a mess.
“The alacrity with which many of America’s most prominent liberals have censored themselves in the name of the War on Terror, the enthusiasm with which they have invented ideological and moral cover for war and war crimes and proffered that cover to their political enemies: all this is a bad sign.”
So if liberals do not do as Judt thinks they should, it has to be because they are censoring themselves. It cannot possibly be that they are saying what they think.
There’s a problem with Judt’s argument that today’s liberals are pushovers. Why, if liberals do as Bush says, do liberals support gay rights, gay marriage, the right to choose, the right to doggone it get some birth control… and so on. The divide between conservatives and liberals on many social issues remains strong.