November 11, 2006

New York

To West Point, where the Black Knights, as the cadets are known among American football types, are slaughtered by the ‘Falcons’ of the Airforce Academy. But sitting in the midst of the corps of cadets on a soft autumn evening watching a football game evokes memories of the America I used to know as a schoolboy. The soldier ethic — i.e., the virtues of the past — is everywhere. Courtesy, formality, self-restraint, good manners and not a small amount of very attractive female soldiers, to boot. The virtues of the military are those of a past aristocratic society, where courage, honesty and authority were greatly valued. Once upon a time, Western societies took their cue from the past. No longer. The military is the last bastion of the last virtues of the past.

Mind you, such virtues used to be called conservative values. But the conservative movement, both in America and Britain, has abandoned the basic items of the conservative agenda. When William Buckley drove Birchers, racists and assorted anarchists away from his conservative movement 50 years ago, he tried to shape conservatism into a party that drove away fewer people than it attracted. In this he succeeded, hence Reagan and Bush the First. Then the Fifth Columnists went to work, under the cute label of neocons. They are the real enemies of the conservatism of old, as well as that of the real civilisation of the West.

My fellow founder of the American Conservative, Pat Buchanan, wrote before the 2004 American presidential election that a civil war would break out inside the Republican party over its ideological future, pitting the neocons on one side and the real conservatives on the other. This is about to take place, especially after the drubbing the Republicans got on Tuesday. ‘Big Government Conservatism’ might sound good but it ain’t conservatism. George W. Bush abandoned traditional conservative values and ideas for a conservative welfare state and an asinine plan to bring democracy to the Middle East through force of arms. Despite the déb”cle in Iraq, the dreaded Democrats have come up empty. They have won the House — that was always a given — and on Wednesday morning looked likely to take the Senate, but they are as likely to change domestic matters as I am to leave my moolah to the ghastly Clintons. Alas, the conservatism I stuck my banner to long ago is gone the way of ‘mission accomplished’, with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan slowly twisting in their graves.

Arrogance, incompetence and spending have been the hallmarks of this administration. In foreign policy, just consider what has happened since George W. came to power six years ago. Shiites are lording it over Iraq, Iran has become the main player of the region, the Palestinians have become more radicalised than before, and the US and Israel are isolated not only in the region and in Europe, but also in the world. As Leon Hadar wrote in TAC, ‘If we have a pro-Israeli administration in Washington, how would an anti-Israeli one look?’ In fact, the Bush gang reminds me of the one that couldn’t shoot straight. At times you’d think they were doing it on purpose. They talk about democracy. So the Palestinians vote in Hamas in a fair election and the Quartet — the EU, the US, Russia and the UN — that sponsored the 2003 road-map peace plan tell them that they have to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past Palestinian–Israeli accords. And to compel Hamas to do that the Quartet has imposed a draconian and devastating economic embargo on the Palestinian population.

So far so bad. The Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert then invites Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right thug who believes Israel should ethnically cleanse Israeli Arabs from Israel proper (he calls it ‘transferring them’), to join his government and no one in Washington dares even to sigh. Lieberman is a burly gangster type who, among other things, has proposed bombing the Aswan Dam if relations with Egypt deteriorate and once even proposed drowning all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. So I ask you: when Jorg Haider won an election in Austria, all the EU apparatchiks went bananas, calling for Austria to be drummed out of the Society of Nations for electing a fascist. Ditto when Flemish Belgians voted in nationalists. Now a thug like Lieberman is invited to join the Israeli government and the United States, the world’s only superpower, does not lift a finger to tell Olmert that that’s a no-no.

Israel has had carte-blanche from DC since the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Blame it on the power of the neocons, blame it on an American guilty conscience, blame it on anything you like. But this cannot go on. Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist, and an obviously fair and decent man, had this to say to George W. Bush: ‘Have your eyes failed to see that the most undemocratic and brutal regime in the region is the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories?’ ‘Obviously a self-loathing Jew’ is bound to be the response of those nice guys, the neocons.

Spectator, November 11, 2006


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