The title is inflammatory. And do we need that? In retrospect, “US foreign policy unplugged” might have been a better choice. But there is already a part 1, and it’s too late now.
In the last part I described propaganda as a sort of magic trick. Good propaganda, if it depends at all on lies, uses them very sparingly. Lying is crude and inartful. The magician’s art is to make your eyes see one thing, and your brain see another.
A fine example—almost a pons asinorum for 20th-century history—is the case of USG and Israel. In the Arab–Israeli conflict, which side does USG support?
The savvy, experienced UR reader knows this is a trick. But she also knows she’s supposed to say “Israel,” like 99.99% of the educated people in the world. And even like some of the most skeptical and independent commentators—such as Steve Sailer.
As far as most of us are concerned, USG’s support for Israel is simply a fact. Other facts in the same category include water, which flows downhill; Hitler, who is dead; and disco, which sucks. La Wik, which as we all know is nothing but factual, has a fine discussion of our fact. And it is a matter of public record that every year, USG sends billions of dollars in cold, hard cash and bodacious military hardware to Israel. If this isn’t “support,” what is?
The lady, in other words, has been cut in half. Her head is over here. Her legs are over there. Your brain says: they cannot possibly be connected. You saw the chainsaw pass between them. And yet—and yet, when we analyze the video, something puzzling appears.
What do we actually mean by “support”? We mean that USG is on Israel’s side. That it is pro-Israeli. That its actions in the Middle East tend to strengthen Israel’s position, and weaken the position of its enemies.
Logically, therefore, if USG switched from being pro-Israeli to being neutral, Israel’s position in the conflict would be weaker, and the Palestinians’ position would be stronger. Obviously.
Obviously. But what is this word “neutral?” What do we mean by “neutral?” Well, in the last episode, we acquired a very handy and compact definition of “neutral,” courtesy of John Quincy Adams’ Monroe Doctrine:
Our policy, in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy; meeting, in all instances, the just claims of every power; submitting to injuries from none.
Compare to Grotius’ definition:
Again, according to what was said in a preceding part of this book, it is the duty of those, who profess neutrality in a war to do nothing towards increasing the strength of a party maintaining an unjust cause, nor to impede the measures of a power engaged in a just and righteous cause. But in doubtful cases, they ought to shew themselves impartial to both sides, and to give no succour to besieged places, but should allow the troops of each to march through the country, and to purchase forage, and other supplies.
Carlyle puts it somewhat more poetically:
And at all times, and even now, there will remain the question to be sincerely put and wisely answered, What essential concern has the British Nation with them and their enterprises? Any concern at all, except that of handsomely keeping apart from them? If so, what are the methods of best managing it?—At present, as was said, while Red Republic but clashes with foul Bureaucracy; and Nations, sunk in blind ignavia, demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness; and wild Anarchy and Phallus-Worship struggle with Sham-Kingship and extinct or galvanized Catholicism; and in the Cave of the Winds all manner of rotten waifs and wrecks are hurled against each other,—our English interest in the controversy, however huge said controversy grow, is quite trifling; we have only in a handsome manner to say to it: “Tumble and rage along, ye rotten waifs and wrecks; clash and collide as seems fittest to you; and smite each other into annihilation at your own good pleasure. In that huge conflict, dismal but unavoidable, we, thanks to our heroic ancestors, having got so far ahead of you, have now no interest at all. Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury their dead in such a case: and so we have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, your entirely devoted,—FLIMNAP, SEC. FOREIGN DEPARTMENT.”—I really think Flimnap, till truer times come, ought to treat much of his work in this way: cautious to give offence to his neighbors; resolute not to concern himself in any of their self-annihilating operations whatsoever.
So, on the Arab–Israeli conflict, in our imaginary world with its neutral USG, Flimnap, Grotius, and Adams concur. “Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury the dead in such a case.” I’m not quite sure what this means in the exact literal sense. But surely the poetic gist is clear.
I.e.: without USG, the Arabs and Israelis will have to settle the question themselves, using the old-fashioned methods. “Clash and collide as seems fittest to you.” And what would be the result of such a clash? Obviously, by “clash” we mean “war.”
So this question resolves to: which side has the strongest military, the Arab or the Israeli? The question is prejudiced slightly by the American military hardware provided under the aforementioned program, but Israel is certainly capable of producing its own hardware. It is rather difficult to imagine Syria, Egypt, or Iran with any such capabilities, let alone Israel’s immediate opponents: Gazastan and Westbankistan.
Given this disparity in indigenous military capacity, we Flimnaps would expect any disputes between Israel and its neighbors to be settled to the advantage of the former. War is, above all, a practical endeavor. The weak do not cause trouble for the strong. If they do, they demonstrate that they are dangerously irrational, like a rabid poodle, and need to be put down.
At present, however—that is, in the real world, where USG supports Israel—the expectation appears to be that all disputes will be resolved via Israeli concessions. The only dispute appears to be on the magnitude of these concessions. “Land for peace” is a fairly normal way to end a war—for example, France in 1870 accepted the proposition of “land for peace,” ceding Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. On the other hand, France in 1870 had been defeated. Whereas Israel in 1967 was, at least according to all reliable experts, victorious.
So we arrive at a peculiar conclusion. On the one hand, USG supports Israel. On the other hand, if USG ceased to exist, at least for the purposes of the Middle East, Israel’s position seems as if it would become much stronger. A conclusion that would seem to indicate that USG opposes Israel. But then, why would it give Israel billions of dollars and fancy weapons?
We are left to conclude that (a) USG both supports and opposes Israel; (b) the magnitude of the opposition exceeds the magnitude of the support (implying net opposition); and (c) the support is overt and obvious, whereas the opposition is somehow… more subtle.
In other words, we are in the position of an astronomer who sees light being bent away from a large visible object. The astronomer must conclude that unless the laws of gravity are reversed in the vicinity of this object, there is an even larger non-visible object on the other side of the light. The latter can be detected only by inference, but the detection remains unambiguous.
Israel makes a great pons asinorum because in this case, the diplomatic dark matter is not at all hard to find. Perhaps it is best explained by the title of this book, which I saw in a window somewhere. According to the author or at least his title, USG is acting as a “dishonest broker” in the Arab–Israeli conflict.
I.e.: “justice” in the conflict favors the Palestinians more than USG’s actions today reflect. I.e.: USG is pro-Israel, but not in the sense that USG’s interventions in the Middle East are a net positive for Israel. Actually, they are detrimental to Israel. But if “justice” were served, they would be even more detrimental.
So if I sue you for $100,000 and the judge awards me $20,000, I might say that the judge is biased in favor of you. Because you still have $80,000 that is rightfully mine. On the other hand, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the judge forced you to pay me $20,000. Which is $20,000 you’d have and I wouldn’t, if there was no judge at all. An interesting kind of support.
America, you see, is not really the vampire of the world. The analogy is inexact in two ways. One, a vampire is nourished by the blood of his victims. They grow weak and sickly, while he thrives in ruddy good health. Two, it is always easy to know that a vampire has been eatin’ on you, because there are fang-marks on your neck.
America is more the arsonist of the world. As well as the fireman. Wherever fires break out, Uncle Sam is there to pour gasoline on them. The fireman assures us, of course, that he is only setting a backfire to defeat the main blaze. But why is this always the right strategy? Why was he the first one on the scene? Why do his hoses always seem to get tangled, whereas his gas can never runs dry? And why have there been so many more fires since he came to town? But the TV audience sees none of this. All they see is the fireman, fighting the fires.
To justify this imaginative metaphor, let’s untangle the interesting complex of assumptions behind the “dishonest broker” theory.
First, how did USG become the broker, honest or dishonest, in the Arab–Israeli dispute? It is difficult to remember these days, but USG is still nominally constituted to serve the interests of American citizens, i.e., not Arabs or Israelis. If all the Arabs and Israelis need is an indifferent third party, an independent arbitrator, have they considered, for example, Nepal? Although I’m afraid that these days even the Nepalis may have strong feelings about the Middle East.
Second, it’s obvious that Nepal won’t do. Because USG is acting not as an arbitrator with whose rulings the Arabs and Israelis voluntarily agree to comply, but as a judge who both decides and enforces. When A settles the dispute of B and C and enforces the settlement, A is more than a broker. A is a governor.
If you heard a Hitler say: “the swastika is the flag not only of Germany, but of the world,” you would doubtless be a little concerned. You might think, gee, this Mr. Hitler doesn’t mind sounding like he wants to conquer the entire friggin’ planet.
But when you hear that the Stars and Stripes “is the flag not only of America, but of humanity,” you have a slightly different reaction. And not because you’re a gun-totin’, God-lovin’, truck-drivin’ red-state American. Quite the contrary, in fact. Here’s the full quote:
My dream is that as the years go on and the world knows more and more of America it will also drink at these fountains of youth and renewal; that it also will turn to America for those moral inspirations which lie at the basis of all freedom; that the world will never fear America unless it feels that it is engaged in some enterprise which is inconsistent with the rights of humanity; and that America will come into the full light of the day when all shall know that she puts human rights above all other rights and that her flag is the flag not only of America but of humanity.
What other great people has devoted itself to this exalted ideal? To what other nation in the world can all eyes look for an instant sympathy that thrills the whole body politic when men anywhere are fighting for their rights?
Couldn’t this almost be Barack Obama? But, of course, it’s another progressive, Woodrow Wilson—on July 4, 1914. Wilson is expounding the policy that has become known by his name, and which in part 1 we called “foreign policy C.”
Note the particularly charming phrase “unless it feels that it is engaged in…” What Wilson really means is that no government will ever fear America unless America feels that that government is engaged in some enterprise which violates the rights of humanity.
In other words, USG will judge the world. In other words, USG will govern the world. In other words, USG will rule the world. In other words, USG will dominate the world.
The belief that judging is distinct from ruling, that one can “provide global governance” without “grasping world domination,” is not a Wilsonian invention. It is a fundamental part of the American political tradition—the separation of powers. In this case, the separation of executive and judicial authority. One can be an honest broker, without being an imperial overlord.
Rationally—if the term applies—this depends on the concept of “natural law,” i.e., a theory of right and wrong which is self-evident to everyone honest. Since USG is always honest, being democratic, it and and any other honest, enterprising government will always agree on whether the latter is “violating the rights of humanity.” And if they don’t, it is. Ergo, USG is always right.
Thus, it is clear that when Serbia wishes to recover a seceded province, it is violating the rights of humanity, whereas when Georgia does the same it is defending them. The former fears America, and rightly so. The latter is helping it support democracy.
So USG, the universal democratic nation, may, indeed must, assert its jurisdiction over all. Which it just happens to have the military and financial power to enforce. And is this in the interest of America or Americans? Heaven forfend! From the same speech:
Our independence is a fact so stupendous that it can be measured only by the size and energy and variety and wealth and power of one of the greatest nations in the world. But it is one thing to be independent and it is another thing to know what to do with your independence. It is one thing to come to your majority and another thing to know what you are going to do with your life and your energies; and one of the most serious questions for sober-minded men to address themselves to in the United States is this: What are we going to do with the influence and power of this great Nation? Are we going to play the old role of using that power for our aggrandizement and material benefit only? You know what that may mean. It may upon occasion mean that we shall use it to make the people of other nations suffer in the way in which we said it was intolerable to suffer when we uttered our Declaration of Independence. The Department of State at Washington is constantly called upon to back up the commercial enterprises and the industrial enterprises of the United States in foreign countries, and it at one time went so far in that direction that all its diplomacy came to be designated as “dollar diplomacy.” It was called upon to support every man who wanted to earn anything anywhere if he was an American. But there ought to be a limit to that.
Wilson, it appears, is not at all a fan of “foreign policy B.” Nor am I, really—although my main concern is that it too often gets mixed up with policy C. For example, as Herbert Croly wrote in his biography of Willard Straight, regarding a railway loan the State Department was trying to place in northern China in 1910, to cement the Open Door Policy:
According to the subsequent critics of “dollar diplomacy” the connection was one which degraded the American government into the accomplice of private banking interests. The facts of the matter were precisely the reverse. It was the State Department which was trying to use a group of American bankers as the accomplice of the American government in China. The majority of these bankers had gone into the Group not because they were seeking Chinese investments but in order to oblige the administration.
This murky mixture is a hallmark of USG’s foreign policy from day one. Vicarious, crusading adventures are presented as sound investments and/or prudent military strategies. And the converse as well—but not nearly so often.
Lest the odor of cynicism become overpowering, let’s pause for a minute, and admit that there is evil in the world. More specifically, there are evil people. And it is a glorious thing, and good for all and sundry, to wrap a rope around their necks and pull the chair away.
The trouble is that if we truly despise evil, we hope to minimize the amount of it in the world. Wilsonism is not inherently evil. A Petri dish is not inherently bacteria-infested. There is such a thing as a sterile Petri dish. But the combination of world domination and profound self-righteousness is a bath of nutrients as nourishing as evil has ever found. And bacteria are not in short supply.
Why would evil not go abroad in the mask of good? Satan has no fear of masks. Wilson, a deeply mystical man, thought of democracy as a sort of antibiotic which ensured that his Petri dish would always remain pristine. It has not, in my opinion, worked out that way.
Wilson, of course, is not the original inventor. We discussed this a good bit last week, but let’s get a quick grasp of the full history of the dysfunctional monstrosity that we now know as the “international community.” (It’s handy to remember, when reading the official press, that these words can always be replaced with “State Department” without loss of information.)
There was certainly no shortage of evil under the pre-Wilsonian Westphalian system of classical international law. Any prince was free to make war with any other prince, for any reason good or bad. And there was a fair bit of that. And war, certainly, is pretty nasty. Evil, even.
But there was also no single point of failure. The Westphalian system did not guarantee good domestic government, or peaceful international behavior. But it was also largely free of incentives for tyranny and devastation. For over 250 years, no European city was sacked, pillaged, or slaughtered in a Westphalian war. Countries that were well-governed prospered, those that were ill-governed declined. If you have been to Europe, you have seen the architectural legacy of Westphalia. You have also seen the architectural legacy of Woodrow Wilson. Which did you take more pictures of?
The Westphalian system was not perfectly stable, however. It is quite possible that its decline into the screaming horror of the “international community” was inevitable. Basically, it started as a multipolar balance-of-power system maintained by consensus, and evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries into a unipolar balance-of-power system in which one power held the balance: England. A single point of failure.
In the 19th century, after the defeat of Napoleon, England started to abuse its responsibility. As we saw in part 1, it decided that it was morally obligated to use its predominance to make the world a better place. While this spirit was not without its good effects—the abolition of the slave trade, for instance—it soon decayed into Canningism: the aggressive, and thoroughly illegal under Westphalian rules, promotion of international liberal revolution, spawning a small galaxy of satellite states with imitation-British political systems.
Walter Millis, in his Road To War: America 1914–1917, picks up the story for us:
The educated leaders of the New Freedom were steeped in British literature more deeply than the old-fashioned politicians. As a student of domestic government, President Wilson throughout his life had been profoundly influenced by English ideas and political institutions; while our rare experts in the elegant fields of foreign policy had modelled themselves for a generation upon the giants of British liberal imperialism. Our own imperialist adventure at the turn of the century had been largely in imitation of those romantic splendors; Mr. Kipling himself had sung us forward to ‘take up the white man’s burden,’ and the statesmen of those years—Roosevelt and Lodge, Root, John Hay, Taft, Leonard Wood—had rejoiced to create an empire almost as glorious and perhaps even more righteous than that of Great Britain.
At the time of the Spanish–American War, Great Britain alone had supported us against what we believed to be a European cabal chiefly instigated by Germany; and as the Anglo-German rivalry developed in the years that followed, our high priests of foreign policy repaid the service by orienting the American attitude in accordance with the British interest. Twenty years before the League of Nations, John Hay, as Secretary of State, had dreamed of bringing the United States onto the international stage to guarantee a world peace based on the existing British predominance. … Many of our serious thinkers had come to believe with Page and House in an Anglo-American ‘understanding’ as the best basis of universal peace, and Great Britain’s action in 1914 could not in any event have failed to sway profoundly all the most elegant and distinguished leaders of American opinion. But one circumstance gave to Great Britain a tremendous hold on American opinion itself. London was not only the cultural and social capital of our wealthier and more influential classes; so far as European events were concerned it was our newspaper capital as well.
Personally I am a sincere advocate of all means which would lead to the settlement of international disputes by methods such as those which civilization has so successfully set up for the adjustment of differences between individuals, and I rejoice in my heart at the prospect of a happy issue to Sir Edward Grey’s negotiations with the United States of America for the settlement of disputes which may occur in future between ourselves and our kinsmen across the Atlantic by some more merciful, more rational, and by a more just arbitrament than that of the sword.
But I am also bound to say this–that I believe it is essential in the highest interests, not merely of this country, but of the world, that Britain should at all hazards maintain her place and her prestige amongst the Great Powers of the world. Her potent influence has many a time been in the past, and may yet be in the future, invaluable to the cause of human liberty. It has more than once in the past redeemed Continental nations, who are sometimes too apt to forget that service, from overwhelming disaster and even from national extinction. I would make great sacrifices to preserve peace. I conceive that nothing would justify a disturbance of international good will except questions of the greatest national moment. But if a situation were to be forced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficent position Britain has won by centuries of heroism and achievement, by allowing Britain to be treated where her interests were vitally affected as if she were of no account in the Cabinet of nations, then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure.
In other words: don’t forget that John Bull owns the world.
The German line in World War I was that Germany sought parity with and independence from Great Britain, according to the letter of classical international law. Oddly enough, if you add the US to the equation, this was also the German line in World War II. The idea that this in fact represented a drive for Teutonic world domination certainly follows—as long as you agree with Lloyd George and his thinly-veiled “Highlander” rhetoric. But given that the Anglo-American axis (a) started out on top and (b) came out on top, doesn’t it sound a bit like projection?
So we have our Necker-cube perspective of Wilsonianism. It is either (a) the judgment of angels in Washington, acting as an honest broker and supreme court to enforce peace in a world of free and independent states; or (b) world domination, with a healthy helping of horse manure.
We also have a clearer angle on the connection between Wilsonianism and world peace. World domination and world peace, after all, are practically synonyms. Thus the theory of democratic peace. If all these free, independent democratic countries are in fact better seen as American satellites, why would they fight each other?
Similarly, the puppet states of Hitler’s New Order were remarkably amicable in their relations. Thus we have a matching theory of “fascist peace.” Or Peru could conquer the world, thus producing a “Peruvian peace.” The strange thing about our present era of American peace, however, is that it doesn’t seem all that peaceful. Does this mean world domination isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Vamos a ver.
Let’s return to today’s illustration, the Arabs and Israelis. The distinction between the Westphalian and Wilsonian interpretations should now be clear.
Under the Westphalian interpretation—classical international law—the Arabs and Israelis have a dispute, viz., both claim the same real estate. Since they are independent and responsible to no higher sovereign, they must settle their dispute by the ultima ratio regum, the last argument of kings: in a word, war. Unless they can work out something better.
Since nations are free, independent, and equal — and since each possesses the right of judging, according to the dictates of her conscience, what conduct she is to pursue in order to fulfil her duties the effect of the whole is, to produce, at least externally and in the eyes of mankind, a perfect equality of rights between nations in the administration of their affairs and the pursuit of their pretensions, without regard to the intrinsic justice of their conduct, of which others have no right to form a definitive judgment; so that whatever may be done by any one nation may be done by any other; and they ought, in human society, to be considered as possessing equal rights.
Each nation in fact maintains that she has justice on her side in every dispute that happens to arise; and it does not belong to either of the parties interested, or to other nations, to pronounce a judgment on the contested question. The party who is in the wrong is guilty of a crime against her own conscience; but as there exists a possibility that she may perhaps have justice on her side, we cannot accuse her of violating the laws of society.
It is therefore necessary, on many occasions, that nations should suffer certain things to be done, though in their own nature unjust and condemnable, because they cannot oppose them by open force, without violating the liberty of some particular state, and destroying the foundations of their natural society. And since they are bound to cultivate that society, it is of course presumed that all nations have consented to the principle we have just established. The rules that are deduced from it constitute what Monsieur Wolf calls “The voluntary law of nations”; and there is no reason why we should not use the same term, although we thought it necessary to deviate from that great man in our manner of establishing the foundation of that law.
The laws of natural society are of such importance to the safety of all states, that, if the custom once prevailed of trampling them under foot, no nation could flatter herself with the hope of preserving her national existence, and enjoying domestic tranquility, however attentive to pursue every measure dictated by the most consummate prudence, justice, and moderation. Not all men and all states have a perfect right to those things that are necessary for their preservation, since that right corresponds to an indispensable obligation. All nations have therefore a right to resort to forcible means for the purpose of repressing any one particular nation who openly violates the laws of the society which Nature has established between them, or who directly attacks the welfare and safety of that society.
E.g., by shooting rockets at it. The result of the conflict is therefore as follows. Gaza, or Hamas, or at least someone in Gaza—the distinction, under classical international law, being immaterial—shoots rockets at Israel. Israel, having much better hardware, applies whatever “forcible means” are necessary in order to terminate this attack. Perhaps this involves rounding up all the Gazans, shipping them to Egypt, and turning the Strip into an Israeli national park. So long as this is necessary, and nothing less drastic would work, it is permitted. According to Vattel, and all other classical authorities. And the war is over.
Under the Wilsonian interpretation, this right to judge has been removed from Israel and Gaza, and transferred to Washington, our honest—or, depending on your point of view, dishonest—broker. Our single global sovereign.
Result: Arabs persistently refuse any settlement, always involving concessions in their favor, which Israel will accept. As diplomats put it, they will “not take yes for an answer.” Small wonder, as the conflict is essentially their national industry at this point. War continues for sixty years, on and off, and bids fair to go on for the next sixty.
Note that in none of this analysis have we considered the actual merits of the case Palestine v. Israel. We have simply observed that the old international law, generally perceived as brutal and bellicose, results in peace. And the new international law, generally perceived as civilized and humanitarian, results in war. This would not be the first such inversion.
War is, generally, more evil than peace. So our evil detector is going off. But we have only begun to scratch the surface of the evil in this case.
There is actually an English word which refers to the Palestinian case. The word is irredentism. The fit is perfect: “Irredentism is any position advocating annexation of territories administered by another state on the grounds of common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged.” The origin of the term is also worth a look. And irredentism can also be considered a special case of revanchism.
But you seldom see these terms used in relation to the Middle East conflict, because both have acquired a distinct odor of… evil. It’s all too easy to understand how irredentism and revanchism are the polar opposite of peace. Peace means accepting the results of history. Irredentism means the Welsh Liberation Front, demanding the return of London from those notorious human-rights violators, the Saxons.
Moreover, one question too seldom asked is why irredentist violence occurs. After all, changes in borders, even mass population transfers, are ubiquitous throughout history. Focusing on our own era for a moment, we have the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe, the expulsion of the Jews from Egypt, and the expulsion of the pieds-noirs from Algeria. In each of these cases, a population of millions was expelled at gunpoint from land they had lived on for generations, an enterprise blatantly inconsistent with “the rights of humanity.” And resulting in a complete absence of irredentist violence, or even political organization. So far as I know, not a single pipe bomb has been detonated by any victim of any of these expulsions.
Why? Perhaps these particular peoples are just genetically docile. A racial characteristic. Or a cultural one, at least. Can these factors be ruled out? Of course not.
But there’s another troubling factor, which is that none of the docile expellees enjoyed the sympathy of the “international community.” For the Germans, this is obvious. The Jews and pieds-noirs were expelled by Arab nationalists—who, as we’ve just seen, did enjoy that sympathy. (Or see, for example, Suez.)
So we see that it’s quite reasonable to say not only that the fireman has been pouring gasoline on the flames for the last sixty years, but that he in fact started the fire. It is not merely that the diplomatic “dark matter” of USG’s intervention keeps the Arab–Israeli conflict alive. It’s that Wilsonian (first British, later American) sponsorship of Arab nationalism essentially informed the Arabs that fighting—as opposed to either (a) accomodating themselves to the newfound diversity of Jewish immigration, or (b) leaving—was an option, and was likely to succeed. (Note that no one has informed white Californians that pogroms are an option for dealing with Mexican immigration, a small blessing we must nonetheless be thankful for.) If you doubt this story, it is set out in great academic detail in Elie Kedourie’s The Chatham House Version, which is simply an essential work for anyone interested in the problem.
Worse: the Wilsonians lied. Because a substantial, if gradually weakening, faction in Washington does support the Zionists. Thus the billions of dollars, thus the bodacious hardware, and thus the failure in 1948 or since to drive the Jews into the sea. And thus the appalling and continuing suffering of the Palestinian refugees, unlike their German, Egyptian and Algerian counterparts, who have all accepted reality and gone on to have a life.
So, on one side of the battlefield, we have… Washington. Or more precisely, Foggy Bottom. And on the other side of the battlefield, we have… Washington. Or more precisely, Arlington. Cui bono? The Arab–Israeli war is a profession, providing employment for thousands of Americans, not to mention pretty much the entire population of Gaza and the West Bank. If “employment” is a word for parading daily with balaclavas and AK-47s for bags of government cornmeal. Is this healthy, boys and girls? And does it bear any resemblance to Woodrow Wilson’s stoner Christian fantasies? I think he’d be the first to deny it.
The worst thing about Wilsonism, I think, is the relationship of sponsorship and dependency it creates between the “international community” and the “men anywhere fighting for their rights.” The former are the users. The latter are the usees. But as with any dysfunctional relationship, the sickness goes both ways.
For example, the State Department recently declassified its knowledge that in 1973, Yasser Arafat personally ordered the murder of two Foreign Service officers. My father was an FSO, so I know how seriously this is taken. And how close did this come to ending State’s sponsorship of the PLO? If you jump as high as you can, how close to the Moon do you get?
Sponsoring murderous bands of thugs around the world has been, for the last half-century, State’s job. It’s a dangerous job. Everyone knows it. Obviously, they would like the thugs to be as un-murderous as possible. Especially toward their own people. And obviously, they do not see the picture through these glasses. They do not understand that the “men anywhere fighting” fight not because their grievances are unsatisfied, but because State itself has offered them the prospect of satisfaction through violence. State sincerely believes that the gasoline is water.
And the effect on the thugs? Well, I care not for thugs. One, it’s always fun to be a thug, and two, all thugs deserve death. But not all Palestinians are thugs, and I don’t think the last 50 years have been an especially fun time to be a Palestinian.
It could be worse, however. One of the points that Kedourie cleared up for me was the origin of the Armenian genocide. Did you ever wonder why, exactly, the Young Turks decided to murder their Armenians? Did you think it was just because they were evil, or because they were Turkish, or because they didn’t have an electoral college and a bicameral legislature?
Well, all three of these things may be true. But until I read Kedourie, I had only heard two sides of the story—the Turkish side, which is that it didn’t happen, and the Armenian side, which is that it did. History, unfortunately, often comes with far more than two sides:
No means but insurrection: this was clear and it was meant seriously. The leaders of the Armenian nationalist movement had already decided that autonomy was their goal and they thought they had a strategy to achieve it. And these leaders took care that Armenians would not be found to help with the reforms. For it was not in vain that they surveyed the history of Europe from the French Revolution, and not in vain that they meditated on the liberation of Greece, Serbia, Rumania and Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke. They would make insurrection and they would bring the Armenian Question ‘to the front’. Then the Powers would have to deal with it, and if they failed to deal with it according to the desires of the nationalists, why, there were always other means of keeping the Armenian Question ‘to the front’.
The aim of nationalists is clear. It was to create ‘incidents’, provoke the Turks to excesses, and thereby bring about the intervention of the Powers. The British Blue Books of the period before the massacres are full of reports of attacks by Armenian agents or bands on Turks and Kurds, of the distribution of seditious prints, of the discoveries by Ottoman authorities of caches of bombs and arms, of demonstrations organized by Armenians in Constantinople and the provinces. In most cases, the incidents would have no immediate far-reaching consequences, but some of them, either owing to circumstances or to the ill-will of Ottoman officials, led to serious results. In Sasun in 1894, in Zeitun in 1895, the incidents led to armed risings by the Armenians of these localities which were, of course, bloodily suppressed. An outcry was the result, consular commissions were appointed to investigate, and the Armenian leaders had the consolation of knowing that another blow had been struck in the cause of Armenian independence.
The Blue Books also record another class of incident, quite as large as the first, created by the nationalists, but this much more sinister. It seems that the nationalists had to convince not only the Ottoman government and the Powers of the wisdom of satisfying their desires, they had to convince the generality of the Armenian people as well. This must be the explanation of the attack organized by them on the patriarch as he was officiating in the cathedral of Koum Kapou at Constantinople in July 1890, as a result of which he had to resign his office; of a subsequent attempt to assassinate another patriarch in 1894; of the recurrent reports of Armenians executed for being ‘informers’, for refusing to contribute to nationalist funds, for ‘collaborating’ with the Ottoman government. Nor did the nationalists try to hide or excuse these activities. Here is a passage from a revolutionary placard posted in Sivas in December 1893:
Osmanlis!… The examples are before your eyes. How many hundreds of rascals in Constantinople, Van, Erzerum, Alashkert, Harpout, Cesarea, Marsovan, Amassia and other towns have been killed by the Armenian revolutionaries? What were these rascals? Armenians! And again Armenians! If our aim was against the Mohamedans or Mohamedanism, as the government tries to make you think, why should we kill the Armenians?
The Armenians were forced to be free.
What did the Ottoman government have to say to all this? Its attitude was as clear as that of the nationalists: this agitation would have only one result, to invite Europe to meddle again in the affairs of the Ottoman empire. This was not to be tolerated; the Armenians had to desist or they would take the consequences.
And the incidents continued to be organized. In 1897, just after the massacres of 1895–6, and in 1905, there are records of minor insurrections also leading to massacres. And on the eve of the Young Turk coup d’etat of 1908, there was still the same tension in Ottoman Armenia fed and tended by the revolutionaries. This the American ambassador in a dispatch of 5 August 1907 speaks of ‘a considerable degree of disaffection and revolutionary movement on the part of a portion of the Armenian population in the district of Van. Several cold-blooded murders have been committed even in the streets of that city and a certian feeling of apprehension and unrest appears generally to prevail’; and in another dispatch he reports several more disturbances in Van, revolutionaries killing and wounding seventeen Ottoman soldiers, executing a ‘traitor’, and a considerable store of rifles, cartridges and dynamite seized. Later, when the catastrophe was final, complete, irredeemable, the nationalists were still indignant that their methods had had such untoward consequences. They could not understand why salvation was so recalcitrant in coming, why the easy path which the examples of so many European revolutions had promised should have proved so full of vipers and of nettles. The desolate wind of futility blows through the report the Dashnaks presented to the International Socialist Congress in Hamburg in 1923.
Every time that, through the irresistible force of things, the movement of Armenian emancipation expressed itself in revolutionary action, every time that the party of the Armenian Risorgimento tried, at the head of the conscious elements of the country, to draw the attention of the world, by armed insurrections or peaceful demonstrations, to the intolerable fate of the Armenian people, the Turkish government threw the Armenian masses, peaceful and disarmed, to the mercy of its troops, its bachi-bazouks and of the Turkish and Kurdish mob.
There is a surprised air about the statement.
I’ll bet that when I dragged out the word “evil” you thought it was a bit of an overstatement. Do you still think so? What about the arson metaphor? Does it still strike you as over the top?