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Smearland

Joe Klein asserts that “the fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives—people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary—plumped for [the Iraq] war. . .raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.” Although Klein uses the passive voice (the question was “raised”), the fact that he now raises it so starkly strongly suggests that he believes the charge is a serious one.

It is not. It is instead (as Peter Wehner says) “an ugly smear, one that ignores, among other things, the vast non-Jewish and non-neoconservative support for the Iraq war.” For example, as Wehner goes on to note, “the use of force resolution passed with 77 votes in the Senate – the overwhelming majority of which were cast by non-Jews and non-neoconservatives.”

Klein’s smear also ignores the absence of evidence that Israel favored the U.S. taking military action Iraq. In fact, the best evidence is that Israel did not favor such action. This was because it did not consider Iraq very threatening to Israel, and thought that a war in Iraq would divert attention from Iran. Instead of persuading the Bush administration to go to war with Iraq, it appears that the Bush administration had to persuade the Israelis to support that war.

Primary Colors was an entertaining book, and Klein certainly knows a thing or two about politics. But it’s never quite been clear why Klein should be taken seriously when it comes to policy matters or a serious account of historical events. And with today’s smear, it seems increasingly clear that he should not be.

UPDATE: Klein’s post also manages to misread both President Bush and David Brooks. Klein attributes the fact that Bush (unlike Klein himself) got it right on the surge to the fact that Bush is stubborn, rather than astute. But there’s an obvious problem with this account — mere stubbornness was more likely to make Bush unwilling to abandon his unsuccessful strategy than to induce him to change course.

Klein attributes his Bush-bashing analysis to David Brooks. But Brooks, of course, is far more nuanced than Klein, and thus is able to avoid Klein’s counter-intuitive judgment that stubbornness alone, and not good judgment, caused Bush to change policy. Brooks sees the president’s stubbornness as a factor, inasmuch as Bush refused to fail in Iraq. But he adds that “Bush made a courageous and astute decision in 2006″ when he opted for the surge. From Klein, there is no such acknowledgement.

Being stubborn could have produced either of two results, staying the course or surging; the only option it ruled out was giving up. Brooks is correct that a combination of courage and astuteness caused Bush to make what has proven to be the correct choice among the two options on his table.

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