Those Irrepressible Neocons
Will wonders never cease?
Two neoconservatives are out front urging President Obama to more energetically defend the human rights of Arabs. Jennifer Rubin, who writes for the Washington Post, and her mentor, Rachel Decter Abrams, the godmother of neoconservatism, believe that Obama should step up and defend the Syrian people against the repressive Assad regime.
Abrams, in particular, has stellar neocon credentials. She is married to Elliot Abrams (the Reagan assistant secretary of state who was indicted by a special prosecutor for intentionally deceiving Congress about the Iran-Contra arms deal). She is also the step-daughter of Norman Podhoretz, longtime editor of the neocon flagship Commentary, and the sister of John Podhoretz, its current editor.
Jennifer Rubin, on the other hand, was just one of those plugging along in Kingdom Neocon (she was a contributing editor to Commentary and its blog, Contentions) until recently, when the neocon editor of the Washington Post editorial page, Fred Hiatt, plucked her from obscurity and brought her to the Post.
Beyond their Commentary roots, the two are almost ideologically identical. And that means that they are both driven, above all other considerations, by dedication to the concept of Greater Israel (a concept which is taken more seriously inside the Beltway than it is in Israel itself).
In her first column in the Post, Rubin introduced herself by noting that she is a "harsh critic" of the Middle East peace process, which, in her case, means total devotion to the vision of Binyamin Netanyahu: championing the Gaza war, and attacking anyone (particularly Jews at J Street) who dares to oppose Israeli policy. And, naturally, Rubin despises President Obama, whose "sympathies for the Muslim word," she complains, "take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens."
Abrams' views of Israel are even farther to the right. In fact, Abrams has a hard time remembering that she is an American, not an Israeli. For instance, in 2010, she penned a love letter to Israel which included these words: "I know why we cry for this land and fight for this land and love this land. I know why we cannot let go of any part of this land. This is the land of my people, and I know why." (In the White House, her husband Elliot was known for undercutting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on all matters relating to Israel.)
The bottom line with Abrams and Rubin is that they are all about Israel. Virtually every position either one takes is related, in some way or other, either to Israel or to flattering those who share their "no compromise with Palestinians" worldview. They are right-wingers only because they trust the right on Israel; their views on American issues are "icing" designed to ingratiate themselves with people they consider to be Israel's staunchest allies. (Jennifer Rubin, for instance, defended Sarah Palin against her Jewish critics, accusing them of not admiring Palin because they are intellectual snobs and are uncomfortable with Track Palin's service in the U.S. military!)
The one difference between the two is Abrams' bizarre obsession with gays and lesbians. She despises them and is quick to suggest that any critic of Israel must be gay, which, in her lexicon, is the greatest insult. On this, as on nothing else, Abrams abandons her defense of Israel, which is well-known for being progressive on gay equality issues. (When it comes to gays, she is definitely more Saudi than Israeli.)
All this brings me to Rubin's piece in which she bashes President Obama for not aggressively championing the anti-Assad demonstrators in Syria. She prefaces that by noting that Obama "shamefully missed a hinge moment in history when he failed to champion the Iranian Green Movement in June 2009. It was both a moral and a geopolitical failing of enormous proportions. And he now seems to be repeating his most egregious foreign policy error."
She then cites her mentor:
In sum, there is a growing sense that, as blogger Rachel Abrams put it, the administration's "refusal to distinguish between oppressor and oppressed - 'we ... call on all sides to cease and desist from the use of violence' - shames us in the world and endangers us."
Rubin approvingly cites Bill Kristol (another neocon idol) who says that the administration is overly cautious about fighting in Libya. "If you talk off the record with people from the administration, they are terrified of having some American pilot shot down and taken hostage," he grumbles.
The neocons, who played such a large role in getting this country to invade Iraq (cost in American lives: 4,400) certainly aren't "terrified" over such things.
The most absurd thing about Rubin's and Abrams' sudden concern for Syrians, Iranians, Libyans (or any other Muslim peoples' rights) is that it is transparently dishonest. Both Abrams and Rubin cheered Israel's onslaught on Gaza and Lebanon, in which thousands of civilians died. Both favor attacking Iran, an act that might well kill thousands of innocent Iranians and provoke a deadly regional war. Neither has ever expressed any concern over any Israeli action that took Arab lives. For those two, either it never happened or was an unfortunate accident.
In other words, when it comes to Muslims, Rubin and Abrams care about their democratic rights (except those of Palestinians), but not necessarily their right to live.
One of the many differences between the neocons and Obama is that he wants these revolutions to succeed, and he understands that the quickest way to undermine the Arab Spring is to make it appear to be engineered by the United States. That is also why Obama was so cautious about Iran; the revolutionaries did not want to be seen as U.S. pawns. Neocons just like sticking it to Obama, liberals, and anyone who does not share their belief that the Israeli occupation is just fine.
So let's not hear from this crowd about the poor Iranians or Syrians or Libyans, or whatever other group they suddenly profess to care about. Better they should think about those thousands of Americans, along with the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, who perished as a consequence of the horrific war they enthusiastically agitated for. Don't they have enough to atone for without adding more deadly U.S. military interventions?
Maybe they should pay a visit to Walter Reed.