An amusing counterfactual … so bad Andrew makes himself look more like a Zionist mole than Eli Cohen

Having vaunted Walt and Mearsheimers as torchbearers for American intellectuals, the Dish has tried to emulate their counterfactuals meant to elucidate the place of Israel in U.S. politics. If Walt and Mearsheimer have presented disproportionately shaped hypothetical scenarios that don’t instill confidence, Sullivan has made the two professors’ counterfactuals look a little less exotic and precious. His own tries have been like analogies L. Ron Hubbard might make off-the-cuff between two imaginary worlds, and ignorant/forgetful of real political actors’ existence. Though put forward as intellectual exercises, these counterfactuals by the Dish might be … pour se tirer une balle dans le pied, as Andrew might say in French to sound more intellectual.

Here’s the most recent counterfactual, from the beginning of the Dish’s post “Israel Derangement Syndrome II”:

Imagine, for a moment, that a US ally that is not Israel – say, Turkey – killed an unarmed American civilian on an unarmed ship in international waters by four bullets to the head at close range.

Fine, but in this case, we have to imagine that Turkey killed an unarmed American civilian on an unarmed ship in international waters in the exact same fashion that the American citizen on Mavi Marmara could be said to be “unarmed” and the ship said to have “contained no arms.”

We also have to assume that the report of “four bullets to the head at close range” (via Al Jazeera before the body was recovered, and now by a Turkish doctor I think) is accurate, and that these bullets were fired in the exact same fight circumstances as they were on the Mavi Maramara.

And imagine that president Obama decided that we shouldn’t rush to judgment and that Turkey was in an understandable bind, because it was enforcing an embargo on a tiny strip of (say, Kurdish) land it had recently strafed with missiles and bullets, killing over a thousand.

Fine, in that case, we have to assume that the Turks adhered to the same rules of engagement that Israel did in “Operation Cast Lead” and to the same degree, and that the “over a thousand” killed represent the same ratio of civilians and militants (including unequivocal militants later discovered in the civilian rolls). We have to assume that the actions of various people in the strip of land were similar to the actions of various people in Gaza.

The land was home to an elected Kurdish government that was viciously terroristic – even totalitarian in some respects

That’s half easy to imagine. The neoconservatives, who are fans of the Kurds, have always condemned the PKK for being a totalitarian group of opportunistic gangsters, who have bullied Kurds and do not represent authentic Kurdish demands for autonomy/independence. Christopher Hitchens, one of the Kurds’ greatest advocates in the West, has described the PKK’s founder, Abdullah Ocalan, as “the Pol Pot of Kurdish politics.” Republicans and the Left have supported the Kurds, while supporting battle against the PKK in the same way that the neoconservatives have.

– and wanted to destroy Turkey, even though it had few means to accomplish this.

The problem in this part of the Dish’s counterfactual is that no Kurdish militant groups want to “destroy Turkey” — nor, more pertinently, to take over all of Turkey and kick out virtually all of the Turks. Many Kurdish militant groups want secession and want the part of Turkey where Kurdish majorities live. Evidently, the Dish has decided that counterfactuals do not lose value when political actors have to be fictionalized, rather than only exchanged or rearranged in different scenarios.

And we haven’t seen Turkish populations abandon their towns because of Kurdish rocket fire — unlike, say, how Sderot lost 1/3 of its population until Operation Cast Lead. (BTW, hasn’t Andrew been scolding Israel for how it is “suiciding”? By this, he surely does not mean the country will be firing its “150 nuclear warheads” against its own cities.)

But I don’t mention the hopelessly incompatible facts to cut short Andrew’s counterfactual; I’m still playing along  …

The Kurds, like the Palestinians, had no homeland at all, and were now suffering greatly under the blockade and embargo.

He’s assuming a whole embargo that doesn’t exist. But if it had the same policies as Israel’s embargo of Gaza, and the PKK members in that area were using the same tactics as Hamas, both Obama and the neoconservatives would support that embargo.

Can you imagine how the Republican right would explode at this example of classic Obama “weakness” and “appeasement”?

Yes, I can imagine how … they wouldn’t. They would ignore Obama’s stance on this, just as they ignore Obama’s drone policy in Afghanistan. They would look for some other element of the administration’s policies — maybe in its Kurdish-Turkish policy, more likely not — which they would explode over as “weakness/appeasement.”

I can’t speak for every wingnut out there who condemn Obama for sneezing, but it would be dishonest to point to those wingnuts to characterize how most of the American political spectrum would react to Obama’s (imaginary) policy on (imaginary) Turkish actions relating to the (imaginary) PKK-occupied Kurdish strip.

Can you even conceive that the American right would actually champion and celebrate Turkey’s attack – and be far more solicitous of Turkey’s actions than any of America’s allies?

“Champion and celebrate”? Is that phrase accurate in the case of Israel? I think that Americans wouldn’t have had enough cultural exchange or democratic solidarity with Turkey in order to “champion and celebrate.”

However, the American Right would all defend Turkey’s right to strike against terrorists, worried that if they were not consistent, they would be undermining the U.S. right to defend itself, including its right to maintain embargoes against hostile entities.

Can you imagine that the conservative British prime minister would be more outraged at this attack on a defenseless ship and the murder of an American citizen than the president of the United States?

Yes, if the American Kurd in question was a guy whose PKK trip organizer condemned the United States to hell and commended terrorism against the United States.

This counterfactual really does help reveal that for much of the Republican right, Israel simply isn’t a foreign country at all. For many Christianists, it is part of a civilizational war of Judeo-Christianity (an obvious oxymoron)

I think the term is meant to describe an area of historical and philosophical overlap, not describe a form of Christianity, a form of Judaism or a syncretized religion from the two, which would be an oxymoron.  Apparently, Sullivan doesn’t think that “neocon left” is an oxymoron (perhaps more on that in the near future).

But maybe Andrew, as a believer in Christian forgiveness as a departure from Old Testament judgment, wants you to know that Judaism and Christianity are somehow incompatible, in a way some Jewish and Christian American political figures don’t want you to believe …

(I don’t have a problem with the idea of a Judeo-Christian morality, or of an Abrahamic morality. Historically, at a few points, the three faiths have even presented an Abrahamic civilization that confronted non-Jews, non-Christians and non-Muslims.)

against Islam. Not Islamism, Islam.

We seem to be out of the counterfactual by now — So I’ll draw us back in: Who has said “Islam,” not “radical Islam” or “jihadism” or “Islamism” regarding the Flotilla?  I’m not talking about radio wingnuts, but mainstream Republican figures. Have so many mainstream Republican figures said this before the Flotilla incident? Has Sarah Palin, for example?

Ever wonder why Sarah Palin, the next GOP nominee, wore a twinned Israeli-American flag lapel for an address to the Tea Party convention?


I wonder whether Palin is going to be the next GOP nominee, but I don’t care whether she supports Israel or not, because I know I’m not going to vote for her. It should tell us something that the neo-neocon who runs the Dish has so much faith in his own nightmares.

Ever wonder why every rule we normally apply to foreign countries is automatically suspended when it comes to Israel?

No, because the Dish is begging the question, with its only support here being a plainly incompetent, if not deluded, counterfactual.

The neoconservatives and Republicans would probably compliment this aspect of Turkish policy, and ask/demand that the Turks were as fastidious in their combat with the PKK in other theaters of battle. Democrats would agree, regardless of their position on anything else Turkey-related. Neoconservative pundits, Republicans and Democrats would all urge Turkey not to let their fight with the PKK prevent negotiations and detente with Iraqi Kurdistan or representatives of their own Kurdish minority.

(However, I admit I don’t know what Dennis Kucinich’s position would be. For all I know, he might defend the PKK and say that the Turkish military wants war to justify trade with the military industrial complex in America and Israel …)

There probably would be no Security Council resolution condemning Turkey for the action on the ship, so the United States would not have to pay lip service to being at all angry with Turkey for its conduct. There would probably would have been no resolutions against the blockade of the strip, just as there have been no resolutions against Yemen for its ongoing blockade of the South, despite fresh reports that this “Three-week blockade of South Yemen brings starvation and violence.” (Yemen voted to condemn Israel’s blockade.)

In a certain way, Andrew has accomplished what he set out to do with this attempt, however crippled it was, at a counterfactual: The Dish has provided evidence to readers that there is something called “Israel Derangement Syndrome” which distorts relative perceptions of countries when Israel is involved.


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  1. […] Posted on June 7, 2010 by justquoting I don’t wish to distract from my two posts below, which relate to the embarrassing narcissism and conceptual shortcomings that appear in […]

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