Tag: peter beinart

Problems with Nationalism?

I try to avoid Sunday morning talk shows like the plague, but somehow I happened to catch five minutes of Fareed Zakaria’s “GPS” show on CNN International.  Elliott Abrams and Peter Beinart were arguing about the Gaza flotilla and Beinart’s New York Review of Books article about liberal Zionism.

What I found interesting about the segment was the exchange between the two men about the argument Beinart made in the article: that many young Jews saw the choice before them not as being between liberal Zionism and conservative Zionism, but rather between conservative Zionism and no Zionism.  Beinart spelled out the argument, and this is what followed:

ZAKARIA: Elliott, you can briefly respond to this, and then we’ve got to go.

ABRAMS: OK. I think it’s quite historical.

What Peter is forgetting, that Jewish liberals have never supported Israel. They didn’t support the founding of the state of Israel. The reform movement was anti-Zionist for decades and decades.

Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself. (emphasis mine)

I’ve included his whole response for context, but I’m only really interested in the italicized part of the argument.  Aren’t all Americans supposed to have problems with nationalism?  Not our own nationalism, of course, which we have re-labeled “exceptionalism.”  But foreign nationalism?  Isn’t that supposed to be pernicious?

The way in which Abrams presented the argument struck me as being a normative claim, not positive.  That is, “particularism, nationalism, and Zionism” were not just things that Jewish liberals have problems with, but rather they were things that Jewish liberals have problems with but should not.

Abrams’ inclusion of Zionism alongside nationalism ought perhaps to caution him about Zionism’s susceptibility to the perils that have plagued other nationalisms through history.

Bloggingheads on Afghanistan

Last night, CBS reported that President Obama has decided to send “four combat brigades plus thousands more support troops” giving Gen. Stanley McChystal “most, if not all, the additional troops he is asking for.”

If the story is accurate (and the White House, via National Security Advisor James Jones, says it is not), the bloggingheads diavlog that I recorded with Peter Beinart late Friday, and that went live yesterday afternoon, could be safely filed under “Day Late, Dollar Short.”

But I hope that is not the case for two reasons. First, I continue to hold out hope that President Obama will choose instead to focus our counterterrorism efforts in other ways, and in other places, instead of deepening our involvement in what is already the longest war in our history. And if he hasn’t made up his mind, perhaps my arguments (which build on those of my colleagues Malou Innocent and Ted Galen Carpenter, and many others) might still have an impact.

Second, if the president has decided to follow the advice of those who called for more troops (most of whom – it is worth noting – were also leading advocates for the disastrous Iraq war), it is important for those of us who harbored doubts to have publicly registered our concerns.

A similar willingness to speak out on the part of some Iraq war skeptics within the foreign policy community was sorely lacking in 2002 and 2003. Perhaps that unhappy experience has reminded people that the time for raising concerns is before, not after, a decision is made to escalate a war.