Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Matthew Yglesias: "I See No Loyalty Here, Sir"

To me, the striking thing is how infrequent it is to actually see non-critics of America's Israel policy make the argument that current policy serves the vital interests of the United States (TNR's editorial line, for example, from which some authors obviously deviate, has tended to deny that American policy should be governed by considerations of the national interests; the recent TNR article on the Iranian nuclear program didn't so much as mention American interests). I would genuinely be interested to read an article making the case that it serves American interests to make Israel the largest recipient of American foreign aid dollars. Were someone to put together a strong argument to that effect, then others could read it and put together counterarguments. I think we could, then, have a reasonably civil disagreement about a fairly standard political question, "should our policies be like this or would it be better to change them like this?" instead of a vicious argument about whether Israel is "bad" or its critics are anti-semites.

After all, it's not as if the US's failure to appropriate $3 billion in annual aid to Costa Rica is driven by a sense that Costa Rica is a uniquely horrible country. In fact, it's a rather nice country. We're just not that generous with our foreign aid. But Israel's a weird target for all that aid. Why not a poorer country like Bangladesh? Or one more objectively threatened like Taiwan? At the end of the day, I don't think a failure to think these things through actually constitutes "dual loyalties," it just constitutes a failure to think these things through. A rigorous assessment of national interests might prompt a clash of sentiments or loyalties, so people simply don't do it; and the core element of America's policy vis-à-vis Israel -- heavy financial support whose rationale is unclear -- just goes undiscussed.

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