The Arab Spring seems to be everything that Israel is not, a transnational transformation, the soul of Europe invested in a Middle Eastern body. A great leap forward that will lift the region out of its backward fanaticism and move the world closer to the modern place it ought to be. Then with some selective sanctions in Asia, laptops for every child in Africa, and some really good books on human potential, the entire world will be just like the European Union. If Israel doesn’t louse it up this time.
The progressive philosopher-kings aren’t stupid, their knowledge of history is. They believe that their wonderful system was not the product of a civilization, but of political protesters demanding change. If the political protesters demanding change are similarly empowered in the Muslim world, then they will end up with the same results.
To the left a theory of history in which a humanitarian society is created through the overthrow of the status quo makes perfect sense. To the American liberal right, a similar theory favoring democracy as the key element has almost as much appeal. Both agree on the notion that if their native process is exported, then the results will be the same.
There’s a certain kind of technocratic sensibility to it, that if you build the same machines and use the same recipe, then anyone can make Coca Cola. Which is true, except that people in different parts of the world prefer versions of Coca Cola that taste differently. Exporting the process of democracy does not export the outcome of democracy. It only helps the local create the sort of government they really want. Egypt and Tunisia have already shown us what kind of government that is.
Washington is not interested in Israel’s selfish need to be nuked. It isn’t in this for existential reasons and it doesn’t see why Israel should be either. If the United States can sacrifice thousands of lives for the greater good to promote peace, tolerance and respect for international law, then why can’t Israel risk a few million lives, especially when there are foreign policy experts who will explain slowly and distinctly to the dunces in Jerusalem why it is very unlikely that Iran will actually detonate a nuclear bomb.
Israeli leaders have a diminishing interest in grand theories of history arising from DC or Brussels. Small nations can’t afford grand theories of history. They make do with keeping the rain from leaking through the roof. The Israelis aren’t interested in another war, which is exactly why they want to launch a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program. In response Iran’s terrorist proxies will do their part by shelling Israeli towns and villages, but that’s part of life. Not the good part, but the part about living in a region overrun by terrorist militias that anyone can sponsor for a dollar.
They are often stupid, but they are rarely stupid in the way that American and European leaders are stupid. Israel can’t afford its own version of Blair, Sarkozy or Obama. The closest thing to them, Shimon Peres, was quickly voted out despite wearing the cloak of martyrdom and has been relegated to a ceremonial office which allows him to explain his vision of the New Middle East dominated by nanotechnology and free trade zones to foreign visitors who are impressed by this visionary.
When Israel looks at Syria, it doesn’t see a potential gateway to regional progress, it sees a local civil war backed by its neighbors, which will result in instability and one side or the other gaining Syria as a pawn. It sees Assad’s weapons stockpiles ending up in the hands of terrorists, terrorists flocking to fight in the civil war, and it even sees Alawite refugees desperate enough to flee across the border. What it does not see is the glowing symbols of the Arab Spring.
And when it looks at Iran, it doesn’t see a rogue state, it just sees a bunch of fanatics about to get their hands on nuclear weapons. And time running out in which their efforts can be aborted or at least slowed down. It will do something about it not because it wants to change the region or advance human civilization, but because it knows the exact casualty count from a nuclear detonation over Tel Aviv.
Washington desperately doesn’t want anything interrupting its rush to war in Syria. Jerusalem has run out of patience and will go it alone in Iran. The consequences aren’t unpredictable and won’t be much fun. But that is also the difference between responsible and irresponsible leadership. Responsible leaders can take a hit now to avoid much worse consequences down the road. Irresponsible leaders take refuge in philosophy and chase after theories of history, rather than keeping the rain from leaking through the roof.
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