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Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is the goal of foreign policy?

Today was an extraordinary day for the blog, as my posting about how Iranian prison guards rape women before their execution was featured on Yahoo news story pages for much of the day, and the headline apparently attracted some 20,000 people to view the article.

As one could expect from such an influx of people, I received a lot of comments, and the quality of most of them were about what one would expect. There were many people who refused to believe the story, calling it a Zionist or Jewish conspiracy against Islam (even though the story was not about Islam, but Iran.) Some believed that this was a perfect opportunity to bring in lies about the Talmud. Others got into flamewars.

One commenter, "marie," dropped by another thread and said something that encapsulates much that is wrong with how Westerners tend to think nowadays. In response to my musings on Obama's naivete in trying to force Israel to abandon historic Jerusalem, she wrote:
Keep building settlements retards...that will get the palestinians to love you!
Notwithstanding the humor that results when someone who fancies herself an "intellectual" calls others "retards" as a rhetorical point, this comment struck me as emblematic of today's Western liberal thinking.

Is the point of foreign policy to make your enemy love you?

It appears that the foreign policies of many Western nations in recent decades has been built around just that desire.

The Western nations, wracked with guilt over colonialism and hegemony, believe that they deserve to be hated, and as a result they must bend over backwards to be loved by those they have wronged. It never works, of course, but that is just proof that they need to try harder.

In the case of Israel, the West thinks of Israel as a proxy for all their sins, the intellectual Jew imposing his will on the unwashed Arabs. The fact that Zionism is not a colonialist movement but rather a national restoration movement is lost on those who feel that guilt. To them, the Jews symbolize what they hate about themselves and their past evils, and the Arabs are symbolic of the put-upon aboriginal peoples forever sullied by European colonialism.

So to them, only one side is guilty - the "white" side.

Asking both sides to compromise is not how peace can come, according to this thinking. The Jews are guilty of the original Western sin and must pay for it. Forcing the Jews to pay for the sins of the British and French and Portuguese and Spanish is a way to displace the feelings of guilt over their own past injustices.

To this way of thinking, only the enemy can decide when enough concessions are made. The enemy - the pure, innocent victims - have complete veto power over every peace plan because this is not a negotiation: it is a capitulation, and admission of guilt, a plea for forgiveness. If you are not forgiven then you have not done a good enough job of penance, and the proof is - because you have not yet been forgiven.

The enemy - such a loaded term, we should say the "negotiating partner" - cannot be expected to compromise, ever. Only one side has the onus of guilt, and the non-Westerners are presumed innocent. Any crimes they commit must be looked at through the prism of the much more obscene Western sins.

Marie has stumbled upon the exact problem - the fact that many on the West hate themselves and the only penance is to gain forgiveness from those we think we have wronged. We must do whatever is needed to make them love us, and only then can we love ourselves.

Israel must also be forced to adhere to this formula. Every terror act is justified because it is a reaction to Israel's original sin of existing. Every defensive move Israel chooses to do is a painful reminder of its hostile, "colonialist" origins.

This is the subtext behind today's liberal attitudes to foreign policy. It is rooted in this deep sense of self-hate drenched in guilt. And this hate is projected into Israel, the lightning rod for all of the West's sins.