This morning I posted an essay on the Jewish webzine Tablet explaining how my neo-conservative friends (and they are my friends) blew it on the Middle East. By promoting nation-building in the Middle East, the Jewish right wing left themselves vulnerable to the “linkage argument” — to protect American lives in the Arab street, Israel has to accomodate the Palestinians.
Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command and former commander of the multinational force in Iraq, next month will receive an award from the American Enterprise Institute named for Irving Kristol, the so-called godfather of the neo-conservatives. Petreaus made his name with the 2008 surge of U.S. forces in Iraq, for which the AEI takes some credit; the organization’s website describes resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan as “one of the intellectual architects of the successful ‘surge’ strategy in Iraq.” As the general who appeared to validate the Bush Administration’s ambitious nation-building scheme in Iraq, Petraeus earned the adulation of Jewish conservatives. “It took Lincoln three years to find Sherman and Grant. It took George Bush three years to find Petraeus,” Norman Podhoretz wrote in his bestselling book World War IV.
And so, it was perhaps not the best time for reports to emerge that Petraeus had blamed Israeli intransigence toward the Palestinians for endangering the lives of American servicemen in the Middle Eastat a reported Pentagon briefing early in March and again in congressional testimony on March 16. Jewish conservativesincluding Max Bootquickly scampered to defend Obama’s top Middle East commander.
This is a grand miscalculation, I believe, on the part of the American Jewish community’s conservative wing: While the Obama Administration works to prevent Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear capacity, Jewish conservatives are battling over whether they were right in 2005, when they urged the United States to take responsibility for Iraq’s political future.