Sniegoski Stephen J. - The Transparent Cabal

Author : Sniegoski Stephen J.
Title : The Transparent Cabal The Neoconservative agenda, war in the middle east, and the national interest of Israël
Year : 2008

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Stephen Sniegoski’s study The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel is a meticulously prepared and strenuously argued brief against the neoconservatives’ continued influence over American foreign policy. Although Dr. Sniegoski does not investigate all aspects of this pervasive influence on the Bush Two administration, he does focus methodically on the effects of the neoconservatives’ rise to power in terms of U.S. relations with the Middle East. What is most impressive about Sniegoski’s study is its rigorous demonstration of the persistence with which neoconservative “policy advisers” have pushed particular agendas, driven by their strident Zionism, over long periods of time. Indeed these activists have stayed with their agenda until both historic opportunities and their personal elevation have allowed them to put their ideas into practice. Sniegoski does not have to reach far to prove his case. As his documentation makes crystal (rather than Kristol!) clear, much of the evidence for his thesis is readily available, or has been at least alluded to, in the national press and in the published works of neoconservative celebrities. As a European historian, I have been struck by the resemblance between this situation and the way certain European statesmen before the First World War, who were eager for a showdown with a particular national enemy, kept climbing back into power in ruling coalitions, until they could carry out their purpose. This was true for both of the sides that went to war in the summer of 1914. It might be argued that the recent bestseller by John Mearsheimer and Stephen J.Walt, The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, has pre-empted Sniegoski’s work, by making a wide readership aware of the machinations of the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and its neoconservative shock troops. These well-known professors of international relations, whom Sniegoski cites, have recently delved into the ways that the American Zionist lobby has colored and distorted American foreign policy in relation to the Middle East. Mearsheimer and Walt have documented (and this may be the most effective part of their presentation) the war of vilification that has been conducted against any politician who has questioned the U.S.’s “special relation” with Israel. Equally important, Norman Finkelstein, who paid for his investigative zeal with his academic career, has shown the way that AIPAC and its allies have played the double game of being allied to the pro-Zionist Christian right while attacking Christianity as “a major cause of the Holocaust.” And my own articles have provided further evidence of how neoconservatives have been particularly adept at playing both of these angles at different times. Nevertheless, Sniegoski has cut out for himself a less glamorous but historiographically valuable task, which is to detail exactly how the neoconservatives moved into a position to realize their purposes and, moreover, how closely their purposes dovetail with the foreign-policy aims put forth by the Israeli right since the 1980s and even earlier. Sniegoski performs these scholarly tasks while avoiding certain oversimplifications; and it might be useful to point out what he expressly does not do, because if the neoconservative press does decide to deal with his work, one can count on its efforts to misrepresent his arguments. Nowhere does Sniegoski suggest that the Israeli government controls its neoconservative fans in the U.S. – or even less that Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, and other neoconservative presidential advisors have been Israeli agents. In fact Sniegoski points to cases in which American neoconservatives have been vocally unhappy with peace initiatives begun by or with military restraint exercised by actual Israeli governments. While neoconservatives have generally opposed the Israeli Labor Party as too soft on Israel’s Arab enemies, it has also scolded Likud premiers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert when they have not met neoconservative standards of being tough enough with the Palestinians or with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Probably the ideal Israeli leader, from the neoconservative perspective, is Benjamin Netanyahu, for which one major reason is that this Likudnik hawk has spent considerable time in the U.S. and around the neoconservatives, and he slavishly imitates their rhetoric about Israel as a Middle Eastern advocate of “global democracy.” Another argument that Sniegoski never makes, and which should not be ascribed to him, is to identify the neoconservatives and their beliefs with the pursuit of Israeli interests alone. The author’s position is far more sophisticated and goes something like this: The neoconservatives bring with them a distinctive worldview, and in terms of their positions on American internal politics, one can easily fit them into a certain tradition of New Deal-Great Society American progressivism. Nor have the neoconservatives ever tried to hide this identification, or their huge differences with either small-government, isolationist Taft Republicans or with the anti-Communist interventionists grouped around William F. Buckley and National Review in the 1950s and 1960s. What has made the neoconservatives seem “conservative” has been primarily their role in foreign policy, as critics of détente with the Soviet Union and as hardliners on Israel. Their anti-Soviet posture helped the neoconservatives relate to the conservative movement that had been there before; nonetheless, once they took over that movement (which is the subject of my latest book), they turned a hardline Likudnik view of Middle Eastern affairs into a litmus test of who is or is not an “American conservative.” Finally, Sniegoski never suggests that the Israeli government pushed the U.S. into invading Iraq. What he does argue is that the neoconservatives, who played a decisive role in plunging us into that quagmire, were acting in harmony with what they perceived as the interests of the Israeli government and the position of the Sharon government. Nobody coerced President Bush into launching an unwise war; and if he were a more prudent and better-informed statesman, he would not have chosen to listen to Vice President Cheney and his neoconservative hangers-on about invading Iraq. Foreign states and domestic lobbies may agitate to get us to do questionable things internationally, but it is the duty of intelligent leaders to ignore such coaxing and threats. Nor does Sniegoski attach to the Israeli government any special quality of nastiness or deny that internally it is arguably a more civilized state than one might find among many of its Muslim adversaries. Israeli leaders are simply trying to advance the interests of their country, as they perceive them. What Sniegoski is challenging is the management of American foreign policy by extreme Zionists, who can never seem to make the proper distinctions between American and (their vision of) Israeli interests. Although my views of the plight of the Israelis is probably far more sympathetic than that of Dr. Sniegoski, I am appalled by the evidence he adduces of the activities of neoconservative “policy-advisors” in pushing the U.S. into conflicts they thought were “good for Israel.” The dogged, obsessive character of these efforts, some going back to blueprints for change constructed in the late 1960s, gives the lie to any view that the neoconservatives are only trying to help the Israelis on an ad hoc basis. Sniegoski’s research also illustrates the tremendous gulf between what the neoconservatives want for Israel and intend to have the U.S. government provide and what the Israeli public, when polled, thinks is necessary to achieve peace with the Palestinians. The neocons invariably seem more extreme, and the paper trail they have left behind about how the U.S. should advance “democratic” interests in the Middle East indicates something far less than even-handedness. The fact that the neoconservative press still denies what few Israelis would hesitate to acknowledge, that Palestinians were subject to ethnic cleansing in 1948, speaks volumes about Sniegoski’s subjects. Sniegoski also stresses the divergence between the bellicosity of neoconservative presidential advisors and the general lack of enthusiasm for the Iraq war expressed by American Jews. Whereas the general American population, according to a Gallup Poll conducted in February 2007, opposed the war by a margin of 56 to 42 percent, Jewish opposition to the war policy was as high as 77 percent. One must of course factor in that the vast majority of American Jews, despite their residual Zionism, are on the Democratic left; and since this war was started by a “rightwing” Republican, they are predictably opposed to it. But the question – unanswered, naturally – remains whether or not they would oppose it, if they saw it as being in Israel’s interest, or if it were started by Jewish liberal Democrat war-hawk Senator Joe Lieberman. Sniegoski is nonetheless correct to note that in the present circumstances Jewish “public opinion” seems far less war-happy than the policy pursued by the Zionist neoconservatives. In closing I would observe that this book compares favorably to the recent bestseller by Mearsheimer and Walt, although because of the author’s more modest professional position and because of the limited public relations funds available to Enigma, Sniegoski may never gain as much attention as these other critics for his scholarly efforts. His work covers many of the same themes as those found in The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, but he covers them with more voluminous documentation. By the time the reader gets to the end of this volume, he is pleasantly overwhelmed with facts and citations that amply support Sniegoski’s argument. Moreover, unlike Mearsheimer and Walt, Sniegoski does not ascribe to this group “decades” of evil doing, and he also points out that the Zionist lobby is acting in a perfectly “American” way to carry out what it regards as reasonable goals. He shows how the neoconservatives rose to national prominence, taking over the American conservative movement while maintaining extensive contacts within the liberal establishment. From this springboard, members of this group eventually became government advisors in Republican administrations – and more particularly in the Bush II administration; and this leverage allowed them to carry out particular plans for reconfiguring the Middle East, which some of them had been working on for many years. The argument is thoroughly convincing, and Dr. Sniegoski, who is a trained practitioner of the historian’s craft, merits high praise for what he has produced. The history discussed in this book has not come to an end but belongs to an ongoing problem. Neoconservatives continue to have direct influence both in the Bush administration and with the leading contenders for the presidency. Rudolph Giuliani, the first leading Republican candidate, had his campaign war chest filled up with donations from neoconservative funding sources, and his roster of advisors looked like a gathering of the editors and contributors to Commentary magazine. And neoconservatives have now become the major advisors to the Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who explicitly expresses their democratic universalism and hawkish foreign policy. Nor is the neoconservative influence on presidential politics limited to Republicans. Such prominent neocon spokesmen as William Kristol and William Bennett initially eyed as a presidential candidate socially liberal Zionist hawk Joe Lieberman, and they have since adapted to circumstances by going from speaking of a Rudy-Lieberman dream team to having the Connecticut Senator on McCain’s ticket. Meanwhile, the New York Times’s token (neo)“conservative” David Brooks has heaped praise on Hillary, and a feature article in an issue of The American Conservative from late last year demonstrated that Hillary’s advisory staff is honeycombed with identifiable “neoliberals,” who bear a strong family resemblance to the neoconservatives. If any one of these neocon-preferred presidential candidates gets into the White House, the story told in this book will be only a prelude to a much greater national disaster. Therefore intelligent and patriotic Americans are urged to purchase, study, and talk about this important work. If Stephen Sniegoski can help to create the public awareness necessary to deal with the problem that he painstakingly examines, we might be able to rejoice that his book pointed to, and warned of, an ultimately avoidable future. ...

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