Victor Davis Hanson, The Israel Project, and AIPAC’s worn out talking points

The “Sage of Fresno”—Victor Davis Hanson—has shared another diatribe which summarizes his thesis that America and the free world are going to hell in handbag under Obama’s leadership.

While retreading his typical kneejerk arguments that Obama is a failed president, Hanson has joined the ranks of Netanyahu supporters who are defending the increasingly difficult-to-defend strategic alliance between the U.S. and Israel.

His blog posts on National Review Online are quickly becoming required reading for anyone who seeks an insight into the mind of a pundit who is deeply rattled and perturbed (read Gary Brecher’s review of A War Like No Other for a less charitable treatment of Hanson’s intellect) by Obama’s rise to power.

Hanson argues that despots likes Ahmadinejad, Chávez, Castro and Putin have been allowed to run wild under the Obama administration’s stewardship—or lack thereof—of what remains of American hegemony, exceptionalism and “Western commonalities”.

But what really seems to rub Hanson the wrong way, and presumably was the catalyst for his blog post, was the administration’s unwillingness to “defend Israel” last week.

Most have gotten the message by now that the United States is not particularly committed, at least in the old fashion, to defending Israel from its myriad of material and intellectual enemies.

Hanson is not alone in his pleas for the U.S. to return to its duties of defending Israel “right or wrong” but the oversimplified assumption that the Obama administration should defuse a situation initiated by the Netanyahu government’s approval of new construction projects in East Jerusalem is missing the fundamental point of disagreement between this administration and Israel and its boosters.

If, as previously mentioned on this blog (here and here), Mark Perry is correct that Biden’s message to Netanyahu–“What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan”—actually originated from top military brass, then the challenge facing the Victor Davis Hansons, AIPACs, and The Israel Projects of this world will require far greater nuance than press releases calling for the U.S. to realize its “shared interests” with Israel and blast emails to media outlets pointing to the U.S.-Israel relationship as, “core to America’s security and our values.”

The bottom-line is that there is serious doubt about whether these statements are true.  An effective rebuttal to the current tensions will require a reasoned explanation from Netanyahu’s supporters in the U.S. about how, exactly, Israel’s occupation of Gaza and continued construction of settlements helps secure U.S. interests and reflects American values.

Hanson’s argument that American exceptionalism and “shared values” with Israel is enough to justify unconditional support for Israel is under serious attack.  The press releases and PR maneuvers defending Netanyahu’s government and the “special relationship” are simply repeating a set of assumptions about the relationship which has been called into question by Biden and the military’s top-leadership.

Netanyahu is going to face an uphill public-relations and diplomacy battle which will require far more attention to detail than email blasts or Victor Davis Hanson are capable of providing.

The AIPAC conference runs from March 21-March 23.  Many of us here in Washington will be watching to see if the organizers can make a reasoned case that Israel’s recent behavior justifies the seemingly unconditional support which it has enjoyed in the past.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Netanyahu is going to face an uphill public-realtions and diplomacy battle? With whom, exactly? You are making too much of Biden’s comment about Israeli actions having an effect on U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. In the first place, the validity of that statement (its substance, that is — I’m not doubting that Biden said it) is by no means self-evident. The Taliban are not fighting for the Palestinians. In the second place, Israel has gotten away with a lot worse than this latest shoving of settlements up Uncle Sam’s posterior.

    You should note that despite all the heat generated by this matter among the chattering class (specifically its online and hard copy scribblers) the story is not taking off on television. So long as the majority of the American people remain quiet, the political class will feel no pressure to change course regarding Israel. No doubt, US amour propre has been touched by this incident, but the official reaction will not go beyond the current hissy fit. The military may be angry, but in the last analysis it must follow the line laid down by the politicians. And the political influence is all on Israel’s side. Politically, it’s like fighting the Lombardi Packers or the 1970s Steelers with a bunch of scrubs.

  2. Oh yes, I forgot, Victor Davis Hansen. I stopped taking him seriously years ago. Hasn’t everyone?

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