Yes, Virginia, David Brooks is a Neo-Con

Unlike his friend and former New York Times columnist, Bill Kristol, David Brooks consistently writes very well, often chooses interesting issues to write about, and is sometimes very insightful in a pop-sociological sort of way. Like his television persona, his writings are engaging. He mostly writes about domestic political and social issues, generally stays clear of foreign policy and doesn’t seem to travel outside the country much at all.

On foreign policy, he seems, so far as I have been able to tell, to defer to Kristol, although he often seems somewhat more flexible and certainly more friendly and open to foreign critiques of the U.S. Temperamentally, he appears consistently reasonable, tolerant, and capable of empathy, a quality that many neo-conservatives, especially the hard-liners like Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen, not to mention Elliott Abrams and Kristol himself, seem to lack altogether, at least insofar as their perceived adversaries are concerned.

Yet, when push comes to shove, Brooks appears very much anchored — especially when it comes to Israel — in the neo-conservative worldview, as his most recent column on Israel, “A Loud and Promised Land,” that was published last Friday. Most of the op-ed consists of a rather endearing and balanced portrait of Israelis and their social interaction and culture based on his nearly annual (!) visits to the country. “As an American Jew,” he writes, “I was taught to go all gooey-eyed at the tought of Israel, but I have to confess, I find the place by turns exhausting, admirable, annoying, impressive and foreign.”

But then, in his penultimate paragraph, the following assertions catch you up:

“Today, Israel is stuck in a period of frustrating stasis. Iran poses an existential threat that is too big for Israel to deal with alone. Hamas and Hezbollah will frustrate peace plans, even if the Israelis magically do everything right.” {Emphasis mine.]

“This conflict will go on for a generation or more….”

This analysis, of course, very much reflects the Likud view of matters at the moment — namely, the total futility of any peace process and the durability of not just the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but of the larger Israel-Arab conflict, as well. It is precisely what Netanyahu can be expected to tell Obama when he makes his first visit here next week during the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

Now, it’s important to give Brooks, who called himself a “neocon incrementalist” in a July 2006 op-ed, “Onward Cautious Soldiers” — in which he implicitly criticized Kristol’s efforts to rally public opinion behind an attack on Iran — his due. In a brief review of his writings on the Israel-Arab conflict over the past five years, it’s pretty clear that he backed Ariel Sharon on disengaging from Gaza (just as Kristol did). And, unlike Charles Krauthammer and other hard-liners who called for Israel to “finish the job” in both Lebanon and Gaza against Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in January, respectively, Brooks was considerably more cautious and skeptical. Brooks also supported Condoleezza Rice’s Annapolis process in November, 2007, while most neo-conservatives poured scorn on the initiative as Munich-style appeasement. Finally, he has been far less enamored with the efficacy of overwhelming armed force against such popular movements and much more sensitive to the counter-productive impact of such displays on global public opinion than most neo-cons. But, as reasonable and agreeable as he sounds, Brooks sees the world primarily through neo-conservative eyes.

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Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.

4 Comments

  1. Excellent column, you hit it right on the head. Read Brooks’ column today on Obama. You just can’t help but like the guy, despite his faults.

  2. The religious fanatics must be stopped. Of course the only ones with a religious claim on that land are Jews. That tradition which also says Jews are Chosen of God, such that many Jews believe themselves better than all other Goy. I don’t know how one reconciles this with the Golden Rule. Zionism is straight out of Joshua, and is repugnant in modern times.

    If Israel ever declared her borders it would be the first I’ve heard of it. This ever expanding border is prima facia evidence of what’s going on. The whole world gets it, save the USA. Hell, Haaretz reports words far more critical than I’ve typed or can agree with.

    We must look at the book of Joshua as inheritors of that Judaic tradition. We must denounce this as anachronistic loudly and roundly. No faith deserves respect if it preaches that lineage makes one superior. How is it so forbidden to discuss this?

    Did anyone read Ahmenijhad’s statement? A translation is available via MoonofAlabama.org See if his words are as repulsive as to warrant walking out? See if the press characterized his speech accurately at all?

    Again, I truly have great respect for the Judaic tradition and believe in one god, the father of us all. However, we cannot allow people to have their land stolen from them, be stoned or beaten to comply with some anachronistic text.

    Therefore, all people of conscience have a duty to speak out and clarify when some abuse a rich tradition. Zionism, particularly the Neo-con version, the real pejorative Zionism is a product of rank militarism, the Likud party and afflicts our own domestic police.

    Militarism here has nothing to do with Zionism, and is unconcerned with Israel itself. Hell, Israel serves as a lost leader, spurring arms sales to the Arabs there. This accounts for nearly half of our federal budget and anyone alarmed by rising federal obligations should oppose our defense budget.

    Imagine after Desert storm, 12 yrs of bombing and surveillance, and Shock and Awe we still can’t dictate terms in Iraq, a country of 25mil. the size of Texas. How the hell, who the hell can/could/would invade us? Our defense spending has us so in hock to the Chinese, Russians, and Saudis that any of these countries could totally cripple us and our economy. That’s as good as a brawny boxer with no legs.

    Can we roll back the militarism in this country? Some see the Nancy Harmon (D-CA) is early push back from the Military/security complex. I believe these same people killed Kennedy in my hometown. Hell, he had plans, just made furtive plans to meet Castro in Mexico the week he died. He was reticent to use military force and they knew they had a stalwart in LBJ.

    I am now trying to figure out as this country succumbs to the inevitability of entropy and find itself on a more equal footing with the rest of the world; whether we will go out with a bang or a whimper. Some can’t come to terms with relinquishing the ring.

  3. Israel has done more than any other party to sabotage any viable peace process. They come up with endless excuses like Hamas will not recognize Israel. Fattah recognized Israel a long time ago but West Bank land is continuously being stolen and innocent Palestinians continue to be killed. Israel wants land and will only accept peace after it has acquired the necessary lebensraum.

    The purpose of the delays is to establish “facts on the ground” and it may be too late for a two state solution. It may be time to push for a one state solution much like Israel’s former close ally, Apartheid South Africa, was forced to do.

  4. It seems quite balanced.

    Neocons aren’t the only ones who believe Iran and its proxies do their utmost to sabotage peace plans and roadmaps…

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