Victor Davis Hanson: The American Soviet

Roundup: Historians' Take

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institutionthe editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.

The security forces of Bashar Assad — a thug whom Hillary Clinton deemed a “reformer,” and with whom Barack Obama was determined to restore diplomatic relations — are slaughtering hundreds in the streets of Syria’s major cities. I know that the Turkish government will express no outrage. It will not help to sponsor a flotilla of private ships to sail into the port of Latakia to protest the government-sponsored barbarity. European “human rights” activists will not fly into any Arab city to board a freighter, Gaza-style, that would bring humanitarian assistance by sea to those being blown apart by the Assad regime. I know that.

Recently, Palestinian teenagers, in service to a Palestinian terrorist organization, massacred — in the literal sense of the word — the Fogel family of Israel, a savagery replete with the throat-slitting of toddlers and infants. The Palestinian police authority — U.S. trained and equipped — just shot down Jewish worshippers at Jacob’s Tomb. This comes amid the Palestinian Authority’s commemoration of the 2002 Passover Massacre of 30 Israeli civilians, apparently a national moment of honorific reflection on the West Bank. Yet I know that no one in Europe and few in America will protest to the Palestinian Authority, which the West subsidizes, that it seems to commemorate butchery in its midst....

We are living in another Soviet, a 21st-century sort in which we nod to official pieties and mouth politically correct banalities while in our private lives, for our safety, well-being — and sanity — we conduct ourselves according to altogether different premises. In the Soviet Union, the anonymous masses turned out to hear boilerplate praise for socialist comradeship, while those of them who were lucky enough to have a car took off the windshield wipers when they parked it — accepting both that their utopian state could not supply affordable replacement auto parts and that their comrades would steal almost anything they could from other suffering subjects.

In our version of the Soviet, we know that Israel is supposed to be culpable and that we are asked to praise the “aspirations” of the Palestinians, but if we were to go to the Middle East we most certainly would not stay in Gaza or the West Bank or visit unescorted a Christian shrine. We would wish to dine with people like the Fogels, but not their killers or the people who ordered them to kill. We are also to understand that the Arab and Turkish worlds abhor Israeli violence, and so we nod our assent; but privately we know that the issue is really Jews, not savagery per se, and that an Arab dictator can murder 1.000 Arabs with less worry about Western condemnation than an Israeli soldier can shoot one Arab on the West Bank in self-defense. Publicly we accept that tiny Israel, a country of 7 million, is an overdog, the foreign-policy equivalent of the demonized “them” here in America, the people who make over $200,000 a year — too successful, too Western, too unquestioning of their culture. Privately, we sort of admire Israel’s courage and understand that anti-Semitism, oil, fear of terrorism, and demographic calculus construct Arabs as sympathetic victims and Israelis as neo-colonialists....

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