note on anti-Americanist conservatism in re Obama in Israel

Dismissing uncomprehended perspectives as “ridiculous” or “nonsens[ical]” is itself ridiculous and somewhat worse than nonsensical, the habit of a vulgar ideologue. Similarly, applying some astrophysical indicator to the concept of “eternity” as applied to a human relationship of any kind is a classically sophomoric gesture. In referring to an “eternal alliance” in Israel today, the President was utilizing a theological concept of the eternal. At the same time that he was “reframing the Israel-Palestine conflict” with a view to the so-called peace process, he was implicitly referencing the roots of Americanism, the roots of liberal-democratic national self-determination as specifically represented both in the project of the state of Israel and the demand for a Palestinian state, and the roots of secular modernity generally in monotheistic universalism: in other words the ideas and real history that define and constitute commonly held values and self-concepts. An inability or refusal to understand or, to whatever extent understanding fails, suspend judgment, ought to be disqualifying for a would-be commentator, or, if you prefer, taken as merely ridiculous and possibly somewhat worse than nonsensical. Anti-Americanist conservatives, libertarians, leftists, and others may prefer or presume to locate their eternities elsewhere and under other names, but the notion that we could not fully abandon Israel without abandoning ourselves, and that in this sense our fates are tied together in the eternity of transcendent identities, is only as nonsensical as any other belief for which people may live, kill, or die. If that notion is merely nonsensical, what would not be?

7 comments on “note on anti-Americanist conservatism in re Obama in Israel

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  1. I’m kinda surprised, as devout as Larison is, that he didn’t remark on the theological implication of that line. Seems to elevate such a earthly construct like that should practically punch his button. Not that theology is or should be a significant reason for opposition to the U.S./Israel relationship continuing*, but he has that among considerations he makes already.

    (* – my take as a heathen is that it’s a waste of resources & serves only to enrage the locals towards the U.S. due to implicitly co-signing what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians and the hypocrisy of screaming “DANGER!!” about possibility of Iran going nuclear when Israel has nukes already.)

    • Don’t want to seem to cast doubt on Larison’s religious convictions. It may be that they are somewhat compartmentalized off from his politics, even if at some other point they may have coincided ideally. If his personal church and state have somewhat separated, yet remain interconnected but unconsciously and contradictorily, as well as in whatever way he explains himself to the world and himself, that would make him like pretty much everyone else. That said, I’ve speculated before about the interconnection as expressed or perhaps inadvertently revealed in his work, but, having read him regularly for quite some time now, I’m beginning to wonder whether there’s very much there at all.

  2. If that notion is merely nonsensical, what would not be?

    the notion that chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream tastes good?

  3. The Canadian paradigm is certainly not the proper parallel, more our experience with the nascent Mexican state, in the Santa Ana era, who arguably lost more territory every time he engaged us.

  4. It’s a common tactic in scholasticism (vide Edward Feser) to take a term of religio-philosophical significance (such as “creation” or “eternity”) that has a commonly understood meaning (the kind of meaning that one will find in the dictionary definition of such terms) and lend that term a specialized meaning–one that serves the purpose of making something that is intrinsically implausible to common sense seem less so–then proceed to characterize those who don’t use the term according to its specialized meaning as unsophisticated vulgarians and ignoramuses.

    The tactic has more to do with rhetorical legerdemain than philosophy and we see it employed here with supremely eloquent cheek.

    That being said, Larison certainly is an ideologue–though “bourgeois” strikes me as a better adjective than “vulgar”.

    • (Well, I didn’t, four years ago, call Daniel Larison a vulgar ideologue. I suggested that his polemic on that occasion stooped to that level, in a way I found typical for American Conservative conservatism. Since then, I’ve rather lost touch with his work, so have no fresh opinion on it.)

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