Edward Said claimed,1 and Noam Chomsky agreed, that the acceptable range of political attitudes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are much more diverse among Israeli Jews than American Jews. I’ve been searching for some hard evidence that American Jews are more hawkish toward Palestinians than Israeli Jews, but haven’t found any.
The claim is plausible, though. Conflict-generated diaspora groups might feel a stronger urge to demonstrate in-group loyalty to compensate for their absence. Terrence Lyons explains in his 2004 paper,
One dynamic that tends to make conflicts in the homeland more protracted, therefore, is the existence of certain types of diaspora groups with strong symbolic attachments to a territory and uncompromising views on how conflict there should be understood and contested.
The hawkishness from without actually seems to aggravate the homeland conflict. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler hypothesize in their 1999 paper,
A further potentially important source of start-up finance for rebellion is a diaspora living in OECD countries. Such diasporas are usually much richer than the population in their country of origin. They are better-placed for collective action: emigrants have a cultural incentive to create diaspora organizations which can then discipline free-riding. They do not suffer the consequences of the conflicts they finance. As with grievance among the local population, in the greed-model grievance among the diaspora is assumed to be manufactured by the rebel organization rather than being an original cause of conflict. Hence, the diaspora increases the risks of conflict renewal, but not the initial risk of conflict. We measure the size of diasporas in the USA relative to the population in their country of origin.
By far the strongest effect of war on the risk of subsequent war works through diasporas. After five years of post-conflict peace, the risk of renewed conflict is around six times higher in the societies with the largest diasporas in America than in those without American diasporas. Presumably this effect works through the financial contributions of diasporas to rebel organisations.
Collier and Hoeffler also controlled for how large diasporas might be because of the size of conflicts themselves.
The case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular isn’t so straightforward. Jonathan Rynhold, writing in 2008, explains, “Prior to the 1980s Diaspora identification with Israel was expressed in unwavering support for Israeli policies. Since then Diaspora support for Israeli policies cannot be taken for granted.” Rynhold holds that the 1982 Lebanon War dissolved the unanimity of opinion in the diaspora, due to the media coverage of Sabra and Chatilla. The 1980s brought the Jonathan Pollard affair, as well as the First Intifada, which impelled liberals to contemplate the policies in the Palestinian territories.
It would be useful to collect opinion data from emigrant communities connected to current ongoing conflicts, and compare them to opinion data in the homelands. Where can I get some good, current research on this?
One goal of the neoconservative project of military interventionism is to protect the business interests of Western companies in what might otherwise be unstable business environments abroad. The underlying idea is to catalyze the classical liberal project internationally, to “civilize” the world.
Even if you accept the 9/11 liberal premise that moral progress is possible and different cultures have attained different levels of moral progress, it doesn’t follow that preemptively establishing military might will effectively, robustly, and permanently bring Enlightenment values to cultures where they don’t already exist.
Spreading gentle commerce, in Montesquieu’s formulation, is certainly a noble goal, but to do so by force is untenable. Why?
One major issue that plagues the neoconservative project is their Marxist understanding of power. Millennials wearing Che t-shirts who have grown up hating Bush and Rumsfeld for their military interventionism are completely ignorant of intellectual history, because neoconservatives are former Marxists: Irving Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens. Paul Wolfowitz may not have been a Marxist, but he came from the center-left. The neocons never abandoned their belief in the power of the state to transform society for the better, and this is a Marxist artifact.
In reality, it’s not so easy to transform society with brute force. Christopher Coyne argues in After War that flourishing civil society is based on a complex set of evolved cultural institutions. Slowly and incrementally, people can find clever solutions for socially optimal outcomes of prisoners’ dilemmas and stag hunts. Never in modern history has a foreign military been able to force societal cooperation from without.
What about Japan and Germany after World War II? Coyne argues that Japan and Germany both already had established the elements of civil society. German and Japanese fascism did subvert many important elements of civil society, but civil society had already existed in these nations previously. Fascism was a developmental regression, but not the status quo.
When the United States supports authoritarian regimes to suppress volatility, there isn’t some kind of societal conditioning that can produce a liberal order. In the case of Egypt, propping up Mubarak just generated a dangerous and violent Black Swan.
Turkey has had similar problems in the way they suppressed Islam. The Kemalist government of Turkey cracked down on religious institutions that weren’t affiliated with the state, effectively excluding discussions of Islam in the political sphere. Kemalist elites were only able to crack down on Islam for so long, and then the AKP cropped up. Now Turkey faces a countercultural threat of political Islam.
A more effective and robust way to nurture classical liberalism is to decentralize power, both within nations, and between nations.
In contrast to Turkey, the Age of Enlightenment in Western Europe was a cultural phenomenon, making secularization in the Western world much more robust. In Western Europe and the United States, governments followed the Enlightenment philosophers. In Turkey, the government mandated secularism on a culture that hadn’t yet organically developed it.
Currently, Saudi Arabia is a tyrannical nightmare, severely lacking in civil and human rights. They suffer from the resource curse. Their growth is extractive. Saudi Arabia might look different if they had a stake in appealing to Western interests to sell oil. If the U.S. weren’t providing military aid to Saudi Arabia, with policy strings attached so as to protect Western companies from collectivist Islamism, might Saudi Arabia find the political will to liberalize? It’s quite plausible that playboys in the House of Saud would drive institutional innovation. If it would be profitable to cooperate with Western oil companies, those with the power to make decisions would find ways to cooperate.
Essentially, the United States is institutionally crowding out classical liberalism abroad. Crowding out is a phenomenon in public finance whereby expansionary fiscal policy causes interest rates to rise, thereby reducing investment spending in the private sector. Culture doesn’t have a clean signal of scarcity like an interest rate, but the amount of support for classical liberalism does vary at different times and places in history. One analogue of a situation that would have an institutional “artificially high interest rate” would be an institutional arrangement that provides just enough stability for Western businesses to operate, but locks out a region’s impoverished from full, empowered participation in global markets.
With institutional crowding out, there is not enough buy-in by the stakeholders. On the international level, WikiLeaks revealed that the Arab League wanted to challenge Iran, but preferred to remain silent and depend on the United States to do so. The Arab League was more vocal against Qaddafi, but only after he was occupied with a full-blown revolution. What military action were any of the Arab League member states willing to contribute themselves?
The conditions to generate peace and prosperity are fragile. Institutional crowding out isn’t the only problem facing the Middle East, or even the main problem, but neoconservative policy, with its flawed and myopic conception of power, aggravates the very problems its proponents intend to solve.