The New York Times and the Washington Post both believe that the United States should have begun bombing Libya before the United Nations Security Council approved the mission – a sign that the two preeminent American newspapers continue their slide into neoconservatism.
The Times lead editorial on Tuesday described President Barack Obama’s bombing decision as correct but “belated,” indicating that he should have moved “to join with allies” against Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime earlier and that he now must stick with a campaign of supporting anti-Gaddafi rebels.
The Post went even further, expressing displeasure that Obama was only willing to apply non-military means for ousting Gaddafi, a strategy that the Post editors deemed “less than satisfying.” The editorial implied that Obama should support France’s call for arming and training the rebels, a move that would violate the U.N.-endorsed humanitarian mission.
“What was missing from Mr. Obama’s address was a strategy that doesn’t rely on good fortune – a sudden coup, an unexpected rebel advance, or an unlikely political deal for Mr. Gaddafi’s departure,” the Post wrote. “A policy that curtails American involvement at the expense of failing to resolve Libya’s crisis may only lead to greater costs and dangers. …
“The danger is that the president’s eagerness to circumscribe American involvement will ultimately thwart the change he endorsed.”
In other words, these two leading American newspapers – often derided by the Right as “liberal” – are embracing neoconservative positions on the need for the United States to intervene deeply in what is now a Libyan civil war, pitting tribes from the east against tribes from the west.
This neocon attitude – eager for “regime change” in Muslim countries deemed enemies of Israel – has long dominated the Washington Post, with its editorial page under the control of neocon Fred Hiatt and with its stable of neocon writers who routinely adopt Likud-like positions regarding the Middle East.
The neoconning of the New York Times is at a less advanced stage, although many of its key senior editors, such as editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal and executive editor Bill Keller, lean in the neocon direction. Keller, for instance, openly sided with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq – and was still appointed to the newspaper’s top editorial job.
In the past two weeks, the Times also has lost two of its strongest liberal voices in the departures of columnists Frank Rich and Bob Herbert. That tilts the Times’ influential op-ed pages even further in favor of neocon and right-wing voices, much like the Post’s op-ed page has been for years.
Blasting Obama on Israel
A good example of how the Post acts as the flagship of American neoconservatism was a column on Monday by deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. The newspaper headline decried Obama as “a barrier to Mideast peace.” The online headline asked, “whose side is he on?”
After noting rising tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, Diehl wrote that the “the hard part [for Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] will be managing Barack Obama.”
Diehl absolved Likud hard-liners of blame for recent troubles and pointed the finger instead at Obama for demanding a halt in Israeli settlement expansion and at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who, Diehl wrote, “has repeatedly shrunk from committing himself to the painful concessions he knows would be needed for Palestinian statehood.”
On that point, Diehl was willfully ignoring the evidence, since Al Jazeera reported earlier this year that leaked documents revealed Abbas making major land concessions to Israel including the surrender of almost all of East Jerusalem, infuriating many Palestinians. However, the Israelis still were not willing to reach an agreement with Abbas.
Diehl expressed fear that Abbas now will appeal to the U.N. General Assembly, seeking recognition of a Palestinian state, and that Obama will sympathize with the move.
“In a meeting with American Jewish leaders at the White House this month, Obama indicated that he hadn’t changed his mind” about a halt to Israeli settlement expansion, Diehl wrote. “Abbas, he insisted, was ready to establish a Palestinian state. The problem was that Israel had not made a serious territorial offer.”
Diehl added, “The coming showdown with Obama will require [Netanyahu’s] full attention.”
It seems the view of the Post’s editorial section is that Americans should side with Netanyahu against Obama. That is the world of the neocons.
Israel’s Likud has even gone so far as to engage in a form of McCarthyism against American Jews who deviate from an unwavering support for whatever the Likud government does, essentially accusing them of “un-Israeli activities.”
Last week at a Knesset hearing in Jerusalem, J Street, an American lobbying group that supports Israel but criticizes some of its policies, was threatened with being dubbed anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, which could cost the group access to American synagogues and Jewish centers.
J Street was created three years ago by American Jews uncomfortable with the uncritical approach to Israel that AIPAC follows in aggressively supporting whatever the Israeli government does. At the hearing condemning J Street, Israel’s Likud leadership rejected the idea that Jews outside Israel have the right to dissent.
The Washington Post reported, “The new model [of J Street’s conditional support for Israel] is considered treasonous by those in Israel who think the American Jewish community’s role should be to back the Israeli government’s decisions.”
For years, blind support for Israel has been part of the neocon ideology, a viewpoint that has come to dominate Washington policymaking. Neocons often insist that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical, whether its Likud ’s expansionist approach on territory or “regime change” in countries, from Libya to Iran, that are seen as hostile to Israel.
In that view, it is President Obama and his modest criticism of Israeli actions – like the not unconditional support from J Street – that must to stopped.