World

The myth of papal culpability in the spread of HIV

One of the pillars of being Catholic in this modern age (if I may borrow a theological concept from Islam) is the ability to display patience in the face of all sorts of slander against the Church, but after years of reading articles and comments online in which people propagated the myth that the Catholic Church is to blame for the spread of HIV in the developing world, I was prodded into action. The straw that broke the camel’s back on this occasion was a piece by Ben Goldacre, physician and best-selling author of the book Bad Science. Writing for The Guardian about the visit of Pope Benedict to London in 2010 he said: “This week the pope is in London. You will have your own views on the discrimination against women, the homophobia, and the international criminal conspiracy to cover up for mass child rape. My special interest is his role in the 2 million people who die of AIDS each year.”

That’s a lot of mudslinging, but what’s crystal clear is his belief that the Catholic Church is at least partly responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the developing world. In this he is not alone. The Atlantic in 2013 referred to “Vatican City’s refusal to encourage condom use in the fight against HIV/AIDS” and a policy which “has had serious, long-lasting consequences across the global south — especially Africa.” My problem with these arguments is that they exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding not only of human nature, but of the religious demographics of sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the developing world.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate in the world with over a quarter of its population suffering with the disease. Yet only one fifth of Swaziland’s population is Catholic. The vast majority of its population are Protestants.

Swaziland is not exceptional; most of sub-Saharan Africa is Protestant. Botswana is next on the list and is overwhelmingly so. Lesotho is third, with Catholics and Protestants evenly split. South Africa is fourth; only seven per cent of its population identifies as Catholic.

If the accusations are true – that the Pope can effect change in the sexual habits of sub-Saharan Africans – why are the countries with the highest infection rates not majority Catholic? How many Protestants do you know whose reverence for the Catholic Church is so great that they base their sexual habits on its teachings?

The first country on the list with a clear majority of Catholics among total Christians is Mozambique in eighth place, and even still, the Catholic population comprises a mere quarter of the total. The first country on the list that could be considered a Catholic country in the sense that Poland or Italy are is Equatorial Guinea, down in eleventh place.

Westerners have been chastising the Church for alleged influence on African sexual predilections for some time but familiarity with these accusations fails to tarnish their idiocy. Their argument goes something like this: The Pope – a religious leader in Rome – lectures people on what they can and cannot do in matters of sexual intercourse. Europeans (and other white people) are sophisticated enough to merely disregard the pontiff’s advice; anyone who contracts HIV in, say, Russia or Los Angeles has only themselves to blame. Africans, however – uneducated peasants that they are – simply cannot resist the Pope’s teachings, even when he’s not their religious leader.

Imagine the following scenario. A married taxi-driver in Kampala gets off a long shift. He goes to visit a prostitute. The prostitute suggests wearing a condom. Now this is the point where criticism of Catholic teaching regarding condoms gets strange. Assuming that the taxi-driver is Catholic (in Uganda he is more likely to be a Protestant), he is expected by anti-Catholics to say: ‘I’m sorry. I cannot use a condom. I am a Catholic and I cannot disobey the teachings of my Church.’ This poses a question. Why is the taxi-driver adhering so slavishly to this single rule while ignoring so many others? He is committing adultery, having sex out of wedlock and using a prostitute. It should go without saying that the Pope disapproves of all three.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s problem with HIV stems from other things. This is a part of the world where presidents believe showering after sex can reduce the risk of contracting the disease (Jacob Zuma, ex-President of South Africa) and where presidents accuse western leaders of ‘spreading gayism,’ calling gay rights ‘satanic’ (Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe). There exists a vast number of people who often don’t have access to condoms and are suspicious about their efficacy, men who tend to associate them with a homosexual lifestyle and others who believe that HIV can be washed away with water or, more disturbingly, cured by having sex with a virgin.

If the accusations leveled at the Church were true then surely we would see a markedly higher infection rate among African Catholics than Africans of other faiths. Yet this is not the case. In South America – an overwhelmingly Catholic continent – the country with the highest infection rate is the only one with a minority of Catholics: Guyana.

The Catholic Church has no doubt led someone somewhere sometime to refuse wearing a condom, in a philosophical sense ‘assisting’ in spreading the disease. But if the infected man listened as intently to the Pope on matters of abstinence and marital fidelity as intently as he is believed to listen to the Pope’s teachings on condoms then nobody would have the disease. We have a word for a person who knowingly infects someone with a deadly disease like HIV, and that word is sociopath. Ignorance should not be a defense. If someone you knew were to use prostitutes without condoms, thereby putting others at risk of contracting the disease, they would probably be persona non grata at your dinner parties. So why do we treat all Africans as victims and the Church as the cause of their suffering when most countries with Catholic majorities don’t have remotely similar experiences?

For its basic understanding of human biological impulses one might fairly describe the Church as naive, but one shouldn’t treat Africans like simpletons and in doing so engage in the racism of low expectations.

Derek Hopper is a native of Dublin and studied history at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He lives in Bangkok, where he teaches English at the faculty of liberal arts, Thammasat University. Follow him on Twitter.

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Death and taxes

I violate the libertarian code by calling for a war tax in my latest piece for Taki’s Mag. Here is an excerpt:

“What is taxation but theft on a gigantic, unchecked, scale?”

Murray Rothbard’s question doesn’t have an answer. The coercive taking of money is theft. No exceptions. Mental masturbation on the “social contract” or necessities of public action don’t eliminate that fact. The duties and obligations of society shouldn’t translate into pickpocketing folks to pay for a myriad of welfare goods.

That said, I’m ready to do the philosophically impossible: compromise. Call me a squish; I’ll own it. But the matter is of high importance. Bickering over marginal tax rates is a debate for DC talking heads. I’m talking about the most important topic: war. It’s a topic of such importance that serious folks in the news glide over it like it were a peaceful outing in the country. Americans treat war as a state of being. We’re stuck with it, we’re told, because danger lurks behind every corner.

If that’s the case – and it very well is – then I propose an unorthodox idea: let’s pay for war. I don’t mean rack up deficits and debt to foot the bill now. I mean have an actual tax that pays for sending soldiers and weapons over to foreign lands. Whether it be a tax on income or the final sale of goods is no matter. Tax, baby, tax!

Read the whole thing here.

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Students for Liberty will start a revolution

Students for Liberty (SFL) will start a revolution.  A real revolution, one in which a standing government steps down before they otherwise would have, as a direct result of the actions of members of SFL.  Now, while my claim will strike many as radical, I do not think it is.  I have been telling people this privately for the last two years, and I figure I might as well make my prediction on paper.  Though, before I begin, full disclosure, I am a member of Alumni for Liberty and consider many members of SFL and their staff to be personal friends.

My argument is fairly simple, many revolutions are student led.  Over the next 20 years, yes, 20 years is my timeline, one of those revolutions will be led by members of SFL or sparked by an SFL event.  An echo of this was seen the last year in Venezuela.  Because I am not bullshitting, I am willing to bet up to $100, even odds, that SFL members are named in a major news source as being the primary instigators in a revolution.  Either their actions would spark the protests, or they would become leaders in nascent protests begun for a different cause.

Of course, my claim depends on several factors.  First, the continued expansion of SFL around the globe.  SFL is not going to lead a revolution in Western Europe because the governments in Western Europe are stable.  The ability of SFL to lead a revolution depends on SFL having members in governments with less than firm foundations, Africa is the prime example, but Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East should all be included.  As of now SFL has yet to have a critical mass in many these countries, but with the continued rate of expansion SFL should have a critical mass in 5 years in the majority of those countries.

Now, my claim is not that SFL will actively seek to overthrow an existing government.  They have wisely stayed out of politics and I encourage them to continue that trend.  However, there are a number of scenarios which could unfold.  For example, Honduras won Event of the Year at the International Students For Liberty Conference the past year.  They won because they literally fought a group of Marxists who tried to shut down a University.  However, what if those Marxists had ties to a local political party.  The event nearly turned violent, and easily could have.  This could have led to more demonstrations and started a movement.

Of course, most such events remain relatively obscure.  If not for SFL, the Honduras event would be quickly forgotten.  However, such events are how many revolutions are sparked.  A student group toes the boundary one too many times.  There is a heavy handed government response.  There are protests against the heavy handed response.  The government over compensates leading to an increasing cycle of protests.

In a larger sense this is simply another part of the transformation of society in this day and age.  A group like SFL could not have existed 20 years ago.  Without the internet and low travel costs, forming a community like SFL would be impossible.  However, that community has been formed, the average payoff of protests has increased, you might go on Stossel, and the support network is stronger than ever.  So, if there are any doubters, take my bet, it should be easy money.

Edit: Lode Cossear has accepted by bet.  $100 dollars, here are the parameters further specified.

It must be reported in a top 10 US newspaper or a top 5 European newspaper, judged by circulation. At least one SFL member must be mentioned by name, along with the organization, and there must be a clear statement that an SFL event was a key instigator in the revolution or that SFLers are key members of the opposition. Lastly, the president, prime minister or equivalent party must step down. The deal will be if these conditions are met at any time in the next twenty years you pay me. If after twenty years these conditions are not met, I pay you.  The outcome of the revolution is not important, merely that it happens.  Some of the parameters are open to interpretation.  We will negotiate in good faith what constitutes “key instigator” or “key member” when the time comes.  

We’re going back to Iraq and boy is it depressing

Mark Twain’s quip about history was wrong; it indeed repeats. Unfortunately the repetition is of bad things, rarely good.

After promising to roll back the folly that was the Iraq War, President Obama is taking us back to the graveyard of empires. He recently presented Congress with an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” to go after the growing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president has been using airstrikes on ISIS for 6 months already. Under current law, he’s supposed to request Congress’ imprimatur after 60 days of carrying out military action. But, hey, what’s a little thing like law to get in the way of bombs?

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Market panic attack, Greek edition

Never have I seen Wall Street and the stock markets this scared in my life, in anyone’s lifetime. You don’t see it in the numbers or trades, but in the periphery, the things they talk about. They’ve realized that people are starting to notice a detachment between how the markets work and how reality works. You see the paranoia in Greece and Spain. Something’s coming for them, not in the way they wanted to.

Karl Polanyi, that venerable economist, once referred to the economy as merely another social institution. Social institutions last only as long as the people believe in them. What we have seen in the past couple is an indication that people are slowly starting to the realize that the market economy, by default, does not benefit them but benefits from them. When they stop believing in the market, it starts to really panic.

The market economy has become the golden idol of the mainstream left and right since the hammer and sickle fell from the Kremlin, and loyalty to its whims is the truest symbol of elitism there is. There’s a reason the term “caviar socialist” exists, after all. But when the market, in its Molochian chaos, decides to step on a nation, the situation tends to not end very well for it.

Greece will be the first example of this. Today, the general election triggered by the Hellenic Parliament’s refusal to elect Wall Street/World Bank fat cat Stavros Dimas into the sinecure position of President will bring about a massive change. For the first time, a leftist party not directed by a single Marxist idea but rather broad range of thinking will enter government. The Coalition of the Radical Left, known by its Greek shorthand SYRIZA, will win the election. It’s only uncertain just how much.

The handwringing I noticed in the weeks leading up to this election reflects the paranoia of the markets. The Independent, that piece of toilet paper that happily wipes the ass of the market after it shits, called SYRIZA, a legitimate political party that has been in existence for more than two decades and has no militant wing to speak of, “rebels,” and its leader Alexis Tsipras a communist Harry Potter. Some call that “cheeky British humor.” I call that “pissing in your trousers.”

Bloomberg, run by a man who practically played a lapdog to Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan while he was Mayor of New York during Occupy, wasn’t that much better. It has flustered at the thought of SYRIZA winning the election, but at least acknowledged it happening. But it tried to soothe old Dimon and his gang of losers first by saying that former political scion George Papandreou’s new party To Kinima would prevent the markets from being troubled. Once it realized that Papandreou was merely leeching off voters of the sclerotic Panhellenic Socialist Movement/PASOK, it, along with the Financial Times, fawned over Stavros Theodorakis’ To Potami as being a “kingmaker” that will tame SYRIZA’s supposed ambitions. Now they’re saying that Tsipras might find it easier to have a coalition partner, simply because he can backpedal on his rhetoric. As if he has to do that. It’s laughable, really.

What the markets fail to realize is that a lot of this is their doing. Greece is in a mess because the markets begged for them to act like Americans upon joining the Euro, along with taking a sour bet by running a Summer Olympics that will take as much time to pay off as the Vietnam War. Then, when it was clear that this was a terrible idea, they expected the country to turn arch-conservative with its finances.

These efforts at market excess were curried by the elites, led by PASOK and the conservative New Democracy. It is elite by every standard: Papandreou is a member of a dynasty that dates back to the first Prime Minister after liberation from the Germans, and whose father was the first socialist PM in Greece after the end of the junta in the 60s and 70s. His family had emigrated to America before he was born, only to immigrate back when it seemed like a good idea. He was roommates at Amherst with his eventual rival and current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Both went on to even more elite schools after that: Papandreou to the London School of Economics because they tend to shun foreigners at Oxbridge, Samaras to Harvard. How posh can you get?

So it’s obvious that the power structure, despite looking like there’s some political spectrum, was built entirely on keeping the markets happy. While the Greeks enjoyed somewhat decent economic growth bolstered partly by the Olympic Games, ND cooked the books and PASOK allowed it to happen, creating an illusion of glory. The establishment had it under control, with the only release valves being the Communists under Joseph Stalin and the Popular Orthodox Rally.

Then the banks of Wall Street overcooked their books and screwed everyone over.

When Papandreou came to power in 2009, his lieutenant, the somewhat less posh Evangelios Venezelos, discovered the cooked books. The PM announced the problem and tried to get it under control, but this being the Great Recession, the odds of that happening were similar to finding water in California these days. One thing led to another, and the next thing you know, the Greeks became the storied boogeymen that were out to destroy the somehow already haggard European Union, setting off a chain of bailouts on the continental periphery. It was only by imposing severe and draconian austerity measures that supposedly were in the best interests of the Greeks that the continent was saved. The country was expected to become Germany, and suffer while they do so. The markets were relieved.

This latter narrative is what the markets, and the EU, would like to believe. In the country itself, however, we see a different narrative: If you aren’t in the elite, chances are you’re unemployed, or you know a friend who was. Maybe you know some friends who are homeless and are transient, especially if you’re young. If you have a job, you took a massive pay cut back in 2011 if you were lucky enough not to get laid off. You feel worthless. You don’t need to go far to know that, outside of your country, your nationality is now an epithet for sloth and dubiousness.

The markets, symbolized by the Euro, had betrayed you. Economists would say you deserve it, citing the overwrought Summer Olympics and that you have a hard time paying taxes. But those excuses can only last so long. While you don’t hate Europe, you don’t like the fact that it’s stepping on your head for something you don’t entirely control.

More importantly, the establishment betrayed you. PASOK first, then ND. Sure, Samaras put up a nice facade at first, attacking the bailouts and throwing out one of his most significant rivals in the party for daring to support them. But when push came to shove, he turned heel the moment it became clear that his continued control of the country would count on it. So both parties are still shamelessly praying to the golden idol.

The feeling of anti-establishment thinking has never been stronger in Greece. And there are few people who come close to leading that sentiment than Alexis Tsipras. Born mere days after the fascist junta fell, he’s as anti-elite as they come: Local to Athens, his parents were from the countryside. While active in politics, he studied engineering at a great local university and worked in construction for a while.

Tsipras has come to represent a unique strain of leftist thinking: One built on the diversity of opinion rather than a singular agenda. Unlike the American left, overtaken by social radicals intent on squabbling over who is the biggest victim in the room, he’s kept everyone on the same page. After all, everyone in the room is equally in the room is a victim, for they are Greeks beaten down by the bean-counters in Brussels and New York as well as the elites in PASOK and ND.

He cuts himself as young (only 40), charming and cunning. But more importantly, he’s actually competent as a leader: With such strains of thinking as classical Marxism, Trotskyism, feminism, ecosocialism, eurocommunism, even super minor strains of leftist thought like Luxembergism, you would think that SYRIZA wouldn’t last a few weeks as a small group, let alone 10 years as an electoral coalition and political entity. But that is a testament to Tsipras’ leadership.

He’s also a fighter, and that’s what makes him dangerous. Rather simply making a case on being a leftist party, he turned this election and the previous two into a referendum on the euro that has been stepping on them. Just by being that alone and unique in how they handle it was SYRIZA able to take over PASOK as not only the party of the left but also a legitimate alternative to what had been standard European politics.

It’s important to understand this election is not a referendum on the European Union. Outside of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn, the nationalist Independent Greeks and one or two factions of SYRIZA, everyone in Greece wants to stay in Europe. Their problem has never really been with Europe as a whole. The problem is the market economy that seems intent on ensuring the only thing Greece is allowed to do is suffer. It’s just that SYRIZA is more willing to let an exit from the euro be an option than anyone else in the room, and that’s what scares the markets. It means the Greeks don’t believe in them anymore.

Which brings me to To Potami, or The River. The current estimates are saying that SYRIZA will be a few seats short of an absolute majority (though it’s possible that they could still get it, especially if the Independent Greeks don’t get enough votes), meaning they will need to partner with another party to run the government. Golden Dawn is out of the question, the Independent Greeks are bit too rightist for their own good (though they could still join on a patriotic front), and the Communists are still run by Joseph Stalin.

Which leaves To Potami, run by talk show host Theodorakis. People are making them out to be some form of “taming” force because SYRIZA will need the votes, and To Potami would rather stay on the euro. The problem is that they are not taking into account a couple key points:

  1. Theodorakis and Tsipras are closer in belief on the bailout documents that have been harming Greece than most believe,
  2. Theodorakis has no political experience whatsoever.

The last two TV personalities that started a political party and entered a democratic parliament were Beppe Grillo in Italy and Yair Lapid in Israel. The former has let his 5-Star Movement self-immolate due to Occupy-level infighting, while the latter was eating out of Bibi Netanyahu’s hand until he realized the food was shit and called his Yesh Atid out of the Knesset. Both are polling poorly now. The odds are likely that Tsipras could easily outplay Theodorakis. If the former can control a bunch of Trotskyists and feminists with giant egos, what’s one talk show host?

ND will not win reelection this time around, that much is certain despite bailed out Goldman Sachs’ claims to the contrary. They betrayed the populace, and their partners will be either non-existent (the Democratic Left) or close to it (PASOK). They were very close to defeat the last time, and were likely only saved because their friends in Brussels still had some sway over the populace. Not anymore.

So what happens after the election? Things get fun. Over the course of the election campaign, outsiders from Europe, including World Bank snout and EU prez Jean-Claude Juncker, had made the ever ominous elitist threat that they “hope” the Greeks will make the “right decision.” ECB president Mario Draghi has threatened to prevent access to the way-too-late quantitative easing program if SYRIZA dares to try to move the foot off the country’s head.

However, the last time the Greeks were asked to be treated like this, their response was a rather simple one: “όχι!”

No wonder you can smell the markets’ fear.

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Israel as tabernacle of the American empire

I wrote the following at least three years ago (probably more like four) as a think-piece on what was appearing then, and now certainly seems indisputable, to be the death of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The intention was to address exactly why Israel had become such a leading object of idolatry in American nationalism, and to a large extent well beyond it. This question is most timely now in the aftermath of the Hebdo massacres, when the question has justly been raised why there are frank hypocrisies regarding taboos around Judaism and Islam, if anything to a more startling degree in France than the U.S. But those who have raised this discussion seem totally focused on what is, and not why it is. Here, then, is a rather brief and concise illustration of the answer.

The now all-but-universally acknowledged death of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has vast implications far beyond that long-suffering small strip of land on the Mediterranean coast. The imminent collapse of the so-called Jewish state represents nothing more or less than a blow to the Achilles’ heel which has held up the entire international system enforced by American power.

Protests about four thousand years of history in eretz yisrael notwithstanding, no other nation on Earth has ever leaned so heavily on international law, and the approval of outsiders generally, for its very existence. Only Israel has premised its existence on a mandate of the long dead League of Nations, that cynical instrument of European imperialism. And when the United Nations emerged out of the horrible war that the League’s very founding made inevitable, it was to them that the Zionists appealed for permission to establish their state. No other nation would feel it necessary to invoke a resolution of the United Nations in its declaration of independence. It is as though some representative of “the world” had to validate the Zionist faith that there did in fact exist a “Jewish nation.”

Of course, this veneer of international justice could not have been operative without a certain leap of faith by the great powers who brought it about. For they, too, had to be made to believe that Hitler was essentially right about the Jews – that is, that they were an alien presence in the lands they called home – and therefore needed to be given a nation-state of their own. Yet it was the pious instinct in the western imagination that led to their eager construction of Jewish statehood. The redemption of the Jews and the end of their alleged exile, in a modern international template, flowed as naturally from the Protestant ethic as the spirit of capitalism. To invoke specific interpretations of the Book of Revelation in this connection, whether of the early 19th or late 20th century, is simply superfluous.

Still, we are left with the vexing question of what can explain the centrality Israel seized, not just in American foreign policy, but in the sacred story of the American empire. In his book America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, Anatol Lieven made the indispensable argument that the “special relationship” between America and Israel is not history’s first instance of a great power being manipulated by a small client state. His precedent is the relationship of Russia and Serbia a century ago, wherein the Russian Empire’s sacred story of pan-Slavic nationalism and leadership of Orthodox Christianity led it into war against the Habsburg Empire in 1914, thus setting in motion the war that ended European civilization. History is certainly rhyming, if not repeating, as America’s commitment to the State of Israel has in part led it into what has amounted to an unwinnable war against the Islamic world, threatening the whole existing world order with it.

Israel is, to America, the ultimate symbol of itself as a force for good in the world, representing the salvation of the Jews as the heroic outcome of the Second World War, the “good war” myth at the heart of the sacred story of the American empire. America and Israel are bound by the fact that they are the only two countries whose very national identity is dependent upon the vitality of the international system inaugurated by that war. They are bound by their shared constant need for another Hitler to destroy. Consider the history of the Second World War. What began for England and France as the war to liberate Poland from Hitler only succeeded in giving all of Eastern Europe to Stalin. What became for America the war to liberate East Asia from Imperial Japan led to precious little besides the conquest of China by the greatest mass murderer in human history.

Only the salvation of the Jews from Hitler’s mad scheme of extermination was left to justify, ex post facto, the most destructive war in human history and the vast empire America acquired by it. It is no accident that the rise of the so-called “holocaust industry” reached its apogee in the immediate aftermath of the end of the Cold War. As Murray Rothbard pointed out at the time, the release of “Schindler’s List” and the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, occurring within the space of one or two years, was perfectly timed to establish a grand narrative of American righteousness to take on the various dime-store genocides that marked “the end of history.”

Thus in keeping with Woodrow Wilson’s original world-redemptive ambitions, for both America and the international system he envisioned, the American empire was the god that brought about the essential event to usher forth the millennial reign, which the Living God had not – the redemption of Israel.

There are no doubt those who feel that this is nothing more than a retreat into mysticism in order to exculpate responsibility for America’s downfall from the corrupt influence of the Israel lobby. Answering this is the following excerpt from the indispensable essay “The Fall of Modernity” by Michael Vlahos in The American Conservative:

The imperial narrative of the grand nation thus becomes its double-edged sword. In day-to-day politics, it reminds the people of their strength and unity. Even more important for external imperial relations, narrative becomes the badge of legitimacy as lead nation. But the imperial narrative also makes the grand nation vulnerable to symbolic attack, a weak strategic position because the empire must maintain not only its material interests but the perfect integrity of the tabernacle – and as symbolic edifice, the imperial narrative is brittle and relatively easy to attack. Moreover, if it is attacked successfully, regaining lost authority requires disproportionate effort so great as to risk being self-defeating. Even empires that are truly decadent and surely should know better – for whom even the smallest shock might unleash a historical avalanche – have put defense of the narrative above reality.

Without discounting the enormously successful influence-peddling of AIPAC and others, this is precisely why the American political class has been so heavily invested not merely in the survival of Israel as a Jewish state, but in its success at vanquishing the Islamofascist enemy.

Nor can it be denied that the effete European appeasers of neoconservative imagination have just as great an investment at stake. Because Israel’s official rationale for its just existence relies so heavily on specific international legislation, for it to be imperiled represents a uniquely powerful comeuppance to the international system. For ultimately, the creation of Israel is a legacy of those few short years when the United States and the Soviet Union more-or-less sincerely believed that they would be partners in empire through the United Nations, as Britain and France had been through the League of Nations. The European Union has as its own sacred story that it is destined to restore the promise of that moment. Thankfully, the threat to its credibility posed by the fate of Israel is the least of its problems.

Israel’s central place in America’s sacred story can easily explain some of the more puzzling behavior of the latter in recent years. As Tony Judt wrote in diagnosing neoconservatism and its apologists, “for the U.S. to imitate Israel wholesale, to import that tiny country’s self-destructive, intemperate response to any hostility or opposition and to make it the leitmotif of American foreign policy – that is simply bizarre.” Yet what this has meant in practice, such as following the Israeli torture handbook at Abu Ghraib, is simply par for the course. American nationalists have come to take such pride in Israel and its methods because they naturally see this ultimate symbol of themselves as a force for good as worthy of emulation.

Let no one mistake any of this for some fiendish plot by the elders of Zion. On the contrary, the tragedy is that the Jewish people found themselves forced into this role. If modern ideology, most notably Marxism, was ultimately based on a simulacrum of the drama of exodus and redemption, Zionism, and the American sacred story with it, sought to recreate this literally as no alternative could. In other words, a religious narrative of the Holocaust followed by literal redemption in the creation of Israel effectively replaced the historic Jewish religion. There thus emerged the largely subconscious, yet sometimes explicit belief of both the American Jewish establishment and the larger American political class that they were fighting for the survival of the actually existing Kingdom of God. This is precisely why Israel represents the apotheosis, and the downfall, of modernity.

One can only pray that the Jewish religion, mother of western ethics and jurisprudence, will ultimately survive this heresy. Yet the epitaph of the State of Israel shall identify it as having been the principal culprit in fulfilling the prophecy of John Quincy Adams of the American empire: “She might become the dictatress of the world, but she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit.”