The West Fights Back
Dec 3, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 12 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
There are some facts so obvious that only a liberal could deny them. One of them is that, from Benghazi to Be’er Sheva, the West is under attack.
An Israeli Iron Dome battery launches an interceptor missile.
By the West I mean those nations—wherever on the globe they are—that hold aloft and carry the torch of liberal civilization, that seek to build on the achievements of modern liberalism and the older traditions of Athens and Jerusalem. The United States stands at the head of the West, having had leadership thrust upon us several decades ago—at about the same time the state of Israel came into existence after the collapse of Western civilization in Europe. The West was saved, primarily by Britain and the United States, and its revival after the war was somehow exemplified by the founding of the state of Israel, which, as the philosopher Leo Strauss put it in 1956, “is a Western country, which educates its many immigrants from the East in the ways of the West: Israel is the only country which as a country is an outpost of the West in the East.”
To be an outpost is to be under the threat of attack. To be a leader is to be subject to attack. And so Israel and the United States bear the brunt of the attacks on Western civilization.
George W. Bush was ridiculed by the left, and criticized by some on the right, for speaking of the Global War on Terror. The left hated the notion of a global war of any sort, and the right disliked the imprecision of “terror.” But the term “war on terror” has always struck me as good enough for government work. For what the West stands against is terror—whether the terror of modern secular totalitarianism or the terror of an older, and now revitalized, religious fanaticism. From the Great Terrors of Stalin and Hitler to the attacks on New York and Tel Aviv, and on Madrid, Bali, and Mumbai, terrorists of all stripes know who their enemies are. They attack across the world and kill Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike—but they grasp that the centers of resistance, the nations that stand most squarely in their path, are the United States and Israel.
And so these two very different nations—Christian and Jewish, large and small, new world and old (though the new world nation is older than its newly reborn old world counterpart)—find themselves allied. More than allied: They find themselves joined at the hip in a brotherhood that is more than a diplomatic or political or military alliance. Everyone senses that the ties are deeper than those of mere allies. Israelis know that if the United States fails, so shall Israel. Americans sense, in the words of Eric Hoffer, “as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us.”
I write this on the eve of Thanksgiving, the most Old Testament, the most Hebraic, of our national holidays. On Thanksgiving we don’t celebrate our rights or our achievements, or honor our soldiers or great men. Rather, we thank the Almighty for our blessings here in America. We might also thank Him for restoring the homeland of the Jewish people, as Israelis might thank Him for the existence, side by side with Israel, of a loyal and steadfast America.
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