- “The outgoing Salon blogger can’t seem to have an honest discussion without accusing his debate partners of malicious motives”. (Foreign Policy Magazine, Aug. 16, 2012,
Glenn Greenwald doesn’t seem much interested in the vexing moral questions naturally elicited by the ongoing bloodbath in Syria. The Arab dictator’s bombing of civilians, and the routine use of torture, summary executions, and sexual violence against women and children by troops and ethnic groups loyal to the regime don’t weigh heavily on his conscience.
And, whilst the putative topic of Glenn Greenwald latest CiF piece would suggest an interest in Israel’s recent, brief military foray into the conflict, he characteristically doesn’t attempt to engage in anything approaching serious critical scrutiny over IAF operations to destroy sophisticated Iranian made weaponry heading to Hezbollah. Similarly, he doesn’t bother devoting space in his column calculating the political, military and political factors at play in the regional threat faced by the Jewish state from Bashar al-Assad and his Shiite Islamist allies, Hezbollah and Iran.
Additionally, Greenwald doesn’t take a stab at weighing the costs and benefits of Israeli military action relative to the alternative of simply allowing the illegal militia occupying much of Lebanon – which has already accumulated an arsenal of thousands of sophisticated rockets – free rein to further threaten Israeli communities, and what remains of Lebanon’s tattered national sovereignty.
Indeed, in reading Glenn Greenwald it seems clear that he doesn’t much fancy such serious, critical analyses of the real and often vexing political and moral decisions faced by democratically elected heads of state.
Greenwald’s inspiration – the blogging muse which constantly ignites his frenetic prose – lay in deconstructing the confidence and righteousness of democracy’s defenders, and those otherwise possessed with the moral clarity which he seems to so detest.
He informs us in quite vivid language, yet in tellingly vague military terms, about of the damage caused by Israel’s bombs - which he notes are “massive” - and the IDF’s military objective communicated by “Israeli defenders” – and, evidently, only “Israeli defenders” – of targeting weapons provided by Iran that were to end up in the hands of Hezbollah.
And, he then – again, avoiding directly weighing in on the policy decision at hand – evokes a straw man while lashing out at supporters of Israel’s action.
Because people who cheer for military action by their side like to pretend that they’re something more than primitive “might-makes-right” tribalists, the claim is being hauled out that Israel’s actions are justified by the “principle” that it has the right to defend itself from foreign weapons in the hands of hostile forces.
Greenwald then descends further into the absurd:
Or, for that matter, if Syria this week attacks a US military base on US soil and incidentally kills some American civilians (as Nidal Hasan did), and then cites as justification the fact that the US has been aiding Syrian rebels, would any establishment US journalist or political official argue that this was remotely justified?
Of course, Nidal Hasan didn’t “incidentally” kill some American civilians. He entered the Soldier Readiness Processing Center in Fort Hood, TX in 2009 and, armed with several high-caliber assault rifles, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” while open firing on a room crammed with fellow soldiers. Hasan “sprayed bullets at soldiers in a fanlike motion” before aiming at individual soldiers. Nidal didn’t attack a “military base”, but engaged in a cold-blooded execution of as many people as possible.
Greenwald’s contemptuous critique continues:
Few things are more ludicrous than the attempt by advocates of US and Israeli militarism to pretend that they’re applying anything remotely resembling “principles”. Their only cognizable “principle” is rank tribalism: My Side is superior, and therefore we are entitled to do things that Our Enemies are not
One could say quite reasonably that this is the pure expression of the crux of US political discourse on such matters: they must abide by rules from which we’re immune, because we’re superior. So much of the pseudo-high-minded theorizing emanating from DC think thanks and US media outlets boils down to this adolescent, self-praising, tribalistic license: we have the right to do X, but they do not.
This whole debate would be much more tolerable if it were at least honestly acknowledged that what is driving the discussion are tribalistic notions of entitlement and nothing more noble.
Greenwald, a review of his posts on the subject of terrorism suggests, doesn’t merely advance the post-modern cliché that ‘one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter‘, but believes that the term “terrorism” is racially loaded and that the suggestion of serious moral distinctions between political actors represents an expression of primitive triumphalism.
Greenwald not only isn’t prepared to acknowledge that regimes in Damascus, Khartoum, Pyongyang, or Tehran (for instance) may have less regard for human rights than those in Washington, D.C. or Jerusalem, but that those possessing such beliefs are necessarily compromised by intellectually and morally debilitating ethnocentric biases.
As such, for Greenwald, the suggestion of considerable moral differences between Syria and Israel is necessarily loaded with the pathos of ”tribalistic license”.
A review of his latest post, as well as much of his work to date, demonstrates that he’s not prepared to engage in serious thinking regarding the threats posed in the region by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. Nor does he possess the capacity to conduct a broader analysis of the Middle East – in the context of the Arab upheavals in general and the Syrian war in particular – and dissect the continuing democracy deficit in the region.
In his latest 800 word diatribe against Israel’s “supporters”, Greenwald doesn’t even briefly suggest why Israel’s limited military operation in Syria wasn’t justified, because such quotidian concerns – relating to how citizens of democratic nations can most effectively, and most ethically, defend themselves from hostile state and non-state actors – don’t seem to much interest him.
For a careful, sober political survey of the Israeli-Arab (and Israeli-Islamist) conflict, and the broader issues concerning the “Arab Spring”, you’ll have to seek the commentary of serious analysts - those more concerned with honestly assessing the political dynamics of the region than with engaging in ad hominem and often hysterical attacks against their opponents.