Times Poll Shows Isolationism, and Wariness of Israel

If you ever needed a reminder of how important the realist intellectuals’ spring assault on the Israel lobby is, today’s Times bore it out. Its polls show that most Americans feel that Israel’s indiscriminate destruction in Lebanon will lead to a wider war, and that we don’t have a dog in that fight and shouldn’t get involved. “Support for the president’s staunch backing of Israel goes only so far…” intones the Times: 39 percent say they approve it, but 40 percent say we should be neutral on its latest conflict.

We are all realists now… Most of us anyway.

The poll underscores what the prescient David Brooks meant but refused to say openly some weeks back when he spoke in code about isolationist populists versus interventionist “elites” in foreign policy. Translation: The interventionist elites side with Israel all the way to the destruction of two Arab capitals, and Damascus and Tehran while we’re at it. The isolationist populists are the American majority, burned by neocon delusions about Iraq, wary of getting involved in this unending cycle of violence that will only see an end when we exercise our power as the offshore balancer.

Brooks was talking in code because the politics of this are so frightening to the Brooks-Beinart elite. When you have an American groundswell saying one thing—Hizbullah is crazy, but so is Israel—and neither party representing those views, a Ross Perot could emerge, or some other demagogue. Who will respond to this feeling politically? Not the mainline Democrats. They demonstrated the power of the Israel lobby when they sandbagged Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki for criticizing Israeli “aggression” in Lebanon. While in Connecticut Ned Lamont is afraid to say a word against our Israel policy, till August 9 anyway.

Here’s one flicker of light. Last night on Hardball, Republican strategist Ed Rogers sounded the majority position when he called the Israel-Lebanon fighting a “sideshow” that can “hurt America’s interest in Iraq.” The Democrats should never have confronted al-Maliki over his anti-Israel statements; they were acting “not in America’s interest.”

The invocation of an American interest that is not Israel’s, by a political strategist—holy moly. If you can run against the gun lobby, why not the Israel lobby? I can’t wait for October. Then maybe some gutty congressional aspirants will run on that idea, and find a movement behind them.