America Must Stay Out of Other Nations’ Ethnic Conflicts

The same pitfalls of well-meaning Americans going on the internet and crying for the United States to involve itself in ethnic conflicts applies just as well in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as in the case of Ukraine.

Here we go again. Last week, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas, likely provoked into action by its Iranian backers, launched an attack on the state of Israel, killing (at the time of writing) around 900 civilians and capturing Israeli soldiers, parading some of them on the internet, including women soldiers. Watching these videos is a revolting experience.

The State of Israel is already retaliating with attacks on the Gaza strip, but, predictably, neo-cons and liberal imperialists are already sounding the charge for yet another foreign intervention overseas. If you only listened to people on Twitter, you would think that Hamas had attacked the United States and not the State of Israel. I’ve written about this phenomenon in these pages before, but it seems that Americans of pretty much every political stripe are treating this conflict the same way that they have treated the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as a proxy for their personal political preferences.

In the case of Israel, there is at least more reason for the leap to defend a country halfway across the world. Unlike Ukraine, the United States has a long-standing relationship with the State of Israel, going back to its foundation in 1948. And ideologically, Israel has long been the most “Western-style” democracy in the Middle East, and so it makes a far more natural ally than the fragile kleptocracy that is the Ukrainian government.

But the same pitfalls of well-meaning (and perhaps not so well-meaning) Americans going on the internet and crying for the United States to involve itself in ethnic conflicts applies just as well in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as in the case of Ukraine. The attacks on the State of Israel, though horrific, are no threat to its existence, and they in no way threaten the United States or its interests.

Then why do people insist upon calling for America to be involved then? The reasons, such as they are, are various. Some genuinely seem to believe that America is and should be the world’s policeman, putting down conflict everywhere it flares up. Neocons and others identify “democracy” (i.e., political and social freedoms largely unique to Western civilization) with American power, and so they wish to spread these by intervening in such conflicts abroad.

But most people are not Neocons nor are they that into democracy. In fact, most elites are not either, and they are the ones that really matter, especially when it comes to foreign policy. So, why do they go along with this?

They do so mainly because support for the “good guys” in distant ethnic conflicts is a type of “luxury belief” that is easy for the high and mighty to latch onto. A “luxury belief” is one that elites embrace as a means of signaling their status. Rather than physical displays of wealth, luxury beliefs indicate one’s status in a higher, more morally virtuous elite. Embracing these beliefs is a way of maintaining one’s status in a world where wealth and the physical signs of status are increasingly available to non-elites.

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