This automatic Jacksonian response to the Middle East situation overlooks some important complexities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in the past America’s Jacksonian instincts have gotten us into trouble. But anyone trying to analyze the politics of the Middle East struggle as they unfold in American debates needs to be aware of the power of these ideas about war in American life.
In any case, when Israel brings the big guns and fast planes against Gaza’s popguns and low tech missiles, a great many Americans see nothing but common sense at work. These Americans aren’t mad about ‘disproportionate’ Israeli violence in Gaza because they don’t really accept the concept of proportionality in war. They think that if you have jus ad bellum, and rocket strikes from Gaza are definitely that, you get something close to a blank check when it comes to jus in bello.
If anything, rather than weakening American sympathy for Israel, Israel’s response in Gaza (and the global criticism that surrounds it) is likely to strengthen the bonds of respect and esteem that many Americans feel for Israelis. Far from seeing Israel’s use of overwhelming force against limited provocation as harsh or immoral, many Americans see it as courageous and wise. It strengthens the sense that in a wacky world where a lot of foreigners are hard to understand, the Israelis are honest, competent and reliable friends — good people to have on your side in a tight spot.