Anti-Semitism and Rationality

There are many disturbing revelations about President Obama’s thinking in his latest interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. The most glaring of these was that the President does not seem to understand how anti-Semitism and racism affect the actions of those with such views. Goldberg does, but does not pursue this very important issue after Obama explains his indefensible position:

It’s been my [Goldberg’s] belief that it is difficult to negotiate with parties that are captive to a conspiratorial anti-Semitic worldview not because they hold offensive views, but because they hold ridiculous views. As Walter Russell Mead and others have explained, anti-Semites have difficulty understanding the world as it actually works, and don’t comprehend cause-and-effect in politics and economics. Though I would like to see a solid nuclear deal (it is preferable to the alternatives) I don’t believe that the regime with which Obama is negotiating can be counted on to be entirely rational.

Obama responded to this theory by saying the following: “Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations. You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders—and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country—”

I interjected by suggesting that anti-Semitic European leaders made irrational decisions, to which Obama responded, “They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest… And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that we’ve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program.”

This is where Obama’s fatal flaw in understanding anti-Semitism lies and where Goldberg fails to educate him because he completely downplayed how virulent anti-Semitism affects those in power. It wasn’t just that some anti-Semitic European leaders made irrational decisions “at the margins where costs are low.” Towards the end of the Second World War, as it became clear to the Nazi leadership they were going to lose the war, the rational choice for self-preservation would have been to divert all their resources to the war effort. Instead of wasting men, money, trains and time on exterminating Jews, it would have been rational and certainly not marginal, to divert most if not all of this toward stopping or slowing the allied advance.

But, from the perspective of a Nazi who believes in anti-Semitism with all his heart, maintaining the death camps and trains was absolutely a rational decision. In the mind of Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany was not only engaged in a war with the Allies, but with world Jewry that, according their their perverted ideology, was the cause of all of Germany’s ills. In their mind, even if they couldn’t win the war against the Allies, at least they could try to win the war against the Jews and make sure that post-war Germany would still be Judenrein. In this mindset, it was still rational to weaken their military forces if it meant they could kill more Jews because in this way, even if the Third Reich fell, Germany would still have its victory over the Jews.

While President Obama says the Iranian leadership suffers from venomous anti-Semitism, he fails to draw the necessary conclusions from this and Goldberg fails to stand up to him.

What many fail to recognize about anti-Semites and other racists is not that they are irrational, but that they are in fact very rational within the context of their own hateful ideologies. So being anti-Semitic doesn’t “preclude” you from being interested in self-preservation, but it does preclude you from understanding self-preservation according to the same rationale we do. If you believe there is a secret cabal of Jews out to destroy the Muslim world through their domination of world governments, the media and banks, you might justifiably (in the eyes of an anti-Semite, that is) decide it is better to suffer economically and even militarily, in order to stop that nefarious plot by nuking the state behind it all. If you do, you’ll be a hero who suffered temporary loses but in fact saved the world from the evil Jews.

Goldberg makes a feeble attempt to point this out, but in the end the President is so set on reaching this deal and so convinced that deep down even anti-Semites are rational just like we are that he refuses to see what is right in front of him. And once again it is the Jews that will pay the price. __