When It Came to the Jews, Wagner and Marx Shared a Common Hatred

While a self-confessed lover of Richard Wagner’s operas, Eric Nelson stresses the need to come to grips with his anti-Semitism. Nelson takes as his point of departure the late philosopher Roger Scruton’s posthumously published study of the composer:

Scruton recognizes that “in his mature operas” Wagner meant to reject the bourgeois, liberal “world of deals and transactions”—a world characterized, as Wagner saw it, by the perverse “‘commodification’ of human relations,” rather than the longed-for “dissolving of the self in the experience of community.” This is indeed a central ideological preoccupation of The Ring of the Niebelung. Scruton misses only the crucial fact that, for Wagner, this pathological world of bargains was essentially “Jewish.” Wagner’s anti-Semitism was therefore inextricably bound up with his critique of bourgeois liberalism. And since this distinctive style of Jew-hatred has recently returned to prominence on the political left, getting to grips with its character is, alas, no longer an imperative for deranged Wagnerians alone.

Nelson goes on to argue, through careful reading, that this brand of anti-Semitism is manifest in the plot of Wagner’s Ring cycle. Through this analysis, Nelson suggests similarities between Wagner’s view of the Jews and that of his former friend, Karl Marx:

Marx argued . . . that Judaism and liberalism were in fact a perfect match. Liberalism, on his account, is simply an expression of Judaism. . . . The pathological focus of liberal citizens on their private, isolated needs estranges them from their fellows, whom they encounter as mere “means” to the advancement of their own interests. The result is the distinctive commodification of human life that Marx associates with the bourgeois, liberal order.

Judaism, for Marx, takes the “bargain” as its paradigmatic form of encounter between agents, both divine and human. . . . “The bill of exchange,” as Marx puts it, “is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange.” The liberal contractarian tradition is, in turn, merely the application of this Jewish “bargain” mentality to the relationship between citizens; each approaches the other as an “egoist” trying to extract the best possible terms from his fellows.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Karl Marx, Liberalism, Opera, Richard Wagner

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy