Why This Lifelong Jewish Liberal is Voting Republican
When I pull the lever on November 2nd for George Bush, I will be voting with more passionate conviction than I have ever mustered in a lifetime of voting Democratic.
My motive is simple: I believe the moral imperative of our time is to fully prosecute the War on Terror. As a Jew, I believe this sacred fight embodies the deepest Jewish values, so eloquently expressed by the ancient sage Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Let me explain.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” How do we make sense of the violence engulfing our world since September 11th? We reel from one barbaric slaughter to the next, unable to understand the horrors unfolding in front of our eyes: office workers jumping from burning buildings in New York, school children shot in the back in Russia, families exploding in pizza parlors and busses and seder tables in Israel. What unites these disparate acts of terror? Who is the enemy we face?
The phrase, “War on Terror,” studiously avoids naming our foe. Some have proposed calling this fight the War on Radical Islam or the War on Islamo-Fascism. I suggest the term the War on Islamic Terror for what binds together these acts is a religiously-inspired frenzy to destroy. Fueled by the fiery theology of jihad, or global holy war, the terrorists define every non-Muslim, including women and children, as enemy combatants who must be annihilated. They seek no compromise or negotiation. They seek our death.
We therefore face an existential challenge: Do we have the right to exist? Does our civilization merit continuing? Do we claim our freedom? On the most basic, inescapable level, as Rabbi Hillel asked us 2,000 years ago, are we for ourselves?
If we answer yes, we must answer with our actions. No one will stand with us if we do not stand for ourselves. We must commit to a long, difficult battle that will inevitably encounter agonizing setbacks along the way to victory. This fight will assume many guises as we seek to deter, disarm, and demolish the shifting forces intent on our murder. We will disrupt and weaken free-floating terror groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. We will depose incorrigible terror masters like Saddam Hussein, who lobbed Scud missiles into Israel, publicly conferred fat checks on the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and invited Abbu Abbas, the murderer of the wheelchair-bound American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, to live out his days as an honored pensioner in Baghdad. And we will deny nuclear capabilities to the mad mullahs of Iran, whose Defense Minister this week vowed to “crush America” and “wipe Israel off the map.”
The task may be complex, but the morality is straightforward. We believe that both our lives and our way of life are worth preserving. And although we carry the heavy burden of protecting liberty, our steps are lightened by the rewards of meeting Hillel’s second challenge.
But if I am only for myself, what am I?” On October 9th, Afghanistan conducted the first one-person, one-vote democratic election in its history. Out of 10 million eligible Afghanis, an astonishing 9.9 million registered to vote for president, including the former king. 42% of the registered voters are women. Under the Taliban, Afghani women were prisoners in their homes, many literally starving to death. Today Afghani women compete in the Olympics, attend Kabul University, and open craft-based businesses, while their daughters constitute one-third of the 4 million Afghani children enrolled in school. 2,200 child soldiers have been demobilized; platoons of ex-combatants are being trained to build and maintain roads; electrification is spreading throughout the country, and the famous Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban are being reconstructed. And in an overwhelming sign of optimism, 3 million Afghani refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran, eager to rebuild their lives in their newly-freed homeland.
In a country successively tormented by Soviet occupation, civil war, and the Taliban’s brutal theocracy, hope is alive. Democracy is being born. Human dignity is taking root.
These inspiring developments are no accident: They have been purchased with American blood, sweat and treasure, and those of our allies, and they reflect our truest national character. With every illiterate adult taught to read, every young girl heading off to school for the first time, every boy trained to earn a living, we prove our deepest desire is to spread the blessings of freedom.
In Iraq, too, our painfully hard work of implanting democracy is proceeding. (You won’t find full portraits of either country’s progress in The New York Times or on CBS. Read for the bigger picture.) Sovereignty has been passed from the American-led Coalition Authority to the Iraqis, who are now preparing for nation-wide free and democratic elections in January. Meanwhile, on a local level, democracy is springing up through newly-elected town councils. Ahood Aabass, the first woman elected to the new governing council in Basra, reports that under Saddam, children went to schools without windows, doors and toilets, and the local water had worms. Now she praises the “great strides” that have been made in education, human rights, health care and the infrastructure. 20 million Iraqis now enjoy clean water and improved sanitation. Schools have been renovated and reopened. 159,000 new school desks have been distributed, millions of new textbooks have been printed, thousands of children have been vaccinated, and teachers now make between $300 and $500 a month, instead of the $3 they were paid by Saddam. The new Iraq Stock Exchange is now open for business (ISX) and commercial ties are increasing between Iraq, Europe and Japan. A newly-accessible internet is allowing Iraqis to openly exchange ideas, and a free press is flourishing.
A country once brutalized by a sadistic dictator who filled its earth with mass graves, tortured its dissidents, raped its women, and starved its children, is striving mightily to transform into a prosperous democracy. American resolve has let freedom reign.
"If not now, when?” Senator Kerry has decried “the rush to war,” stating that America “has lost its moral authority” because we overthrew Saddam without a sufficient number of allies. 34 countries joined us in our military endeavor there; Senator Kerry preferred to wait until we secured the co-operation of France, which means we would still be waiting today.
If we went to Iraq too early to please Senator Kerry, we are now lingering too long for his taste. Dismayed by the hopeless “quagmire” he perceives, he has declared his intention to bring our troops home as soon as possible, preferably in six months.
Too early, too late: It’s never quite the right time to do battle on Senator Kerry’s calendar. There is always another ally to consult, resolution to be passed, conference to be convened, process to be perfected, obstacle to be avoided.
And yet history has appointed the hour of our challenge, and however much we wish to turn back time, our moment has come. When the World Trade Center was attacked the first time in 1993, we chose to ignore the true seriousness of its implications. But on September 11th, 2001, with the Pentagon in flames, the World Trade Center collapsing, and a hijacked plane speeding towards Congress, we finally began our generation’s rendezvous with destiny.
“You can not escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today,” said President Lincoln at another decisive moment in our nation’s history. The War on Islamic Terror must be waged fully, humanely, and successfully. This monumental battle is both our burden and our privilege, for as Thomas Paine said when our country was born, “If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”
On November 2nd, I will choose to honor my heritage as a Jew and as an American by voting for George Bush.
Jewish Liberals for Bush
I previously posted a link to this excellent piece, but I think it's worth presenting here in its entirety. The author prefers to remain anonymous, but it was originally posted by Judith on The Command Post. The writer invokes a famous proverb by Rabbi Hillel (Pirkei Avot 1:14) in explaining her decision to break a lifelong habit of Democratic voting by supporting President Bush in this year's election.