Jew­ish Choic­es, Jew­ish Voic­es: War and Nation­al Security

  • Review
By – August 24, 2011

The fifth install­ment in JPS’s series Jew­ish Choic­es, Jew­ish Voic­es presents large­ly famil­iar argu­ments in its case stud­ies about ter­ror­ism, jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for war, the con­duct of war, and nation­al poli­cies about war. Its essay­ists agree that armies should act eth­i­cal­ly, and none sup­ports the use of tor­ture. Two com­men­ta­tors cite Pres­i­dent Eisenhower’s warn­ing about a mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex” in con­nec­tion with nation­al-secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy, and UCLA Pro­fes­sor Steven Spiegel argues against most kinds of arms sales. Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sor Richard Immer­man is con­cerned that defense spend­ing takes mon­ey away from schools, tran­sit, and the envi­ron­ment.

Clas­si­cal Jew­ish sources are fur­nished for each of the four case stud­ies as a point of depar­ture. A lot of them relate only oblique­ly to the top­ic at hand, how­ev­er, for instance, the Bib­li­cal pro­hi­bi­tion of rechi­lut, a kind of gos­sip, is cit­ed here in rela­tion to pri­va­cy, although gos­sip (lashon hara) is nor­mal­ly treat­ed as an eth­i­cal pit­fall for the per­pe­tra­tor. The voice from heav­en announc­ing that Jew­ish law fol­lows the School of Hil­lel is list­ed under Free Speech and Its Lim­its.”

What’s more, these sources do not per­cep­ti­bly inform the essays that fol­low. Michael Walz­er notes in pass­ing that his book Just and Unjust Wars is actu­al­ly a sec­u­lar­ized ver­sion of Catholic just-war the­o­ry. Nadav Mor­ag of the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Uni­ver­si­ty argues against pro­fil­ing not for eth­i­cal rea­sons but because Jihadist ter­ror­ism does not fit a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic pro­file.”

The range of view­points is also sur­pris­ing­ly nar­row. A num­ber of promi­nent pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions are rep­re­sent­ed, includ­ing Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Encounter, and Jew­ish Voice for Peace, as are Rab­bi Sharon Brous and Pro­fes­sor Noam Chom­sky. Well-known neo­con­ser­v­a­tive Jew­ish voic­es such as Paul Wol­fowitz, Richard Per­le, and Dou­glas Fei­th, as well as David Frum and William Kris­tol, are cor­re­spond­ing­ly con­spic­u­ous by their absence. This vol­ume would have been far rich­er had it been more rig­or­ous, inclu­sive, and diverse.


Oth­er Titles in this Series

Discussion Questions