Ariel Cohen, American Hero

Those who fret over foreign entanglements may want to avoid glancing at the resume` of National Review Online contributor Ariel Cohen. Mr. Cohen has led an admirably itinerant life. Born in Yalta, with eleven years of Israeli residency to his credit, Mr. Cohen might not seem like the first person you’d contact for US foreign policy advice. But there he is, safely ensconced in the CFR and the Heritage Foundation, with a tidy sinecure as research fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.

Talk about your immigrant success stories! It is perhaps fitting that America, having dumped its manufacturing base in favor of importing cheap and shoddy goods from foreign lands, has opted to do the same for its intellectual class. Mr. Cohen, according to his bio on the Heritage Foundation’s website, is “a passionate debater on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. In numerous television appearances and opinion articles, Cohen has made the case that no peace will exist in the Middle East as long as Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority continue to encourage or ignore terrorist attacks on Israel, perpetrated by Arab extremist groups.”

What a refreshing viewpoint! You certainly don’t get enough pencil-necked geeks who couldn’t win fistfights squawking fitfully on cable news shows about “Israel’s right to defend itself” (with US armaments, of course). These folks are akin to those who claim they have a right to sleep with prostitutes paid off by the Washington regime.

What’s that, you say? No one actually claims that Washington should pay for their patronage of whores, with the possible exception of members of that government? Well, of course. It’s absurd to think that anyone could make the case that government-subsidized prostitution was “good public policy.” After all, everyone knows the feds can’t underwrite sex. They can only underwrite death.

And death, of course, is where the spectral Ariel Cohen comes in. For Mr. Cohen seems to know that death is coming before the rest of us. For example, his Heritage bio claims that he urged Congress to “offer to help Russia and China in countering the efforts of radical Islamic groups in Central Asia, including the Taliban and the Osama bin Laden organization.” Golly, what foresight! It’s as if Cohen, urging a preemptive strike, somehow knew the threat Al Qaeda posed even before our own government.

Of course, I don’t mean to imply that there is any way in which Mr. Cohen’s love for America could be doubted. Indeed, this American patriot showed his true feelings for his country in a playful little piece for NR Online entitled “Privatize Iraqi Oil”, in which he comes off as the policy-wonk tagalong brother of Ken Adelman.

Like the aforementioned Adelman, Cohen feels free here to riff on language, displays a marked insouciance toward both language and war itself. In Cohen’s reckoning, “the U.N. Security Council is caught up in a chain of events that is likely to end up in removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime” that — coincidentally enough — requires the Bush team to “plan for the future of a post-Saddam Iraq.” Well, of course, we’re the indispensable nation and all. The ever-pragmatic Cohen cautions that “Sound economics are needed to help the Iraqi people rebuild their lives and their country after two decades of wars and four decades of repression under the current regime.”

It goes without saying that Cohen’s not here to give us a history lesson. The point of his piece is the future. That said, consider his CFR-approved version of how Iraq met its current dire economic circumstances:

Saddam’s regime has succeeded in bankrupting the country even though it boasts the world’s second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia. . .GDP for 2001, at the market-exchange rate, is estimated to be only about one-third what it was in 1989. Iraq also is hobbled by its $140 billion foreign debt. This devastation was wrought by such policies as the nationalization of the country’s chief export commodity, oil; extensive central planning of industry and trade; the 1982-1988 war against Iran; and the invasion of Kuwait, which precipitated the 1991 Gulf War.

To hear Cohen tell it, there never were economic sanctions or repeated bombing runs over what passes for Iraq’s sovereign territory. The implication is that “nationalization” and “central planning” were the chief causes of Iraq’s current condition. The facts run so contrary to Cohen’s assessment that it seems less necessary to refute them than to simply point out how blatantly disingenuous his rewriting of history is here. His confidence in telling such lies only underscores his knowledge that the system is rigged such that the voices of genuine pacifism will never get a fair hearing.

For Cohen is a war hawk. As long as he doesn’t have to do the fighting, of course; unlike Fightin’ Bill Clinton, don’t expect him to grab a shotgun to protect Israeli soil, er, American Interests ? from the Butcher of Baghdad’s marauding Republican Guard. In fact, it about tears Ariel Cohen up inside to consider what actually happens in a war. In lieu of discussing the fighting on the streets of Baghdad forecasted to accompany “regime change”, the decorous dual citizen shies away from descriptions more graphic than “the road to economic prosperity in Iraq will not be easily paved” and maunderings about ending “Saddam’s brutal and repressive regime”.

What does he care, though? It’s not going to be Ariel Cohen’s homeboy Tommy bayonet fighting with twelve-year old boys defending their parents’ homes. Nor will it be Ariel’s uncle charged with the unenviable task of shooting retreating soldiers. Ariel Cohen can write such dispassionate words about American wars precisely because he has no innate love for Americans. He didn’t grow up going to flea markets and buying knockoffs of designer gear. Nor does he know what it is to live and die for his local high school or college football team. It was never for Ariel Cohen to hear the music of Al Green while driving back from freshman year of college, and understand that the Reverend knew things about God and sex and life that you needed to learn before you could call yourself a man.

Ariel Cohen loves neither God, man, nor country in any meaningful sense. He’s a professional, and his goal in life is to get paid and be on the winning side. This is why it’s so easy for him to blather on about the “market economy” being the salvation for Iraqis. Too bad about all those poor folks dead from radiation poisoning — Cohen has nothing for them — but “to bring modern economic expertise and management skills to Iraq, the government will have to hire Iraqi expatriates as well as other Western-educated Arabic speakers with financial, legal, and business backgrounds to fill key government positions on economic reform and privatization.”

The government will simply have to hire them! Yet another utterly contemptible formulation of the theory that Iraq is intended to be nothing more than an oil plantation, a Wyoming with better falafel and worse strip clubs. To call Cohen and his ilk Zionists gives them too much credit. Israel, like the US itself, is just a pawn to get the right people paid.

ANTHONY GANCARSKI, a frequent contributor to CounterPunch, makes his home in Spokane, Washington. Email him at


ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at