Open Journal of Political Science
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 107-112
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 107
Constructive Patriotism in Wartime
Eyal Lewin
Department of Political Science, Ariel University, Ariel, Israel
Email: lewin1212@gm a
Received June 15th, 20 13; revised July 22nd, 2013; accepted August 6th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Eyal Lewin. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribu-
tion License, which permits unrestricted use, di s t ribution, and reproduction in any medium, provi ded th e o riginal
work is properly cited.
As opposed to blind patriotism, a moderate form of constructive patriotism has been depicted in previous
research and empirically observed. The major distinction between blind patriotism and constructive patri-
otism lies in the latter’s capacity for criticism. Our research suggests, however, an additional distinction
dividing constructive patriotism into two forms: one form is capable of practical judgment (hence, politi-
cal constructive patriotism), and the other form is critical on grounds of ethical issues (hence moral con-
structive patriotism). This study then seeks to examine which sort of patriotism prevails within society
during wartime; of special interest, for that matter, are the suggested variations of constructive patriotism.
Two diverse cases have been chosen in order to examine the reactions within a democratic society: The
American case of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Israeli case of the 2006 war in Lebanon. A substantive
content analysis has been employed, surveying social processes through a variety of articles in an Ameri-
can and an Israeli daily newspaper. The findings reveal that in both cases among expressions of construc-
tive patriotism, those of political constructive patriotism form a vast majority and only a few of them ex-
press moral constructive patriotism. It therefore seems that constructive patriots are not necessarily as
moral as they might seem to be at first glance, even though they criticize state and society. The case of
war in particular proves how on moral grounds criticism is important, but not enough.
Keywords: Patriotism; Blind Patriotism; Constructive Patriotism; Nationalism; Morality in War
Introduction: Ear Witness in Metulla
July 2006 was no easy time for Israel, certainly not for its
north borderline inhabitants: thousands of rockets were
launched towards the villages, many of them hitting built-up
areas. On the other side of the border, inside southern Lebanon,
IDF soldiers were fighting against Hezbollah guerrilla fighters,
and the thunder of combat was to be heard every once in a
while, day and night. Choppers flying to and fro across the
border were constant evidence of injured soldiers being ur-
gently delivered to hospitals. This of course was not the first
war this country had known, but perhaps for the first time after
many years Israeli army forces were encountering a highly
motivated and professionally trained enemy, and Israeli civil-
ians had to experience daily exposure to the hazards of rocket
Then, quite suddenly, a ceasefire was achieved and one
summer morning not a single shot was to be heard. The fires
that had burned houses after rocket hits, the sirens of ambu-
lances and security forces, the sites of death and destruction—
all these were replaced in an instant by the tranquility of peace.
That was what the day after the war was like. The pastoral
views of the beautiful northern countryside revealed nothing of
what had been taking place there only hours before.
As night was falling, the first IDF troops to be relieved re-
turned from Lebanon, gathering in the border-straddling village
of Metulla. It was there, in Metulla, that I first met the reserves
soldiers who were bitterly criticizing the conduct of war. They
sat together in circles, talking and sharing their experience;
small circles and large ones, one unit circles and mixed unit
ones; some were speaking harshly and others were calm, some
were bursting and others were silent. Metulla, a small tourist
village in normal times, was now flooded with soldiers assem-
bling in small groups and talking into the night. Being a politi-
cal sociologist I could not resist the temptation and I joined the
circles, every once in a while switching from one huddle to
another, wearing my ears out. The soldiers were mainly angry
about inconsistent commands and contradicting orders that cost
the lives of their comrades. I was particularly attracted to one
artillery unit whose captain told me how he ran out of ammuni-
tion just as an infantry squad needed his assistance so badly.
In Metulla, I was witnessing the beginning of a civic protest
led by reserves soldiers; these were people who last night were
willing to fulfill the call of duty and sacrifice life for their
country, and tonight were persistently speaking about a modern
democratic storming of the Bastille. In political science those
people are referred to as constructive patriots.
Blind Patriotism versus Constructive Patriotism
Patriotism is generally considered to be love of country, love
of fellow countrymen, love of birthplace, and deep feelings for
the local sights that one encounters all his life, forming a natu-
ral personal family-like connection to a specific country
(Schaar, 1981; Viroli, 1995). This patriotic affection proves to
be stronger than any moral idea of justice and it is the core of
the patriot’s motivation to pay personal prices that rise far
above any expectation (Oldenquist, 1982). Patriotism often re-
lates to the republican approach, according to which as a civil
virtue we owe our lives, our education, our culture and our
freedom to our country (Viroli, 1995). Traditionally, being a
war hero has always been the ultimate expression of love for
country, since the battlefield had formed an arena where logic
and personal needs may yield to self sacrifice. No wonder,
therefore, that obeying the call of duty, even when it means
risking one’s life, has frequently been the definition of patriotic
devotion (Sommerville, 1981). Perhaps the outstanding expres-
sion of this attitude was Stephen Decatur’s famous declaration:
“Our Country! In the intercourse with foreign nations may she
always be right, but our country, right or wrong!” Nevertheless,
an altogether different comprehension of patriotism has its roots
as early as George Bernard Shaw’s mockery of the famous
quotation, rephrasing it as “My mother, drunk or sober!”
Elaborating on this, the liberal conception of state and its insti-
tutions as merely agents of the country that have taken some
instrumental authority would go one step further in expressing
Shaw-like cynicism: “My mother’s lawyer, drunk or sober”. As
opposed to the conventional blind patriotism, this other voice
does not deny the human capacity for loyalty and love of coun-
try, but it demands that citizens not be deprived of life when
justice or logic finds no sense in ending it. According to this
mindset, one ought to object to the mistakes that governments
make; loyalty to one’s country—just like love of one’s own
mother—may require personal criticism, disobedience, and at
times—obstinate resistance (Sommerville, 1981). These are the
moral grounds on which a distinction has been made between
blind patriotism with its all-encompassing demands and a mod-
erate form of patriotism characterized by continual judgment.
The moderate shape of patriotism does not deny patriotism as a
virtue as long as the patriotic activity does not encourage im-
moral actions (Nathanson, 1989). The moderate patriotism has
been deeply examined and empirically tested in The United
States, England and Germany. More often referred to as con-
structive patriotism, the following observations have been made
(Schatz, Staub, & Lavine, 1999; Blank & Schmidt, 2003; Rothi,
Lyons, & Chryssochoou, 2005):
1) Blind patriotism resents any form of criticism towards the
country; constructive patriotism is manifested through ques-
tioning whether the patriotic action fits the social group’s goals.
2) Blind patriotism is characterized by political disengage-
ment and deliberate political ignorance; constructive patriotism
correlates with gathering of information, striving for social
conclusions, and high levels of political involvement.
3) Blind patriotism is strongly connected with nationalism
and with a sense that the national security—indeed, the na-
tional culture itself—is at risk; constructive patriotism may put
national identity aside and even deny feelings of national supe-
4) Blind patriotism defines social attachment using a termi-
nology of genealogy and primordial origins generated within
the nation’s history; constructive patriotism forms social
boundaries through civic procedures and commonly shared
political structures.
Political Constructive Patriotism versus Moral
Constructive Patriotism
The nature of criticism that characterizes constructive patri-
otism is not entirely clear. On July 20th 1944 Ludwig Beck, a
former high ranked German general, led an unsuccessful plot
against Hitler. This was not the first time that he was involved
in a conspiracy against the Furher: a year before he led two
other abortive attempts to assassinate the Reichskantzler. In-
deed, ever since his demonstrative resignation from a leading
military position in 1938 Beck was pushing against the leader-
ship of the Third Reich, a struggle at the end of which he was
executed. Surely a German General who unlike many others
had opposed Hitler and had risked his life time and again to
overthrow the Nazi Regime could be counted as a German pa-
triot of the criticizing nature. Yet an additional inquiry into
Beck’s criticism reveals that he was mainly concerned with
military matters rather than moral issues: He resigned from the
army before World War II broke out because he believed that
the English and French response to Hitler’s conquest of
Czechoslovakia would lead to warfare that he thought the
Wermacht was incapable of coping with. Another leading par-
ticipant in the 1944 abortive putsch was Claus von Stauffenberg,
who unlike Beck had been deeply angered by the growing sys-
tematic maltreatment of Jews and suppression of religion by the
Third Reich (Shirer, 1964; Hoffmann, 1996). Both of these
German General demonstrated constructive patriotism, both of
them executed actions of utmost personal bravery, proving true
love for their country and people; but whereas Beck had criti-
cized Hitler for his policy von Stauffenberg had resented him
on moral grounds.
Picking a more recent example to illustrate this point, on July
6th 2003, four months after the invasion of Iraq began, a retired
diplomat of the United States Foreign Service, Joseph Wilson,
published an article in the New York Times titled “What I
Didn’t Find in Africa”. Wilson accounted his trip to Niger a
year before in which he was to inquire into whether or not
Saddam Hussein had purchased enriched uranium there. In the
New York Times publication Wilson accused President Bush of
exaggerating the Iraqi threat in order to justify war. Indeed, on
several occasions various officials in the Bush administration
admitted having based accusations of Iraqi leadership on faulty
intelligence and inaccurate information. Following Wilson’s
public announcements an intentional leak to the press exposed
Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA employee, a revelation
that ended her career (Wilson, 2005; Tenet, 2007). Was Joseph
Wilson a whistleblower, putting his reputation at risk and en-
dangering his wife’s career for the sake of truth? Was Wilson a
patriotic citizen unraveling in public how the Bush administra-
tion had pressed for war no matter what the facts had been?
This is one possibility supported by his autobiography. His
opponents, however, point out that Wilson had always been a
Democrat who resented the Republican administration and by
the time he presented his findings in public he was already an
active John Kerry supporter. Perhaps, then, the whole affair was
nothing but a case of a partisan trying to discredit his political
rivals in an election campaign? The Rashomon effect leaves us
with merely ambiguous answers so that the truth may remain
forever obscure. Nevertheless, even though in both versions a
loyal citizen publicly criticized his President for misleading the
people, for Wilson’s supporters he was a proper patriot while
for his adversaries he was nothing of the kind.
It follows that the distinction between two forms of patriot-
ism, blind and constructive, might not be enough, and it is
therefore suggested that cases of constructive patriotism be
sorted into two different groups
a) Political constructive patriotism: a patriotic action in
which criticism is involved yet is based on an underlying moti-
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
vation that has nothing to do with issues of ethics or morality.
b) Moral constructive patriotism: a patriotic action in which
criticism is involved, revealing passion for values of justice and
Background for the Case Studies
The two case studies that have been chosen for this research
are diverse ones, leaving little room for comparison: The
American 2003 invasion of Iraq and the Israeli 2006 war in
Lebanon. One is the case of a world superpower behaving like
the savior of Western culture with its troops acting thousands of
miles away from home; the other is a case of a small, yet pow-
erful, country adopting a narrative of struggling for its existence
against its enemies next door.
The American case of the 2003 war in Iraq is the case of a
democratic society experiencing large scale overseas fighting.
The war in Iraq, codenamed Operation Iraqi Freedom but per-
haps more often referred to as the Second Gulf War, began on
March 20, 2003, when a largely British and American force
supported by small contingents from Australia, Denmark and
Poland invaded Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s army was quickly
overwhelmed; on April 9th Baghdad fell to US forces; on April
13th Tikrit—Hussein’s hometown—was taken by the Marines;
by mid-April American infantrymen had seized the deserted
Baath Party ministries and coalition partners had claimed that
the war was effectively over. On May 1st 2003 President Bush
staged a dramatic visit to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln
where he announced that the war’s mission had been accom-
plished. By the end of this major combat phase, between March
20th 2003 and May 1st 2003, 139 American military personnel
had been killed as well as 33 British soldiers. On the Iraqi side
approximately 9000 combatants and 7300 civilians had been
The causes and consequences of the war remain controversial.
The basic grounds for invading Iraq as offered by President
Bush had been Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruc-
tion posing a threat to the United States and its allies. It has also
been claimed that Saddam Hussein had been collaborating with
the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. However, after the invasion no
evidence was found of either mass destruction weapons or sub-
stantial Al-Qaeda connections. The main American rationale
for launching the war has therefore faced heavy criticism from
an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside
the United States. Years after the successful invasion, all at-
tempts to restore order in Iraq have failed, a growing number of
coalition nations have withdrawn their troops, and many critics
rail against the high human and financial costs of the ongoing
war as well as its moral ramifications.
The Israeli case of the 2006 war in Lebanon enables us to
examine firsthand the reactions within a democratic society
conducting modern warfare close to its borders. Regarding
Israel as a case study has some important advantages, since
Israeli society has been going through certain processes exten-
sively that make it almost a living laboratory: Technological
development, changes towards a capitalistic market, large scale
absorption of immigrants and a constant war involving all lay-
ers of society—all these have the capacity to turn empirical
findings and conclusions into basic data for further comparative
studies (Rebhun & Waxman, 2003). War in Lebanon started on
July 12th 2006 when Hezbollah fired rockets and mortars at
Israeli border villages, diverting attention from one of its units
that had crossed the border, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and
killed three others. Israeli troops immediately attempted to
rescue the abducted soldiers but were unsuccessful, losing five
more soldiers. Israel responded with massive air strikes and
artillery fire on Lebanese targets, damaging mainly civilian
infrastructure. Hezbollah then launched more rockets into
northern Israel. Israel in turn increased the bombardment of
Lebanon and eventually invaded its southern parts. For over a
month Hezbollah hit Israeli cities time and again, and for the
first time in decades engaged the IDF in guerrilla warfare from
hardened positions inside Lebanon. The Israeli government had
declared that the object for entering the war was to retrieve the
abducted soldiers and to destroy the military capability of Hez-
bollah; however, cutting the losses led the Israeli administration
to approve a United Nations resolution, to agree to a ceasefire
and to withdraw all its forces from Lebanon before its an-
nounced goals could be achieved. During this war over a thou-
sand Lebanese civilians were killed and the estimate of Hez-
bollah’s losses reached several hundred warriors. On the Israeli
side 43 civilians and 119 soldiers were killed. The dispropor-
tionate death toll, however, should take into account the avail-
ability of warning systems and bomb shelters throughout
northern Israel and the fact that more than 350,000 of its in-
habitants had been evacuated.
Israeli political leadership has been insisting ever since the
war ended that the military operation altered the regional stra-
tegic balance and that the goals of war were successfully at-
tained. However, demobilized reserve soldiers, parents of sol-
diers killed in the fighting, and groups of citizens who demand
governmental accountability have conducted protests against
the Israeli political and military leadership. Unable to further
whitewash the many failures, the Israeli government has
formed an investigation commission headed by a retired judge,
whose announced mandate was to inquire into the authorities’
conduct before, during and in the aftermath of the war.
Research Conduct
The measurements that differentiate between forms of patri-
otism are not always crystal clear (Huddy & Khatib, 2007).
Notwithstanding these certain flaws, and considering criticism
to be the core characteristic of constructive patriotism, this
study seeks to examine which sort of patriotism prevails within
society during wartime; of special interest as well are the dif-
ferent variations of constructive patriotism.
Blind patriotism may be badly needed in order to enroll citi-
zens in an ongoing large scale operation, but what kind of con-
structive patriotism can be found in a recruited society? Would
it be political constructive patriotism nourished by skepticism
together with the growing costs of warfare, or should we expect
to find moral constructive patriotism fueled by scenes of horror
and human destruction?
In order to further inquire into the occurrence of patriotism, a
substantive content analysis was employed, surveying social
processes through commentaries in newspapers. The semiotic
approach that underlies this methodology facilitates a deep
understanding not only of the specific text under inquiry but
also of the social structures and institutions the text might rep-
resent (Slater, 1998; Jupp, 1996; Jupp & Norris, 1993). Inquiry
into the American case was made through the relevant issues of
The New York Times, referring to it as the largest metropolitan
newspaper in the United States and as an internationally dis-
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 109
tributed daily newspaper. Having won some 94 Pulitzer prizes
and having traditionally printed full transcripts of major debates,
the New York Times seems to need no additional advocacy as a
leading newspaper to be chosen for this research. The daily
issues that were picked for inquiry were those published during
the first phase of the war, from March 20th 2003 (the day the
invasion started) through May 2nd 2003 (one day after President
Bush’s declaration on board the Abraham Lincoln that the mis-
sion had been accomplished).
In order to inquire into the Israeli case, Haaretz Hebrew daily
newspaper was chosen as the best potential site for the expres-
sion of constructive patriotism because of its capacity for criti-
cism: Its political allegiance is that of liberal conservatism; it is
a strong supporter of territorial concessions in the context of
Israeli politics, yet it is open to a wide variety of political opin-
ions in its op-ed pages. The daily issues that have been picked
for inquiry are those published during the war, from July 13th
2006 (a day after the war broke out) through August 14th 2006
(one day after the ceasefire took place).
In both cases, that of the New York Times and that of
Haaretz, the text analysis concentrated on quotations of politi-
cal commentary, editorial annotations, and political or eco-
nomical columns from all the news desks. Once the relevant
articles were chosen, they were categorized into three signifi-
cant groups. Classifying the articles according to their meaning
in the context of patriotism allowed further comparison of texts
—qualitative and quantitative (Strauss & Corbin, 1998; Arsky
& Knight, 1999). The three categories and their subtexts ex-
tracted from the ar t icles are as fo llows.
1. Blind patriotism
a) Support of the political and military leadership. Major
themes in the American case: praising the Joint Forces Com-
mand and the way it led the war; strong belief in the abilities of
American military; justifying questioned military actions based
on the assumption that authorities know what they are doing
due to confidential intelligence.
Major themes in the Israeli case: calling for an annihilation
of the enemy; advising the government to hit the Hezbollah as
painfully as possible.
b) Support of fighting. Major themes in the American case:
condemning any protest or war objection as long as fighting
goes on; opposing any form of criticism and boycotting radio
stations, news networks and celebrities who criticize the war
openly; willingness to continue the war even if its prices rise.
Major themes in the Israeli case: scorning the media and
calling for its restraint; opposing any form of criticism; calls for
symbolic actions such as flying flags; encouraging the leader-
ship to continue even if the prices of war rise.
c) Moral and logical justification of the war. Major themes in
the American case: belief in the war’s goals of disarming Iraq
and transforming it into a democracy; comprehending war in
Iraq as part of a global battle against Al-Qaeda’s terror; per-
ceiving America’s international role as having to police the
world, pre-emptive strikes against totalitarian regimes being
just part of that role; stressing Saddam Hussein’s evilness and
comparing him to Hitler.
Major themes in the Israeli case: stating how the goal of
fighting was defending Israel; commenting on the high moral
spirits of the IDF; comparing the present confrontation to pre-
vious conflicts when Israel had been attacked.
2. Political constructive patriotism
a) Fear for the consequences of warfare. Major themes in
the American case: war in Iraq breeds terrorism and strengthens
Al-Qaeda’s recruiting abilities; more terror attacks on the US
are expected as one of the consequences of war; if the US turns
Iraq into a mess, the whole world will turn against America;
high levels of concern for the fate of close friends and rela-
tives who serve in Iraq.
Major themes in the Israeli case: Syria joining and fighting
alongside with the Hezbollah; the kidnapped Israeli soldiers
being harmed; destruction of future tourism in Israel; compari-
sons to the American experience in warfare such as Vietnam,
Somalia or Iraq.
b) Cost effect balancing. Major themes in the American case:
economic hardships and the financial costs of war; the costs of
war dictate unwanted priorities and neglect of serious American
welfare projects, as war drains resources from essential Ameri-
can institutions; disregarding international opinion and acting
unilaterally harms long-term US interests, since friends around
the world are being neglected, potential allies are being aban-
doned, and when Arab pride is being offended even moderate
countries such as Turkey turn against America.
Major themes in the Israeli case: weighing losses versus ac-
complishments; calling for additional long term political goals
beyond the ones the war may never achieve.
c) Disapproval of leadership. Major themes in the American
case: lack of belief in the war’s goals as promoted by the ad-
ministration, and a deep sense that the war is merely about
power and greed—private interests in the oil market, in selling
weapons, and in profiting from the construction of post-war
Iraq; proposing that the motivation for war lies in Bush’s per-
sonal psychological need to prove his ability to complete his
father’s mission; criticizing the strategy and military tactics of
American high command; skeptically viewing post-war policies
and futile attempts to restore order once the invasion turns into
Major themes in the Israeli case: condemning governmental
bureaucracy for its inability to properly cope with the situation;
expressing disappointment in army operations; criticizing mili-
tary and political leadership by pointing out their failures.
d) Lack of democratic procedures. This subtext is to be found
only in the American case, and its major themes are: there has
never been a declaration of war by the congress; no open debate
or dialogue has ever taken place and the elected leadership has
systematically ignored public opinion.
3. Moral constructive patriotism
a) Valuing peace. Major themes in the American case: war is
illegal and immoral, and therefore ought to be perceived as a
defeat for humanity; pre-emptive war in the name of peace
contains an inherent contradiction.
Major themes in the Israeli case: opposing the very act of
managing conflicts through violence; rejecting expressions of
belligerence and aggressiveness; accusing Israeli leadership of
b) In quest of justice. Major themes in the American case:
condemning death of innocent women and children; condemn-
ing violation of civic liberties; adapting a narrative according to
which America is the aggressor since Iraq had never intended to
attack the US nor had it ever posed a threat to international
peace and securi ty.
Major themes in the Israeli case: viewing the damage that Is-
rael has caused in Lebanon as immoral and disproportionate;
calling Israeli leadership to assist Lebanon in its rehabilitation.
c) Religious objection. This subtext is to be found only in the
American case, and its major theme is objecting to war
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
using religious terminology, such as claiming that war is op-
posed to Christianity or that any killing is against God’s will.
Screening the diverse articles in the New York Times issues
that had been published throughout the first phase of the 2003
war in Iraq, 284 relevant citations expressing different kinds of
patriotism have been found and reviewed. The quantitative
examination of the three categories of patriotism has revealed
the following proportions.
Blind patriotism: 87 citations, forming 30.6% of all the cho-
sen expressions.
Political constructive patriotism: 174 citations, forming
61.3% of all the chosen expressions.
Moral constructive patriotism: 23 citations, forming 8% of
all the chosen expressions.
Subtexts within each category in the American case have
been found to be as follows.
1. Blind patriotism
a) Support of the political and military leadership: 15 cita-
b) Support of fighting: 31 citations.
c) Moral and logical justification of the war: 41 citations.
2. Political constructive patriotism
a) Fear of the consequences of warfare: 22 citations.
b) Cost-effect balancing: 55 citations.
c) Disapproval of leadership: 80 citations.
d) Lack of democratic procedures: 17 citations.
3. Moral constructive patriotism
a) Valuing peace: 5 citations.
b) In quest of justice: 11 citations.
c) Religious objection: 7 citations.
Examining the varied articles in Haaretz issues that were
published throughout the 2006 war in Lebanon, 203 relevant
citations expressing different kinds of patriotism have been
located and reviewed. The quantitative examination of the three
categories of patriotism has uncovered the following propor-
Blind patriotism: 72 citations, forming 35% of all the chosen
Political constructive patriotism: 113 citations, forming 56%
of all the chosen expressions.
Moral constructive patriotism: 18 citations, forming 9% of
all the chosen expressions.
Subtexts within each category in the Israeli case have been
found to be as follows.
1. Blind patriotism
a) Support of the political and military leadership: 18 cita-
b) Support of fighting: 41 citations.
c) Moral and logical justification of the war: 13 citations.
2. Political constructive patriotism
a) Fear of the consequences of warfare: 11 citations.
b) Cost-effect balancing: 38 citations.
c) Disapproval of leadership: 64 citations.
3. Moral constructive patriotism
a) Valuing peace: 8 citations.
b) In quest of justice: 10 citations.
A comparative project, which is beyond the scope of this re-
search, may find various similarities as well as differences be-
tween the two chosen cases—the American and the Israeli pa-
triotic public expressions during warfare. However, above all—
the two diverse case studies are comparable in the sense that in
both of them the distribution of the types of patriotic expres-
sions resembles each other, creating a uniform pattern: The
investigation of the two diverse case studies shows that the
proportional differences between the types of patriotism are to
an extent consistent. In both cases, blind patriotism forms about
a third of the total number of articles that were reviewed. Con-
sidering the fact that all of the articles were published during
wartime, on the face of it one might find those occurrences of
blind patriotism to be quite few. However, since the focus of
this research was constructive patriotism, the choice was made
to deliberately explore newspapers that stand for criticism even
in times of emergency. Other newspapers, as well as public
polls, probably would have led to other results that are outside
the scope of this specific inquiry.
Within constructive patriotism, in both case studies appar-
ently only 12% - 14% of the cites have proved to be instances
of moral constructive patriotism, whereas the remaining 86% -
88% represent political constructive patriotism. The fact that
the vast majority of expressions are those of political construc-
tive patriotism leaves us with something to brood over: it seems
that constructive patriots are not necessarily as moral as they
might seem to be at first glance: 55% of the political construc-
tive patriotism cites in the American case and 56% of the po-
litical constructive patriotism cites in the Israeli case criticize
the way the leadership had run the war regardless of its moral
consequences (the American case includes, for that matter, 10%
of the political constructive patriotism cites that base their mis-
trust in the leadership on alleged non-democratic behavior).
About one third of the political constructive patriotism cites—
32% in the American case and 34% in the Israeli case—repre-
sent cost-effect arguments that are not necessarily connected
with any plea for ethics. The remaining 13% of the political
constructive patriotism cites in the American case and 10% in
the Israeli case represent no more than a selfish fear (although
in some cases a collective one) of the devastating results of the
fighting. These findings become even more disturbing when
data indicate that in fact it is blind patriotism that proves to be
based on moral grounds: 47% of blind patriotism cites in the
American case support the war using moral claims concerning
the justification of war; the Israeli case falls short with only
18% of blind patriotism cites that are supposed to be morally
supportive of the war. Could it be, then, that defenders of blind
patriotism are more concerned with ethics than those encour-
aging constructive patriotism? Before a positive answer to that
is hastily given, one should consider not only the number of
cites but also their content: In the American case some of the
expressions of blind patriotism’s support for fighting are, for
example, burning records of famous artists who have dared to
speak against the war, and in the Israeli case some of the argu-
ments for blind patriotism’s support for fighting are consist of
calls to teach the Arabs a lesson they would never forget—not
necessarily justifications founded on highly moral grounds.
Still, one can hardly ignore the fact that the claims for blind
patriotism searching for moral justification outnumber those of
constructive patriotism.
Poking and prodding into moral constructive patriotism re-
veals that a large majority of the citations representing moral
constructive patriotism indeed express upset over the moral
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 111
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
ramifications of war: 78% in the American case, counting the
religious opposition to war as an ethical one, and 56% in the
Israeli case. However, without under-evaluating the remaining
moral constructive patriotism cites that support peace as a state
of mind (22% in the American case and 44% in the Israeli case),
the meaning of this data is that the moral demand to take into
consideration basic human ethics forms as little as 6% at best
out of the entire number of cites, and no more than 16% of the
constructive patriotism cites. Overall, then, the figures point out
quite clearly that very much like blind patriotism, constructive
patriotism based on criticism of authority—namely political
constructive patriotism—might fail to be based on moral stan-
Much of the interpretation that lies at the core of this
research is debatable. One might argue, for example, that
opposing the war due to great concern for the fate of close
friends and relatives who serve in Iraq is an opposition based
on solid moral grounds and therefore should not necessarily be
counted as political constructive patriotism but rather as moral
constructive patriotism. To choose another example, one might
also see as moral constructive patriotism the objection to war
for fear of losing financial resources that were originally in-
tended for the war against poverty. These different interpreta-
tions are bound to lead to different analyses of the very same
data and therefore to different conclusions. Nevertheless, even
if the mathematics of a different understanding of data might
produce slightly different results from those presented in this
paper, surely the logic of this study remains clear and stable, at
least throughout the two chosen case studies: During wartime,
the vocabulary of constructive patriotism in democracy may
form a major component of patriotic expressions, yet moral and
ethical thought during wartime are unfortunately scarce—by
any measure, too scarce, even among the critics of violence.
During the final 10 days of the 2006 war the MLRS (Multi-
ple Launch Rocket System) was used to a great extent by Israeli
artillery forces. MLRS rockets are designed to burst into sub-
munitions in order to blanket enemy army and personnel on the
ground with smaller explosive rounds. The use of this weap-
onry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy; in order to
compensate for the inability to strike individual targets pre-
cisely, IDF units have “flooded” the battlefield with munitions:
as many as 1800 cluster bombs were launched, containing over
1.2 million cluster bomblets. The sub-munitions that had not
detonated on impact, estimated at 40% of those fired in Leba-
non, remained on the ground unexploded, effectively littering
the landscape with thousands of land mines which would con-
tinue to claim victims long after the war had ended (Tice, 2008).
Had any of the artillery commanders, who had proved them-
selves in Metulla to be constructive patriots, shot MLRS rock-
ets? Unfortunately the answer to that is most likely positive,
and for all we know none of them had ever objected to doing so
in real time. In the Metulla circles there has been much dismay
about the conduct of war, much criticism of military and civil-
ian leadership, but no claims against the moral implications of
having trigger-happily launched the MLRS sub-munitions. As
the comparative empiric data of this research reveal, Israeli
society is probably no better or worse than any other society
experiencing the stress of war. It is precisely for this reason that
the low levels of moral commitment among constructive patri-
ots should alarm worldwide advocates of democracy. The bitter
soldiers gathering in Metullah on August 14th 2006 were not
killers nor were they vicious bandits searching for revenge.
They were patriotic citizens who had been called for duty and
had willingly fought for their country; they were also involved
citizens demanding full answers from a leadership that they felt
had let them down. They were, according to this description,
constructive patriots criticizing the state. But as the casualties
of war prove—criticism is not enough.
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