The Rain On the Second Plane Falls Mainly on Martin Amis
Wieseltier himself is unlikely to have a great time at the after-party though, because he is not really our type of guy, having been an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War occupied the same position as Aaro on the subject of the Lebanon invasion, and in general a supporter of mindless belligerence as a strategy for US foreign policy.
But Is He Decent? I think no. We've discussed the issue of what it means to be Decent quite a lot (or at least it has been discussed in what I like to think of as AW's extended family). My own minor contribution to the debate has been the proposal that Decency is an aesthetic politics rather than anything else, and that appears to be what's at issue in the Wieseltier review.
Leon Wieseltier's own background here is pretty easy to summarise; he's a Yank leftie of the old school, he's deeply religious and he is an Israeli nationalist. The first is not particularly at issue here, the second I think explains his choice of target (Mart's book is chock full of saloon-bar atheism cropped from Hitch) and the third explains why he scores so many wounding hits.
I've argued here and elsewhere that Decent support for Israel is skin-deep; what I perhaps didn't notice enough is that in a lot of cases their support for America and Britain isn't much deeper when they are considered as actual countries rather than rhetorical devices. There is a strong analogy here to the strange views of the "pro-life" movement on contraception; since effective contraception is bound to reduce the number of abortions, one would have thought that someone who was genuinely anti-abortion would be massively in favour of the widespread distribution and publicising of contraception. But they're not, they're against it. And the reason for this is that they're not really "anti-abortion" - they're pro a particular and quite wide-ranging political agenda, and the question of abortion rights is simply the most politically relevant battleground for that agenda. The War on Terror plays a similar role in Decent politics.
Where Wieseltier differs with the Decents is that he seems to regard the War on Terror (in sense of the attempt to stop terrorists from destroying our way of life) as an object in itself, whereas if he were a true Decent, he'd know that this is only one theatre of the much wider Greatest Intellectual Struggle Of Our Time. Wieseltier thinks that the Muslims can believe what they like, as long as they don't bomb us and don't object overly much when we bomb them. Someone like Michael Gove or Mart or Hitch would of course vehemently disagree; they're damn well not allowed to believe just what they like; they're certainly not allowed to have an identity as Muslims and double triple not allowed to have a political agenda around that identity. This means that on such subjects as senselessly picking fights over headscarves, worrying oneself into a lather over demographics and ethnically profiling people at airports, someone like Wieseltier is more or less bound to end up on the opposite side of the fence from someone like Mart, even though in a lot of the rest of his politics he's one of their ain.
A similar analysis could be carried out in order to slide a Rizla between the Decent Left and ordinary neocons. Once more, the key distinction is between people who actually have an aim in the world and care about achieving it, versus people who fundamentally want to sit around knocking pud and loudly condemning things. Wieseltier thinks that Martin Amis is confused in regarding himself as being a literal soldier in the war against Islamism but it's not a confusion; it's a conscious choice to regard what's printed in the pages of the Guardian as being equal in importance with what happens on the streets of Basra.
And that's why it is that Wieseltier ends up saying "I have never before assented to so many of the principles of a book and found it so awful". The criticism here is not entirely unfamiliar to us here at Aaronovitch Watch; it's that of one who sees an important job being done very badly, set against the view apparently shared by both Amis and Aaro that the important thing to do is pick a wagon to jump on, and that subsequent carping about the driving is the sort of thing only a Guardianista would do.
Anyway, bruschettaboy sez; worth a read. Thanks Alex for the heads-up.
(Note: Of course, as pointed out in this piece at TPM, Wieseltier was one of Paul Berman's biggest boosters, so there is more than an element of pot and kettle here.
 There's really no point in euphemising this, although the ENGAGE tendency do tend to get very worked up indeed over "the age old anti-Semitic trope" of "divided loyalties". I am not accusing Wieseltier of treachery, duplicity, disloyalty or anything else; just noting that the national interest of the State of Israel is a political issue which is important to him, which it transparently is. The history is very unfortunate here, as accusations of divided loyalty have indeed been used in anti-Semitic purges, but at the end of the day there surely can't be much gain in pretending that Wieseltier doesn't have a deep and genuine commitment to the State of Israel, something which I very much doubt the man himself would deny.
 "Equal in importance" is the wrong phrase here, in a way. There's a sort of hallucinatory postmodernism to a lot of Decent thinking, in which the very concept of one thing being more important than another is deprivileged; Gerry Healy's funeral in 1998 is on an equal footing with the price of buns. Of course, this is part and parcel of the Decent retreat from reality - importance is only a concept that makes sense if you have limited resources, and in the purely intellectual world of condemnation and solidarity, there is no scarcity.