… is from page 301 of the splendid 2007 collection of some of Joseph Epstein’s essays, In a Cardboard Belt! ; specifically, it’s from Epstein’s 2000 essay, in Commentary, entitled “Intellectuals, Public and Otherwise”:
Like the kibitzer, the intellectual stands at the rim of the game, risking nothing but his assertions. An American intellectual once announced to Edward Shils that, when it came to the politics of the state of Israel, he was of the war party. “Yes,” Shils said in reporting this conversation to me, “Israel will go to war, and he’ll go to the party.”
What fun it is to fiddle with the lives of strangers without ever having to risk anything substantive of your own!