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04 August 2006

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jonst

Wow! The 'cause' seems to be losing the good (but constantly wrong)Doctor K on the same day that Friedman caved. This will get some idiot tongues wagging on the Sunday talk shows. That Doctor K even posed the question speaks volumes.

zanzibar

What is Israel's value to the United States as an ally? - PL

This is a crucial question along with a broader question of what are the US interests in the Middle East and is our total and exclusive allegiance to Israel in our national interest?

Does the US interest in the Middle East require stable societies there or are "dictatorships" that are aligned with the US sufficient? Would it be in the US interest to develop a "detente" with the Islamic political forces that are becoming more ascendant in the Middle East? Is it in the US national interest to recognize sovereignty of the current Middle Eastern states in the spirit of Westphalia and let them find their own political "stability"? Is it in the US national interest to work with Middle Eastern political forces to isolate and marginalize the jihadists? Is it in the interest of the US to be an "honest broker" bringing all sides together in a settlement of the Palestinian co-existence?

What would a Middle East policy look like that places primacy on US national interest?

W. Patrick Lang

zanji

The previous "unspeakable" regimes, Egypt, etc. have been very stabe. pl

zanzibar

PL

Yes, the regimes in Egypt, Saudi, etc have been stable. And so was Saddam's Iraq until we embarked on the neocon project. And one could argue so is Iran's theocracy.

I really hope we can have a serious debate about our national interests in the Middle East and what our policy ought to be that furthers those interests. And a question that needs to be answered is does our national interest diverge from Israel's interests or are they always synonymous. In our current political climate we can't seem to have this discussion.

ali

Is Israel a useful ally?

As an economic partner surely, Israel has a small but vigorous economy and the US defense industry is indirectly subsidized by DC’s largesse in aide to Israel.

I can’t recall it ever being significantly useful to DC in warfare, even in the Cold War as strategic partner Turkey and Persia were far more useful. Bearing in mind that DC’s practical interests lie in maintaining the Saudi Kingship and controlling the Persian Gulf it’s hard to see what DC is getting back.

Israeli commentators have said that perhaps Israel offers and easily marketable excuse for DC pursuing obviously self interested policies that would otherwise be distasteful to the rather prissy yank in the street. I think not; it’s sentiment.

A while ago I was reading The Boys Crusade. One thing was particularly striking in this book, the extreme reluctance and puzzlement that many Americans felt after being embroiled in a bloody war in Europe by FDR. Their experience was finally validated discovery of the death camps. WWII became an obviously good war and the grand US sacrifice was justified. The creation of Israel followed. A factor in America’s affection Israel is probably pride in sacrifice as well as guilt. Placing the Holocaust museum next to the Vietnam wall and the Lincoln memorial is telling.

zanzibar

Looks like our "new" Middle East ally is still in the throes of "birth pangs"??

100,000 March Against US and Israel in Baghdad

Crowds of al-Sadr supporters from across Iraq's Shiite heartland converged on the capital's Sadr City district, chanting "Death to Israel, Death to America" in the biggest pro-Hezbollah rally since the conflict began July 12.

Demonstrators, wearing white shrouds symbolizing willingness to die for Hezbollah, waved the guerrillas' banner and chanted slogans in support of their leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

"Allah, Allah, give victory to Hassan Nasrallah," the crowd chanted before burning Israeli and American flags.

(snip)

Support for Hezbollah has spread among Sunnis, despite tensions between the sects over Iraq and the rise of Shiite-dominated Iran.

Arab League Spokesman Hesham Youssef said in Cairo an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers would be held in Beirut on Monday "as a way to express the Arabs' solidarity with the Lebanese people, of which they will discuss the standoff in Lebanon."

During Friday prayers at the Tarek bin Zayed mosque in Bahrain, Sunni preacher Sheik Salah al-Jodar warned against edicts opposing Hezbollah.

Such fatwas are "only benefiting the Zionist entity. ... The ones who are resisting are the Lebanese people and we have to support them," he said.

Peter

zanzi

US national interests, being a nation of capitalism I'd say, would certainly be monetary interests, that is, profit.

It would make more sense to have non-democratic regimes in charge of the Middle East if you want to increase profit. In a democratic regime where the people control their resources and 'destiny' so to say, they would allocate their resources to themselves no doubt. If it's non-democratic then the US would have a chance to be the ones in control to some extent, and be able to allocate the resources to themselves.

At least that's my layman's analysis.

ats

Saying Israel is a foreign policy "investment" is the least of it. Israel has been the largest recipient of foreign aid for nigh onto forever, despite having a per capita income that is at the European level. Ah, but the second largest benificiary (as Krauthammer would quickly add) is Egypt--though he'd not mention that this is a bribe to leave Israel alone,
Then there is the intel cost, where our client state routinely spies on us with our own money.
And finally there is the diplomatic cost, where we alone vote with Israel on countless UN issues.
Finally, even all this might be tolerable if the expanding settlements in the West Bank weren't making any solution impossible.
There is scarcely a Senator or Congressman who doesn't know this full well, but they are cowed into silence. Walt and Miersheimer were skewered for showing how, but now the coverage of Lebanon leaves no doubt.

pbrownlee

Any possibility of the United States being an "honest broker" in the Middle East for the foreseeable future is exceedingly remote.

"If there's a starting point for George W. Bush's attachment to Israel, it's the day in late 1998 when he stood on the hilltop where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and, eyes brimming with tears, read aloud from his favorite hymn, 'Amazing Grace'.

"He was very emotional. It was a tear-filled experience,' said Matthew Brooks, a prominent Jewish Republican who escorted Bush, then governor of Texas, and three other GOP governors on the Middle East visit. 'He brought Israel back home with him in his heart. I think he came away profoundly moved.'

"Eight years later, Bush is living up to his reputation as the most pro-Israel president ever. As Israel's military action in Lebanon heads into its fourth week, the president is standing firm against growing international pressure for an immediate cease-fire.

"His stance has alienated European allies and fueled anti-American sentiment in the Arab world, but Brooks and other pro-Israel activists couldn't be more pleased.

"He is not only the most pro-Israel president, he's redefined what it means to be pro-Israel,' said Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. 'People used to talk about 'ending the cycle of violence'. He doesn't do that. He understands that it is not a cycle of violence when you defend yourself'.

"Former White House aides and Republican insiders say the president's stalwart support for the Jewish state is an alliance born of emotion, personal ties and the searing experience of Sept. 11, 2001.

"His tutorial on Middle East policy began with his 1998 trip, a whirlwind tour that established some personal ties that would become far more significant later. He met Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, now Israel's prime minister, and he took a helicopter tour with then-Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon.

"It's interesting how history works, isn't it?' Bush mused in a 2005 speech. 'The future president of the United States and the future prime minister of Israel were flying across that country, with him describing to me how to keep Israel secure.'

(Apologies for the long quote but one gets the idea that policy flexibility -- like failure -- is "not an option". There is more similarly over-wrought stuff at http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/15191004.htm )

It is not easy to see where the national interests of the United States or Israel or anyone else fit in this apocalyptic treacle. I assume the Bush administration will yet again manage to snatch catastrophe from the jaws of difficulty.

Amazing? Yes, indeed.

Grace?????

Green Zone Cafe

It seems to me to be counterproductive to launch this offensive in Lebanon at a delicate time with a new government in Iraq, viz. the thousands out demonstrating in Baghdad today, but that is my bias towards seeing things through the Iraq prism.

I would think the better course, if Israel felt compelled to do this, would be to give the US and the new Iraqi government a few more months before unleasing an apocalypse.

The incomparable realist William Pfaff had some things to say on the subject of the effectiveness and potency of Israel's offensive:

Olmert’s government is telling the American press that the operation can even now be construed as a victory, because it has sent “a clear message” to the Palestinians as well as “Hezbollah and its sponsors, Syria and Iran” that future attacks on Israel would again be met “with overwhelming force, and that the cost is not worth the adventure.” Everyone knows, he implied, that the only thing Arabs understand is force.
This was the same message sent in the same way to Israel’s Arab enemies in 1967, 1973, 1982, 1993, 1996, during the two intifadas, and in numerous individual retaliatory rocket attacks and “targeted killings.” It has yet to deter the country’s enemies.
No one seems capable of acknowledging that Hezbollah, like Hamas, is not the agent of a vast conspiracy intent on bringing down western civilization, but a violent nationalist resistance movement, imbedded in a population committed to its cause, and cannot be “eliminated” or defeated in the way that regular Arab armies were routed in the 1948 and subsequent Arab-Israeli wars.
One would think that at least the Israeli military would have grasped the last point as a result of their own unhappy 22-year experience with Hezbollah, during a previous attempt to maintain a “zone of protection” in Lebanon. It ended in ignominious Israeli withdrawal in 2000, claimed by Hezbollah as victory.
These promises of “eliminated” enemies, or delivery of “clear messages” able to deter all future attack, seem to demonstrate that illusion if not delusion prevails in at least one ruling faction of Israeli government and politics, and possibly in the defense forces. What they really suggest is that it is the Israelis who only understand force. If so, it is a very serious matter for the Israelis, because their own power in the Middle East, like that of their American ally, has peaked, and is now diminishing. And in the United States, this is beginning to be perceived.

http://www.williampfaff.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=146

Babak Makkinejad

zanzibar:

My impression is that US policy in ME is to be the hegemon of the Persian Gulf and keep Israel as the hegemon of the Levant.

Furthermore, I suspect that US is willing to go to extraordianry lengths to achieve those aims (hwoever misguided).

If the present trends continue, Medium to long term (greater than 5 years) I cannot see any state actor in the Middle East -including US- that will could be called a "winner".

Just my opinion.

Carroll

Frankly I feel no guilt about the holocaust and no one that I have ever spoken to in the US does either. There were over 50 million people killed in that war and only the people who are actually responsible for the holocaust are guilty.

And after years of trying to ferret out Israel's value to the US I still have found none whatsoever....except perhaps the financial benefit to the weapons industry and congressional campaign coffers.

My vote?...cut Israel loose unless you want to go down with them.

USA/Isr vr. the Rest of the World?...we will definitely lose that war.

julie putam

If the goal is to break Hezbollah then Israel must stay and fight.

The closing of the borders will continue and as tensions increase among the people, weapons will mysteriously appear among certain sectors, predominantly Christian.

There does seem to be pressure from the "neoconservatives" on Israel to be more aggressive.

Mr.Murder

Strategic ally?

A half dozen mossad agents celebrating the twin towers' fall.

Who am I going to believe, an estimate's conclusion, or my lying eyes?
Remember the Franklin.

Ghostman

I sometimes play an overly simple mental game: what if Nation "X" ceases to exist via nuclear holocaust? What damage to USA economy and national security? And so:
Israel: it's nuked. Gone. Damage to USA? I must answer very little. A few lost defense contracts. About it.
Saudi Arabia: it's nuked. Gone. Damage to USA? I must answer horrific damage to economy and security. And within 30 days or less. That tells me something in relation to the questions posed. [before anyone misunderstands, I do NOT advocate such horror for any nation or it's people]

I'm still struggling with whatever Israel's grand vision must be in this conflict. Israel says it wants to eliminate Hizbollah. How? Do "hizbollians" run around with a big "H" in tatoo on their chest? Amongst the hundreds of villages and towns thru S. Lebanon....who is Hizb militia? Who is not? Is it "Grandpa"? How about "Uncle Joe" over yonder? Who?

I believe that Israel has made a horrible judgment error and with little way to smartly extricate itself; especially over a longer timeline.

Ghostman

John in LA

I've never understood this notion of Israel as an "ally". They've never fought with us, anywhere. They aren't a member of any military alliance structure (NATO etc.)

They are ruining our relationship with the Arabs, they spy on us, steal our technology.

What has this tiny country ever done for us? I'm sorry. I would defy anyone to find anything.

This notion that Americans feel guilt for what took place 60 years ago in Eastern Europe seems very strange. Jews in America are wildly succesful. What in the world does the United States have to feel guilty about?

And now Israel has decided to commit suicide (guess what, Hizbullah and Al Qaeda get network-centric warfare a lot better than does the US DOD) and they're trying to drag us down with them.

When Iran unleashes a rain of simple unguided Scuds or whatever onto Saudi Arabia's oil fields, the spot price of oil will go over $250. What are we going to do then?

Just look at a map -- Iran looks 5 times the size of Iraq. Look at southern Lebanon -- it's the size of Rhode Island and the IDF can't supress it. Look at Iraq's Sunni triangle - same deal.

I hate almost everything about these Islamo-fascists. And I hate Israel and the NeoCons because they are doing everything they possibly can to hand the Middle East to them.

And I feel really sad to know that the President is proud to be an idiot that doesn't read the newspaper.

This is going to end badly.

Sonoma

Israel possesses nuclear weaponery. Their strategic imperatives are their own.

I believe the political leadership of the United States Big Lied this nation into unleashing war upon Iraq. They are capable of any other crime; or, if you must, of any other egregious misjudgement. And, as Colonel Lang will attest, our military will follow the orders of its civilian leadership.

It requires no daring to think the unthinkable.

confusedponderer

I guess that Israel would be forced to make a much more pragmatic stance vis a vis the Arab world, if they couldn't take a US veto at the UN, and intense political support in the US for granted.

But maybe it's too late for that. The serving administration put aside -- in the US in general I don't see a political climate to make this happen, if the hatchet jobs on Walt and Mearsheimer are any indication.

confusedponderer

Second point: Yesterday I read an article on www.salon.com that claimed that by encouraging Israel for this recent escalation, the neocons are still working on implementing their 'clean break', in a second attempt.

Their plan was not accepted by Barak at the time (can't blame him), but after 911 the neocons wanted the US to try it. They wanted to blitz via Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut, change the Middle East, make Israel safe and impose a 'Siegfrieden' on the defeated Arabs that would end the Middle East conundrum forever. After that, next stops Teheran and Riad. Ambitious folk.

It didn't quite turn out that way. With the US armed forces stalled in Iraq, it seems they are now trying to make Israel complete thier scenario - even though I doubt that they will attack Syria. Neocon support for Israel's war is palpable. IIRC William Krystol spoke about it as 'our war', that is Israel's and America's war. Even more surprising to me is Krauthammer's scepticism.

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but true or not, it's plausible. So, for what it's worth:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2006/08/03/mideast/index_np.html

Dimitar Vesselinov

ISRAEL'S PECULIAR POSITION by Eric Hoffer (LA Times 5/26/68)

"The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.

Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese-and no one says a word about refugees.

But in the case of Israel the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace .

Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world. Other nations when they are defeated survive and recover but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed. Had Nasser triumphed last June [1967] he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews. No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own, is worth the paper it is written on.

There is a cry of outrage all over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Blacks are executed in Rhodesia. But when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one remonstrated with him. The Swedes, who are ready to break off diplomatic relations with America because of what we do in Vietnam, did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway.

The Jews are alone in the world. If Israel survives, it will be solely because of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources. Yet at this moment Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally. We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us. And one has only to imagine what would have happened last summer [1967] had the Arabs and their Russian backers won the war to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general."
http://sixkidsandafulltimejob.blogspot.com/2006/08/more-things-change.html

avedis

Clearly the current US arrangement with Israel is materially beneficial to a very narrow segment of US interests; the military industrial complex. And, of course, this narrow segment wields a disproportionately large amount of power in Washington.

I would think the diminishing of our support for Israel - if we were to undertake such a policy course - would have to involve a concurrent (and proportional) enhancement of support for some other state(s) such that Raytheon et al suffer no damage to their bottom lines. Who could those new recipients be?

However, as has already been noted here, what allows the M.I.C. to enjoy Israel as a major profitable customer is a more general American support based on ideology. Israel is simply seen by too many Americans as valuable in being a Judeo-Christian/capitalist outpost on the heathen frontier.

This is primarily a religious and race issue. Consider a wild hypothetical; If it was calculated that throwing in support with various Arab/Persian groups as opposed to Israel yielded a far greater net benefit to the US and that US foreign policy should be completely turned on its head as a result, could we do it? Could a US president publicly enjoy a close relationship with Islamic leaders? Could he support Islamic causes?

I doubt it.

Sometimes I force myself to ponder whether there is more to Bin Laden's rhetoric about "crusaders" than we wish to accept. Not that this excuses Bin Laden, but it could explain his appeal.

Green Zone Cafe

An interesting article in Haaretz about how U.S. neocon madmen are a danger to Israel:

Disentangling Israeli interests from the rubble of neocon "creative destruction" in the Middle East has become an urgent challenge for Israeli policy-makers. An America that seeks to reshape the region through an unsophisticated mixture of bombs and ballots, devoid of local contextual understanding, alliance-building or redressing of grievances, ultimately undermines both itself and Israel. The sight this week of Secretary of State Rice homeward bound, unable to touch down in any Arab capital, should have a sobering effect in Washington and Jerusalem.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/746312.html

Montag

Machiavelli was right on the mark in "The Prince:"

"Auxiliary forces--the other kind of useless troops--are those supplied by a foreign power which has been called upon for assistance. . . Such forces may be useful and trustworthy in pursuit of their own interests, but they are almost always disastrous to the one who borrows them; for if they are defeated, he is ruined; and if they are victorious, he becomes their prisoner. . . Anyone wishing to be incapable of victory, therefore, may use troops of this kind, for they are more dangerous than mercenaries. With them ruin is assured."

Leave it to the Maestro!

cynic librarian

Am I right in detecting some irony in Pat's response? That is, with all the talk about the Israel Lobby and the neocon influence in Washington, is Pat asking here whether the Lobby should show exactly how it is that Israel and US interests intersect?

confusedponderer

Dimitar,
'the Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman.'

Well, you picked some nice company then ... It's just a little bit of ethnic cleansing, no big deal ... 'The other ones did that too, and got away' didn't help me in school. Teacher's reply on that was usually along the line: 'Ah, but justifying yourself as you are you seem to have a hunch it wasn't right?' In real life there of course is no teacher and wrongdoers tend to get away when they are only strong enough.

I know people who have been displaced by Russians, Czecks. They had been forced to accept it because their countries had been defeated. An aunt of mine spent some 10 years in a siberian coalmine, forced labor. She was just too tired to be angry about it. She only remarked that the lifes of the russians there sucked too. These people had no choice but to accept it after that 'zero hour'.

Personally I have a hard time to understand why and how a Jew has a better right to live in Jerusalem than an Arab. When Jewish settlers came they took land where Arab sheperds used to herd their cattle for a couple of centuries - that Jews had lived there some 5000, 4000, 3000, 2000 years before is pretty much beside the point for the people they drove away. The new state of Israel was founded under great sacrifices, but sadly at someone elses expense.
The tale of injustice done to Arabs in Palestine by Israel is the founding narrative of the Palestinian people. By pummeling on, Israel will only perpetuate it. So the only way out with the approach you seem to imply is to break them. Did I get that right?

Forcing the Arabs to finally accept Jewish resettling of the holy land would require exactly what? That show of force that'll eventually teach'em to suck it up forever? Think about nuking, depopulating, razing anything in particular?

That's this elephant in the room you're persistently refusing to adress.

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