Monday, January 5, 2009

U.S.-Israeli Ties: Question Assumptions

EXCERPT: U.S.-Israeli ties are based on a series of linked assumptions that are accepted blindly by decision-makers and the public, exposing the people of both countries to extreme danger. Do the two countries have the same national interest? Does the Israeli elite's policy of "security through strength" provide security or foment hostility? The answers are not easy.

TEXT: Democracies only work when assumptions are questioned. The very foundation of democracy is informed public decision-making. It is time to examine the assumptions underlying U.S.-Israeli ties.

Michael Scheuer's recent remarks nicely open the debate:

The continued, automatic, and idiotic identification of U.S. national interests as identical with Israel's made by our bipartisan political elite, the media, and those U.S. citizens who prefer Israeli to American security is only earning Americans deeper hatred and more wars with Muslims.

Scheuer addresses a critical assumption underpinning U.S. foreign policy that is accepted without thought by most Americans and treated by politicians as a taboo.

The political elite that runs Israel wants very much for this issue to be overlooked and does everything it can to equate their own desires with the interests of Israel and the interests of Israel with the interests of the U.S. By referring to "Israel" rather than the "ruling elite of Israel," Scheuer has already fallen into the first trap of the Israeli elite.

The various factions of the ruling Israeli elite essentially all agree at present that Israel should seek security through strength. This is the first assumption that needs to be questioned. It is certainly correct that identification of U.S. interests with those of the ruling Israeli elite that advocates security through strength earns Americans "deeper hatred and more wars with Muslims." But that policy also earns Israelis deeper hatred and more wars. Whether or not a sincere effort to achieve a just peace might produce a different outcome is unknown. All the spin to the contrary notwithstanding, the fact is that it has never been tried.

I do not know if it has ever seriously been contemplated by those in power. I do not know if it would work. But to refuse even to think about it is simply irresponsible. Israeli behavior toward its neighbors is the tie that binds in the Mideast. One could, with Scheuer, advocate that Israel be sent packing. One could also consider the possibility of maintaining friendship and cooperation with the Israeli people provided that they elect a responsible, moderate regime willing to share the neighborhood with the neighbors.

The question of whether or not the U.S. should continue its alliance with Israel is certainly worthy of debate. The question of whether or not the current Israeli foreign policy actually enhances the security of the people of Israel also merits debate. Americans who claim to be concerned about the future of the Israeli people should start considering the implications, not just for Americans but also for Israelis, of the policy of "security through strength," which may sound nice but is in fact "security through MY strength and YOUR weakness." Long ago, a young fellow with a slingshot named David discredited that policy.
Impacts of alliance with Israel:
The impacts of having an alliance with Israel are vast and perhaps subtle...subtle enough so that composing a list would not be a bad place to start if one wants to understand the implications. For example:
The alliance pushes the U.S. into a position of hostility toward Iran that has nothing to do with Iranian behavior. Israel needs the support of Arab dictators; Mubarak's recent blatant anti-Palestinian behavior has underscored this relationship. There are a number of enticements that Israel can offer to persuade Arab dictators to adopt such an unpopular policy, but "we'll protect you from the Persian hordes (remember Cyrus the Great???)" is perhaps the most persuasive. To make this remotely plausible, Tel Aviv needs to get Washington to go along with the myth that a new Persian empire is about to emerge. Of course, no one can explain how the economic basket case that is Akhmadinejad's Iran, 1,000 miles away from the Mediterranian, could achieve this; no matter. Repeat a lie often enough...So Washington's alliance with Tel Aviv (not American support for the Israeli people--an entirely different matter, but Washington's support for the specific current Israeli policy of security through military domination) logically puts Washington in a position of needing to manufacture a crisis atmosphere with Tehran. This in turn strengthens Iranian extremists who for their own reasons want a crisis atmosphere with Washington, leading to a vicious cycle that is both hard to stop and highly dangerous. That atmosphere then complicates enormously all efforts to reach agreement on the wide range of bilateral issues: Persian Gulf security, Iraqi stability, Afghan stability, Baluchi stability, gas pipelines...
That is just one negative impact on U.S. national security resulting from Washington's decision to give blind support to Tel Aviv's current policy of "security" through overwhelming military superiority.

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