A keystone of current thought about the Middle East, especially for supporters of Israel, is that the USA is always going to be there to support Israel. After it all, it has been true at least as far as anyone can remember. It is nobody's fault if most people have geopolitical Alzheimer's disease and can't remember what country got eaten for breakfast yesterday, can't remember the reign of Bush I when James Baker III said "F-ck the Jews, they didn't vote for us," and can't even remember the embargo on military spare parts that President Bush II imposed on Israel until the events of 9-11 made him look into that terrorism thing a bit more carefully.
The reality is that US support for Israel is rather tenuous. Outside the White House/Executive Office Building and the Congress, Israel has few friends in high places. The career diplomats of the State Department, those whom President Truman called "the striped pants boys," have never been pro-Israel or even neutral, and take little pains to hide it. The ranks of university Middle East experts, political science and international relations departments, are filled with many who whose career depends on friendly receptions in Arab lands, whose grant money may be paid from these same sources, and who are fairly open in expressing their opinions about Israel in a way that is pleasing to Arab ears.
We are not talking about professionals who are "objective" or "even-handed" or who support the peace process, but rather about those who throw all professionalism and objectivity to the winds in order to load the dice against Israel to satisfy their ethnic predispositions and career requirements. They produce the sort of rhetoric has to be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, it is all too often believed and often taken seriously in the most rarefied strata of academia and policy making.
A case in point is the recent "study" published by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and given in summary form as The Israel Lobby.
Mearsheimer and Walt are not minor academics at out of the way institutions. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the prestigious University of Chicago, and Walt is a professor of international affairs at the Kennedy school of government of Harvard Univerty.
I wrote "study" in quotes because it is obvious that Mearsheimer and Walt knew the conclusions before they began to write, and they culled all the propaganda of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs as well as Btselem and similar sources to support their conclusions. They tell their readers Israel is a costly and worthless liability on US policy, and the only reason the United States supports Israel is because of the "Israel Lobby" (read "Jewish Lobby").
They briefly rehash the standard litany of anti-Zionists - Israel costs $3 billion a year in US foreign aid and the US has had to veto many UN resolutions against Israel. They neglect to mention that Egypt gets $2 billion a year in foreign aid, or that the normal "peace time" arrangements for guarding America's Arab "allies" (remember where the 9-11 guys came from?) in the Gulf using the Seventh fleet and US troops costs about $10 billion a year. Then they state:
Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America's relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an Opec oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies.
It is now known that the oil embargo was agreed upon by Anwar Sadat and King Feisal on August 23, 1973, before the start of the Yom Kippur war (called the October War by Arab countries and these authors) and had nothing to do with the US resupply of Israel (see Yom Kippur War). This news has either failed to reach Harvard and Chicago Universities, or else the authors ignored it because it didn't suit the purpose of their study.
The professors then strike a low blow, relying in part on the geopolitical Alzheimer's disease of their readers:
The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden. The US could not use Israeli bases without rupturing the anti-Iraq coalition, and had to divert resources (e.g. Patriot missile batteries) to prevent Tel Aviv doing anything that might harm the alliance
against Saddam Hussein.
They forgot to mention that in 1981 Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor. At the time, the US was quite happy to have Iraq as an ally against Iran, following the advice of their Mearsheimers and their Walts, and was none too happy with the Israeli attack.
Had it not been for the Israeli raid, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait would have been backed by nuclear weapons and there would be nothing that anyone could do about it without risking a nuclear holocaust. That is one of many things accomplished by America's "worthless" ally. Of course, for the very reason that Walt and Mearsheimer mention - Arab opposition to Israel - it is forbidden to discuss any details of actual Israeli cooperation either in Desert Storm or the current Iraq war, and the authors know it. Therefore, it is easy to "prove" that Israel is a worthless ally. Even if it were so, what ally does the US have in the Middle East that is more worthwhile? How many troops did Egypt supply for the invasion of Iraq? Saudi Arabia? Turkey? Kuwait? It was all some of these countries could do to allow the US the favor of stationing her infidel troops on their soil in order so that American soldiers could have the privilege of defending their holy cities and holy oil wells.
However, implicit in the Walt and Mearsheimer exposition is something much more sinister. The implication of what they write is that would have been perfectly OK to abandon Israel totally to attack by Scud missiles, including possible use of chemical or biological agents, if it wasn't for the pesky "Israel lobby" and that Israel had no right to defend itself against these attacks because it would inconvenience the United States.
From the above, we understand that the authors aren't arguing for an even-handed policy as they pretend. For these people, Israel is totally expendable. Supporters of Israel need to internalize that lesson, because there are a lot of Walts and Mearsheimers out there, and there is no guarantee that they will never catch the ears of the policy makers.
Lee Smith has written an excellent and lighthearted blog on the Walt and Mearsheimer "study" which I reproduce in full below. However, for me as an Israeli there are a few important lessons that must be learned from Mearsheimer and Walt.
As noted, Mearsheimer and Walt may be both fools and knaves. They might have been a bit inebriated when they wrote their "study" as Lee Smith intimates. Nonetheless, they represent a considerable body of opinion. It is not unlikely that one day that opinion may prevail in Washington. We need to prepare for that day. They strike at two important weak points of Israeli policy and Israel-US relations. The first is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip, which Arab diplomacy has successfully used to increasingly isolate Israel and make it dependent on the US alone for diplomatic and military support. The second is the continuing Israeli dependence on US foreign aid and in particular foreign military aid. Foreign aid and military supplies are good levers for the US government as well as for Israel-bashers like Mearsheimer and Walt. Money is addictive. It creates a dependence both on the substance and on the supplier of that substance. Foreign technology and foreign weapons supplies are also addictive. They are cheaper than home manufacture, especially if some of the equipment is offered virtually for free from surplus stores. US military aid has caused Israel to gut its own military industries and the subcontractors who once supplied them, to the point where it is doubtful the IDF could do very much at all without United States equipment. It is not just sophisticated weapons such as jet fighters or helicopters that are supplied by the US, but the most mundane military necessities including rifles. We often cannot sell Israeli technology to foreign countries either, because it is partly developed in the USA. Technology is often partly developed in the USA because the agreements insist that the grant or loan money must be spent in the USA. Foreign aid to Israel is in effect a subsidy to US firms. On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent the US from selling Israeli developed radar to Arab countries it seems.
The US of course, was fully conscious of these realities when they offered the aid. The 1967 6-day war had created an inconvenient reality for the US: a regional power that was independent of the US. That is not a good thing for a world superpower to have to to deal with. It is much better to deal with a junior and very dependent ally, and that is what the foreign aid created.
Some day Israeli leaders will be wise enough to look the foreign aid peddler in the eye and "just say no."
A Place Called Saudi Arabia
(Double) Guest Entry by Lee Smith
I find it a little hard to believe Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's "The Israel Lobby" was written while sober. In their first sentence, the authors assert that, "For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel."
Pretty much any American who has ever been in a motorized vehicle knows that the centerpiece of US Middle Eastern policy is Washington's relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has been so since the mid-30s. It is a vital national interest – not just because cheap fuel permits Americans to drive SUVs, but because protecting the largest known oil-reserves in the world ensures a stable world economy. Moreover, the US military counts on access to that oil in the event it has to wage war – an activity that demands a lot of oil.
Walt and Mearsheimer's article explains how "the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics," which I agree with, because like many Americans I've ridden in a car before and I believe that the ability to get people and things from one place to another is a big part of successful domestic politics. It's not entirely clear that the authors of this really long article have ever been in a car before, because when they're talking about domestic politics, they're not talking about cars, or the economy or even our military, but "the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"
So, how much credit should these guys get for staking out a "realist" position on US Middle Eastern policy that does not account for the existence of cars, or something even bigger than a Hummer – the Arabian Peninsula? Unless they were drunk, they shouldn't get any at all. If they were drunk, kudos to them for no spelling mistakes! – none that I could find anyway. Maybe they were smoking some ace reef because Walt and Mearsheimer see spectacular forces at work everywhere in US regional policy – and a hangover would surely explain why they totally forgot about Saudi Arabia. Ouch! But that still doesn't make them realists, just big partiers who can type well when they're bombed.
If you're one of Walt or Mearsheimer's drinking buddies, or a bartender serving them, here's a quick quiz, with questions drawn from their article, so you know when to cut them off and send them home – but definitely not to write another article about Middle East affairs.
Discuss: "The first Gulf War revealed the extent to which Israel was becoming a strategic burden."
The first Gulf War, wherein roughly 500,000 US troops were committed to the Gulf to protect our friends in Kuwait and a country called Saudi Arabia, revealed that no matter how many arms we sold to our Gulf allies finally only real live US soldiers could protect them from predators. And yet in due course we also learned that while the Saudis could not protect their own oil, our protecting that oil further weakened the royal family and compromised their legitimacy, making them vulnerable to dangerous domestic forces – like Osama Bin Laden, for instance. Ruling over a country that cannot protect itself, or safely be protected, from foreign threats or its own citizens, a country whose wellbeing is a vital national interest makes the Saudi royal family the Liza Minnelli of "strategic burdens."
True or False. "As for so-called rogue states in the Middle East, they are not a dire threat to vital US interests, except inasmuch as they are a threat to Israel."
False. Israel has a strong military and a nuclear arsenal. Remember guys, the rationale of Zionism is not to control the media and send Christian boys to die in Jewish wars, but that the Jews would not ever again have to depend on the kindness of strangers to defend them, since they did not do so very adequately in the past – hence a powerful Jewish army is trained and equipped to defend Jews. Of course Israel is concerned about the prospects of an Iranian nuclear program, but not as much as our allies in the Gulf, who have neither strong militaries nor nuclear arsenals. A nuclear Iran is a threat to that big country in the desert named Saudi Arabia and other tiny sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf, and getting Gulf oil to market is a vital US interest.
Gut-check follow-up: Discuss: "Even if these states acquire nuclear weapons – which is obviously undesirable – neither America nor Israel could be blackmailed, because the blackmailer could not carry out the threat without suffering overwhelming retaliation."
Well, but what if an Iranian nuclear weapon emboldened the IRI to close the Straits of Hormuz? (That's a narrow body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located.) Could the US and its Gulf allies be blackmailed? Or do realists like you two believe that there is political will in Washington and other Western capitals to "retaliate overwhelmingly" against Tehran for closing shipping lanes?
True or False. "…Unwavering support for Israel … has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world."
True. Nice work, boys – this Goldschlager's on me. But just remember, guys, that those flames of anti-Americanism do not always issue from organic sources; often indeed they are fed by Arab regimes, including many of our allies in a place called Saudi Arabia. (What? Yes, Saudi Arabia is a dry country.) US taxpayers have spent a lot of money to protect the flow of oil over the last seven decades and ensure that the Saudi ruling family keeps collecting receipts. (Yes, just one family, Al Saud, with about 5000 princes on the pad. Yes, some of them drink when they're not in Saudi Arabia.) Sometimes that money is used to incite anti-American sentiment and fund terror operations against Americans and US interests abroad. Think this one over in the morning: Should we stop supporting Israel because that makes us hated by Arabs, or should we put more pressure on Arab allies like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who have institutionalized anti-US incitement at home in their press, schools and mosques, while also funding it lavishly abroad? OK, OK, think about it like this: Would you bag friend A if friend B was paying everyone he knew to spit in your face and kick your ass just because you were friends with friend A? Wrong answer and you can take my number out of your Palm Pilot.
True or False: "By contrast, pro-Arab interest groups, in so far as they exist at all, are weak, which makes the Israel Lobby's task even easier."
True – not. Psyche. Yeah, true if you exclude the obviously limited influence that oil companies have exercised in US policymaking over the last seventy years. And it's not just the oil companies doing Gulf bidding; virtually every American ambassador who's served in Riyadh winds up with a nice package to keep selling the Saudi line back in Washington. Yes, you're right, AIPAC's annual budget is a whopping $40 million dollars – or precisely equivalent to the private donation Saudi prince Walid Bin Talal recently gave to two US universities to start up Islamic centers. What? Come on Steve, he gave half of it to Harvard! OK, give me the car keys. The keys to the car, it's how you got here. In a car. It has four wheels and a motor. It runs on gas. Gas comes from a place called Saudi Arabia….
From - http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001090.html
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