Israel: A Strategic Liability For The US?

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January 13, 2009 @ 16:34 UTC

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Egypt, Israel
International Relations, War & Conflict

Here is an interesting debate between National secuirty experts in the National Journal online, over whether or not Israel poses a startegic liability to the US in terms of global policy. For me it's interesting because middle-easterners always claim that the reason why they dislike the US foriegn policy is that it's Pro-Israel, which I am not so sure that it's even true, because a lot of the world hates america and they are neither arab nor muslim. So yeah, Israel as root-cause theory, doesn't really hold sway. But, to be fair, a lot of anti-americanism is generated and justified through America's implicit and unequivocal support to Israel, and to ignore that would be intellectually dishonest. Now, while I always regarded arab complaints regarding the close US ties with Israel as nothing more than whining, since they never really offerd themselves as an alternative US ally on the same level of Israel's and their almost 100% all the time backing of the US, the question that gets offerd here is this: Just because someone supports you verbally all the time, does that mean you always have to protect them, no matter how much trouble they get you in? In other words, using a really cold cost-benefit-analysis approach, are the benefits of the US-Israel alliance worth the drawbacks?

Well, 10 people weighed in, and many of them did a whole "the cultural, political and spirtual ties" argument to justify supporting the alliance, but the only real cold analysis of the alliance came, interestingly enough, from two voices who thought such an alliance is not worth its trouble. First there is Michael Sheuer:

Israel is not only an unnecessary and self-made liability for the United States, it is an untreated and spreading cancer on our domestic politics, foreign policy, and national security.  America has no genuine national security interests at stake in either Israel or Palestine; if they both disappeared tomorrow the welfare of Americans and the security of their country would not be impacted a lick. The Arab-Israeli religious war is a war that properly belongs solely to Israelis and Arabs; let them fight each other to the death with no interference in favor of either side from the United States. 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. There is no question that Israel has every right in the world to militarily defend itself to whatever extent it deems necessary, but neither Israel, the United States, nor any other nation has a "right" to exist. Nation-states survive if they can vanquish their enemies. The democratically elected Israeli govermment is right to try to vanquish Hamas; and the democratically elected Hamas regime has every right to try do the same to Israel. The point to keep squarely in view is that it does not matter to America's security who emerges the winner. 

And the other opinion comes from the previous principal officer in the US military intelligence relationship with Israel, and he had this to say:

It is not possible to "set aside the emotional and religious anchors of the US-Israel alliance." Those are the principal bases of the alliance. Israel’s welfare is a self assigned interest of the United States. That does not make that interest less real, but it renders the interest a "duty" of a spiritual and moral nature rather than the kind of thing that a British PM meant in the 19th century when he supposedly said that "countries do not have friends or enemies. They have interests." That kind of interest confers an advantage militarily, economically, geographically or in some other material way. The US interest in Israel’s welfare does none of those things and it costs a lot of money. The Israelis have been careful to separate "things" into neat groupings. They have operated on the basis that their things are their things and US things are their things. I was the principal officer in the US military intelligence relationship with Israel for many years. That was how the relationship worked. It was not a truly two-sided arrangement. The products of Israeli intelligence are sometimes valuable but often do not reach the standard of the legend concerning them. The reverse is not true. US military operations have not been benefited by the relationship with Israel. Israel does not want to be a military client of the United States. Our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been based in or logistically supported from Israel. Israel has never functioned as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" for the United States and it does not wish to do so. Aside from providing useful liberty ports for the Sixth Fleet’s sailors and marines, and an occasional venue for small military maneuvers, it is hard to see what Israel does for the US in the military field that is worth the trouble that the relationship causes diplomatically with the surrounding states. Israel does not contribute to the well being of the US economy. In fact, in many high tech fields Israeli companies are competitors of American companies. I will not dwell excessively on the USS Liberty and Pollard incidents. Those events speak for themselves and most Americans have long ago forgiven the offenses and chosen to forget.

No, in the end, the US/Israel alliance is an affair of the heart. Such affairs are not to be analyzed too closely on the basis of mere material interests.

What do you think?

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