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November 22, 2014 / 29 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘nixon’

Obama Limiting US-Israel Security Cooperation?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Shared values and democratic systems count for a lot in the political world — and they can advance military cooperation — but national security interests can evolve without them. No one would mistake Saudi Arabia or Bahrain for a country that shares American values, yet the U.S. Central Command works closely and cooperatively with both.

Israel shares American values in many ways, but a shared security outlook is something else, hinging on threat perceptions that may no longer be coincident.

Vice President Biden took to the stage at AIPAC this week to promote U.S.-Israel security relations. His emphasis on American support for Israel’s missile defense program is the coin of the realm – first because it is true and second because Israel’s enemies have missiles.

But security relations have undergone a subtle, negative change in the past four years.

The Obama administration has been willing to be Israel’s protector, patron to a client, or parent to a child. This patronizing attitude is reflected in the President’s assertion that Israel’s democratically elected leaders “don’t know what’s in their own best interest” and Vice President Biden’s comment that President Obama wants to hear from “regular Israelis” on his upcoming trip, suggesting that what he hears from Prime Minister Netanyahu would be disputed by Israel’s citizenry. The administration is less willing to be Israel’s partner in addressing common threats, including terrorism and the rise of radical Islam. And there has been a limit to consultation and cooperation on Iran. On occasion, the U.S. adds to Israel’s problems by allowing Israel to bear the brunt of the world’s disapprobation at the U.N.

Israel’s first strategic allies were France and Great Britain. The U.S. was sympathetic to Israel’s plight as small and vulnerable to threats from combinations of Arab states, but except for a desire not to have socialist Israel in the pro-Soviet camp and the 1956 Eisenhower outburst, the U.S. was uninvolved in Israeli security. President Johnson declined to be of assistance to Israel in the Six Day War.

Presidents Nixon and Reagan saw Israel in the Cold War context. Nixon stood with Israel as a defensive measure against the Soviet Union in 1973. Reagan opened “strategic cooperation” as a forward step in a plan to defeat the USSR. His idea of ballistic missile defenses was matched by Israeli innovation in the field; the result was tremendous advancement and in-depth cooperation.

At the end of the Cold War, President Clinton called for “capabilities based” defense to cover contingencies rather than specific enemies. Israel was well placed to continue to work with the United States and provide technological capabilities and test beds. Israel established warm relations with some of the newest NATO members, Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as with Bulgaria and Romania.

After 9-11, President Bush’s formulation of a “war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them” resonated fully with Israel, and there was increased closeness and cooperation on perceived regional threats. But congruity of interests is never total. When American and Israeli positions on Iran diverged (about 2007), President Bush refused Israel weapons that could be used against Iran.

When the Obama Administration redefined the wars in which the United States is engaged, the words “Islamic” or “Muslim” terrorism and radical Islam were shelved in favor of more neutral appellations. In his Cairo address, President Obama sought to establish “mutual respect” between the West and the “Muslim world,” and he accepted the view that policies of the West were partly responsible for the antagonism of Muslims toward the United States. He called Israel’s independence a response to the Holocaust — a charge that fed into the Arab complaint that Israel was foisted on the region by guilty Europeans rather than by being a legitimate and permanent part of the region.

Without commenting on the approach itself, it should be noted that the independence of and continuing support for Israel is, by the definition of its enemies, part of what the West did and does that creates antagonism in the “Muslim world.” And for those who believe, as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said, that terrorists are created as a reaction to Western provocation, support for Israel is precisely such a provocation.

In terms of military cooperation, then, the President’s formulation reduced the ability of Israel to have equal stature with the United States in a regional mission.

The ‘Imperialist Tool’ of the Middle East

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Let’s examine claims from the radical academia currently hegemonic in North America and Europe. What is fascinating is that a well-informed observer can easily demolish such claims. That’s precisely why such people are not being trained today and well-informed people are discredited or ignored to keep students (and the general public) relatively ignorant.

To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous statement, those who fail to learn from history make fun of those who do.

I know that the situation has become far worse in recent years, having vivid memories of how my two main Middle East studies professors—both Arabs, both anti-Israel, and one of them a self-professed Marxist—had contempt for Edward Said and the then new, radical approach to the subject. At one graduate seminar, the students–every single one of them hostile to Israel but not, as today is often the case, toward America–literally broke up in laughter pointing out the fallacies in Said’s Orientalism. Today, no one would dare talk that way, it would be almost heresy.

Let me now take a single example of the radical approach so common today and briefly explain how off-base it is. I won’t provide detailed documentation here but could easily do so.

The question is: Who in the Middle East was the tool of imperialism? Most likely the professors and their students, at least their graduate student acolytes, would respond: Israel. Not at all.

Before and During World War One era. It can be easily documented that the French subsidized and encouraged Arab nationalism before the war. During it the British took over, sponsoring the Arab nationalist revolt against the Ottoman Empire. Before the war, Islamism was sponsored by the Ottoman Empire in order to keep control over the region and battle Arab nationalism. For their part, the Germans sided with the Ottomans and encouraged Islamism.

What about Zionism? The British did not issue the Balfour Declaration, supporting a Jewish national home, because they saw Zionism as a useful tool in their long-term Middle East policy. In fact, they were interested in the wartime mobilizing Jewish support elsewhere, specifically to get American Jews to support the United States entering the war on Britain’s side and Russian Jews in keeping that country in the war. Both efforts did not have much effect. At any rate, long-term British policy always saw maximizing Arab support as its priority.

Post-World War One. While having promised Jews a national home, British policy soon turned away from supporting Zionism and certainly from backing a Jewish state, even by the early 1920s, realizing that having the Arabs as clients was a far more valuable prize. It was through local Arab elites that the British built their imperial position in the region. The French toyed a bit with Arab nationalism as a way to undermine British rule but also backed Arab elites. The new Soviet Union actually sponsored Islamism for several years as a way of undermining both British and French in the region.

The only exception was T.E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) and a few other visionaries who thought that both Arab nationalism and Zionism could co-exist under British sponsorship. That concept didn’t last very long and had no policy influence beyond the early 1920s at most.

Before and During World War Two. Realizing that it needed Arab support to fight in the coming war, the British followed an appeasement policy that was quite willing to sacrifice the Jews for Arab help—or at least non-interference—in the battle. If the Arab side had cooperated with these pre-war plans, Arab Palestine might have emerged in 1948, with the Jews driven out or massacred shortly after.

Instead, the radical Arabs—both nationalists and Islamists—made a deal with the Axis. Germany and Italy supported these forces in order to destroy the British and French position in the region, just as the Germans had done in World War One.

While the British worked with the Zionists during the war on common endeavors, there was never any notion that a Jewish state would aid British interests in the region. Quite the opposite. The British focused on moderate Egyptian and Iraqi politicians plus the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

After World War Two. The British quickly sought to use moderate Arab forces to ensure their position. That’s why they were the real founders of the Arab League. The Zionists fought the British. The United States supported partition of the Palestine mandate and the creation of Israel but with no strategy of using Israel as a tool in Middle East policy. Indeed, the United States had no ambitions in the region at the time. Israel was largely ignored by the United States during its first two decades of existence.

Why Current US Foreign Policy Debate Doesn’t Make Sense and How to Fix It

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Something very bad is happening with the U.S. foreign policy debate. Aside from all of the specific problems and bad appointments, the whole discussion is being conducted on the wrong assumptions and context.

There is nothing easier than to argue about obsolete issues simply because we’ve become so used to the reality of those that have been around for decades. The first step is comprehending that we are dealing with entirely new categories.

In the old days, at least supposedly, the battle was between those who wanted a high level of U.S. intervention and activism–including a relative willingness to use military force–and those who wanted to do less and were horrified either by the use of force or by recent experiences where that strategy had failed. For the last decade, this argument is most symbolized by President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. In theory, conservatives were and are gung-ho for American unilateralism and intervention; liberals were and are more circumspect.

First, that wasn’t entirely true. It was John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who took the United States into Vietnam. Kennedy also ordered the covert invasion of Cuba. Moreover, liberals often favored a different kind of intervention into the affairs of foreign states, pressing for more democracy (Jimmy Carter in the shah’s Iran) and opposing coups (notably in Latin America), for instance.

On the other side, it was the Nixon Doctrine which first made official policy the idea that the United States should not try to be the world’s policeman but instead back friendly regional powers so war-fighting and intervention by America could be reduced.

Second, most of these kinds of debates were in the context of the Cold War. Liberals and conservatives both wanted to counter Soviet expansionism or influence but proposed different ways of doing so at times. To show how varied were these tactics, to more effectively fight that Cold War, Richard Nixon normalized relations with the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Liberals often supported a “third way” approach. They’d say: We don’t want Communist regimes and we don’t want right-wing dictatorships either. The best thing is to have moderates, liberals, pragmatic reformers in power. But if that option didn’t exist, liberals generally opted for a realpolitik status quo that combatted the Communists and pro-Soviet regimes even at the price of supporting old-fashioned dictatorships. Those liberals, however, would not have regarded revolutionary Islamists as being in the desirable category.

In effect, the Obama argument is this: In the past, the United States has been a bully. It has supported bad governments for the people living in those countries. Now, however everything is going to be different. We are going to support bad governments that not only hurt the people in those countries but also hurt U.S. interests! And we are going to give such radical, dictatorial-oriented forces preference over helping moderates, liberals, and pragmatic reformers!

Today, in a post-Cold War world, the ill-conceived “neo-conservative” strategy has now become a left-wing doctrine of spreading democracy ironically, more often than not, by backing anti-democratic forces. The process has become more important than the result.

Nor is intervention as such avoided. Bush’s basic concept has been adopted by the Obama Administration and its supporters. Obama’s intervention in Libya was more popular than Bush’s in Iraq simply because American soldiers weren’t killed, far less money was spent, and forces were not tied down in fighting for years. Yet in substance the two interventions were based on the same concept.

The debate now is not whether the United States should go around the world spending billions of dollars and fighting wars, at least outside of a debate over whether the United States should attack Iran if that country gets nuclear weapons. The fact that there is no chance of this happening (it’s true, there isn’t) underlines my point. Everybody serious recognizes the limits on American resources, the priority on domestic issues, and past failures with such over-extension.

Nor is the debate between isolationism and international engagement.

Nor is the issue to pretend that America has little influence in the world. Obviously, there is a limit, but the United States could definitely have had a major effect, for example, on the direction of Egypt’s political change in January-February 2011 and the same holds for the post-Assad regime in Syria today.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/why-current-us-foreign-policy-debate-doesnt-make-sense-and-how-to-fix-it/2013/01/13/

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