Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel to Blame For Iraq Mess

I've come across a well argued essay titled "Israel not to Blame for Iraq Mess"

There are a number of plausible explanations, ranging from control of the country's oil resources to strategic interests to ideological motivations. One explanation that should not be taken seriously, however, is the assertion that the right-wing government of Israel and its American supporters played a major role in leading the US to invade Iraq.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and its supporters in the United States deserve blame for many tragic policies in recent years that have led to needless human suffering, increased extremism in the Islamic world, decreased security, and rampant violations of the United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law, and other international legal principles. The US invasion of Iraq, however, is not one of them.

Responding to this essay is a good place for me to put to paper my thoughts about the motivations, limits and impact on the US of its support for Israel.

I do not believe that the prime minister of Israel can call either the president of the US or anyone else in the US and dictate foreign policy. Instead the acceptance of Israel as a strategic liability puts constraints on US policy. Advancing other US interests subject to those constraints requires costly policies that otherwise would not be necessary. The invasion of Iraq is an example of such a policy.

We'll come back, but first the motivations of US support for Israel. If I was to use the bluntest terms, US and Western support for Israel is motivated by racism. The same racism that led to US support for apartheid forty years ago. In less blunt terms, I'd instead say tribalism and a deeper empathy for the Jews of the region - who are represented in the minds of Americans by European Jews - than for the Arabs.

Of course Arab and Muslim support for the Palestinians is similar. I hope nobody would argue that Iran is trying to accomplish any rational strategic goal by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran supports them because generally in Iranian society, that is felt to be the right thing to do. Iran could end the sanctions today by agreeing to pursue the Shah's foreign policy. Iran does not pursue the same foreign policies as the Shah because of a societal feeling that it would be wrong that overrules any vulgar quest for resources.

The feeling that supporting the Palestinians against Israel is more important than maximizing resources is shared, but in a stronger form, in the societies of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. So the US, as long as it supports Israel must forever prevent leaders from coming to power in those countries who would be responsive to their own societies' perception of the region.

Not to spend too much time here, but Nigeria and Ghana opposed apartheid because of racism. The US and England supported apartheid because of racism. Were they both equally wrong? Well the side that called for one person-one vote was objectively right. At least objectively consistent with liberal ideals that do not accept racism as a valid motivating factor.

Those who can accept that Iran supports the Palestinians for emotional reasons hopefully can accept that the US supports the Jews for emotional reasons. This does not requires a Jewish conspiracy or Jewish control of anything.

Limits. Iran would not give up its state for opposition to Israel. If regime change seemed to be the only alternative, Iran would recognize Israel as the lessor of two evils. But if Iran believes it can accomplish both survival and doing what it emotionally feels is right it will try for both. The United States is not going to deliberately become England for Israel. The United States will not allow the Saudis to enter a client relationship with Russia for Israel. Nor will it commit to a permanent opposed occupation of Iraq for Israel. But if the costs are smaller, even if they are real, the US will accept the costs.

To look at the impact of support for Israel the question to be posed is what would the Middle East look like without Israel, from a US strategic point of view. The US has a strategic interest in preventing a single power from having secure control of the Middle East. The US prefers some form of balance between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq so that none is able to dictate the terms of access to oil to the industrial world.

A single state with a near monopoly of power in that region would still sell oil, but might offer preferential access to the highest bidder. And the highest bidder could in theory be China, or maybe a coalition including some or all of Russia, China, Japan, India and/or countries in Europe.

The formation of such a regional power is a long-term theoretical threat to the US position as a world power.

For the emotional reasons above, a regional power of this type would not tolerate a Jewish state formed by displacing Muslims or Arabs and would easily correct that situation with, at best for Israel, an imposed one person one vote non-Jewish-state settlement to the dispute.

Israel works to prevent the formation of a regional monopoly power. In that respect its interests are aligned with the United States. For example Israel bombed Osirak to prevent Iraq from being able to threaten Israel and at the same time it ensured Iraq would not threaten a weak Saudi Arabia.

A balance of power is a US interest independent of Israel. Israel though, adds the constraint that it must be a balance of very weak powers. That is an expensive new constraint added by Israel.

A balance like that between Brazil, Argentina and Chile, between France, Germany and England or between Taiwan, the Koreas and Japan would be intolerable for Israel in the Middle East (meaning between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran) because any of the countries named could and would, while balanced with each other, make it unviable for Israel to remain a Jewish state.

A balance of powers could have been accomplished without an invasion of Iraq. A balance of powers could be accomplished without the expensive current attempt to economically isolate Iran.

A balance of very weak powers. Subject to the constraint that none of the powers is strong enough to threaten Israel is much more expensive to emplace and maintain. The US does it for emotional reasons, but will stop when the costs become too high. But the cost of maintaining that constraint is part of the cost of US support for Israel.

US policy in the Middle East is driven by oil and the strategic implications of a large amount of that resource that is concentrated in the region. But the US has accepted, for reasons that have nothing to do with pure strategy, a strategic priority in protecting Israel's status as a Jewish state that imposes heavy and costly constraints on that policy.

That constraint that the balance of powers in the Middle East must be a balance of very weak powers that cannot threaten Israel is what made the invasion and destruction of Iraq a strategic necessity. It also makes support for authoritarian dictators in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Jordan a strategic necessity, contrary to US founding ideals. Sharon didn't have to make a phone call, the Israeli lobby didn't have to dictate anything. There was no need for a media conspiracy.

But Israel is the reason the United States is engaging in the trillion dollar destruction of Iraq.


G Wolf said...

Why don't we simplify things down to what they really are.

The US supports Israel for two reasons:
(1) The US is a democracy, and as such it concedes to the demands/desires of its population, who support Israel. That's one of the basic tenets of any functioning democracy.
(2) Israel is the only true democratic ally for the US in the region. There is no other legitimate democracy in the Middle East.

Secondly, the US engaged in this costly (and ridiculous) war because of oil interests, and the military-industrial complex. I fail to see how that has anything to do with Israel's statehood.

Arnold Evans said...

I thought I addressed those points in my essay. Maybe I'll rewrite it sometime and I'll get it more clear then.

Is there any specific statement in my essay that strikes you or anyone else as untrue? Or any conclusion that you feel does not follow from what I presented as premises?

I'll present the argument in a better way when I'm given real criticism.

atheo said...


I'd love to see an updated presentation of your analysis, perhaps including a rebuttal to the inane theories now surfacing that the occupation in Afghanistan is about "control" over energy and domination over China.

I put together a similar article last year:

Militant Zionism and the Invasion of Iraq

You may be familiar with this article:

Are They Really Oil Wars
By Ismael Hossein-zadeh
July 9, 2008

Contact with your article and I will get it widely published.

Anonymous said...

Apologies for commenting so late on this post (I only discovered this fine blog of yours a couple of weeks back), but I'm not sure that Israel has anything to with (at least) the 1991 Gulf War. Could you please explain how the absence of Israel would have affected the politics of the Gulf region?

noname7364 said...

The only problem the Arabs have with Israel is they are antijewish bigots, matter fact they are bigots against any religion except Islam.  If some other Islamic Country had take power there and engaged in genocide of the local population you would never even heard a whimper.    You never hear anything about the millions of Jews that were driven from Arab countries for the last sixty years.   The Jews are there, they are going to stay there and they with their Samson Option will destroy the entire middle east rather then leave.  

Arnold Evans said...

I know.  The only problem Black Africans had with Apartheid is that they were anti-White bigots. Also the only problem the US had with the anti-Apartheid movement was that the US was anti-Black bigots, while the only problem you have with anti-Zionists is that you are an anti-Arab/Muslim bigot.

But if everyone is a bigot, who is right?

Well.  The bigoted anti-Apartheid activists would be satisfied with one-person one-vote equality.  Apartheid's supporters, like you and Zionism's supporters require an enforced political majority ethnic state.

That means you, Zionism's supporters, Apartheid's supporters are the side of bigots that is wrong.

People who are not bigots support the side that calls for equality before the state, and that does not depend on 400 million people having limited power with respect to the policies of their own governments.

You're the bigot.  Israel's nuclear weapons have even less value in preserving the viability of that enforced ethnic political majority state than Apartheid's nuclear weapons did.  Pretty much every thought you have running around in your head about the Middle East is wrong and reflects your own pro-European, anti-Arab/Muslim bigotry.

Fortunately, you can read this blog and eventually catch up to speed.

George Carty said...

Actually, US support for Apartheid was driven primarily by a fear that the ANC were the Kremlin's stooges.  (Although by the 1980s the Apartheid regime's "anti-Communist" propaganda had failed.  Note how a Republican-majority Congress overrode President Reagan's veto of sanctions against South Africa.  This means that less than half of the Republicans and almost none of the Democrats must have been still supportive of Apartheid.)

It was however completely understandable that the ANC had a Marxist orientation, because an extractive economy like South Africa's naturally lends itself to state control.  You can hardly move a mine to a lower-tax area!  The "capitalism" of the Apartheid regime was pure hypocrisy -- it was really Peronism for whites, paid for by semi-slavery for blacks.  One could draw parallels between Apartheid South Africa and the Gulf Arab states, with the Arabs as the "whites", the exploited Asian immigrant workers as the "blacks", and oil replacing gold and diamonds.