Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stratfor misunderstands the relationship between the United States and Israel

Strator published its take on the dispute between Obama and Netanyahu, including the snub of Biden with Israel's announcement of the housing permits in East Jerusalem and the snub of Netanyahu who was not given some of the diplomatic courtesies that Israeli leaders usually can expect when visiting Washington.

Stratfor begins by claiming that anti-Americanism in the region does not come from Israel. The argument is that the United States did not begin supporting Israel until after 1967 but there was anti-Americanism in the region before that.
In 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai while Britain and France seized the Suez Canal, which the Egyptian government of Gamal Abdul Nasser had nationalized. The Eisenhower administration intervened — against Israel and on the side of Egypt. Under U.S. pressure, the British, French and Israelis were forced to withdraw. There were widespread charges that the Eisenhower administration was pro-Arab and anti-Israeli; certainly no one could argue that Eisenhower was significantly pro-Israel.

In spite of this, Nasser entered into a series of major agreements with the Soviet Union. Egypt effectively became a Soviet ally, the recipient of massive Soviet aid and a center of anti-American rhetoric. Whatever his reasons — and they had to do with U.S. unwillingness to give Egypt massive aid — Egypt’s anti-American attitude had nothing to do with the Israelis, save perhaps that the United States was not prepared to join Egypt in trying to destroy Israel.
I guess Stratfor imagines Britain and France as independent powers in 1956, completely separate from the United States. We can be clear that if it had been Poland and Czechoslovakia that - in a joint attack with Israel - captured the Suez canal, nobody in Egypt would fail to see this as an attack by the Soviet alliance. If it had been Poland that supplied Israel with materials for its nuclear program and was otherwise its primary sponsor, that certainly would have pushed Egypt and the rest of the region toward the United States.

This is an argument we see often, and it is always wrong. Nasser believed, before the June 1967 war, that the United States had for a long time been aligned with Israel. Stratfor is saying Nasser was wrong. Even if Stratfor somehow has a better understanding of the Middle East during Nasser's reign than Nasser did, what is important is still Nasser's perception. It is completely clear what Nasser believed, before the 1967 war, about the relationship between the United States and Israel.
We must know and learn a big lesson today. We must actually see that, in its hypocrisy and in its talks with the Arabs, the United States sides with Israel 100 per cent and is partial in favour of Israel. Why is Britain biased towards Israel? The West is on Israel's side. General de Gaulle's personality caused him to remain impartial on this question and not to toe the US or the British line; France therefore did not take sides with Israel.

The Soviet Union's attitude was great and splendid. It supported the Arabs and the Arab nation. It went to the extent of stating that, together with the Arabs and the Arab nation, it would resist any interference or aggression.

Today every Arab knows foes and friends. If we do not learn who our enemies and our friends are, Israel will always be able to benefit from this behaviour. It is clear that the United States is an enemy of the Arabs because it is completely biased in favour of Israel. It is also clear that Britain is an enemy of the Arabs because she, too, is completely biased in favour of Israel.
Stratfor can make the valid point that US support for Israel grew even greater after 1967 and 1973, however that does not detract from the truth that the hostility the United States faced in the Arab world was directly resultant from the perception in the Arab world that the US favored Israel.

Another point though is that we almost always can forget historical arguments because what is important is the situation today. Stratfor, to its credit, does not try to argue that Israel's relationship with the United States today does not impose burdens on both its relationships with the rest of the region and its efforts to achieve tangible strategic objectives in the Middle East today.

I do not think it can be reasonably doubted that the United States is more hostile to democracy in the Middle East than it is today in any other region in the world. The threat posed to US interests by a democratic Egypt, a democratic Jordan or a democratic Saudi Arabia all resolve to the fact that they would be hostile to Israel. Actions taken by the US in support of Middle East dictatorships are reasonably seen as aimed ultimately at supporting Israel. Retaliations against US actions in the region, for example on 9/11/2001, are part of the cost the US paid for its support for Israel. Resources the US expends in preventing future attacks, such as the occupation of Afghanistan, the destabilization of Pakistan, and the check-in lines in US domestic airports are further costs to the US of its relationship with Israel.

The fact of the matter is that absent Israel, the United States does not have any strategic dispute with the people of the Middle East. No more than it does with the people of West Africa or the northern coast of South America. (Regions that are not perfect, but drastically less problematic for the US than the Middle East.) But given a US commitment to Israel's viability, the United States has a huge dispute with the people of the Middle East who do not share the dominant US assumption that Israel's security is the primary moral consideration of the region.

Israel is a delicate state whose long term survival depends on vigorous ongoing efforts to ensure that the much more populous states around it are not able to impose what they see as justice by forcing Israel to accept the refugees and give up its status as a majority Jewish state. The US has historically been wealthy enough be bear that burden, and more-or-less achieve its objectives while also ensuring that Israel's region remains weak enough for Israel to survive. It is not clear, and in fact US leaders are beginning to say that it is not clear, that the US will be willing and able to do so indefinitely.

Stratfor argues that the US has an interest in balances of power in the region, between Israel and its neighbors, between Iraq and Iran and between Pakistan and India. If Palestine did not contain a state with a Jewish majority, it is very difficult to imagine how that would harm US interests or what balance of power it would necessarily upset.

The US does want relatively balanced oil producing states - however Israel imposes another constraint, that not only should they be balanced with each other, they must each be weak enough that they do not threaten Israel. This is a severe constraint. Japan, South Korea and China have a sort of balance, as do Brazil, Argentina and Chile. A regional balance between Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran in which all are industrialized and some or all are capable of producing even nuclear weapons in an emergency is uniquely intolerable in Israel's region because Israel has a tiny population, is universally seen in its region as illegitimate, and must still, to be viable, be dominant over all of its neighbors.

Stratfor imagines that somehow Israel helps the United States by not being dominated by Egypt or something. I'm not sure how that is supposed to work, but a Palestine without a Jewish majority state still would not be dominated by Egypt but with the advantage to the United States that Egypt would in that case not require billions of dollars in bribes to a corrupt dictatorship in order to remain at peace with an Arab-majority Palestine.

Americans really want to believe that the relationship between the United States and Israel is not purely sentimental. That Israel is doing the US some service. It is very difficult for Americans to face the idea that there is only one direction in which support is flowing in this relationship. But as much as Americans do not want to accept it, this is no alliance. Israel receives a tremendous amount of assistance directly and indirectly on its behalf from the United States - quite possibly more than every other country in the world combined. And in return Israel's supporters contribute lobbying efforts and political campaign resources and refrain from charging most US political figures with anti-Semitism.

Contrary to what Stratfor would assert, this is how the "alliance" between the United States and Israel works.


pmr9 said...

Arnold - I don't think that Stratfor is correct in attributing Egypt's alignment with the Soviet Union after 1956 to an "anti-American attitude", but I don't think that you are correct in attributing it to an Egyptian perception that the US was somehow behind the Anglo-French attack. From what I know of the history of this period, Washington was annoyed by the British and French attempt to launch a military adventure without US approval, and decided to teach them a lesson. Ever since, a cardinal rule of British policy has been never to get into a war without US backing.

Egypt subsequently became aligned with the Soviet Union not because of an "anti-American attitude" but because the Soviet Union was prepared to fund the Aswan Dam, and the US was not (especially after Nasser recognized the People's Republic of China).

Arnold Evans said...

My argument is not that Egypt thought the US was behind the attack, but that in a contest between the Nato bloc and the Soviet bloc, the fact that two of the three most prominent members of the Nato bloc joined Israel to attack Egypt would push Egypt toward the direction of the Soviet bloc, even if the United States itself was not as directly and actively involved as its closest allies.

The Stratfor argument that the United States was neutral, as it concedes active and open involvement in the attack by the US' closest allies misses that point.

If one tries to argue (as Stratfor does) that the US was not aligned with Israel before 1967 - only other NATO members - and therefore Israel could not have had anything to do with any impulse on the part of Arabs (in this case Egyptians) to ally with NATO's strategic rival, that argument is false. That's all I'm demonstrating.

I really don't care much about the history. Today, Israel is the primary factor behind US support for Egypt's current authoritarian dictatorship, as well as those of other countries including Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Lysander said...

I would also add that anti American sentiment within the Arab and Muslim world was substantially less in the pre-67 period than it is today. Acts of terrorism by Arabs against Americans were unheard of at that time. The RFK assassination allegedly (though I have my doubts) at the hands of Sirhan Sirhan) would have been the first such act.

If US support for Israel remained today as it was in 1960, I don't think Anti US sentiment would be nearly as strong as it is.

Also, if US support for Israel remained as it was 50 years ago, it would have been impossible, for example, for Israel to attack and occupy Lebanon as it did in 1982, or Gaza in 2008. Such acts require enormous US political and diplomatic cover. Without US arms in the 1967-73 period, and without the resupply during the 1973 War, Israel would be in a much weaker position than it is now.

Without large economic subsidies, West bank settlements couldn't be anywhere near as extensive as they are now.

Arnold is absolutely correct that US support for Israel was 100% obvious to everybody in the 50's and 60's. But that level of support would probably not be enough for Israel to survive today.

Arnold Evans said...

Lysander: excellent points that I had not thought of.

Peter said...

On Arab hostility to the U.S., here is TIME magazine, from way back on January 7, 1952 (the issue announcing Mohammed Mossadegh as its Man of the Year). It is hard to imagine TIME publishing something as candid as this today:

The word "American" no longer has a good sound in that part of the world. To catch the Jewish vote in the U.S., President Truman in 1946 demanded that the British admit 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine, in violation of British promises to the Arabs. Since then, the Arab nations surrounding Israel have regarded that state as a U.S. creation, and the U.S., therefore, as an enemy. The Israeli-Arab war created nearly a million Arab refugees, who have been huddled for three years in wretched camps. These refugees, for whom neither the U.S. nor Israel will take the slightest responsibility, keep alive the hatred of U.S. perfidy.

No enmity for the Arabs, no selfish national design motivated the clumsy U.S. support of Israel. The American crime was not to help the Jews, but to help them at the expense of the Arabs. Today, the Arab world fears and expects a further Israeli expansion. The Arabs are well aware that Alben Barkley, Vice President of the U.S., tours his country making speeches for the half-billion-dollar Israeli bond issue, the largest ever offered to the U.S. public. Nobody, they note bitterly, is raising that kind of money for them.

Arnold Evans said...

Wow Peter, thank you so much for that link.

Anonymous said...

George Friedman, aka Stratfor, is a CIA zionist idiot. What a sorry excuse for an analyst. He gives that word "analyst" a sorry connotation.

The U.S. refused to help with the Aswan dam but the Soviets did. That was why Abdul-Nasser turned North.

he was playing both sides during the Cold War and the Soviets had the winning hand. They bid in a with a $1.2 billion dollar loan for Aswan.

Moreover, their weapon deals had less strings attached & Abdul Nasser had pissed off the Americans by recognizing Red China.