Tag Archives: Israel

They Want to Talk About Israel. OK, Let’s Talk About Israel.

American and Israeli Flags (public domain)

In The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam quotes US president Lyndon Baines Johnson on his desired qualities in an assistant: “I want loyalty! I want him to kiss my a– in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses.”

Nearly every “major party” presidential candidate this year and in past election cycles seems to have taken that advice to heart, but in an odd way. They come off less as applicants for the presidency of the United States than for  the position of personal aide to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The second Republican presidential primary debate looked a lot like Macy’s window at high noon:

Jeb Bush: “[T]he first thing that we need to do is to establish our commitment to Israel …”

Carly Fiorina: “On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.”

Marco Rubio: “If I’m honored with the opportunity to be president, I hope that our Air Force One will fly, first and foremost, to our allies; in Israel …”

Mike Huckabee: “At the end of my presidency I would like to believe that the world would be a safe place, and there wouldn’t be the threats. Not only to the US, but to Israel …”

Ted Cruz: “If I’m elected president our friends and allies across the globe will know that we stand with them. The bust of Winston Churchill will be back in the Oval Office, and the American embassy in Israel will be in Jerusalem.”

If you expect to hear anything much different from the Democratic candidates, you’re engaged in wishful thinking. Immediate and unqualified obedience to Benjamin Netanyahu has replaced Social Security as the third rail in American presidential politics — don’t step on it or you’ll die.

The question for me is not “pro-Israel” versus “anti-Israel.”

Nor is it, as conservative pundit Ann Coulter tweeted foot-in-mouth, about courting the “f—ing Jews,” who are no longer the swing voting bloc they used to be, if for no other reason than that American Jews tend on average to be a little less “pro-Israel” than major party presidential candidates.

What it’s about is whether or not American voters should continue to give a foreign power’s  well-financed lobby significant control over US foreign policy decisions and presidential choices.

In future debates, presidential candidates of all parties should be asked whether or not Israel is one of the 50 states — and if not, why they think it deserves large welfare checks drawn on the treasury of, and veto power over the actions of, the US government.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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The Iran Deal: What You Need to Know

Foreign Ministers of Germany, the US, Great Br...
Foreign Ministers of Germany, the US, Great Britain, France, Russia and China in Berlin discussing Iran nuclear program March 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

At last, the P5+1 (the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China) have announced an agreement with Iran limiting that country’s nuclear research program. Supporters of the deal proclaim “peace in our time.” Opponents cry “Munich!” Which side should you believe? Neither, really. But the deal’s supporters have the better case.

Here’s what you need to know about the deal:

First, it’s not about peace or war. War with Iran isn’t a viable option for the United States, which would necessarily do the heavy lifting. An air war wouldn’t cow Iran or destroy its nuclear capability. And having lost two ground wars against less populous and less well-armed opponents since 2001, the US is in no shape to undertake a third.

Second, it’s not about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Why? Because Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The International Atom Energy Agency has found some discrepancies in Iran’s Non-Proliferation Treaty reporting, but Iran’s religious “supreme leader” has declared development of such weapons a sin against Islam, and western intelligence agencies (including those of the US and Israel) say there’s no evidence of such development.

Since it’s not about war or nuclear proliferation, what is it about? Two things: International trade and US prestige.

Iran boasts huge oil reserves and a population of more than 75 million. They want to trade with other countries. Other countries want to trade with them. Decades of sanctions have left everyone poorer than they ought to be.

US prestige as “leader of the free world” is at stake because at least three of the P5+1 nations — Russia, China and France — will likely make their own deals with Iran even if the US bucks out. The UK and Germany might or might not stick with the US in that event. The choice for the US is to jump to the front of the parade and continue to “lead,” or else to find itself on the sidelines.

So, why the opposition among congresspeople and Republican presidential aspirants? Again, two reasons.

The first is simple power politics. American politicians and Iranian politicians have a lot in common — both groups want to run Iran. American politicians got used to doing so after the CIA overthrew Iran’s government and replaced it with a puppet regime in 1953. They’ve been throwing a temper tantrum ever since Iranians revolted in 1979. The tantrum continues.

The second reason is Israel. The Israelis fear Iranian dominance in the region and want the US to keep a lid on Iran. The Israeli lobby exerts a powerful force on US politics, both because evangelical Christian voters attach religious importance to Israel and because Israeli patrons like billionaire Sheldon Adelson write big checks to politicians who reach for the sky when Benjamin Netanyahu says “jump.”

Neither of these reasons are GOOD reasons. Peace and trade are better than cold war and sanctions. The US is better off running its own foreign policy than subordinating itself to Israel.  This deal is good for America.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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About That Other “Special Relationship”

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia
Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When it comes to entangling alliances, the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel tends to take center stage. Interposing one’s self between a herd of American politicians and an opportunity to appease Benjamin Netanyahu is a good way to get trampled to death.

Lately, though, US relations with Saudi Arabia seem to be hogging the spotlight, and not in a good way.

US relations with the Saudis have always seemed pretty good, apart from a brief low point in 1973-74, when the Kingdom participated in an oil embargo, pressuring the US to in turn pressure Israel on the matter of Syria’s Golan Heights.

It worked. Relations immediately improved, and ever since there’s been a steady traffic of Saudi oil to the US, US arms to Saudi Arabia, and lots of money flowing back and forth, too. In 1991, I was among the hundreds of thousands of US troops sent to defend Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and crush the threat of Saddam’s Iraq (liberating Kuwait was the excuse, not the reason, for Desert Storm).

Since then, though, things seem to have gone downhill behind the scenes.

The oil, arms and money still flow, but 28 still-classified pages of the US Senate’s report on 9/11 reportedly implicate the Kingdom in that attack’s funding. Former US Senator Bob Graham, lead author of the report, has launched an effort to make those pages public.

Now, famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, writing in the London Review of Books, credibly claims that the Obama administration’s account of the killing of Osama bin Laden  is a fairy tale: That the Kingdom paid off Pakistan’s government to protect bin Laden, keeping him under “house arrest” in Abbotabad and that, contra the whole Zero Dark Thirty narrative in which adept US intelligence analysts tracked him down, a rogue Pakistani official dropped the dime on him for the multi-million-dollar reward.

Obviously, openly admitting either of the above as fact would entail a very public reconsideration of the “special relationship” between the US and Saudi Arabia.

Just as obviously, three major concerns — oil, Israel and the Kingdom’s putative status as a regional counterweight to Iran — militate in America’s corridors of power against that kind of disclosure and reconsideration.

But this is the kind of agonizing reappraisal entangling alliances always come down to sooner or later. If we’ve been clasping a viper to our bosom, better sooner.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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