How Israel is America's greatest foreign asset
by Lakrosse, Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 05:37:47 PM EDT
recent, a guy named Anthony Cordesman made a claim that Israel is a strategic liability to the US. This is in the vein of Mearsheimer and Walt, etc. Well, that should raise some eyebrows, and this has been countered:
The plain truth is that Israel is the US’s greatest strategic asset in the Middle East.
Indeed, given the strategic importance of the Middle East to US national security, Israel is arguably its greatest strategic asset outside the US military.
As a democracy, unlike every Arab state, the US does not need to worry a change in leadership in Jerusalem will cause it to abandon its alliance with the US. This of course is what happened in Iran, which until 1979 was the US’s most important ally in the Persian Gulf. As Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak ages, the US faces the prospect of a post-Mubarak Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood similarly abandoning its alliance with America.
The fact that the US and Israel share the same foundational values also guarantees that the alliance is stable. No government in Jerusalem will ever sway the Israeli people away from America as has happened in Turkey since the Islamist Erdogan government took office in 2002.
Cordesman grudgingly allows that Israel provides intelligence to the US. But he refuses to acknowledge how important that intelligence has been. Since September 11, 2001, US military and intelligence officials have repeatedly admitted that Israeli intelligence has been worth its weight in gold for US security operations in the region and around the world.
Cordesman also notes that Israeli technology has contributed to US defense, but again, undervalues its significance. The very fact that pilotless aircraft – first developed by Israel – are the lead force in the campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan gives lie to his tepid admission of Israel’s technological contribution to US security.
LIKE MANY on the [far] Left, Cordesman ignores the fact that Israel’s enemies are the US’s enemies.
But his failure to note that the same people who call for Israel to be destroyed also call for the US to be destroyed does not make this fact any less true. And since the US and Israel share the same foes, when Israel is called on to fight its enemies, its successes redound to the US’s benefit.
In many ways, Israel – which has never asked the US to fight its wars – has been the catalyst for the US’s greatest triumphs. It was the Mossad that smuggled out Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech acknowledging Stalin’s crimes at the 20th Communist Party Conference in 1956. The publication of Khrushchev’s speech in the West was the first turning point in the Cold War.
So too, Israel’s June 1982 destruction of Syria’s Soviet-made anti-aircraft batteries and the Syrian air force was the first clear demonstration of the absolute superiority of US military technology over Soviet military technology.
Many have argued that it was this demonstration of Soviet technological inferiority that convinced the Reagan administration it was possible to win the Cold War.
Beyond politics and ideology, beyond friendship and values, the US has three permanent national security interests in the Middle East:
• Ensuring the smooth flow of affordable petroleum products from the region
• Preventing the most radical regimes, substate and non-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm
• Maintaining its capacity to project its power in the region
A strong Israel is the best guarantor of all of these interests. Indeed, the stronger it is, the more secure these primary American interests are. Three permanent and unique aspects to Israel’s regional position dictate this state of affairs.
First, as the first target of the most radical regimes and radical substate actors in the region, it has a permanent, existential interest in preventing these regimes and substate actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.
The 1981 IAF strike that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor prevented Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite US condemnation at the time, the US later acknowledged that the strike was a necessary precondition to the success of Operation Desert Storm 10 years later. As Richard Cheney has noted, if Iraq had been a nuclear power in 1991, the US would have been hard pressed to eject Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait and so block his regime from asserting control over oil supplies in the Persian Gulf.
Far from destabilizing the region, a strong Israel stabilizes it by deterring the most radical actors from attacking.
In 1970, Israel blocked Syria’s bid to use the PLO to overthrow the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Its threat to attack Syria not only saved the Hashemites then, it has deterred Syria from attempting to overthrow the Jordanian regime ever since.
Similarly, Israel’s neighbors understand that its purported nuclear arsenal is a weapon of national survival and hence they view it as nonthreatening. This is the reason the alleged nuclear arsenal has never spurred a regional nuclear arms race.
In stark contrast, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, a regional nuclear arms race will ensue immediately. Indeed, it has already begun. Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other states have all signed contracts to develop nuclear installations.
This is why we need a strong Israel. Israel fought with America against another illiberal ideology which oppressed over a billion people, which was Soviet Communism. It fights radical jihad, which subjugates women, gays, minorities, freedom of political expression, etc.
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