[Marxism] More signs of growing disatisfaction with US-Israel relationship

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Sun Aug 20 18:33:24 MDT 2006

The essay in the London Review of Books by Meirsheimer and Walt earlier this
year was a highly publicized expression of the cracks which have been
appearing within the American defence and foreign policy establishment
concerning the US' unconditional support of Israel. As the following article
by two Brookings Institution analysts in today's Financial Times indicates,
the humiliating inability of the Israelis to crush Hezbollah is deepening
impatience with the long and costly stalemate in the Middle East, and
leading to further calls for a reappraisal of American policy towards
Israel, seen as the source of instability which threatens the US position in
the region and internationally.

Brookings is associated with the liberal wing of the US bourgeoisie and,
together with the more conservative Heritage Foundation and American
Enterprise Institute, is widely regarded as one of the three most important
policy institutes in the country, but the growing concern about the
ramifications of Bush administration's complete identification of US
interests with Israel extends well beyond liberal circles.

America has emerged as a loser in the Middle East
By Philip Gordon and Jeremy Shapiro
Financial Times
August 20 2006

As Israelis and Arabs continue their debate over who won and lost in
Lebanon, one outcome already seems clear: America lost. Washington’s
decision to back Israel’s military campaign unconditionally and refusal
actively to seek an early ceasefire may have had some marginal benefits for
the US, such as the destruction of some of Hizbollah’s military capability.
But in the broader scheme of things, Washington’s support of this war and
tolerance for the way it was fought have been a disaster.

America’s stance on the Lebanon war has had a wide range of negative
consequences for America. It has driven Sunni and and Shia Arabs together in
an anti-US front, at a time when potential US allies among Sunni Muslims
were themselves worrying about the rise of Hizbollah and Iran. It has
provoked and empowered the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, just as
Washington is deploying more troops to Baghdad to try to quell the violence
there. It has distracted attention from the Iranian nuclear issue, just as
the United Nations Security Council was coming together to threaten
sanctions on Tehran. It has destroyed whatever remaining hope there was for
the US to be perceived as an honest broker between Israelis and Arabs in the
search for peace in the Middle East. It has undermined US allies and
democratic reformers in Arab states. It has also created a new crisis of
confidence with America’s European allies just when transatlantic relations
were starting to improve.

Perhaps most important, it has almost certainly helped create more terrorist
enemies, as images of Lebanese women and children crushed under Israeli
bombs were broadcast on satellite televisions throughout the world. On an
overall balance sheet, these developments vastly outweigh whatever benefits
came from giving Israel a few more weeks to destroy Hizbollah’s mostly
replaceable missiles.

Proponents of the Bush administration’s approach claim that far from
undermining US interests with its Lebanon campaign, Israel was actually
doing a service for America. In this view, the US is essentially at war with
an “Islamic-fascist” front, to borrow president George W.?Bush’s language,
and Israel’s attack on Hizbollah was just an early battle in what some US
neo-conservatives and politicians such as Newt Gingrich are already calling
“world war three”.

They argue that the only way to deal with such a front is to destroy it, and
therefore Israel was acting in America’s interest in launching the campaign.
But this is a huge over-simplification of the strategic situation in the
Middle East today, one that risks turning the assumption of a single enemy
into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It conflates a complex array of connected
but separable challenges – a Shia theocracy in Iran, a secular dictatorship
in Syria, the nationalist/Islamist Hamas in Palestine, various Shia militia
and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq, and Lebanon’s Hizbollah – into a
monolithic threat that cannot be deterred or dealt with except through
overwhelming force. Just like the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq, it
demonstrates utter disregard for the tendency of foreign military
intervention to generate nationalist resentment and violent resistance.

It remains unclear whether US officials were involved in the planning of
Israel’s war on Hizbollah (as asserted by Seymour Hersh in last week’s New
Yorker magazine) or whether Israel’s actions surprised Washington and were
unconditionally supported out of political reflex. Either way, it seems
astonishing that US policymakers did not think through the ways in which
Israel’s military campaign might undermine competing American goals in the
region. US officials now portray the decision by Condoleezza Rice, US
secretary of state, to go to New York to negotiate a ceasefire last week as
a bold diplomatic move that demonstrated US leadership and brought peace,
but the real question is why it took her nearly 30 days to act. The damage
done to western interests in the greater Middle East – to say nothing of the
social and physical infrastructure in Lebanon and Israel – far exceeds
whatever gains the Israeli military campaign achieved in the intervening

It is too late now to undo all this damage. To make the best of a bad
situation, the Bush administration should do what it can to bolster the
Lebanese government, support the deployment of a capable UN force, provide
reconstruction assistance and encourage a political process in the region.

In the future, however, the US must think more carefully about the broader
impact of its Middle East diplomacy, even if at times this means taking a
different position from its closest regional ally. This would be the best
way to help Israel, which would benefit from having a superpower friend that
maintains some credibility and diplomatic influence in the Middle East.

Philip Gordon is senior fellow for US foreign policy and Jeremy Shapiro a
fellow in the foreign policy studies programme at the Brookings Institution
in Washington, DC

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