Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This will not make me popular.

Israel.  The Holy Land for three different religions.  Tourist destination for many, pilgrimage for many more - for literally centuries!  Located not far from Iraq, the birthplace of civilization, it is also the setting for the Final Battle between Good and Evil for all three as well.

Which takes us to our subject for today.

Apparently, President Obama declined a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the end of this month while “Bibi” is in the country for two and a half days.  The President’s staff said he doesn’t have time during that period.

Aaand the right wing is going bonkers over it.  How dare Obama refuse to meet Bibi?  I mean, geez, look, we’re on a first name basis!

Maybe because this is an election year and he’s going to be virtually running between the swing States trying to save his job?

Making time for meetings is a two way street, if Bibi wants to meet with Obama, obviously, there’s something he wants.  Perhaps he could extend his trip?  I’m sure there are plenty of Jewish (and Evangelical) supporters who would be glad to extend a welcoming hand to fill up his time should he need to add a couple of days or so to make it work, dontcha think?

Or maybe Obama already knows what he wants, and isn’t willing to give it to him, but doesn’t want to tell him face to face.  Diplomacy is sometimes like that.

We don’t have to give it to them, whatever it is, you know, in spite of the eagerness of the Evangelicals to roll over and play dead any time Bibi says to.

Here’s a quote of a comment on a thread on Facebook about this:

“Israel is God birthplace but most importantly Gods chosen land let's be very weary of our president that turns his back on them.”

Aside from the grammar, what’s wrong with this statement?

First Amendment, anyone?  We live in the 21st Century.  Somewhere north of 2100 years after the alleged birth of Christ.  TWENTY-ONE CENTURIES!!  That’s two-thousand, one hundred years.  Divide that by 40 (a standard generation) and that’s 52 and a half generations.  Not even the British Royal Family’s genealogy goes back that far.

That’s a lot of diplomatic water under the bridge, and the way we conduct business between nations has changed a bit.  Not completely, of course.  Nations still need thugs with guns to protect their interests and their borders, after all, but increasingly, we don’t shoot at each other as much to settle our differences, and we’ve found that exchanging money and trade goods works much better than bullets (or arrows).

The point is, using iron age religious prophesies to determine modern 21st century diplomatic policy is, literally, insane.

Israel is a modern country.  It possesses a modern military (which we provided much of for them) and a modern economy, one of the biggest and healthiest in that part of the world.  It is, at least nominally, a democracy, although calling it a theocratic democracy would be closer to the truth.  It was, after all, founded as a haven for the Jews after the Holocaust.

During the Cold War, we spent literally trillions of dollars over several decades to build its military into one of the most effective fighting machines in the world.  But there’s more than that.  We may have virtually given it to them, but we got a lot back.

The wars the Israelis fought with their Arab neighbors enabled the United States to see, first-hand, how American military equipment, tactics and organization fared against Soviet equipment, tactics and organization.  All of the Arab nations accepted Soviet equipment, money and advisors, which we balanced in the Israelis, and lest you forget, they kicked ass every time.  This allowed us access to captured Soviet technology, including destroyed tech, which told us a lot about how our weapons stacked up against theirs.

It also scared the crap out of the Soviets.  They got to see the same things in reverse.  Oh, they rarely got any of our tech, but they sure found out how badly their tanks held up against ours and how poorly their ground to air missiles worked against the US aircraft the Israelis were flying!  I am convinced that these lessons kept the Soviets on their side of the East-West German borders…

But the Cold War is over.  The Soviet Union is dead and gone, into the dustbin of history.  Our support for Israel is now as much a detriment to our foreign policy interests in the Middle East as it is an advantage.

The Arabs don’t buy their military tech from the USSR, it’s gone.  They buy it from us now.  We don’t need the Israelis as a counter-balance to the Soviet surrogate States the Arabs used to be.  We actually need the Arabs to be our friends, because we buy our oil from them!  The taps from those oil fields need to stay open, because if they didn’t, our economy would come to a grinding halt in just a few weeks.   Almost immediately, the price of oil would skyrocket if the Iranians closed the Straits of Hormuz.

And if you think the Navy could prevent that, then I’ve got a bridge from Reverend Sharpton to sell you, cheap!  Trust me, as soon as the anti-ship missiles start flying, not a single oil tanker will sail out of a port in the Arab Gulf, and won’t until they stop.  The economic repercussions would be severe.

Supporting the Israelis is an expensive proposition, diplomatically, too.  It has resulted in two wars, because our support of that State launched Bin Laden’s opposition to us, thus we are as much behind the existence of Al Qaeda as he is.  That doesn’t detract from his guilt, of course, HE chose to take that route, and he paid the price!  But his guilt doesn’t change the fact that we pushed him to oppose us in the first place.

Hamas may have been opposed to us simply because we are infidels anyway, but our support of Israel sure didn’t hurt, and certainly stoked the fire higher.

In short, we haven’t exactly acted in our own best interests in the middle east, and have often acted against them.

The proper stance for us to take is as a neutral party.  Neutral, not in opposition to anybody.  Simply neutral.  Now that’s not easy, and a lot of folks will take that (and this) as active opposition to Israel.

It’s not.  It is just saying that we need to be honest and admit that we haven’t been an honest broker in the past and should vow to do better in the future.  This won’t be an easy task.  Both parties are different religions, and both are different from many Americans.  As long as the US has strong political factions strongly urging us to take Israel’s side (for religious reasons - trust me, muslims aren’t as ignorant of our religion as we are of theirs), we will be seen as hostile to them, and we will pay the price.

In the end, the US needs to remove religion from its foreign policy decision making process.  We need to evaluate our middle east policies in light of our major interest in that region - oil, and maintaining a open supply line to that vital commodity.

NOTHING else should matter.  Nothing.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see a “special relationship” with Israel.  We had one during the Cold War, and it was very necessary, and played a vital role in several ways.  We benefitted enormously.

But the day the Berlin Wall fell, the whole world changed.  When we failed to change with it, we set a course for world affairs for the next century, very different from how things would have been had we taken a different tack towards one little middle eastern country.

Its time we stopped and re-evaluated our priorities.  I don’t advise abandoning Israel.  No.  That would send the wrong message to other US allies.  But we can get real about that relationship and what it means to our energy supply.  We can stay friends, but we need to take a more balanced approach towards the entire situation, which should help calm matters a lot and move things in a more civilized direction.

Who knows, maybe someday, we'll see the arms industry go broke when Arabs and Israelis don't need or want to shoot at each other any more!

(Hey, want another bridge?)

1 comment:

Patricia Sawtelle said...

Doesn't make you unpopular with me. Just makes good sense.