While the Obama administration backs up South Korea, it leaves its long-time ally in the Middle East vulnerable to attack.
The U.S.S. George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier capable of projecting more combat power than most of the world’s air forces, is due to arrive in South Korea today (Thursday, July 22). Once there, along with its three escorts, it will take part in military exercises with the South Korean fleet, in a show of military strength to deter any further acts of madness by the alarmingly unstable North Koreans. This show of military strength, along with visits by the secretaries of Defense and State, are a powerful demonstration of American commitment to South Korean security and of solidarity with its threatened ally. So much so, in fact, that it makes the Obama Administration’s standoffishness with, and bullying of, Israel all the more disturbing.
It would be folly to deny the fact that the South Koreans are under a clear, direct threat from the North. Ever since the North launched an unprovoked attack against the South Korean warship Cheonan, the Korean peninsula, divided between the liberal-democratic South and the brutal dictatorship of Kim Jong-il’s North, has teetered on the brink of war. The evidence implicating the North in the murder of 46 South Korean sailors is ironclad, and the North has responded to their international shaming predictably — with frantic denials and threats of war.
During these precarious developments, the Americans stood resolutely by their allies. The Americans were quick to dispatch naval experts to help inspect the wreckage of the Cheonan, provided full diplomatic support and made clear that military aggression by the North would be met with a united allied response. Whether or not anything can deter the North is difficult to say; given the long-standing rumors that Kim Jong-il is in ill health, attempting to intuit the motives of what could well be a destabilizing regime is virtually impossible. Nonetheless, the Administration’s loyalty is to be commended.
The Israelis, meanwhile, also face serious threats to their security, and arguably, a greater existential threat. While the North Korean nuclear program is worrisome, one can only hope that the North would view such weapons “properly” -- as diplomatic bargaining chips and a deterrent against an attack by a militarily superior foe. To be blunt, it is unlikely that the North would use nuclear weapons against the South, due to both the certainty of radioactive contamination and the absurdity of destroying the territory you wish to reunite with. Israel, however, must assume that should the same people who have repeatedly called for their physical annihilation gain the means to accomplish their oft-stated goal, they will not hesitate to destroy the Jewish state.
Israel is certainly preparing for the worst. It is moving full speed ahead with its Iron Dome missile defense system, continues to push for international diplomatic action against Iran, strives as always to hold its military to the highest possible standards of behavior and is continually reaching out to Washington. That last step, admittedly necessary after an Israeli gaffe embarrassed Vice President Biden during a visit to Israel, has been frustrated by the Administration’s clear hostility to America’s long-time ally.
While Washington still pays lip service to the importance of the Israeli alliance to America’s strategic interests and to Israel’s right to defend itself, and in spite of the continuing close relationships directly between the two militaries, it is obvious that the Administration’s desire to been seen as more neutral by the Muslim world, as part of President Obama’s plan to reach out and reset American relations with Middle East, is preventing America from making the strong shows of support for Israeli security that it is happy to make for the South Koreans.
This is not to say that the United States is doing nothing, but to point out that while sabotage and sanctions are great, a forceful demonstration of America’s commitment to Israel security would go a long way towards making clear to Iran that its actions have consequences. It would also allay the fears of Israel officials undoubtedly now losing sleep every night wondering how long they can hold off attacking while their ally tries to befriend and please Israel’s enemies.
There are domestic political advantages to such steps, as well. President Obama could do much to blunt the criticism that he is set on appeasing the Muslim world, even by bizarre means such as turning NASA into a public relations firm, by taking a strong stand behind Israeli security. He could, of course, continue to push for the resumption of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and could push for tangible ways of easing the plight of those living under the heel of Hamas brutality in the Gaza Strip. Showing that America is resolved to defend Israel need not mean that it is abandoning the Palestinians, and if the Administration hopes to make new friends in the Arab world by leaving the Israelis out in the cold, it will quickly find itself with no friends at all in the region.
President Obama must look to the history of his country, and his own political party, and borrow from John F. Kennedy’s playbook, declaring that an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel — or Iranian assistance to any proxy towards that end — would be considered an attack upon America and responded to in kind. He must also publicly offer Israel all assistance necessary to prepare for, and if necessary survive, such an attack. Such a display of American confidence and solidarity, no more than the South Koreans have received, would go far further towards impressing hostile Muslim countries than a dozen Cairo speeches or trite offers of new beginnings.
Matt Gurney is an editor at the National Post, a Canadian national newspaper, and writes and speaks on military and geopolitical issues. He can be reached at [email protected].
[Editor's note: To get the whole story on Obama's betrayal of Israel, read the Freedom Center's new pamphlet by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin, Obama and the War Against the Jews.]