In the first in the series of articles analyzing US foreign aid to Israel, the present writer posed five questions:
1.) Why is there an Israel-USA “special relationship,” an alliance which includes generous American aid and political support at the UN and other international venues?
2.) What is the real number of US dollars in US aid to Israel?
3.) How do we know that the critics offer galactic exaggerations of the dollar amount and spurious claims regarding its political valence and liabilities?
4.) What is the value to the USA of its generous financial support to Israel, compared to the value of similar aid to those countries which are Israel’s avowed enemies?
5.) What is the real impact of the USA’s “special relationship” with Israel upon America’s position in the Middle East and in the broader Muslim world?
The first article addressed question #1 and the first half of question #4 (Israel’s value to the USA). The second article addressed the second half of question #4 (USA aid to Israel’s enemies hurts the USA). The third article addressed questions #2 and #3.
This article, last in the series, will address question #5.
In order to assess accurately and objectively the real impact of the US-Israel “special relationship” upon America’s position in the Middle East and in the broader Muslim world, one must consider three principles which may be alien to the thinking of some western analysts and commentators regarding Israel and the Middle East.
The first involves adherence to the belief system that requires utmost fidelity to the data.
In his ground-breaking book Thinking Fast and Slow, reviewed recently in the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Kahneman examines why otherwise clear minded and intelligent people sometimes make drastically wrong decisions. He shows that even when analysts have all the information needed to arrive at correct decisions, and even when the logic is simple, they still all too often arrive at incorrect or even disastrously erroneous conclusions. The problem, according to Kahneman, seems to be related to “belief systems.” It seems that humans tend to be of two minds—one deliberative and rational, the other quick and intuitive. The quick and intuitive one, influenced by emotion and ideology, is all too often too willing to abandon, disregard, or even manipulate data in order to achieve conclusions that are consistent with the emotion or the ideology. Such conclusions, inconsistent with, or contradictory to, the data, may be erroneous at best and mendaciously misleading at worst. Kahneman warns that
“All scientists, not least social scientists, should be wary of adhering to any belief system in their professional lives other than the one that requires fidelity to their data.”
If the analyst or commentator has a cause, then there could be a conflict of interest between the cause and the data. Analysts who, due to an ideological pre-disposition, belief system, or emotional commitment to a cause, fall prey to such a conflict of interest, may offer conclusions about whatever issue is under discussion that are grossly divergent from the data, and hence from reality.
In light of Kahneman’s insights, and given the enormous divergence between the reality of the amounts of US foreign aid to Israel and the astronomically exaggerated numbers proffered by those using the “kitchen sink” methodology, it seems logical to conclude that the latter are possessed of a predisposition motivated by some belief system, some emotional commitment to a cause, which drives them to inflate, distort, decontextualize, cherry pick, misrepresent and even falsify data in order to arrive at conclusions that are congruent with the predisposition. This being the case, with fidelity to the data utterly abandoned, their conclusions are worthless at best.
The second is the principle of the “strong horse.”
Osama bin Laden stated this principle several times in his public speeches: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” The role of this “strong horse” principle in Arab society and politics has been explored and analyzed by author Lee Smith in his book _The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations_ (Anchor Books, January 2011). Smith concludes that in Arab politics from at least the onset of the era of the Caliphs following Mohammed’s death, political transfer of power has always been either through violence or dynasty. Thus violence and the struggle between “strong horses” (the dynastic inheritor vs. his competitors for the throne) has predominated. Mohammed himself and the Caliphs after him all ruled by violence and coercion, and most were assassinated. In short, “…the strong horse is the person, tribe, country, or nation that is best able to impose its will upon others, the weaker horses, through the use of force.” This rather dark view of Arab political history was promulgated first by none other than the famous Arab historian and philosopher, ibn-Khaldun in the 14th century.
This “strong horse” principle, active for more than a millennium in Arab politics, plays out today in the international arena as well. The strong horse on the international scene is a deterrent to aggression; and, conversely, a weak horse invites attack: hence the stronger the horse, the greater the deterrence.
The significance of this principle for the US-Israel “special relationship” is immediately obvious. As long as America is perceived as a global “strong horse” by the leaders in the Arab world, and the American strong horse is closely aligned with its proxy strong horse in the Middle East, Israel, then there is a strong deterrent to Arab leadership initiating war. If a strong America abdicates its role as the strong horse, then its proxy, Israel, is weakened; and this weakness is likely to invite aggression. Conversely, a strong Israel is a stabilizing force in the Middle East, and a strong relationship with the global strong horse, America, strengthens Israel. Moreover, American leadership that abandons Israel is likely to be seen as an untrustworthy ally, or a weak horse unable to uphold its side of the alliance.
Those who argue, therefore, that America should distance itself from Israel are actually encouraging the de-stabilization of the Middle East. This is a dynamic that is not in the interests of the USA, nor of Israel, nor of the Middle East. It serves the interests only of those Arab and other Muslim leaders who seek the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its Jews. Those who argue that America should distance itself from Israel are supporting, knowingly or not, the next great holocaust of Jews.
The third principle derives from the second, and was first enunciated by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, a 3rd century roman military historian: _si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war)_. This principle is rather self-evident; if you are not the “strong horse” you invite aggression; but it seems to have fallen out of favor in our post-Cold-War national consciousness.
It is important to understand that the Muslim forces with which we are currently at war (our misleadingly named “war against terror”) do not hate us for what we do, or have done. They hate us for what we are: successful, powerful, rich, democratic, a magnet to their own people who flock to our shores by the tens of thousands, and not Muslim. Their animus cannot be bought off with largesse or kindly gestures. If we want peace, we must either defeat our enemies utterly, or be so strong, so well prepared to defeat aggression, so committed to our ideals and so stalwart with our allies that we are the unmistakably strongest horse on the global scene.
Far from being a liability, America’s alliance with Israel is a major asset in the current war. This alliance, the “special relationship,” contributes enormously to American power, and assists us in projecting an image of strength and impregnability to those who seek our fall.
It is with this in mind that fifty American generals publicly proclaimed the following on April 2, 2010:
We, the undersigned, have traveled to Israel over the years with The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). We brought with us our decades of military experience and, following unrestricted access to Israel’s civilian and military leaders, came away with the unswerving belief that the security of the State of Israel is a matter of great importance to the United States and its policy in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. A strong, secure Israel is an asset upon which American military planners and political leaders can rely. Israel is a democracy – a rare and precious commodity in the region – and Israel shares our commitment to freedom, personal liberty and rule of law.
Throughout our travels and our talks, the determination of Israelis to protect their country and to pursue a fair and workable peace with their neighbors was clearly articulated. Thus we view the current tension between the United States and Israel with dismay and grave concern that political differences may be allowed to outweigh our larger mutual interests.
As American defense professionals, we view events in the Middle East through the prism of American security interests.
The United States and Israel established security cooperation during the Cold War, and today the two countries face the common threat of terrorism by those who fear freedom and liberty. Historically close cooperation between the United States. and Israel at all levels including the IDF, military research and development, shared intelligence and bilateral military training exercises enhances the security of both countries. American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks.
Israel and the United States are drawn together by shared values and shared threats to our well-being.
The proliferation of weapons and nuclear technology across the Middle East and Asia, and the ballistic missile technology to deliver systems across wide areas require cooperation in intelligence, technology and security policy. Terrorism, as well as the origins of financing, training and executing terrorist acts, need to be addressed multilaterally when possible. The dissemination of hatred and support of terrorism by violent extremists in the name of Islam, whether state or non-state actors, must be addressed as a threat to global peace.
In the Middle East, a volatile region so vital to U.S. interests, it would be foolish to disengage – or denigrate – an ally such as Israel.
Those who argue for an end to the special relationship not only aid and abet in Israel’s destruction, they undermine American power and deterrence as well.
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