Michael Ledeen is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
I dare say few Americans know that May 14th is the anniversary of the United States’ recognition of Israel. It was done by President Harry S. Truman, in the face of extraordinary opposition from several of Truman’s closest advisers.
It wasn’t easy. Some of the most powerful men in America were opposed, and they weren’t reluctant to fight the president. We’ve got a melodramatic account from Richard Holebrooke, who interviewed all the principal players some years later, and wrote an essay about it for the Washington Post.
Holbrooke contends that "beneath the surface lay unspoken but real anti-Semitism on the part of some (but not all) policymakers. The position of those opposing recognition was simple -- oil, numbers and history.
According to (Holbrooke’s records, Defense Secretary James Forrestal told ( Truman assistant Clark) Clifford that "There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other. Why don't you face up to the realities?"
'Crisis narrowly averted'
On May 12, Holbrooke says, Truman held a meeting in the Oval Office to decide the issue.
"Marshall (the secretary of state) and his deputy, Robert Lovett, made the case for delaying recognition -- and 'delay' really meant 'deny.' Truman asked his young aide, Clark Clifford, to present the case for immediate recognition. When Clifford finished, Marshall, uncharacteristically, exploded: 'I don't even know why Clifford is here. He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter. The only reason Clifford is here is that he is pressing a political consideration.'
"Marshall then uttered what Clifford would later call 'the most remarkable threat I ever heard anyone make directly to a President.' In an unusual top-secret memorandum Marshall wrote for the historical files after the meeting, the great general recorded his own words: 'I said bluntly that if the President were to follow Mr. Clifford's advice and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President'."
We don’t know how or even if, General Marshall voted in the 1948 elections, but we do know that he was of a piece with other branches of the establishment, notably what we now call the intelligence community. Listen to the authoritative Michael Doran:
…No sooner had Truman recognized Israel than the CIA secretly sponsored and funded the establishment of the American Friends of the Middle East. Outwardly a 'people-to-people' public diplomacy initiative, AFME brought influential Middle Easterners to the United States, helped them write and publish books and articles, and seeded Middle Eastern student organizations on American college campuses. It also lobbied Congress – against Israel…
We’re talking seventy years ago. The foreign policy establishment didn’t like Israel, and took action against it. The pattern continues to this day, and should be internalized by the current administration.
Trump and his team were flabbergasted when the Washington establishment not only refused to carry out his policies, but fought them. He shouldn’t have been surprised. That is the pattern, and it applies across the board, from national security to tax and trade. It won’t be changed spontaneously, Trump, Kelly et. al. must grab the system by the throat and impose their will on it.
The president has to fight for his policies every day, and to be effective he must take control of the bureaucracy, staffing it out with his own people. The key positions are the “action jobs,” the assistant secretaryships. Moreover, he must ruthlessly and systematically fire, or transfer way down the corridors of power, those who oppose him. That most certainly starts with the leakers.
By and large, this is Trump’s greatest failure, although he shows signs of getting it right. The best news comes from the Senate, where McConnell excels at getting solid candidates confirmed in judgeships. Surprised? Me too. I’m not a big McConnell fan. But lots of credit should go to him and to the Judiciary Committee Chairman, Iowa’s most impressive pig farmer, Chuck Grassley. Grassley’s arguably been the best Republican Senator, and the Trumpkins should cherish him. He has shown, and in the life and death matter of the corruption of the justice/intelligence/law enforcement world, that it is possible to obtain good results. We still await the dropping of many shoes, but they may fall soon. Anyone see the Justice IG report?