by Curt Jones
In the American media, American soldiers and allies are usually “the good guys”. Adversaries are “the bad guys”. This premise has been applied to every conflict, from the colonists’ clashes with the “treacherous redmen” to the so-called “global war on terrorism”. It’s a feel-good practice that has no analytical utility. It merely drags out the fight.
For any conflict, the crucial question is “Who won?”. The answer is not always axiomatic. The winners of the American Revolution, the wars against the Native Americans, and World War II are self-evident, but in the debate over the Vietnam War, there are diehards who still argue that if America had kept up the fight, America would have “won”.
Most observers believe not only that America lost in Vietnam, but that Washington should have had enough sense to avoid the war in the first place. This is the argument I propose to make about our involvement in the monumental power struggle in the Middle East.
During World War II, US policy for the Middle East underwent a radical shift. Prewar, Washington had confined its attention to the promotion of private American sponsorship of educational institutions, thereby making a signal contribution to the intellectual development of the region; political issues were left to the European imperialists, who had misruled the region since the early 1800’s.
Postwar, Washington gradually replaced up-close, land-based European imperialism with a long-range, sea-based American brand – with the radical exception that it was subtly anchored on a quasi-colony, the new state of Israel.
The Americans’ motivation vacillated with circumstance. When Roosevelt met with Ibn Saud in 1945, the primary American concern was access to oil. Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers were obsessed with the Cold War – and their delusion that the Middle East was in danger of going Communist.
Under Johnson and Nixon, imperialism took firm root. In the Far East, it was seen as the antidote to Communism. In the Middle East, it was escalated as insurance for the safety of Israel – a domestic political concern that was unrelated, sometimes even antithetical, to the national interest of the United States.
For the Israeli leadership, traumatized by the Holocaust, the preservation of the Jewish sanctuary is an existential necessity. For the American leadership, operating in a special-interest democracy, the defense of the Jewish state is a political necessity. Both governments are oblivious to geopolitical reality: The Zionist system is incompatible with its environment. Six million Jews cannot determine the future of 350 million non-Jews. Zionist Israel is not a viable state; it survives in a permanent condition of war.
Against a background of 65 years of Muslim-Israeli friction, major hostilities have flared eleven times:
|1948||War of Israeli Independence (adversaries: Palestinians, contingents from most Arab states)|
|1956||Suez War (Egypt)|
|1967||Six-Day War (Egypt, Syria, Jordan)|
|1967-70||War of Attrition (Egypt)|
|1973||Yom Kippur War (Egypt, Syria)|
|1982-2000||Lebanon War (Hizballah, Syria, anti-West Lebanese)|
|2006||First Gaza War (Hamas)|
|2006||Second Hizballah War (Hizballah)|
|2008||Second Gaza War (Hamas)|
|2012||Third Gaza War (Hamas)|
|2000’s||War of assassination and cyber-subversion against Iran|
This 65-year trail of bloodshed is not the product of mindless belligerence on either side. It is the inevitable consequence of the misguided Zionist-American impulse to convert a strategic segment of the Middle East to an alien political entity. Washington proclaims a permanent guarantee of Israeli security, without realizing that the absolute security of Israel would mean the absolute insecurity of its neighbors.
America lacks the capacity to guarantee permanent security to any Middle East state – let alone all 19. You will have noticed how apprehensive Washington has been about any direct involvement in Syria.
Simply by its compliance with every Israeli political, economic, and logistic request, America would have posed an intolerable threat to Israel’s neighbors – without firing a shot – but America has gone much further. Tacitly on Israel’s behalf, it has fought Middle Eastern Muslims in seven wars of its own:
|1980-88||Participation in Iraq’s war against the Iranian theocracy – sworn enemy of Israel.|
|1983||In contravention of a cardinal rule of its Middle East strategy, America ordered its own troops into combat alongside the Israelis in the battle for Beirut.|
|1991||Expulsion from Kuwait of the troops from Baathist Iraq, Israel’s archenemy.|
|2001-14 (?)||The Taliban War, precipitated by the 9/11/2001 attacks on American landmarks by Saudi Islamists – not by Afghanistan. Israeli hardliners like the US to fight Muslims.|
|2003-11||Occupation of Iraq, in consonance with the fervent
but ignorant wishes of Israel and its American sympathizers (Jewish Zionists, evangelical Zionists, and amenable politicians). The bizarre objective was a pro-Israel government in Baghdad. What we actually got was a pro-Iran government.
|2000’s||War of assassination, drone strikes, and commando
raids against Jihadists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. (Congressman Kucinich considers that the drone campaign undercuts the exclusive right of Congress to declare war. He might also cite the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against official killings without due process.)
|2000’s||War of sanctions and cyber-subversion against Iran.|
The automatic reaction to these 18 gratuitous wars of choice was the region-wide groundswell of anti-Americanism, expressed in waves of abduction, assassination, and subversion, culminating in the lethal attacks of 9/11/2001 on the continental United States, and last year’s Pakistani closure of the main supply route to Afghanistan.
Although Washington still maintains its lame professions of neutrality in the conflict between Israel and the center of the Muslim world, the obvious instigator of mass anti-American sentiment is American imperialism in its manifold forms – resistance to overdue political reform, coddling of reactionary regimes, and presuming to dictate the geopolitical future of the Middle East by the blank check for Israel, and the permanent war against Israel’s enemies.
This reality is too incriminating to be recognized by the American establishment and the mainstream media. Instead, they purvey the language of derogation (“The Iranian government is a rogue regime”) or sophistry (“Democracies like America pursue noble objectives.” “Islam is a fanatic, obscurantist cult.”). No apology is offered for the embarrassing analogy between extra-judicial Iranian killings of Iranian dissidents in Europe, and extra-judicial American killings of American dissidents in Yemen. Obama’s Attorney General claims that the “due process” requirement in the Fifth Amendment doesn’t mean “judicial process”, but he declines to release the supporting legal argumentation.
America is the imperfect avatar of democracy. A destructive case of that imperfection is its anti-democratic Middle East policy. The occupation of Iraq was the most revealing example: The coincidence of American hegemony with the talented human resources of the occupied state could have provided a rare opportunity for building a base for the remediation of the social pathologies that afflict the eastern Arab world – except for the bias that cripples American altruism in the Middle East: Reformation of Iraq was absolutely blocked by the political prohibition against the creation of an Arab society sufficiently advanced to challenge Israel’s technological preeminence – and to highlight the racist premise of the Israeli political system.*
Those who have the power are prone to the delusion that power is panacea – that adversaries can be beaten into submission. In some situations, such as the suppression of the Native Americans, this formula works.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is not such a situation. “Power projection” is impotent against the dictates of geopolitical law. Washington needs to moderate its militarism. Israel needs fundamental reform, adaptive to its environment.
The views expressed by the author are his own.
Curt Jones, a member of this journal’s Board of Directors, has contributed frequent commentaries to American Diplomacy. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1975 after more than thirty years of service, including assignments to seven posts abroad.