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August 02, 2006

Who is a Friend of Israel?

Let's think about this support of Israel differently.  I've been horrified that both the Democrats and the Republicans have lined up behind Israel in this insane war in Lebanon.  What good can possibly come of this?  And the downside is considerable.   The rest of the world feels pretty strongly that this is an Israeli-American War on Islam.  We are managing to get the Shiites and Sunnis lined up together, something that is near impossible to do.  Against us.  The "street" in the Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia, is forcing its rulers to respond with some support for Hezbollah.  Typically Saudi Arabia quietly supports Israel over the more unruly Shiite nations of Syria and Iran.  Meanwhile, the world takes its eyes off Iran, which may be building nuclear weapons.  We are not paying attention to Iraq which is sinking into civil war.  Our allies are distancing themselves from us further.

The difficulty is that we in America (possibly excepting President Clinton) don't think well about Israel. 

So today, a front-pager at Firedoglake, Pachacutec, writes this incredible post addressing the issue as well as I've ever seen it addressed.

He begins with discussing the reaction of a friend with dual Israeli-American citizenship and family still in Haifa, the worst-hit city in Israel in this recent bombing.  Here's what Pach says about the friend's thoughts about this conflict and Pach's own realization of what it means:

He feels vaguely, not quite viscerally that Israel had to defend itself somehow, yet is nagged by the sense that Israel is making matters far worse.  The sense I get is that the position you describe is reflexive, not actually reflective or even strategic.  When I mentioned to him that the strategy Israel is pursuing has served to eliminate any group that could possibly be a negotiating partner lo these last decades, leaving none but the more extreme, he ruefully agreed.

Then Pach looks at the larger picture:

The simple fact is, superpowers are in some ways obsolete:  using a powerful state military against an entrenched and locally popular guerilla force is the best way to destroy said military.  Having a powerful military is, in this context, a liability, because having it tempts you to use it, thereby furthering the ends of your guerilla or terrorist attackers.  Al Qaeda and Hezbollah know this.  It’s about time we, and Israel, figured this out.

Sun Tzu recognized that when you are fighting on unfavorable ground and outnumbered, the best thing to do is retreat and shore up your alliances.  This simply represents strategic good sense.  Fighting wars of occupation against poor people whose populations largely support guerillas means fighting on just such unfavorable ground.  As counter-intuitive as this may seem, the best strategic choice is not to take the bait, but to stand firm within your borders, look to your defenses and shore up your alliances.

And then the real kicker, the bright new idea on a topic that we've had a hard time thinking about:

I consider it a mark of loyalty, a mark of patriotism, to point this out to my own country when we are grinding our own military into the dust, or perhaps I should say, into the sand.  I consider it the act of a friend to help my friend avoid making the same mistake.  I’m an American progressive, and just as I consider it imperative to criticize the acts and choices of my own country at times, so too do I see it as an act of friendship to do the same for a state like Israel.

George Bush and the Republicans lack the sense or the will to do this, and so they are not friends of Israel.  Bush and the Republicans lunge from international calamity to military catastrophe, leaving naught but carnage in their wake, destroying our alliances and our fighting forces all at once.  We on the left value human life and the survival of free people, and so we are willing to say to Israel, stand down, for your own survival.  Shore up your alliances; look to your defenses.  Israel cannot win the population war in the region and is only acting so as to solidify the strength of its enemies into the next few generations, risking the viability of the state of Israel through the current century.

Republicans are not friends of Israel. On the contrary, we progressives are friends of Israel.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 2, 2006 at 05:36 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


It is this blind support for Israel, Republican and Democratic that really makes me wonder if all those people that say it doesn't make any difference who is in power in D.C. might not be right.

Anyone who cannot see that in 20 years time (or much much sooner) we will probably be pointing to this war as the trigger for the backlash we'll surely face for it.

That Freedom Tower will sure look like a plum target.

It didn't have to be this way.

Posted by: Daniel K | Aug 2, 2006 9:58:40 PM

The inescapable conclusion from this is that we shouldn't have gone after Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda because they were potential negotiating parties.

Posted by: david | Aug 3, 2006 9:05:29 AM

Hardly. Al Qaeda did us severe damage. Killing 3000 civilians out of the blue on our territory is a bit different than killing two soldiers on patrol. Also, we initially had a slew of allies in the world for our war in Afghanistan. We did not have that in Iraq and Israel does not have that in Lebanon. There is a reason for that. There is the occasional just war. But not many.

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 3, 2006 9:43:34 PM

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