The 51st state: not Puerto Rico

What plans do our leaders in the Oval Office and the Senate have in store for the future of the 51st State? And I don’t mean Puerto Rico. With Bush having successfully twisted Sharon’s arm to end the confinement of Arafat and Sharon’s upcoming week-long visit to the U.S., two great nations that cherish freedom and democracy – the U.S. and Israel – are on the verge of further uniting their destinies and certainly increasing the perceptions of their collusion, which are popular in world and Arab media.

However, many rightist Israelis vehemently insist upon Israeli freedom of action without prior American approval. These Israelis insist that an American force of monitors or peacekeepers robs them of their sovereignty and their ability to fight terror. They see such international involvement as a victory for the Palestinians. Yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that the only hope for de-escalation of the conflict (or peace) will come with the price tag of decreased Israeli autonomy and increased American presence and supervision.

I clearly support increased U.S. involvement in Israel, but my reasons for desiring American action in Israel are different from those of our policy makers.

How is it that the isolationist/hands-off ideologies of the neoconservatives have gradually changed since 9/11 to a new political philosophy that I will refer to as “Hegemonic power flaunting?” Our new long-term strategy appears to be a perversion of the “realist” analyses learned by our policy makers in the academy, plus their need to justify their policies to the vast ignorant masses that comprise the electorate and their infatuation with simplistic frameworks and myopic policies. In short, in response to the end of the Cold War, the arrival of globalization and 9/11, we have now entered the era of U.S. “Hegemonic power flaunting.” It promises to be a scintillating thrill-ride for peoples of all ages and nationalities. Maybe I should go study the Middle East or Arabic or something, so that I can ride the wave (or its counter-currents)?

Like many of us, I was fortunate enough to hear former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speak a few nights ago. It was a rather surreal experience. Imagine if your grandmother was super-educated and had directed American foreign policy for four years and then she came to give you a fireside chat about the distinctions between Clinton and Bush policy in Israel and how sanctions on Iraq were devised and continually reaffirmed. Grandma Albright was not condescending to her audience nor did she talk over our heads; she made us feel like she cared about us.

She gave nice, American-as-apple pie, pro-Israel comments like, “There is no moral equivalency between terror and what the Israelis are doing in the territories.” Or “the U.S. must support Israel because of its historic connection with it and our need to support the only democracy in the region.”

So, I capitalized on this special opportunity and asked her a question. It went something like, “Secretary Albright, you said in your speech that the United States supports Israel because of its historic connection to it and because it is the only democracy in the region.

“It seems to me that the American support of Israel, especially the American support of a belligerent Israel is not in our national interests. In my appraisal of things, U.S. support of Israel confers few geostrategic advantages on the U.S. and it comes at a very high price in dollars and in world opinion and ability to ingratiate ourselves with the Arabs. So, I ask you, why do we actually support Israel in the fashion that we do? We certainly don’t support it because it is a democracy. U.S. foreign policy frequently supports autocratic regimes over democratic ones, as in Latin America for example… Could you elaborate what you feel the real strategic reasons are that underlie U.S support of Israel?”

In Albright’s reply, she spoke of how the U.S. supports Israel because it is a democracy and because Israel has no other friends. She mentioned the frequency of votes in the U.N. where only the U.S. and sometimes Uzbekistan votes with Israel. She said that because Israel has no other friends, it is our responsibility to be nice to it. How cute.

Furthermore, she said U.S. support of Israel doesn’t mean we can’t support Arab countries as well and just as effectively. Really! Is that true? Wow, I never thought of it that way. . . Aren’t our leaders really smart and crafty?

Albright revealed the three big lies pertaining to U.S. support for Israel. First, we support Israel because it is a democracy. Second, that we support Israel because we share the same values and culture as the Israelis. (This is sort of true, but I don’t see U.S. pouring the dough into Mexico or any capitalist, western, Christian country in Latin America.) Third, it is said we support Israel because strong unwavering support is necessary to make peace in the region. Really! Is supporting Sharon and calling him a “man of peace” and letting him wriggle away from Bush’s demands the way to bring peace to the region?

As I see it, we support Israel for three very different reasons. First, because of American Jewish money and political power and because of the ideological commitment of the Christian right to a vehement pro-Israel policy informed by the books of Revelation and Isaiah. Second, because of a Cold War mentality which has our leaders see Israel as our military satellite in the region, which in times of “trouble” will be on OUR side. This Cold War mentality sees the “War on Terror” as the new Cold War in which states are either with the U.S. or against the U.S., and Israel is our front line warrior in this war. Third, our leaders desire to flaunt our hegemonic power and support of Israel as a means of U.S. power projection.

That is the truth about American-Israeli relations.