Countries That Solve American Problems Become Strategic Partners; Countries That Cause American Problems Will Have Problems With The United States.
So, it turns out that I’m a part-owner and financier of the Israeli economy. Michael Oren, as Ambassador of Israel to the United States, gave a speech at the University of California-Irvine, and after the Friends of Palestine were done heckling him, he commented about Israel having more companies on the NASDAQ than any country outside of North America.
So I checked up on it. About 75 Israeli companies are traded on the NASDAQ, and a few make an appearance in the mutual fund that makes up my employer-sponsored 401k retirement plan.
Does it sound silly to you that I‘m claiming some sort of editorial authority based on a few Israeli stocks in my retirement portfolio? If so, it shouldn’t. This is an example of an economic interest, or, a money-based reason for the United States to care about Israel.
Ambassador Oren didn’t just stick to stock markets; he mentioned joint efforts on missile defense, military-technology sharing, international trade – Caterpillar is a huge brand in my area, and is constantly targeted by the BDS types despite the “military retrofitting” of bulldozers being performed by Israel’s state-owned military company – and international tourism. All of which are interests my country has in your country.
The United States Engages With Countries For a Reason
Countries which solve an American problem gain American attention; West Germany was the front line of the Cold War, so the Morganthau Plan went out the window, the Marshall Plan was in, and West Germany was re-industrialized and even re-armed within the NATO alliance. Canada is a major trading partner and our closest strategic defense partner (not to mention our Northern Flank) through the jointly organized air defense called NORAD, or the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The “special relationship” with the United Kingdom comes from shared Atlanticist geopolitical concerns.
South Korea was another front line in the Cold War, and has been on the receiving end of American military, economic, and diplomatic cooperation. The United States led a UN effort to defend South Korea from a Stalinist regime, and has stayed engaged with them in a way that encouraged their national development – access to American capital and markets being the most obvious, and South Korea went from being a nation of subsistence farmers to being an industrialized, high-tech, wealthy economy.
The United States found itself in a conflict with a Soviet client state, North Vietnam, at a time when the Israelis were in a position to dismantle several Soviet client armies in 1967 and 1973. The United States re-supplied Israel in the 1973 War specifically with the goal of showing the Soviets and their clients that their military might wasn’t so impressive after all, and that it was better to make deals. Which is to say, show off to pressure the North Vietnamese to sign the Paris Peace Accords.
The eventual ties between Israel and the US also had the odd effect of increasing American influence in the Arab world. Anwar Sadat figured out that to get the Sinai back, he would first have to restore relations with the United States, which he did.
The Cold War gave way to terrorism in the 1990’s, and Israel become a major partner in intelligence sharing, security systems, and served as the sort of front-line force against many terrorist elements. Israeli economic growth is therefore within America’s basket of interests, which explains why Israeli companies populate the NASDAQ.
But today Egypt and Jordan both have peace treaties with Israel, Syria is involved in a civil war, the Cold War is long over, and the United States is looking for a way out of wars with Wahabbi Sunni Jihadists. We are even moving towards a diplomatic shift regarding Iran.
A belief that Islamic people will have to defeat Islamic extremism is a sea-change in American policy; King Abdullah II of Jordan has become something of a cult celebrity in context of the Islamic State conflict, and has already won the Hashemite Kingdom access to more advanced American military hardware. I would think that Jordan is about to receive much more diplomatic and economic attention from the United States along the same lines that West Germany, South Korea, and Israel became focal points of American geostrategic calculus.
This is all going to have an effect on the American-Israeli relationship, and is going to make a lot of people nervous as well.
Israel remains a democratic society with a functional, dynamic (or dynamic-ish) economy, a free press, an open society, with recognized legal rights for minority groups, and remains a bulwark against terrorist groups, so it isn’t going to be abandoned by the United States. Claims that Barack Obama is taking America into an anti-Israeli stance are fatuous; claims that Mr. Netanyahu has personally destroyed relations with America are unwarranted or at least exaggerated.
The US-Israeli relationship is going to change; Israel is not the intrepid band of soldier-farmers circa 1973, and the United States is neither the Cold War combatant nor the exporter of democracy-by-force that we’ve been in the past. The relationship will have to become less dramatic and more businesslike; Israel should buy more American equipment and agricultural staples, and put more businesses on the American stock market; there should be more exchanges of students and professionals, and Israeli leaders should try to develop a deeper understanding of American global concerns.
The United States remains the global superpower, and superpowers have interests everywhere. We also face multi-faceted problems, problems that Israelis can‘t imagine: The rise of China unnerves America’s Asian allies (see the South China Sea Crisis,) Pakistan betrayed us, Russia has become belligerent in Georgia and Ukraine, and we have ongoing domestic political and economic problems. Then, we have the latest Israeli action, which is to try and scuttle a multi-power diplomatic effort regarding Iran. Not exactly the dictionary definition of ‘helpful.’
Countries that solve American problems get American attention and support; countries that cause American problems find themselves having problems with the United States. This is not an absolutist “with us or against us” declaration; it is a long continuum of grey areas, balanced interests, and preponderances of evidence.
The big problem just over the horizon is the shrinking chance for any sort of two-state solution. People forget that the United States has been advocating two states for two peoples since November of 1947, when we voted to approve a UN plan to partition the UN Mandate of Palestine. This has become the cornerstone of American diplomacy in the Middle East, and self-determination for the Palestinians is an element of American diplomatic understandings with the entire Arab world.
And, yes, the Palestinians haven’t been altogether cooperative; and yes, Hamas is a rat-bag terrorist group, and yes, there are always nuances, and biblical homelands, and archeological finds, and all those things to dredge up.
We are now approaching a point where even the credible possibility of a Palestinian state is in doubt. Naftali Bennett, whose political star seems to be rising, has expressly rejected any idea of a Palestinian state. His party’s proposed annexation of a chunk of the West Bank, perhaps made real by some future Bennett-influenced government, would make the general American diplomatic position in the Middle East completely untenable, and would strain diplomatic ties between the United States and pretty much every Arab and Muslim country, as well as our European friends who support Palestinian statehood. In other words, causing a major problem for the United States.
Imagine the Suez Crisis, Reagan’s condemnation of the invasion of Lebanon, and George H.W. Bush’s threat to suspend loan guarantees to pressure Yitzhak Shamir to stop settlement construction and force him to the Madrid Conference, all rolled up into one. That’s what the end of the very idea of the two-state solution would mean, and then we’ll all get to see a real diplomatic crisis.