Nations, certainly the more democratic ones, feel compelled to engage in often blatantly hypocritical action when dealing with “friends” considered vital to national interests. Consequently, the United States, which has constantly trumpeted to the world its support of democracy and human rights, has seen no problem in supporting and cooperating with sundry dictatorial regimes with abominable human rights records. During the cold war this generally took the form of supporting any military dictator who claimed to be fighting a communist insurgency, which policy could actually go as far as participating in the overthrow of a democratically elected government, as in the case of Chile and Iran. Now one only need replace the word “communist” with “terrorist” or “Islamicist” to see the same policy continuing, as recently in Yemen with Ali Abdullah Salah. And of course there is oil and convenient military bases. How often have you heard Washington, full of praise for the Arab Spring and condemnation of rulers like Assad and Ahmadinejad, complaining about the bloody repression of protestors in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia?
Of course, nations do not typically have friends but rather interests, and maintaining those interests, which seem inevitably to fall under the wonderfully vague term “national security,” often conflicts with the stated values of a democratic nation. Perhaps that is simply life in the big city. Certainly, American voters are going to be far more concerned with the price of gas than the plight of peaceful and justified demonstrators getting their heads beaten in by our friends, even if those friends operate a political and social system that is more at home in the 11th century than the 21st. Squishy sentimentality about human rights or idealistic notions of international law cannot obstruct the business of the nation.
This all makes sense if your priority is the welfare of your own nation regardless of how the inhabitants of some other country might suffer. What is harder to understand, however, is violating the traditional norms of international behavior and injuring the reputation of the country pursuing actions that not only do not serve national interests but in fact injure them. And taking such action in the face of massive popular opposition, which on the face of it might seem imprudent for a democratically elected government. But in the case of bombing Iran, apparently not.
The stated aim of this prospective madness is protecting what actually must be a friend, Israel, since it is very difficult to see how this ally has ever served American interests. Our intelligence agencies have stated that it will be at least three years before Iran can produce even a crude deliverable weapon, and any objective analysis of the Iranian government strongly suggests that for all their sometimes bizarre behavior they are not irrational and suicidal enough to launch a nuclear device at a country that possess several hundred easily delivered nuclear bombs. The militaries of both Israel and the US do not want to attack Iran. The majority of the populations of both these democracies do not want to attack Iran. Some 70% of all Americans do not want to attack Iran and want to dissuade Israel from doing so, and even 69% of Republicans agree.
So why the hell are we on the verge of doing this? For the simple reasons that the Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, faces serious domestic problems and needs to satisfy the extreme hawks and – let us be honest – aspiring fascists in his coalition and that this is a Presidential election year in the United States. Obama is not stupid, but he is political, and despite the evidence of widespread anti-war sentiment and the fact that American Jewry is rapidly losing its traditional unquestioning commitment to Israel he nevertheless cannot resist the half century old political imperative to NEVER criticize or obstruct our “most important ally.” It must seem particularly important to him to pander to a foreign government (which he clearly despises) since the Republican candidates have almost come to blows in their claims to be the ultimate Zionist. They have already savaged him for throwing Israel under the bus, seemingly for not being enthusiastic about the colonization of the West Bank, despite the absence of any bus anywhere on the horizon.
Allowing your foreign policy to be determined by domestic politics is never healthy for a country, even one as powerful and militarily invincible as the United States. But to alter your foreign policy judgments and act counter to the clear will of the voters because of a largely imaginary political advantage is incomprehensible. The historian is reminded of the Great War, during which the political leaders of Britain, France and Germany all fell over one another making promises (which they had no intention of keeping) to the Zionists because of the completely imaginary gentile notion of an incredibly powerful and united world Jewry.
Because, at least initially, of European and American guilt, the huge American Jewish community, the astute propagandizing of the young and very western Jewish state and the intransigence and foreignness of unattractive Arab dictatorships, America allowed herself to fall into exactly the kind of “passionate attachment” George Washington warned against. The result has been the unqualified and for us counterproductive support of a country that routinely and blatantly violates the international law this country is in fact sworn to uphold, making us look like hypocritical fools when we legitimately protest the aggressive and inhumane actions of other nations. How can we complain about Russian and Chinese vetoes of UN action against Bashir Assad when the US, alone except for American territories and apartheid South Africa, consistently vetoed even the mildest criticism of Israeli behavior? And remember, the deliberate Israeli attack in June 1967 on the USS Liberty, resulting in 34 dead American sailors, is still officially considered, against all evidence, an “accident.”
And now we are on the edge of the precipice, on the verge of a disastrous (and immoral) war against Iran, which would certainly disrupt oil supplies and dramatically affect the global economy, possible turning the recession into an outright depression. Which party, I wonder, will get the blame when gasoline prices in America soar? All this because of the political needs of a small handful of individuals in Israel and the United States.
The image of the tiny democratic David holding off with our aid the evil Arab Goliath was never quite accurate and is now a sick joke. The most powerful military and the only nuclear weapons between France and Pakistan belong to Israel, which has now settled a half million colonists on territory belonging to the Palestinians, with no end in sight except the ultimate creation of a greater apartheid Israel. The current government in Tel Aviv, with the seeming connivance of the judiciary, has already limited free speech in Israel and is allied with the ultra-orthodox communities, which are completely at odds with the essentially secular society of the majority.
Shortly after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War Israeli philosopher Yeshaya Liebowitz wrote: In the first stage we shall see euphoria, upon our return to our ancient sites. Next we shall see the emergence of a messianic, radical and dangerous nationalism. In the third stage we shall see Israeli society becoming more brutal and the emergence of a police state.
It is coming true, as Israel in its treatment of the Palestinians and its own minorities engages in a more and more convincing impersonation of the Third Reich. We are complicit. Worse, we are becoming Israel.