Beyond a ‘strategic liability’–the special relationship has made the U.S. ugly

Israel/Palestine
on 48 Comments

I received one of the coveted invitations to Tuesday’s Nixon Center’s debate between Chas Freeman and Robert Satloff over whether Israel is or is not an American strategic asset. It was a sign of the intense interest in the topic (and perhaps too in Chas Freeman) that, in the dog days of summer, it looked to be the most popular Nixon Center luncheon of the year. The guest list seemed almost scientifically balanced: in apparently equal number were representatives from the sturdy Arabist Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and several more or less like-minded organizations, as well as from AIPAC, the ADL, the JTA. But with one exception, the audience was exceedingly polite throughout. 

In his prepared remarks, Chas Freeman described succinctly all that the US does for Israel, financially and diplomatically, then noted that the it gets in return virtually none of the strategic benefits one typically receives from allies. Israel is so unpopular in its region that its participation in any joint project is sufficient to drive others away. For his part, Satloff claimed that Israel is America’s best bargain for ally ever. In manner, he was almost smugly confident and self assured. At the outset he talked about his reluctance at accepting the invitation, wondering whether his participation would “lend legitimacy” to a question which is out there “on the fringes, (though not only there)” . He stated that the issue of Israel’s strategic value was never debated “in the Situation Room” and nor by a “vast majority” of military leaders and national security specialists agree, across the political spectrum. I suspect if Satloff was so certain of this, he wouldn’t have bothered to come. 

Like David Frum, (but for different reasons) I found the debate interesting but slightly unsatisfying. I think Freeman’s points are unassailable, but there would be many who would also be persuaded that Israel proved itself as a Cold War ally, demonstrating the superiority of American avionics (in dogfights with Syria) and, through its military strength, weakening the Soviet foothold in the region. (Walt and Mearsheimer also wrote there was much to be said for Israel’s strategic value during the Cold War.) And I would acknowledge that these points in Israel’s favor were not anticipated by the early Cold War strategists who felt, initially, that American support for Israel would be incredibly costly in geostrategic terms, in the short and medium term. Satloff of course also emphasized Israel’s technical prowess, its success in devolping drones so Americans can strike Afghan targets from computer screens in Nevada, and its high tech industry. All very Dan Senor– though it’s never explained why Israel needs to occupy the West Bank and starve Gaza for its computer industry to thrive. Satloff seemed pleased to contrast the relative peace around Israel with the situation in the Gulf: See, Americans, for the cost of a mere $100 billion in aid, the Levant plus Egypt is relatively pacified, while the Gulf is full of war.

I think Freeman was excellent, but what I believe is his most salient point he expressed tangentially, and in segments, and in truth is not the kind of thing that can be argued well in debate, because it is grounded in sentiment and inference rather than cold facts. I would put it this way: that the nature of Washington’s alliance with Israel, and especially the extreme deference to Israeli sensibilities that seems inextricable from it, had pulled the United States into an ever expanding arc of conflict with the Muslim world, a conflict that is far from inevitable and in fact unnecessary—and that this conflict has made us a target of terrorism and has already eroded our constitutional liberties, as well as costing us hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of dead and wounded. Freeman noted that several terrorist operatives have mentioned American support for Israel as an important motivator for their actions, but they have other, also serious, reasons for their hatred. Would the United States have had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, the residue of the first Iraq war, without Israel and its lobby? A case could be made either way. I don’t believe we would be at war with Iraq now without Israel, though the proponents of that war now work overtime to claim that no, Iran was always Israel’s preferred target. We certainly would not be working ourselves into a froth over the remote possibility of an Iranian nuclear deterrent without Israel’s prodding.

But how exactly do you quantify the cost of appearing as blatantly hypocritical (about democracy, about human rights) to hundreds of millions of Muslims? Satloff can and did claim that Arabs (quietly) support a war against Iran and say that when Arab governments complain about American support for Zionism, it is more or less meaningless. Perhaps it is; the governments are weak, autocratic, not very effective and hardly beloved by their own people.

The question period was slightly more expansive. Joe Klein (who I would depict as near neutral in this debate) asked in his signature fashion a pointed question to each figure. I asked Satloff whether his calculus might change if the two-state solution negotiation were to end (or to be generally acknowledged to be over) and Israel was seen, more clearly as a state denying political rights to four million people under occupation. His answer surprised me: there has been a two state negotiation going on since 1937 (the time of an early British partition proposal) and it’s still ongoing. He could not have made it clearer that Israel and its American spokesman enjoy the pretext of a peace process—it can go on forever!– while Israel, which got its state 62 years ago, continues to settle and seize the land it wants.

Satloff was full of condescending praise for the Obama administration for “correcting its error” of asking for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem as a prelude to negotiations. Indeed, he smugly noted that Obama had learned the error of his ways very quickly, so deserved double praise! Generally I found Satloff an interesting character, exuding confidence, expressing forceful talking points at every turn. And they all take a moment to unravel—yes, what he said is a kind of half-truth, and the other half is false. But if the statements come cascading out, expressed rapidly and cogently enough, it can work. I imagine that being in a room with Netanyahu has the same effect.

The one volatile moment came when someone with an Israeli accent (from the guest list I surmise it was Amitai Etzioni, but I’m not certain) challenged Freeman for claiming that one of the things America had learned from Israel was targeted assassination and torture. He was vehement, and mentioned (a good debating point) the Phoenix program in Vietnam. Freeman replied that he had heard first-hand from Israelis about Israeli assassinations and torture, Israelis who had grown repulsed by them. The element that isn’t revealed in the exchange is a complex one—what our interrogators have learned from Israeli ones, whether the entire Israeli colonizing discourse about Muslims, and sex and shame has fed into Abu Ghraib type atrocities. I believe it has, but connecting the dots can’t done in a debate.

In his post on this, David Frum says that Freeman didn’t play the part of coldly calculated realist. I think there’s something to this, and Chas, though he certainly has excellent realist credentials, does argue and think in terms of values as well. So do most realists I know. Coming away from the debate, I felt more strongly that the question of Israel in the United States is going to be decided on the basis of values, as much as strategic costs and benefits. That’s a realm where Israel as a democracy has an overwhelming advantage, and where Israel as an apartheid occupier has none whatsoever.

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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48 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    July 22, 2010, 9:40 am

    Is there a link to the debate? I was so hoping that you Mondoweiss folks would live blog the debate. Any links to the debate

    • DICKERSON3870
      July 22, 2010, 10:17 am

      RE: “Any links to the debate” – Kathleen
      SEE – Israel: a strategic asset or liability? ~ War in Context, 07/21/10
      On Tuesday, July 20, The Nixon Center hosted a luncheon discussion on “Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?” in which Ambassador Chas Freeman, Jr., (US ambassador to Saudi Arabia for the George H.W. Bush administration from 1989 to 1992) delivered the following remarks…
      REMARKS – link to warincontext.org

    • Scott
      July 22, 2010, 3:02 pm

      link to youtube.com

      Was just put up

      • Richard Witty
        July 22, 2010, 7:01 pm

        Thanks for the link.

      • Richard Witty
        July 23, 2010, 4:05 am

        I couldn’t hear Freeman well though.

        I would want to attempt to comment on his comments and choice of important references, but just couldn’t hear most of it.

  2. Citizen
    July 22, 2010, 9:48 am

    Kathleen, here’s a bit of the point-counterpoint:
    link to thecable.foreignpolicy.com

    • Kathleen
      July 22, 2010, 10:07 am

      thaanks Sure hope someone taped the whole debate. Will look over at the Nixon Center

  3. Richard Witty
    July 22, 2010, 9:55 am

    The question posed is itself largely a distraction,

    “Is Israel a strategic asset of the US or liability?”

    Scott for example answers his own questions, proving his own predisposition.

    There are THREE critical bases of the “special relationship”.

    1. Jews’ history. The holocaust is now 65 years ago and although any humane individual should acknowledge that such an experience reverberates for multiple generations, it is still long enough ago, that it should NOT play in current math of political liabilities.

    2. The right of Jewish Israelis to self-govern rather than be governed by any entity that they regard as alien. Israel exists. It IS a democracy with full (or approaching full) civil rights for all its citizens and is much MORE democratic than any of its immediate neighbors.

    The US obligation, in addition to supposed UN obligation, to protect Israel’s self-governance and sovereignty is independant of strategic asset/liability. It is existential.

    As such, the support by the US of democratic Israel, is itself an affirmation of the US protection of democracy (form and substance) to others.

    3. Selection of other specific strategic objectives. They are the supply chain for oil, the supply chain for petro-capital into European and American markets, Asian strategic military relations with China becoming the dominant world economic and likely military power.

    The Arab world absent oil, concentrated capital is not particularly consequential to the US. China is consequential, and if anything the argument can be made about the temporary pandering to Arab oil interests (oil supply is depleting) in competition with China for access to the oil supply chain.

    But, then CLEARLY, systemic fossil fuel conservation is the most relevant strategic concern entirely. And, that we are just not doing.

    When the strategic concerns reduce, then the existential commitments, the relationship of friends and family as well as of values, will predominate.

    And, in that setting, the neo-conservative arguments will still be presented. (Is there a single neo-conservative thesis now anyway?) You may be arguing vehemently with a literal straw dog, yesterday’s opponent, considering yesterday’s context.

    • pjdude
      July 22, 2010, 1:20 pm

      2. The right of Jewish Israelis to self-govern rather than be governed by any entity that they regard as alien. Israel exists. It IS a democracy with full (or approaching full) civil rights for all its citizens and is much MORE democratic than any of its immediate neighbors.

      ok lets assume for a second this is true(its not) Why should they be given such a consideration as to keep the lands they stole from the very people they refused to show that consideration? Why should they get that which they have denied the palestinians for so long?

    • Psychopathic god
      July 22, 2010, 1:47 pm

      this is not Israel’s right to decide or determine, Witty (you may have covered that point in the course of your bloviating; I didn’t read past about the third line of pseudointellectual twaddle).

      Americans have a say in this relationship, and if Americans don’t like to be associated with a rogue state, then we say so.

      It’s not your choice.

      Americans owe Israel precisely NOTHING.
      Israel owes US a hell of a lot.

      time to pay the piper.

      • Richard Witty
        July 22, 2010, 2:05 pm

        Correct,
        Its America’s government’s responsibility to determine US interests, hopefully clearly, and hopefully upholding the mix of American existing relationships, needs, values, opportunities consistent with humaneness.

        Your anger “its not Israel’s to decide”, and “time to pay the piper”, is malicious more than insightful.

      • Mooser
        July 22, 2010, 7:36 pm

        “Your anger “its not Israel’s to decide”, and “time to pay the piper”, is malicious more than insightful.”

        Will you please stop telling people the acceptable limits of their feelings. Who the hell do you think you are?
        So it’s malicious! Can you tell me, in less than three heads of lettuce why people can’t feel malicious towards Israel? Why, cause Israel might get mad and hurt somebody?
        I’m really sick of your threats disguised as pleas for rationality.

    • MarkF
      July 23, 2010, 10:29 am

      There’s more than just three, because there’s lobbies such as AIPAC that play an enormous role in the “special relationship”.

      To point #3, it’s more than oil. We also trade goods with other middle east countries. Check your clothing labels. We purchase goods from Jordan, UAE, etc.

      Absent a strong lobby, we would probably have much better relations with the middle eastern countries and take a far less dversarial posture irregardless of their form ov government.

      Whether a country is MORE democratic than another is irrelevent to U.S. interests if the democratic government is allowing behaviors that cause damage to the U.S. because the U.S. cannot change those behaviors. There is no way you can possibly aruge that Israel as a whole, with the settlement enterprise and all that it entails, is compatible with democratic ideals and is hurting U.S. interests LESS than opening up relationships with a non-democratic regime. It’s an affirmation that we will support governments that oppress others in the region and turn a blind eye to it.

      We now have peaceful relations Vietnam. Better deal than fighting and trying to democratize them, no?

      If you’re implying that Israel is a friend, why would a friend that is doing so well economically cointinue to take aid from us when our economy is going through one of the worst condtions we’ve ever seen? I would argue a true friend might help us out now for all the help financially and diplomatically we have provided over the years.

      Values? what shared values? You see the laws the Knesset is trying to pass lately? Those are FAR from anything I would want to share here in the U.S.

      Good simple litmus for evaluating shared values – would you want to live there?

      • Richard Witty
        July 23, 2010, 2:13 pm

        Mark,
        Your stretching as to definition of US strategic interests.

        The whole argument is presented in prejudice, assertion proving itself.

        Try identifying what you consider the critical strategic interests of the US, specifically, then assess the degree and ways that the US relationship with Israel affects its ability to advocate for them.

        And, then also, it is NECESSARY to consider the likely consequences of specific alternative proposed relationships.

        It is literally childish to just complain. A mature and well thought out proposal is required to act.

  4. Mack
    July 22, 2010, 10:00 am

    Cheer their kitschy smugness. It’s why they’re losing the country they thought was theirs forever.

  5. James
    July 22, 2010, 10:34 am

    the alliance is a bum deal for the usa anyway you look at it.. it is also one that israel needs to badly maintain as any loss to it would be very problematic… clearly israel is dependent on the usa and it is time that the usa let go of it’s dependent so that it can grow up some…

  6. Mack
    July 22, 2010, 10:37 am

    It’s Israel that’s the “distraction”. As Geo. Washington warned – America fought for its own independence from a colonial master holding it down. Not to prop up some other foreign colonial master holding another people down.

  7. Citizen
    July 22, 2010, 10:52 am

    What’s a distraction? Asking why should Uncle Sam support Israel to the unique extent it does (See Chas Freeman at the FN link above on the economic cost to the US taxpayer, and the diplomatic cost to the US as well).
    You, Witty, cannot disregard oil, given its continued value to the US. No state has the right to self-govern unconditionally–else, why did we have the Nuremberg Trials? A blank check is not existential, neither economically, diplomatically, or morally. Your comment, Witty, is absurd.

  8. Avi
    July 22, 2010, 11:04 am

    In short, and from my perspective, Mr. Freeman presented concrete evidence that can be quantified, as Scott has already mentioned.

    Satloff opened with an appeal to emotion claiming that the US and Israel shared common values and that such similarities somehow benefited the US.

    He made a point of emphasizing that unlike other countries in the region, in Israel both the government and the people love the US. That, of course, is patently false.

    The colonists who marched with torches toward the US consulate in Jerusalem when Obama applied slight pressure on the Israeli government to freeze the colonial expansion is testament to the fact that Satloff’s argument is baseless. Ditto Bush Sr.’s attempts in 1991 regarding the same issue.

    Among the calls at that rally was, “Obama racist; his regime will fall” and other calls demanding that George Mitchell “Go home”.

    Those colonists make up more than 500,000 of Israel’s citizenry. That’s a mass to be reckoned with.

    So Satloff’s argument is flimsy at best. The “love” that which Israelis feel for the US is there not due to shared values, but simply due to the unconditional support with which the US has provided Israel. The annual billion dollar aid is another incentive.

    Still, despite US support for Israel, there are blatant displays of contempt as the recent Netanyahoo tape has shown.

    And finally,

    I think Freeman’s points are unassailable, but there would be many who would also be persuaded that Israel proved itself as a Cold War ally, demonstrating the superiority of American avionics (in dogfights with Syria) and, through its military strength, weakening the Soviet foothold in the region. (Walt and Mearsheimer also wrote there was much to be said for Israel’s strategic value during the Cold War.)

    In the 1973 war when Syria’s tanks were overrunning Israel’s defenses in the Golan (the same territory that was taken from Syria in 1967) Israel needed requested emergency military assistance from the US. That was yet another case of the US assisting Israel, instead of the other way around.

    Additionally, the superiority of the avionics was marginal to US dominance during the Cold War as the US could and did engage Soviet-made aircraft with proxy Soviet allies. For example, note the incident involving a Libyan MiG-23 and US F-14s.

    Furthermore, and this point underscore the Israeli establishment’s uselessness for the US, in 1989 Israel convinced a Syrian air force officer to defect to Israel in exchange for a hefty sum of money. When the pilot landed his MiG at the Megiddo airfield, handing over precious Soviet military hardware to Israel, he was arrested and jailed. But, that’s incidental to this point. Instead of sharing that piece of technology with the US, Israel kept the MiG to itself and used it to improve its own aircraft, in-house.

    • MRW
      July 22, 2010, 11:18 am

      In the 1973 war when Syria’s tanks were overrunning Israel’s defenses in the Golan (the same territory that was taken from Syria in 1967) Israel needed requested emergency military assistance from the US.

      1973: Wasn’t that the same year Israel was busy inventing the cellphone? Because the cellphone was invented in 1973.* They had a whole booth about it at AIPAC last year.
      ——————–

      * Martin Cooper, who invented the cellphone at Motorola in the USA, tested the first working version on the streets of Manhattan.

      • Avi
        July 22, 2010, 12:02 pm

        Or, how about:

        “In 1973 Israel invented the cellphone and then in 1974 used it to call Latin America and brag about inventing the cherry tomato”?

  9. Richard Witty
    July 22, 2010, 11:24 am

    In even THINKING about what constitutes US interest, what considerations would you include, Scott, others?

    Rather than attacking the conclusion (prejudicially), how do you even measure?

    • MarkF
      July 22, 2010, 1:07 pm

      I would think about:

      1) Financial/Economic – the cost, ROI, opportunity costs. etc.

      2) Moral – Is the policy working towards a good – for Americans and for the countries involved. Is it doing harm to others and creating blowback for the U.S.

      3) Legal.

      But you’re right, I do have a bit of prejudice/prejudgement, but I feel I could use these considerations for anything related to U.S. foreign policy.

    • Scott
      July 22, 2010, 1:16 pm

      Hard to break it down Richard, but the traditional realist/Poli sci considerations of blood and treasure would weigh heavily. But morality is a part of it too, and the neocons are right that America can’t completely ignore its own (or universal) values in its foreign policy. I think our current special relationship with Israel violates all criteria, though we could and should certainly have good relations with an Israel in recognized boundaries under a peace settlement–perhaps as part of NATO. (along with Palestine?)

      • Richard Witty
        July 22, 2010, 1:41 pm

        Can you clarify what you meand by “blood and treasure”?

        I thought that the specific criteria that I discussed summarized, blood, values and treasure.

        When you use terms like “THE” special relationship, you are indicating your conclusion before examination.

        On neo-conservative ideology, I don’t think there is one coherent one right now. The reasons for the Iraq War (if indicative of neo-conservatism) have morphed into forms that don’t resemble what they were previously, maybe a pax-Americana relative to Iran is the exception.

        The rise of China is the big change, the new luke-warm match (if not a war). I don’t think that figures at all into the previous neo-conservative ideology focusing on Christian/Islamic civilizational conflict.

        Scott,
        If you can’t break down what your criteria for what are priority US interests, how can objectively assess them? Seriously.

      • Richard Witty
        July 22, 2010, 1:45 pm

        Relative to the Arab oil monarchies, Israel is unquestionably an ally, in that the Arab petro-money has the cover to request that Israel undertake its dirty business providing them deniability.

        And, if you think that is not a valued relationship for them, then you are far far more naive than you present, “realitically”.

        Its a big question relative to oil. Unless you have other criteria, even metaphysical ones, it would be helpful to the discussion to articulate.

      • Mooser
        July 22, 2010, 9:08 pm

        “Relative to the Arab oil monarchies, Israel is unquestionably an ally, in that the Arab petro-money has the cover to request that Israel undertake its dirty business providing them deniability”

        And that’s a point in Israel’s favor? Are you going meshugana?

      • Richard Witty
        July 23, 2010, 4:11 am

        Its a point that questions the thesis that the relationship between Israel and the US is a strategic liability, even to the Arab world.

        The relationship is not transparent, as the relationships between the US and the Arab world are not transparent.

        The CIA culture of Freeman is no more democratic and transparent than the “special relationship”.

        Its an upsetting choice presented, either for current opaque Israeli manipulations, OR for CIA culturally opaque manipulations.

        Its the dilemma of addressing these issues, that confuses the advocacy for either the “Arabist” conservative position or the neo-conservative consersative position.

        Neither are mine.

  10. Charltonr
    July 22, 2010, 11:41 am

    Remember that ALL the US “aid” to Israel is now military, and that it’s mandated that 74% of the annual $3 Billion ($30 billion 2008-2018, by annual appropriation) must be spent with US industry. Thus fungible US taxpayer dollars support Israeli war crimes ,by providing weaponry to use against Palestinians, occupation of the West Bank, and imprisonment of Gaza (aircraft, military vehicles, electronics, and “security” installations such as the Wall and Israeli-only roads).

    • Colin Murray
      July 22, 2010, 12:07 pm

      Note that the traditionally quoted figure of $3 billion does not include numerous ‘one-time’ appropriations, handouts to Israeli corporations at US taxpayer expense (as opposed to direct handouts to the Israeli government), and broad toleration of Israeli political (recall Jane Harman ‘waddling in there’), industrial (Spy Trade: How Israel’s Lobby Undermines America’s Economy), and military espionage, in spite of heroic efforts by some FBI counter-intelligence officers.

      • MRW
        July 22, 2010, 12:20 pm

        The figure is closer to $15,000,000/day. Do the math from that.

  11. Keith
    July 22, 2010, 11:54 am

    What must be kept in mind when evaluating a debate such as this is the extent to which it is a debate about the best way to maintain empire. Chas Freeman represents the “realist” soft power approach that argues that empire is best maintained with a balanced mix of techniques involving persuasion, bribes, propaganda, etc, backed up by force. Under this philosophy, Israel is a liability that continually undercuts the effectiveness of soft power.

    The Zionist neocons, on the other hand, represent the no-nonsense use of overwhelming force to intimidate potential resistance to imperial control, mafia style. Under this philosophy, Israel is a strategic asset which can smash potential rivals with their potent military as well as provide the US with military staging areas, military intelligence, potential Zionist assets throughout the world, as well as performing various and sundry dirty deeds for Uncle Sam. This group prefers to destroy rather than co-opt.

    While the Chas Freeman approach may appeal to those who abhor unnecessary violence, it should be remembered that it nonetheless is a strategy of empire. Neither of these guys represent me. Strategic liability?
    A silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud. Both Israel and the US are militarized societies that engage in reprehensible activities. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the US support for these policies need to be opposed primarily on moral principles.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 22, 2010, 1:57 pm

      Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, on the “sublime” morality of Jesus
      Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the US support for these policies need to be opposed primarily on moral principles.

      agreed, Keith, and it’s at this intersection that Judeo- and -Christian values must be de-coupled. Christianity does NOT “share” Jewish values, and US is not structured around Judeo-Christian values, it is structured around Christian values, or more precisely, the moral principles of Jesus.

      II. Jews.

      1. Their system was Deism; that is, the belief in one only God. But their ideas of him and of his attributes were degrading and injurious.

      2. Their Ethics were not only imperfect, but often irreconcilable with the sound dictates of reason and morality, as they respect intercourse with those around us; and repulsive and anti-social, as respecting other nations. They needed reformation, therefore, in an eminent degree.

      III. Jesus.

      In this state of things among the Jews, Jesus appeared. His parentage was obscure; his condition poor; his education null; his natural endowments great; his life correct and innocent: he was meek, benevolent, patient, firm, disinterested, and of the sublimest eloquence.

      The disadvantages under which his doctrines appear are remarkable.

      1. Like Socrates and Epictetus, he wrote nothing himself.

      2. But he had not, like them, a Xenophon or an Arrian to write for him. I name not Plato, who only used the name of Socrates to cover the whimsies of his own brain. On the contrary, all the learned of his country, entrenched in its power and riches, were opposed to him, lest his labors should undermine their advantages; and the committing to writing his life and doctrines fell on unlettered and ignorant men, who wrote, too, from memory, and not till long after the transactions had passed.

      3. According to the ordinary fate of those who attempt to enlighten and reform mankind, he fell an early victim to the jealousy and combination of the altar and the throne, at about thirty-three years of age, his reason having not yet attained the maximum of its energy, nor the course of his preaching, which was but of three years at most, presented occasions for developing a complete system of morals.

      4. Hence the doctrines he really delivered were defective as a whole, and fragments only of what he did deliver have come to us mutilated, misstated, and often unintelligible.

      5. They have been still more disfigured by the corruptions of schismatizing followers, who have found an interest in sophisticating and perverting the simple doctrines he taught, by engrafting on them the mysticisms of a Grecian sophist, frittering them into subtleties, and obscuring them with jargon, until they have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust, and to view Jesus himself as an impostor.

      Notwithstanding these disadvantages, a system of morals is presented to us which, if filled up in the style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man.

  12. Zorro
    July 22, 2010, 12:09 pm

    Before we can ever have a fully honest debate about our RELATIONSHIP with Israel, we need to stop refering to her as an ally. She is NOT an ally, and an alliance with her is a legal impossibility without her first defining her territorial boundaries, something, which for reasons I will not speculate upon her, she steadfastly refuses to do.

    An excellent piece debunking the strategic “ally” myth: link to original.antiwar.com

  13. hayate
    July 22, 2010, 1:30 pm

    “Beyond a ’strategic liability’–the special relationship has made the U.S. ugly”

    The usa has always been ugly. What the zionists have done is prevent people from removing the ugly. The zionists neutralised the left and progressives in the usa that were the forces for positive change. 40 years ago, there was progress being made in changing the usa for the better, this was killed by zionist co-optation, literally by crypto-ziofascists posing as progressives and aligned with fascists who steered the progressive/left to the right and into the ineffective void where they are today. Manipulating others is a zionist specialty and is one of the main assets they brought to the table in this alliance of ziofascism and fascism that makes up the israeloamerican oligarchy running the usa.

    There’s no question that support for israel has been counterproductive to american interests. The obvious human interests of american people and the geostrategic/business interests of the non-zionist corporate oligarchies. The whole idea of israel being a u.s. strategic asset was something the zionists invented as an argument to sway the non-zionist oligarchies over to backing the creation of israel and fortifying this region as a “giant, unsinkable aircraft carrier” at the “service” of american geopolitical interests. It was, and is, a marketing ploy to sell the americans the biggest turkey they ever bought, well, after monopoly capitalism, that is.

  14. joer
    July 22, 2010, 1:41 pm

    The debate about America’s interests in regards to Israel is kind of empty for me. First, I don’t know what they mean by America’s interests-it sounds patriotic, but it is an all encompassing term that includes vital defenses as well as the opportunity for an American corporation to open a factory in a poor country and take advantage of cheap labor. Also, there are 300 million Americans=what’s in the interest of one group may not be in the interest of another. Second, even if America’s interests are clearly defined, what gives us the right to interfere in affairs that don’t involve us-even if it’s in “our interest”?

    • Psychopathic god
      July 22, 2010, 2:12 pm

      what gives us the right to interfere in affairs that don’t involve us-even if it’s in “our interest”?

      Answer: “tikun olam,” the notion that Jews are the world’s moral leaders and are singularly chosen by god to “repair the world.”

      interesting concept.

      This also explains what the concept of “Chosen People” is all about. Abraham, so to speak, says to God: “I choose to live with the reality of you and to bring all of humanity back to that reality.” God then says to Abraham: “Then I choose you, and your descendants.” What are the Jewish people chosen for? It’s not for privilege (although it is a great privilege to be Jewish) but for responsibility. What’s the responsibility? In Hebrew the term is called Tikkun Olam, “Fix the World.” It is the ultimate cause — to bring humanity back to the purpose of creation and create the most spiritually/morally perfect world possible. This is the national-historic mission of the Jewish people.

      If we understand the purpose of creation and Abraham’s mission then the rest of our plot line for human history is pretty straightforward: Humanity returns to God with the Jewish people leading the way.

      If we understand this concept of the Jewish people leading the way then what happens to the Jewish people in history begins to make sense. When we talk about the Jewish people leading the way it means that they are out in front, like the point man in an infantry unit out on patrol. Just as the point man’s job is to the lead the unit and avoid danger, so too the Jewish people’s special role in history is to lead humanity to its goal.

      The Abrahamic faiths are the only belief systems that proselytize — ie. attempt to prove that their beliefs are superior, and to gain converts to their beliefs. Buddhists, etc. don’t do that. Christian evangelicals hold “evangelizing” as a core tenet of their form of expressing Christianity — it’s most closely related to Judaism. Roman Catholicism is LEAST associated with Judaism; Roman Catholicism is not nearly as biblically based as the Protestant Christian denominations but is centered on doctrine as evolved from its hierarchy and collected in catechisms. Ratzinger oversaw the creation of a New Catholic Catechism during the papacy of John Paul.
      A professor of Buddhism observed that ONLY the Abrahamic faiths have ‘fundamentalists’ who kill each other.

      I’d be happy if US and Israel stopped breaking the world, and left everybody else the hell alone.

  15. rachelgolem
    July 22, 2010, 3:03 pm

    Someday, the Europeans will send the children they don’t have, to liberate Palestine.

    • MarkF
      July 22, 2010, 3:13 pm

      Kind of like how the neoonservatives have sent other peoples’ children to fight and die to liberate the middle east.

      To steal a phrase, two things you won’t find in a foxhole, athiests and neoconservatives.

    • Mooser
      July 22, 2010, 7:47 pm

      “will send the children they don’t have,”

      Rachel, please, how can you be so insensitive? Do you have to bring that up when WJ is around?

  16. Citizen
    July 22, 2010, 4:19 pm

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is continuing to divide the Middle East. RT sat down with journalist and author Jonathan Cook who says that Israel actually benefits from the division:

    “The Jewish population in Tehran is at least 20,000, maybe 30,000 people, and when they talk about their lives there, they seem very comfortable. If Iran had a kind of racial hatred against Jews, if the Iranian regime was just a symbol of a ‘new Hitler regime’, the Nazis, why would they not be starting with their own population?” Jonathan Cook says.

    “The reason why Israel can’t allow Iran to have nuclear weapons is because if Iran developed its own nuclear arsenal, it would totally change the balance of power in the Middle East,” he says. “At the moment Israel is the regional bully, it has its own nuclear weapons, it can pull them out as it has done several times in the past, most notably during the 1973 war when it threatened the US that it might use those weapons if it wasn’t rearmed and that is why the Americans had to come in and intervene. It has that kind of ability to pressure America and terrorize the rest of the neighborhood, if you like, because it has nuclear weapons.”

    Jonathan Cook says that if Iran had nuclear weapons, there would be a balance of power.

    “There would be this mutually assured destruction principle, which may not be an ideal principle, but at least it’s something in terms of counteracting the benefits that Israel has as the only nuclear power [in the region],” he says.

    As for the possible solution to the conflict, Jonathan Cook says he would support anything that brought peace and gave Palestinians and Israeli Jews the right to live happy, contented lives.

    “The question now is how you achieve that. Some people say a two-state solution could do that. I don’t actually think that it is even technically possible any longer, if it ever was,” he says. “We are talking about very small areas of land that would be left to the Palestinians. Nobody is talking about it being a militarized state that would control the borders – I mean all sorts of questions that nobody really wants to look at in any kind of depth at the moment because everybody knows the answers, that this wouldn’t really be a proper state. I don’t think it would end the conflict, I think it might postpone it very briefly, but we would just end up with the same kind of conflict.”

    If the status quo continues, Israel will attack Iran when if feels like it; and the US will rush in with everything to help Israel–Israel will threaten use of its nukes otherwise–in behalf Israel’s “security.”Catch 22. Uncle Sam remains on the hook. The only change that would stop this future is activation of the US military draft. A revitalized Arab Oil Embargo would
    be very harmful next time around, given the state of the US economy.

    • Psychopathic god
      July 22, 2010, 4:40 pm

      why is it US can’t develop a Mutually Assured Cooperation arrangement? Wouldn’t that save lives & treasure and benefit the world?

      imagine whirled peas (kosher of course)

      • Mooser
        July 22, 2010, 7:58 pm

        There’s one thing you can count on in this crazy, mixed up meshugana world: vegetables are always kosher! And you can put cream sauce on them and they’re still kosher! Could anything be more wonderful? All fruits, too, are kosher, as far as I know.
        Watermelon is always kosher! That fact alone restores my faith in Judaism, it has never tried to prevent me from eating watermelon, seedless even!

      • hayate
        July 23, 2010, 2:10 am

        OMFG

        He eats watermelon, even. An antisemite to the core. Has to be.

  17. RoHa
    July 22, 2010, 8:05 pm

    “United States … troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, the residue of the first Iraq war”

    Where does this myth come from? The U.S. had enormous bases in Saudi Arabia long before that war. I’ve been on one.

  18. lyn117
    July 23, 2010, 2:35 am

    Satloff sure is a smarmy s**th**d

    Did you catch that argument that when Israel starts a bunch of wars, it’s a wonderful benefit to the U.S. because the U.S. is the great peacemaker, e.g., the Camp David accords?

    Then there was his favorite phrase, “you can’t have it both ways”

  19. eGuard
    July 23, 2010, 4:42 am

    Satloff’s four US-profits from Israel: 1. having a cultural friend, 2. sharing their high-tech economy, 3. having a 30jr peace process, 4. military use, such as US stocks in Israel. So even he says: Israel is not helpful for the US in the list of wars around the Gulf. Not. Israel has not a single strategic contribution to the US interests in the ME. Talking about strategic interests.

    His jumping from “Middle East” to “region” to “Gulf” is an rhetoric trick to name a fact that is true, while it does not help to support some grand thinking.

    If this is the best they can come up with, I think the playing field is ours now.

  20. lareineblanche
    July 23, 2010, 1:43 pm

    Satloff comes off as a used-car salesman here (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). And I’m sure that his model, if you bothered to look under the hood, is not doing very well…

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