Roger Cohen says our foreign policy has been ‘Likudized’

Middle East
on 40 Comments

Smart Gary Sick has picked up Roger Cohen’s important column of last Sunday on the “doctrine of silence,” a shift in our foreign policy toward an unarticulated policy of stealth interventions in foreign countries, drones and groans. Cohen approves the shift seemingly because we have to have some policy and this is better than its predecessor, invasion. But he’s pointed on the degree to which Israel has influenced our approach:

There has seldom been so big a change in approach to U.S. strategic policy with so little explanation..

In Iran, a big explosion at a military base near Tehran recently killed Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, a central figure in the country’s long-range missile program. Nuclear scientists have perished in the streets of Tehran. The Stuxnet computer worm has wreaked havoc with the Iranian nuclear facilities.

It would take tremendous naïveté to believe these events are not the result of a covert American-Israeli drive to sabotage Iran’s efforts to develop a military nuclear capacity. An intense, well-funded cyberwar against Tehran is ongoing..

But killing an American citizen [drone attack on Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen] raises particular constitutional concerns; just how legal the drone attacks are remains a vexed question. And Iran had no part in 9/11.

In general, it’s hard to resist the impression of a tilt toward the extrajudicial in U.S. foreign policy — a kind of “Likudization” of the approach to dealing with enemies. Israel has never hesitated to kill foes with blood on their hands wherever they are.

This is a development about which no American can feel entirely comfortable.

Scott McConnell described the Likudization a year back in a landmark piece that said that Israel had become the transmission belt of bad ideas for American policy: the tail was the brains of the dog. And on the left Michael Ratner has offered a powerful rights-based critique of interventionism that Cohen ignores, presumably because he doesn’t think it’s realistic (Cohen who supported the disastrous Iraq war, though he donned sackcloth). So, both these analyses are marginalized. And libertarian Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who has dared question Israel supplying us with a militant Iran policy. And he is being ignored by the media, and I guess by the left too. How long can this conversation be suppressed? (As it was during the 2008 presidential campaign, which we learned later on was about neoconservatism, even if the voters were not clued in.)

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40 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    December 1, 2011, 10:23 am

    “How long can this conversation be suppressed? ”

    As long as Chris Matthews, Maddow etc hold the all mighty dollar as their god/dess in place.

    As long as Charlie Rose and others dance around one of the core reasons about why people in that part of the world hates us with General James Jones and others. Yesterday Rose and Jones discussed Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Iran but did not even get close to whispering about US/Israeli foreign policy and the problems those policies have caused in the region. Not a whisper.

    Jones said that Pakistan seems to be “hell bent” on self destruction. One has to wonder about the US and Israel.

    And Charlie allowed Jones to repeat more lies about Iran. This has been going on for a solid eight years in the US MSM. Deja Vu. I know history repeats itself but this is insane. Really insane

  2. annie
    December 1, 2011, 10:42 am

    i find the idea od streamlining extrajudicial killing, or glamorizing it as ‘uuu,,israel really knows how to fight those terrorists, so efficient’ really horrid. cohen justifies it, i

    gark sick nails it:

    In the case of President Obama, this represents a less costly and less dangerous alternative to the Bush Doctrine of perpetual war. But what happens when the Bush wars are over — as they probably will be soon — and we still have both the culture and the instruments to disabuse ourselves of anyone or anything that disagrees with us, or perhaps simply annoys us?


    This Terminator Toolbox will be available to any future American leadership, for use in any conceivable set of circumstances. Already we find it being used against American citizens without benefit of due process. What would Richard Nixon have done with this stealth weaponry when confronted with popular opposition to his Vietnam policies, or out of paranoid fear of his political opponents?

    Having created this extraordinarily powerful weapon, is it reasonable to expect that it will not be used? The attempt to impose restraints on the Executive Branch in the initiation and conduct of war has proved to be largely illusory. What is the prospect of public regulation of instruments that do not yet even have a name?

    • MHughes976
      December 1, 2011, 6:15 pm

      Sick’s remarks are very apt but I wonder whether we face an alternative to ‘the Bush Doctrine of perpetual war’ or only a version of that doctrine? And would the fickle, fearful public in the end want to regulate or restrain these nameless forms of extermination when it comes to hated races or demonised individuals?

  3. Dan Crowther
    December 1, 2011, 10:53 am

    Ive long held that Israel provides the “canary down the mine shaft” not only for foreign policy, but for American domestic policy in regards to policing, surveillance and instilling a general “Oh my Gawd, We’re All Gonna Die!!!” hysteria among the populace…Israel is a proving ground for these authoritarian policies and for the requisite propaganda….in this respect, they remain a “strategic ally.”

    I take the Greenwald approach to the Cohen article, the “likudization” is one thing – but here we have a JOURNALIST saying he just can’t get enough of government secrecy….my man phil lets cohen off way to easily in this regard…..

    • American
      December 1, 2011, 11:25 am

      ‘canary in the coal mind’?

      More like the bad seed child playing with matches in a room with a gas leak.

      • Dan Crowther
        December 1, 2011, 2:01 pm

        canary in the mine shaft – the miners used to lower a canary down the mine to see if there was real air or natural gas….they would have lil birdies in cages – as long as they were livin, it was safe – if they died, time to get out of the mine…..

      • American
        December 1, 2011, 6:09 pm

        Yeah I know what it is….I just don’t think Israel is the canary in the coal mine… in, if it’s unsafe for the canary (Israel) it’s unsafe for everyone.

      • Dan Crowther
        December 1, 2011, 7:03 pm

        maybe your right….maybe :) – perhaps a bad analogy, i was just trying to say that it seems like Israel is the test case for alot of different domestic and military policies – especially propaganda dissemination, the militarization of police forces and the co-mingling of intelligence agencies with law enforcement; as well as the hardware used in all of this. Israel provides a good barometer for what governments can get away with, before the sheeple get too riled up…the mental picture of sending the canary down the shaft to see what’s what came to mind….

      • Antidote
        December 2, 2011, 1:06 pm

        I think the canary it’s a good analogy. And does it not throw into question the popular tail-wags-dog analogy? Surely, the canary is just a tool to protect the miners and their interest to survive. If such brinkmanship kills the canary, it is ‘worth it’.

      • Dan Crowther
        December 2, 2011, 3:07 pm

        YEA!! antidote is pickin’ up what im putting down……

      • Antidote
        December 2, 2011, 4:36 pm

        you’re welcome;)

      • American
        December 4, 2011, 2:06 pm

        “Israel provides a good barometer for what governments can get away with, before the sheeple get too riled up…the mental picture of sending the canary down the shaft to see what’s what came to mind….”

        In that case Dan you are right.

  4. American
    December 1, 2011, 11:20 am

    I’ve long been saying a lot of aspects of the US, more than just foreign policy have been Israelized or likudized. Look at the Israel training of US domestic police’s sickening. All these US Police adm and forces that get sent to Israel and all the Israel training seminars for police in the US. They teach the US police that every citizen has to be regarded and treated as a potential terrorist. Go to and read all about it. All this has proceeded at lightening speed since 911.
    It was aided of course by US neo’s…but the choice of “Israelization” or Israeli practices for so called US security was insitiuted by all the US zionist that were in place in US offices from congress to Homeland Security to usher it in.

    This is part of what Neyanyahu meant when he said the US 911 was good for Israel.
    It’s been ever better than he probably imagined.
    The US superpower laid down and rolled over like a dog. RIP.

  5. seafoid
    December 1, 2011, 11:30 am

    “President Barack Obama defended his policy toward Israel at a political fundraiser on Wednesday, saying that Israel was the U.S.’s most important ally.The president was speaking to campaign donors at the Manhattan home of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress”

    You have to pay homage to the Jews. Otherwise you are toast.
    I wonder for how much longer this will continue. Jack Rosen sounds like King Julien from Madagascar.

    • seanmcbride
      December 1, 2011, 12:00 pm

      Israel is a more important ally than Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia? Really? Why is everything concerning Israel in American politics encased in such ridiculous hyperbole and bullshit?

      If Israel were sitting on a secure and sane political base, we wouldn’t be hearing this kind of absurd language about it on a regular basis from American politicians. We never discuss Britain, France and Germany in these fantastical terms — to do so would insult their intelligence; they would laugh; they don’t need that kind of empty flattery.

      But Israelis and the Israel lobby need to hear these insincere declarations of eternal devotion 24×7, otherwise they become insecure and angry. They might even drive you out of public office for not displaying sufficient “warmth.”

      • lysias
        December 1, 2011, 1:08 pm

        Speaking of the power of the Israel lobby over Obama, today’s New York Times gives an interesting illustration of how much importance his administration gives to being re-elected. It looks as it it may result now in a breakdown in relations between the U.S. and Pakistan (and maybe even war, if things break wrong): Obama Refrains From a Formal ‘I’m Sorry’ to Pakistan:

        On Monday, Cameron Munter, the United States ambassador to Pakistan, told a group of White House officials that a formal video statement from Mr. Obama was needed to help prevent the rapidly deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Washington from cratering, administration officials said. The ambassador, speaking by videoconference from Islamabad, said that anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the United States needed to move to defuse it as quickly as possible, the officials recounted.

        Defense Department officials balked. While they did not deny some American culpability in the episode, they said expressions of remorse offered by senior department officials and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were enough, at least until the completion of a United States military investigation establishing what went wrong.

        Some administration aides also worried that if Mr. Obama were to overrule the military and apologize to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign, according to several officials who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

      • RoHa
        December 1, 2011, 8:05 pm

        Only a short time ago Obama said Australia was America’s strongest ally.

        And in January 2011 he said ‘We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.’

        In March 2009, Obama reaffirmed that “Great Britain is one of our closest and strongest allies…”

        In fact, he’s said pretty much the same thing about India, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Italy, and even Canada!

        But will he still respect us in the morning?

      • seanmcbride
        December 2, 2011, 12:57 am


        Good point. This kind of hyperbolic language does tend to get thrown around in many directions in diplomatic circles. But one seems to see a much greater quantity of it, delivered in a much more excited rhetorical tone, with regard to Israel than towards other nations. Israel is the only nation in the world treated like a sacred cow by many American politicians, who are much more deferential to Benjamin Netanyahu than they are to Barack Obama or any other American president. The entire situation feels unreal and unsustainable. If I were an Israeli, all that strained deference would make me wary and nervous.

      • Antidote
        December 2, 2011, 1:46 pm

        “But will he still respect us in the morning?”

        To me it looks like Australia will be getting a lot more respect from the US.

        Nov 2011:

        “YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – With an eye on China, President Barack Obama is expected to announce plans to boost U.S.-Australia defense ties when he visits the northern Australian city of Darwin on Thursday.

        Darwin is the tropical gateway to the Northern Territory, boasting large untapped oil, gas and mineral deposits, as well as vast uninhabited tracts of land suitable for military training.

        Australian media outlets reported over the weekend that the two countries would announce a plan for U.S. Marines to rotate through Australia’s Robertson Barracks in Darwin. U.S. and Australian defense officials have not confirmed such a plan, but said closer defense cooperation is likely to include increased U.S. access to Australian training, facilities and ports, and the positioning of U.S. equipment Down Under.

        Defense experts say the realignment is aimed at countering the rise of China.”

        US hegemony and the WOT has been entirely financed by China for at least a decade now. Going for Asian-Pacific markets is how US imperialism started, and it may be where it ends or restarts again. The Chinese know what’s up:

      • eljay
        December 2, 2011, 5:35 pm

        >> In fact, he’s said pretty much the same thing about India, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Italy, and even Canada!

        Hey, whaddaya mean, “even Canada“? We’re the bestest of friends, next-door-neighbours even, and we know how to share OUR resources!

        Good thing we do, too, ’cause if we didn’t, America might be tempted to liberate them…I mean, us. :-)

  6. pabelmont
    December 1, 2011, 11:33 am

    As usual in major policy discussions, all the talk, all the discussion, is about details BUT NOT ABOUT THE CENTRAL POLICY.

    As megaphones for government, our USA commentariat puts second things first!

    The first question should not be whether to invade or to attack-by-drone, but whether to intervene violently at all. International law suggests that we should not be shooting-up other countries which have not attacked us and do not threaten to do so. The proper intervention with peaceable countries is by diplomacy.

    USA’s constitutional law suggests the USA/Army/CIA/militias (such as Blackwater/Xe)/police should not attack USA citizens (or anyone at all within the USA’s own territory) without constitutional justification.

  7. Chaos4700
    December 1, 2011, 11:55 am

    When Israel wants the US to invade Iran, we will invade. And it will be American soldiers that are sacrificed needlessly, because that’s what Israel demands.

  8. seanmcbride
    December 1, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Note to Gary Sick: isn’t it obvious that neoconservatives are trying construct a military police state on behalf of Israel and Likud Zionism that encompasses as much of the world as possible, including the United States?

    Neoconservatism needs to be understood within the ideological context of totalitarian movements like Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism. It is is utterly alien and hostile to basic American values. It represents a clear and present danger to all Americans.

    • Sand
      December 2, 2011, 11:44 am

      When I read your comment the first thought that came into my mind was “Inverted Totalitarianism.” Chris Hedges first introduced me to the term, (just google CH & IT), he also references back to Sheldon Wolin. It’s impossible not to see the signs.

      Just one of many articles on the subject:

      Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction, by Chris Hedges


      Sheldon Wolin: “…Bear in mind that a ruthless, ideologically driven party with a mass base was a crucial element in all of the twentieth-century regimes seeking total power…”

      The base in my mind is the militarist nationalist Republicans who are in lockstep with the American Zionist Likudniks — whether they both realize it or not. Also,

      Richard Dreyfus [The Nation – Nov ’10]: “..Asked about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, [Martin] Indyk said, “He is much more of a Republican than a Likudnik,” meaning that Netanyahu closely identifies with the GOP and he has good relations with Republicans in Congress. Noting that Netanyahu recently stepped up his rhetoric calling for a military attack on Iran, Indyk suggested that Netanyahu was sending an unsubtle signal to Republicans to start talking up the issue.

      Netanyahu who seems to be driving this juggernaut to hell has the Republicans in his pocket as well as the American Zionist Likudniks, many of whom we know have influencial/powerful positions within the Democratic Party (e.g. committee members on foreign affairs — major financiers of the party, Likud spokespoke person – Chuck Schumer, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Steve Israel etc.), as well as holding important positions within the Administration — ok Ross might have left, but definitely within the State Dept, and possibly even within the DOD. The number joint military maneuvers we do with these guys is unheard of when you compare with other States military alliances. It’s not looking good!

      • seanmcbride
        December 2, 2011, 1:20 pm


        It’s not looking good? Bank on a total catastrophe. This juggernaut is too wealthy and powerful to stop at this point. When it hits the wall, everything is going to go boom.

        What continues to blow my mind is that so many influential and otherwise intelligent Americans have completely lost their ability to think independently, analytically and critically about Israel and its impact on the American interest. They come across as brainwashed and hypnotized zombies. When they finally wake up from their hypnotic trance and survey the rubble, they will be wondering, what the hell happened? How did I permit myself to be manipulated into this train wreck?

        One imagines that Germany had very much this look and feel during the 1930s. So much swaggering self-confidence that one was right. Ditto for the Confederacy before it lost the US Civil War.

  9. Chespirito
    December 1, 2011, 12:19 pm

    A few thoughts.

    First, the use of covert ops in US statecraft is not as new as all that. The 1953 putsch against Mossadegh in Iran was covert CIA as was the overthrow of Arbenz the next year. Plenty of US covert support for authoritarian client states throughout Latin America during the Cold War, support that did not exclude the extrajudicial killing of Americans. (A Chilean judge has just indicted a former US military attaché in the murder of two American Allende sympathizers in 1973.)

    Cohen describes this as “Likudization” because his is innocent of much knowledge of US history; also because for him Israel is a primary, if not the primary, point of reference for all things counter-terrorism and national security. And this he shares with the main stream of American intellectuals. Since 9/11, and probably before it too, the experience of Israel has been taken as the ultimate role model for how to deal with terrorists, an example always seen as a tactical success rather than a strategic failure. By contrast the national experiences of Italy, Colombia and the United Kingdom in dealing with terrorism have barely been examined in the US. These models and experiences are, unlike that of Israel, far outside the frame of reference of American intellectuals and policy makers. Of course the circumstances of these countries in dealing with say the Red Brigades or the FARC are very different from our own, but then Israel’s particular situation is not any more relevant to the threat that we face in the US.

    Cohen, good NYTimes liberal that he is, does a little more handwringing than is usual about “Likudization”, but ultimately he signs on; for him the only alternative is Bush-Cheney’s insane attempt at remaking the Middle East via invasion, pacification, and nation building.

    Of course there is a third alternative, and that is ending US support to both Israel and Egypt’s military; using diplomacy to cease tensions with Iran–and recognize that their getting nukes sooner or later is not the threat it is hyped up to be. This point of view is pretty marginal, found only among radical left, black nationalists, libertarians, and paleoconservatives like Ron Paul–political tribes that have a hard time getting along with each other, let alone cooperating, though there has been some progress. Let there be more.

  10. upsidedownism
    December 1, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Instead of ‘Likudized’ i would use a different term; may ‘zionized. All major Israeli parties are dedicated to the same goal of the total absorption of Palestine and other territory in the middle east and differ little on how to achieve it; its a mistake to think things will be substantially different if Livni or Barak was prime minister. Same thing in the USA; Obama is just as much a captive of America’s Zionized politics as his predecessors and his potential successors.

    Nobody knows what is being planned vis a vis Iran but the USA and Israel are already very much at war with Iran and have been for some time. Obama has been against Iran getting Nukes since before he took office; that goal can not be achieved without killing people.

  11. Dan Crowther
    December 1, 2011, 12:41 pm

    My visceral and uncontrollable reaction to “likudization” is: I am not some weak, frail being that needs to be “protected” I am not a jewish israeli; im not scared of my own shadow or the bogey man down the street or the evil “around every corner” – I hate to say this, but these guys want to make all of us paranoid jews. Being a part of a “protected class” is baseline jewish identity – well, what about the rest of us? I for one, can care take care of myself – I don’t need fcking drones in the sky above me, or “big, strong men” with guns sitting atop the walls currently being built by the Likudniks here in the states and elsewhere…. I refuse to be afraid of Humanity!!

    This is going to end really badly.

    • seafoid
      December 1, 2011, 3:46 pm

      I don’t need fcking drones in the sky above me, or “big, strong men” with guns sitting atop the walls currently being built by the Likudniks here in the states and elsewhere…

      That is why you are safer anywhere in the West than in Israel. The mount of olives cemetery is full of Jews who died in pointless political violence. But stopping it would mean turning Israeli society upside down. Too many people make money from the status quo. Which is why it will end badly They can’t stop the insanity.

      • Dan Crowther
        December 1, 2011, 4:01 pm

        Yea, seafoid -but now its happening here! Municipal police departments have the equipment of Marine Expeditionary Forces, we’re constantly on surveillance camera’s and everyone in the public sphere talks of “protecting the american people” like we are all babies in a stroller….. I dunno seafoid, I don’t suffer from a “traumatic history” I dont fear any “existential threats” and all that nonsense – my thing is, in order to be “protected” you first have to fore go the right to protect yourself – that just doesn’t jive with me. The only thing we need “protection” from, is the “protectors”

      • dumvitaestspesest
        December 1, 2011, 5:53 pm

        That’t neat. ” The only thing we need “protection” from, is the “protectors”:)

        It reminds me of the “dark”, communistic years in Poland in the1970’s and 80’s.
        At that time ,a few, small planes “‘flew away ” to Sweden and stayed there. For ever. In order to stop this “phenomenon ” from occuring, security guards were added to the small planes. And then, one beautiful day, a plane with a pilot, his family, security guard and his family “disappeared” in Sweden.
        The joke after that was: ” you have a pilot, and security guards watching him, and the security guards watching the security guards, who are watching the pilot”.

    • American
      December 1, 2011, 4:22 pm

      My visceral and overwhelming reaction to “likudization” is to put the US zionist in a coma care facility or underground.
      But only for “Security reasons for course, and of course I can never forgive them for forcing me to do this.

      • Dan Crowther
        December 1, 2011, 4:42 pm

        Channeling you inner Golda Meir, eh? :)

      • Chaos4700
        December 1, 2011, 5:04 pm

        You know, Golda Meir lived in the US — she lived in the city of my birth in fact — and she could never be bothered to think of herself as American. Let alone to ever take US interests at heart at any time.

    • dumvitaestspesest
      December 1, 2011, 5:13 pm

      How did you like Prof. Finkelstein’s lecture in Boston , yesterday??

      • Dan Crowther
        December 2, 2011, 9:18 am

        I don’t think you will like my answer….

  12. Avi_G.
    December 1, 2011, 2:47 pm

    Roger Cohen’s views are typical of self-styled so-called liberal Zionists. He isolates and singles out the Likud as though THEY were the only political party in Israel to have started or used murder and assassinations. It’s a ridiculous claim and a ridiculous notion.


    Is it really THAT tough finding Jewish writers who are honest and critical of the Lobby without having to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the likes of Cohen. Sure, he’s no Dershowitz, and no one’s perfect, but where’s Cohen’s integrity and honesty?

  13. Daniel Rich
    December 1, 2011, 3:03 pm

    Q: drone attack on Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen

    R: Justice from the air? Isn’t that very ‘god-like?’

  14. patm
    December 1, 2011, 4:09 pm

    Israel itself is becoming more and more Likudized.

    Amira Hass writing on 30/11/11:

    The Zionist ultra-Orthodox are cashing in their I.O.U.

  15. dumvitaestspesest
    December 1, 2011, 5:24 pm

    Phil, I’m glad that you see Ron Paul’s brave stance against “the war with Iran” hysteria , that is being spun by influencial public officials ,and subservient, bootlicking MSMedia. They build, in advance , this massive web of lies, disinformation, irrational fears etc. , in order to have the general public’s silent permission to launch the attack ,when they are ready.

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