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Six retired generals and admirals don’t buy Israel lobby’s security plaint

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More evidence that the Petraeus doctrine has traction. Below is a report sent out by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, the outfit that in Colin Powell’s view got us into the Iraq war. It’s a report on a recent lobbying trip to Israel that JINSA took with six retired American generals and admirals. In it you will see that the American military men are graveled by the Israeli claims about their security. Security is of course the endless justification that the Israelis have used to rationalize oppression, and it reflects a profound insecurity– victim Israel. You can see that the generals aren’t buying. "When Israel’s interlocutors think of Israel as big and the Palestinians as small, they demand concessions from the ‘stronger’ to the ‘weaker,’" JINSA notes. Exactly. Now who is in touch with reality here? Email below the jump.

JINSA Report #986

May 12, 2010

Differences Between U.S. and Israeli Strategic Calculations Cannot Be Ignored

The 2010 JINSA Flag & General Officers Trip to Israel took place during a period of political frustration between the United States and Israel on several fronts. The JINSA group, comprised of six recently retired American Admirals and Generals plus two JINSA officers and a staff professional, spent 10 days traveling the country and meeting with the highest echelon of Israel’s defense and security establishment.
 
Everywhere the group went, their hosts thanked them deeply and sincerely for coming to Israel. In each place, the closeness of U.S.-Israeli military and intelligence ties was made clear, even if there are differences that require "ironing out" at the political level. It is hard to underestimate the importance Israelis attach to the security relationship and the abiding friendship they have for those who come to listen, learn and share their experiences. 
 
Iran, hybrid war, Hezbollah, Hamas, the "two state solution," Lebanon, Syria, missiles, defensible borders and the Goldstone Report were recurring topics of conversation, and all of them contained threads of military and political policymaking that resonated with JINSA’s military guests. In fact, the very resonance of the themes and the differences in detail may account for some of the frustration between two countries that are and should be allies in defense of the Western values we share.  
 
Close as the United States and Israel are, there are differences that cannot be ignored.
 
The United States is a very large, rich country with an almost boundless capacity to absorb and correct for mistakes. We think in grand sweeps and, if they fail, we go on to the next sweep. Whether the issue is TARP spending, health care, nuclear disarmament, or the move from diplomacy to the threat of sanctions with Iran, the United States has an enormous margin for error in which we can, and often do, change course. 
 
Israel has almost no capacity to absorb and correct for such enormous mistakes. [That has been one of the recurring themes in the 28 JINSA Flag & General Officers Trips since 1982: until they stand on the ground, it is hard for our guests to understand just how small Israel is, just how close its enemies are and just how little margin for error there is.]
 
One consequence is that the Government of Israel needs a great deal of confidence-building in order to encourage additional risk-taking (if additional risk-taking is needed), and requires security backup systems for every concession they are asked to make. It leads Israel to want everything worked out in advance-hence the long and detailed "agreements" in the "peace process" thus far. The result can be impatience on the part of even Israel’s best friends, not to mention impatience on the part of those who don’t as a matter of course have Israel’s interests at heart. Impatience breeds frustration, frustration breeds irritation and irritation breeds a desire just to get the deal done and move on-the antithesis of what it takes to actually get the deal done.
 
When Israel’s interlocutors think of Israel as big and the Palestinians as small, they demand concessions from the "stronger" to the "weaker." Only when Israel is placed in regional context-considering Syria and its connections to North Korea, Lebanon, Iran, etc.-can the size of Israel and the need for defensible borders be properly appreciated.
 
Israelis with whom we met took great pains to be clear about: 1) the risks Israel is already taking; 2) the potential for disaster in larger future risks; and 3) the nature of the present and future conflict. As one example, there will be no battlefield or even a traditional "front" in the next war because the Arab states, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah are targeting missiles right over the "front" (the borders) and straight at the cities and civilians of Israel. Meetings with Mayor David Bouskila of Sderot and Brig. Gen. Yair Golan of the Homefront Command were eye-opening. 
 
How many Americans outside of Times Square even think of themselves as a "front"? 
 
Further thoughts and lessons from the 2010 JINSA Flag & General Officers Trip will appear in articles and JINSA Reports over time. For now, it is enough to say that the group was pleased by their Israeli hosts’ candor and the Israelis were energized by the enthusiasm of their American military visitors. JINSA is heartened by the continuing closeness of the American and Israeli security establishments even as we worry about new and growing threats to Western-and specifically Israeli-security interests.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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