Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Israel as Greatest US Friend

Samantha Power is getting blasted on twitter for saying that the US has no greater friend in the world than Israel.  I understand that she has to oversell this to Congress as she testifies as part of the vetting process, but oy.  Given that Petraeus, when he was running CENTCOM, was arguing that Israel's policies towards the Palestinians was leading to a more threatening environment in the Mideast, we might want to consider the best friend to be one that does not take that much off the table (using the guidlines Bill Simmons has established for ranking basketball players).

I cannot find the post I wrote a while back about which allies the US should keep or drop, but it would inform this discussion.  Keeping peace on the longest US border and heeding most American requests about border security would pretty much put Canada at #1 or close to it.  Add in that Canada is willing to share its sovereignty via NORAD, that Canada bled at a higher rate than nearly any other to help out the US in one of the most pivotal spots in Afghanistan for several years, and Canada makes a good case for number one.  And that is before considering how much of each's economies are dependent on the other.

How about the Brits?  They have been patient when they needed American help that always seems to come a couple of years late (1917, 1942), and they have been willing to jump in on American adventures when others have been reluctant (Iraq most obviously). 

How about the Aussies?  Yes, their role in Afghanistan has been overplayed (read our book next year), but they have been a major force for stability and facilitator of American influence in an important part of the world.  They have done nothing to weaken the US or suck it into conflicts the Americans do not want to fight.

How about the French?  Yes, indeed, the French.  We can go back to 1781 and Yorktown, of course.  But more recently, the French, once Chirac and his anti-Bush pique was displaced, got serious about fighting in Afghanistan.  The US has depended on French intel in Africa, has received much support via Djibouti, a former French ally and so on.  French presidents can be difficult indeed, but the country has been willing to fight alongside the Americans on more than a few occasions.

How about the Germans?  Sure, we are miffed with their caveats, but Germany has been a crucial ally in Europe, with its restraint and finances building bridges to cement the gains made at the end of the Cold War.  While Germany can be inconvenient at times, not participating in the Libyan operation, it has not blocked NATO efforts (NATO was not coming to Iraq in 2003 with our without German opposition). 

I can go on, listing Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Denmark, and on and on.  Israel is an important country, a major player in its region.  But it pursues its own interests, which is fine (except when they are defined by the religious parties that have too much influence on Israel's politics), but the US has its own interests.  The two sets of interests are not identical, and we should keep that in mind.  Israeli politicians have regularly blown off American presidents, weakening their hands in Mideast matters.  Which is fine for Israel--they should do what they feel they need to do.  But the US should not define its foreign policy by the interests of any other state in the world--not Britain, not Canada, and certainly not Israel. 

So, the US and Israel are friends, but besties forever? Perhaps not.  Canada and Britain are far better BFF's for the US.

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