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From Bush to Obama

America Breaks the Middle East

by ANDREW LEVINE

In diplomacy, as in war (“diplomacy by other means,” according to Clausewitz), it can be useful to distinguish goals from strategies.

America’s goals in the Middle East are clear: it wants Middle Eastern countries to serve the needs of American capitalists and to advance their interests; and it wants to impose a pax Americana, a stable regional order maintained under American domination.

It has been this way since even before the end of World War II.

Years ago, the United States also wanted to replace Britain and France as the dominant Western power in the region. This was never a major concern, however; in part because, before World War II, making common cause with Britain and France against Germany was a higher priority.

In any case, the issue was moot by the time the Second World War ended. The British and French empires lingered on for a while, but barely. After Suez (1956), neither of America’s erstwhile rivals could any longer even pretend to be forces to be reckoned with. They had become America’s lesser partners.

After World War II, the region also became embroiled in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. This did not change America’s fundamental goals, but it did affect how its diplomacy was waged.

Also, after 1948, when the state of Israel was established — and especially after 1967, when Israel crushed the armies of Egypt and other neighboring states, and took control of the entirety of Mandate Palestine – Israel’s interests became America’s too.

Israel became America’s fifty-first state thanks mainly to Cold War exigencies, and because America wanted to keep Arab nationalism in bounds. From early on, pressure from the Israel lobby was a factor as well.

The old geopolitical reasons no longer apply or else are altered beyond recognition. Nevertheless, it is still axiomatic, in foreign policy circles in Washington, that what is good for Israel is good for the United States.

Nowadays, though, it is mainly the power that the Israel lobby wields over Congress that accounts for this otherwise inexplicable situation.

In recent years, that lobby has become increasingly desperate, as world and even American – including Jewish American — opinion turns against the self-described “nation state of the Jewish people.”

From its point of view, the situation can only get worse now that Israel has an openly racist government and a Prime Minister who, unlike the vast majority of American Jews, might as well be a card-carrying member of the GOP.

They shudder too when the see how the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement has taken hold and is on the rise.

But money talks. The American people are coming along, but it will be a while still before the American political class follows suit.

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