Friday, May 27, 2011

Once Again, Israel First

In 2004, when the first mainstream Republican pundits began to openly question President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, New York Times writer Franklin Foer penned an article entitled, “Once again, America First,” noting the dread specter of isolationism resurfacing on the Right. Foer was premature in seeing a resurgence of restraint but his article came to mind during the past week while watching the bipartisan consensus on Israel, particularly among the GOP.

The fiery reaction the president has received over last week’s speech at the State Department is centered around a single point, late in the speech, that the Israeli-Palestinian peace depends on the 1967 borders as a starting point.

Judging from the reaction, one could hardly be blamed if they thought that by saying “1967,” Obama had actually uttered, “To the gas chambers, go!”

On the one hand, it would seem the height of arrogance to tell another sovereign country that they need to trim their borders. One might think that on the other hand it would be equally arrogant for Netanyahu to suggest that the U.S. return the Gadsden Purchase as a way of placating Mexico in the drug wars, but so much of the American Southwest has already endured Reconquista without a peep from our media and political elites that we can already tell where their loyalties lie.

First of all, President Obama sticking his nose in the conflict is symptomatic of anyone who sees himself as the emperor of the world. Second of all, Obama’s remark about the 1967 borders should not have been the only part that angered the American public.

Taking the speech as a whole, Obama’s suggestion about the 1967 borders makes perfect sense, not because the speech led up to “selling out Israel,” but because in a wider context the speech was all about an American plan to re-make the Middle East in our image.

By saying, “. . . after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be,” Obama provided a textbook rejection of realism and took a seat comfortably next to Dubya as a delusional Wilsonian.

In Bush’s second inaugural address he stated that it was the goal of the United States to end tyranny in the world. Now Obama states his intention “to pursue the world as it should be” with “freedom of religion” and “equality for men and women.” He also praises Iraq for “the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy,” a mirage of a Muslim San Francisco.

But Republicans’ aping of the Israeli Lobby’s line shows their complete spinelessness and inability to lead. Obama’s speech basically reaffirmed all the major policies Republicans advocated under Bush so this is really just about scoring cheap political points.

Republicans had a chance to lead but chose kow-towing instead. Republicans could have said:

“Yes, returning to the 1967 borders may not be the ideal position for Israel but neither is it ideal for us to continue reflexively supporting Israel financially and militarily when American security and liberty is not imperiled by territorial disputes as old as the Bible itself. And when Prime Minister Netanyahu told the U.S. Congress that Israel is a nation already built and can defend itself he sent us a clear message: It’s time to close the foreign aid spigot. We would also like to leave Prime Minister Netanyahu with the words of one of our finest foreign ministers, John Quincy Adams: ‘Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.’”

But alas, no such address appears over the horizon.

Rather than putting America first, as Franklin Foer thought was happening, Bibi Netanyahu, whose thunderous reception at AIPAC and both houses of Congress should tell us what we need to know about those gangs, must be reassured that the gravy train is not ending anytime soon and that America is certainly not first in the minds of our leaders.


Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles Author's Page Website