Israel Is Not America’s Ally

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Andrew Sullivan comments on the U.S.-Israel relationship and the role of “pro-Israel” lobbying groups in our politics in a new essay. There are several things that I think Sullivan gets wrong, but perhaps the most significant and pervasive error in the piece is his repeated description of the relationship an “alliance.” He notes that the U.S. gets nothing in return for the extensive military and diplomatic support that it provides, he acknowledges that the US“suffers internationally” on account of its close relationship with Israel, and he marvels at how badly its government under Netanyahu has behaved towards the US Nonetheless, he writes, “I would defend the alliance despite this, because of my core belief in a Jewish state.” The trouble with all this is that there is no alliance and Israel is not our ally. Its government does not behave as an ally does, it has never fought alongside US forces in any of our foreign wars, and its interests are not aligned with ours as an ally’s should be. There is no formal treaty and no binding obligations that require our governments to do anything for the other.

There are few words in US foreign policy debates used more frequently and with less precision than ally and alliance. Our politicians and pundits use these terms to refer to almost every state with which the US has some kind of security relationship, and it always grossly exaggerates the nature and extent of the ties between our governments. The exaggeration in Israel’s case is greatest of all because it is routinely called our “most important ally” in the region, or even our “most cherished ally” in all the world. These are ideological assertions that are not grounded in any observable reality. Dozens of other states all over the world are better allies to the United States than the “most cherished ally” is, and they don’t preside over an illegal occupation that implicates the US in decades of abuses and crimes against the Palestinian people living under that occupation, but none of them enjoys the lockstep, uncritical backing that this one state does. The effect of this constant repetition is to make the U.S.-Israel relationship seem extremely important to US interests when it is not, and that serves to promote the “illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists.” It is this illusion as much as anything else that prevents a serious reassessment of the relationship.

Israel is one of America’s regional clients, and it is the one that the US indulges more than any other, but that is all that it is. As such, it receives far more support than it needs to and far more than makes sense for the US to give, and the overwhelming political support that the relationship has is out of all proportion to the value of the relationship to the United States. In fact, like several other regional clients Israel has increasingly become a liability for the US, and the relationship should be changed accordingly.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

37 thoughts on “Israel Is Not America’s Ally”

  1. It is often subtle differences in alliances (putting aside the legal definition) that can have catastrophic consequences. These come down to incompatible interests, objectives. In any US/Israeli conflict with Iran, it should be remembered that Israel (its stated position) has limited aims: protect its own borders and remove all threats from surrounding territories. If Tehran agrees to remove its missiles and troops from Syria and rein in its proxies Israel might withdraw from the campaign, having achieved its realistic objectives. But Washington’s interests – one can only assume – are broader, extending to the whole Middle East. So would be left to fight on without an important military ally – whatever that means. A trap many great powers fall into is the syndrome of the tail wagging the dog. As we hurtle toward another world war we should look back at history for some guidance, if it is not already too late.

    1. Why control the “whole Middle East”? No imperial interest is served.

      Israel wants to be the regional superpower. Iran is the natural regional superpower, especially with Saddam removed from Shia-majority Iraq.

      The only motive the US has for involvement in the region is Israel. There is nothing else in the region, other than the motive to prevent the spread of nukes.

  2. I believe this article should be required reading for every new congresscritter before they take office.


    It may be a liability for the US population but it’s a real boon to the oligarchs and power tripper crowd. Israel is just a military/covert agency base for capitalists who use it to destabilize the ME in order to loot and pillage.

    When your economic system is based upon exploitation of natural resources including environmental and human capital, you need to use violence to control them.

    1. Is there any economic system, actual or theorized, that isn’t based upon exploitation of natural resources including environmental and human capital?

      1. I believe Dave meant to distinguish “exploitation” from “utilization”

        In Dave’s post “exploitation” could more precisely be understood to mean “forcible appropriation by an elite for its own benefit.”

        In theory communism would ultimately replace the current exploitative system with a self-governing stateless society with policy decisions made by enlightened citizens. To a communist socialism is the methodology for making the transition from a state of selfish exploitation to a stateless society where citizens individually and collectively decide how to utilize human and natural resources.

        The process of transition to communism is called “socialism” or “dictatorship of the proletariat.” The first step in the transition is the disempowerment of the governing elite with the communist party then setting up a socialist state to manage the transition to pure communism

        Leninist and Maoist theory assumes that the transition is managed by a “dictatorship of the proletariat” whereby a strong “enlightened” communist party runs the state using education, incentives and coercion to encourage the development of self-actualizing citizens capable of self-government based on enlightened self-interest. As the “New Man” and “New Woman” emerge, the Leninist Party is supposed to willingly allow the state to “wither away” to be replaced by voluntary associations of individuals and collectives.

        Communist parties espousing this basic ideology came to power in the USSR, China, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, Albania and the East Block countries in the 20th century. However, none of them succeeded in withering away the state. The communist parties in the 20th century came to be dominated by self-perpetrating elites drawn to power like moths and eventually in most of these countries restored the exploitative relationships their founders wanted to end.

        But in theory, a communist society would utilize resources intelligently rather than exploiting human and natural resources for the exclusive bvenefit of an elite, with catastrophic consequences for most other people.

        1. Yes, I can see the problem with conflicting definitions of “exploitation” (“utilization” on one hand, “expropriation of value” on the other).

          But as you point out, Marxist/Leninist/Maoist systems have historically been at least as exploitative by the latter definition as capitalist systems, and none has ever made it to the “state withering away” phase of Marx’s theory of history. The vanguard party always ends up permanently substituting itself for, rather than temporarily ruling on behalf of, the proletariat.

          Social democracy a la the Scandinavian countries seems to have done a somewhat better job of reducing the effects of wealth disparity between economic classes than either capitalism or revolutionary/Marxist systems, but not necessarily the power disparities. And it still seems to operate in an exploitative manner in the sense Dave meant.

          The roads not taken on any large scale so far would seem to be the ones marked out by Proudhon, Spooner, Tucker, Tolstoy, Kropotkin, et al.

          1. How miserable do we have to get before we try something new ?

            If the “something new” is worse than the thing we’re trying to escape, then letting our misery goad us into jumping is foolish. The more miserable someone is, the more careful he needs to be not to turn his brain off.

          2. I agree, you shouldn’t allow misery to goad you into being so cowardly that your fear of the unknown ends up killing off the species.

            It’s a shame McCarthyism was able to turn the majority of Americans into absolute fear mongered cowards who are so afraid of a word or a concept they automatically recite bankster lobby talking points without even engaging their brain.

            We have a nation full of people with their brains turned off that believe capitalism is the end all be all system to the point of destroying the entire planet in order to maintain an out-sized share of resources.

            Let’s just keep killing people and shitting in our own nest for the benefit of a shrinking percentage of sociopaths who could care less what if anything comes after them…….

          3. “If the “something new” is worse than the thing we’re trying to escape,”

            The conservative “crystal ball” that says everything new is worse. Kinda cowardly when you actually think about it.

          4. True, but that applies to “progressives” as well.

            At one time, “socialists” opposed the wage labor system.

            Today’s “democratic socialists” love it — their primary demand is that everyone receive “jobs” at an income sufficient for them to grab enough money from (using “libertarian” Milton Friedman’s income tax withholding scheme) to finance re-heated versions of 90-year-old policies.

          5. Non that are very popular. You can’t suggest anything not capitalism without it being McCarthy’d to death.

            Whatever it is has to put each individual in control of their own currency, yet due to the nature of our species incentivize people to practice moral constructive behavior.

            I wish I were smart enough to draw up a plan that was (oh crap)”shovel ready” but I’m just not. What I do know is that we can’t get the capitalist paste back into the tube.

            Labor is too redundant and only going to get more so. We have to redefine ownership of both things and ideas. We also need a mission for the entire species.

            We are the only species on earth capable of leaving earth. Shouldn’t that be something to aspire to ? Wouldn’t that potentially solve a lot of our material problems ??

          6. Things aren’t like that today. And it wasn’t McCarthy but the mass media to blame. People have the Internet today and so are less controlled.

            20 years ago, people were almost 100% puppets. Today, there’s at least diversity of puppetry and some open-mindedness as well.

            What your “solution” requires is absolute power. So, what you want is to first brutally conquer the world. Then you can implement your scheme.

            Personally, I just want preserve what I can while the utopians destroy everything around us. It’s difficult to preserve anything though, because utopians demand there be no barriers to their “progress”. Thus, all is destroyed. It would otherwise be possible to preserve small pockets of the world.

          7. “What your “solution” requires is absolute power. So, what you want is to
            first brutally conquer the world. Then you can implement your scheme.”

            So does yours, you just can’t seem to admit it. Once again, if you’re that terrified of the unknown there are plenty of backwater countries with little or no government you can move to. That is if you can keep the gangs of poor thieves from killing you just like the rich ones want to.

          8. I don’t want absolute power. I want a small polity built to survive, that could persevere in the face of utopian demons. Totally different approach.

          9. I see, so it’s just everyone and everything you don’t like that wants absolute power……….. Kinda like everything you don’t like is socialist.

            What’s it like being that anti-social ?

          10. The globalist Left insists we must make some human into god, to save all of humanity from global warming, overpopulation, greed, nuclear war, etc. The causes never matter; what’s important is the creation of a god, because no one ever seems to care about the crises.

            However we’ve seen what results from communism: The secular gods are if anything even more corrupt and dangerous than those they rule over, because only the fiercest win power. The Left rejects all that makes a person virtuous. It’s simply a pursuit of raw power.

            Freedom and restraint only arise where there is a balance of power, where a single “god” may not enact his will but is hindered and balanced by other powers.

          11. There’s no right or left. Only top and bottom.

            You evidently have slept through all the rotten things the elite have done through the fake right and it’s belief in might is right.

          12. To give an example you won’t like:

            The rain forests have been destroyed largely due to small farmers seeking sustenance, not greed. Greed has also ravaged rain forests of course. Communists have also been very greedy at times. The Soviet Union had a great deal of corruption, for example. And extreme modernism, extreme domination of nature, was a “left-wing” theme for a time. Rivers would be paved to control them, for example.

            Human nature and human overpopulation are really two things you’re wanting to change. Leaving the planet might not be feasible. People could also mine the ocean floor.

          13. “The rain forests have been destroyed largely due to small farmers seeking sustenance, not greed.”

            They’ve been reduced to seeking profit in order to gain sustenance.

            Overpopulation could be solved relatively quickly except for some Christian extremists who won’t allow birth control let alone abortion due to their perverted religious beliefs.

            The idea is not to have an economic system that rewards people faster and more so for acting immorally and destructively.

            It would be a start. Instead of surrendering like you have.

          14. The farmers are often also just subsistence farmers. I don’t have the percentages there, but I know poor individuals, not only distant capitalists, do feed on resources as population grows and opportunity presents itself.

            Technology has simply advanced, and humans are capable of much more as a result.

            In the Western US, individuals desire to exploit their environment. They want federally protected lands. It’s those of us who live outside the Western US (eg. I live in the South), who wish to protect these lands.

            Controlling population is more difficult than you expect. Niger’s population is booming, for example. If those people move elsewhere and continue to overpopulate, they simply replace those who behave differently.

            How is the following even possible?:

            “The idea is not to have an economic system that rewards people faster and more so for acting immorally and destructively.”

            Only a conservative polity with very stable borders and that was otherwise stable could enact laws hindering human nature in such a manner. The globalist Left would never allow that to happen anywhere. If I say human nature must be hindered, some fiend of the European Enlightenment will jump out demanding his natural “rights”.

          15. Well, I’m all about humanity moving into space — but I don’t think that would solve most of our material problems. Absent strict population control, there’s never going to be enough space capacity to move people off this rock quicker than they’re being born.

            We may be past the tipping point where labor becomes “too redundant.” Past scares of that type have always ended with the feared automation resulting in more jobs and lower prices, but I’m not blind to the possibility that this time we really are on the cusp of human labor becoming mostly superfluous as regards meeting humanity’s material needs. In which case, I would expect a massive realignment of property conceptions, perhaps along Universal Basic Income and/or Georgist lines.

            Good luck with finding a mission that an entire species composed of individuals with their own ideas would be willing to adopt. That would make JFK’s “let’s beat the Russians to the moon” or FDR’s “let’s kick Japanese and Russian ass” look like child’s play. All that most human beings have in common is the urge to eat and fuck.

  4. Representative Omar has it correct: “It’s all about the Benjamins.” In fact she is very tame in her criticism. Israel is the only country in the region that has attacked America–The Levon Affair; The Attempt to sink the Liberty and the war crimes of firing on the life rafts; and we still have not, nor will we ever know about those dancing Israelis in Liberty Park with the Trade Center crumpling in the background. Because of Israel our so called leaders have made a mockery and hypocrisy of American ideals. Yet, with massive budgets deficits that threaten Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran’s Disability benefits Congress wants to guarantee a minimum of thirty-eight billion dollars to Israel over ten years. In addition the Congress that is sworn to defend the Constitution wants to criminalize the BDS movement which is a violation of the First Amendment. The Congress also wants to shield states that require a loyalty oath to Israel in order to maintain their employment in state jobs. It appears that the United States is an Israel colony and the president merely the Israeli Viceroy. But nothing lasts forever and IIhan Omar may be the little woman who saves America.

    1. You conveniently forget the 138 US Marines killed in Beirut by Iranian proxy forces.You conveniently forget the funds that the US expends to protect Europe and Japan militarily.

      1. Actually, 241 US Marines and sailors. I had comrades among the survivors after I joined the following year.

        Reagan wisely decided to end the US invasion of Lebanon on behalf of Israel after that.

      2. The Marines should never have been in Beirut. And what has funds for Japan and Europe got to do with it. Those funds come with all kinds of restrictions. Israel just gets the money with no strings attached; although, it uses it illegally for invasion and occupation of Palestine. Israel is America’s worse enemy. That money they pump into American politicians’ pockets hurts America by making a mockery of America’s stated ideals. Those ideals are what made America great and America’s relationship with Israel has made a hypocrisy of those ideals. Representative Omar is a profile in courage.

  5. She is a mean mama and a dangerous friend. She is our No. 1 Welfare Client and she bites our hand of friendship and Financial Largess
    The man who was Jonathan Pollard’s handler during the time he stole our nuclear war fighting plans, is still a free man in Israel, as we continue to give them the hard earned money of our American taxpayers..These plans were then “sold/bartered to Russia and the Israelis handed them over to the Russians. Are we stupid, or just corrupted beyond reason. Giving our treasure to the thieves who steal our most important secrets, and give them to our most dangerous adversary……!!!!!!!!!!

    1. There are innumerable versions of what information Pollard turned over. I feel no sympathy for his foolish betrayal, Caspar Weinberg, a man with close ties to Bechtel, was himself convicted of lying and had to be pardoned

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