An article by Scott McConnell “The Special Relationship with Israel: Is it worth the cost?” which appeared in the Spring 2012 Middle East Policy Council Journal, reviews an interesting analysis attributed to Professor Ariel Roth of John Hopkins University. Roth accepts that the only US strategic interest in the Middle East is to maintain relative stability to keep the oil flowing. Because the greatest threat to stability is Israel, which is paranoid about its own security, he argues that it is therefore in America’s interest to be bound tightly to the Jewish state so it will not do something stupid, like lashing out with its nuclear arsenal to start a war against a neighbor. Scott expands on the argument, “This claim is at once alarming and compelling. Roth is asserting that the principal ally of the United States in the twenty-first century — its main source of strategic advice, the nation whose leaders have an unequaled access to American political leadership — is not a rational actor.
The United States is in the position of a wife whose spouse is acting erratically. A ‘panicked and unrestrained Israel,’ armed with an estimated 200 nuclear weapons, could do an extraordinary amount of damage. The only conclusion one can draw is that the special relationship would now be very difficult to exit, even if Israel had no clout whatsoever within the American political system, even if the United States desired emphatically to pursue a more independent course.”
The argument made by Roth and McConnell assumes that while Israel might be an irrational player, Washington is not and is acting out of self-interest. I am not really convinced that either congress or the White House is intelligent enough, collectively speaking, to have carefully thought through the possible consequences of a rogue Israel, therefore responding preventively to the mad dog in the room. American politicians have difficulty in seeing beyond their own very narrow personal self-interest, which is certainly why Mitt Romney has just announced that he will be making his fourth trip to Israel before the Tampa GOP nominating convention. He will hope for a photo op or two to make him look like an experienced foreign hand while receiving his marching orders on what is acceptable from Netanyahu. He will not be thinking of what a reckless Israel might do if Washington were not restraining it, a formulation that would never enter into his tiny mind.
It is, in fact, difficult to conclude that Israel has in any way been seriously restrained by its relationship with the US. On the contrary, Washington has provided it with the resources and political cover to enable it to act recklessly. If one considers events in Lebanon, the war against Iraq, the current drive to bring about a civil war in Syria leading to the breakup of that country, and the near constant urging to attack Iran, it might instead be argued that Israel’s influence over Washington has evolved to such a point that it is no longer taking the lead on aggressive military operations because it is able to have the United States do the fighting and dying for it.
The Romney foreign policy agenda is a symptom of the sickness that has seized control of the Republican Party in particular and the Washington elite in general. Romney is focused on supporting Israel at all costs while reverting to a new cold war with Russia, stitching together the most dangerously ignorant doctrine to emerge from the recent presidential primary campaign. Draft dodger Romney’s truculent posturing can only bring grief. And worse still, all the politically ambitious excepting only Ron Paul are falling into line. Demonstrating that wisdom does not necessarily run in families, Senator Rand Paul’s specific endorsement of the Romney foreign policy should be seen for what it is, a thoughtless pandering to a GOP establishment that is dedicated to catering to every Netanyahu whim while simultaneously going about in search of new enemies.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.