What World Role for U.S. Now? February 28, 1990Nuclear Powers In Danger Too, April 2, 1990
Getting Israel Off The Dole, April 13, 1990Going Beyond Electoral Reform, July 11, 1990
Can Saddam Hussein Be Deterred? August 10, 1990Don't Underestimate America, August 24, 1990
Caught On The Horns Of A Dilemma, August 31, 1990The Worrying Saudi Arms Sale, September 24, 1990
The Arabs' Failed Mythology, September 30, 1990The Cost Of Politicians' Media Ineptness, October 12, 1990
FOR MORE THAN four decades, the U.S. government dedicated itself primarily to the fight against Communism, so it is not surprising that Washington is having some difficulty formulating a new structure for its foreign policy. As many of America's deepest hopes for independence and freedom for "the captive nations" of Eastern Europe are being realized, it is difficult to know where to turn or what to do next.
At the height of the euphoria over the disintegration of the Soviet Communist empire, Francis Fukyama, an official in the U.S. State Department and former analyst at the Rand Corporation, proclaimed that "the end of history" was at hand. He seems to be right in the limited sense that the ideological struggle between "democratic capitalism" and "monolithic communism" has ended in the former's victory. One country after another, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, perhaps Romania, and now even the Soviet Union itself, are creating democratic pluralist structures with freedom of expression and the other characteristics of open political systems.
However, even a very superficial survey of events in this region reveals that the "push and pull" of international relations and the cycles of conflict and war are far from over. The very democracy and freedom which allow open expression also create the foundation for a revival of the exclusive nationalism and religious intolerance which have been present in these regions for centuries. With the collapse of Communism and the Soviet empire, a new era of conflict has already begun. In other words, the messianic millennium which will accompany "the end of history" is still very distant.
Many of the ethnic-nationalist-religious conflicts which are already gaining momentum signal the resumption of the struggles which preceded World War II and the German conquest of much of Europe. The renewed killing in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians, and the wider Balkans disputes which could lead to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, began much earlier, and indeed contributed directly to the outbreak of the First World War. The terror and fighting between Armenians and Azeris, as well as other conflicts within current boundaries of the Soviet Union, also have very deep historic roots. As the Soviet government loses control, the killing is only likely to intensify. In such a world, the type of conflict and periodic warfare which has characterized the Middle East for so long will seem the norm.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the hegemonic domination of the international system by the two superpowers, the United States seems to emerge as the only real global military power. Yet the ability and will of the U.S. to use its power is far from clear. With the end of the Cold War, and the frustration of continued ethnic and nationalist conflict even in non-Communist regions, Washington will be strongly tempted to remove itself from the international arena. On the other hand, with the assistance of the economically powerful European Economic Community, the U.S. may attempt to use its power to contain and ameliorate regional conflicts, and to separate warring sides. As it has in the case of Israel, the U.S. could provide support for smaller, weaker groups against the threat of annihilation from their more aggressive neighbours.
SUCH A POLICY would require it to revamp its entire military and foreign policy structure. The U.S. military is largely based on strategic nuclear forces, which were of doubtful use in the Cold War and are of even less importance in an age of regional, nationalist wars. To intervene effectively in these small-scale regional conflicts, the Pentagon must develop its ability to deploy rapid, mobile, conventional forces and to withstand the grinding wars of attrition and terror such as were used to gain a U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon. Instead of the emphasis on firepower, the key to this strategy will be flexibility, precision and intelligence.
In contrast, the U.S. could also revert to an isolationist posture, eschewing involvement in the various nationalist conflicts which erupt. After all, small wars in the Balkans, the Baltic or on the fringes of the Islamic world are limited, distant and pose little danger to the U.S. national interests. The U.S. may pay a little more attention to central Europe, with the spectre of a reunited Germany and a revived German nationalism, but yet another German rampage is considered to be highly unlikely. The U.S. has a long history of isolation, and most Americans have little patience for being "the world's policeman" and little understanding of the ethnic hatreds and religious intolerance which is endemic to much of the rest of the world. Indeed, in American views of the Arab-Israeli conflict, support for Israel has steadily been eroded by a broad lack of interest and impatience with all sides in "these ancient feuds."
The result of this second policy will, in the long term, be just as disastrous for the U.S. as were the previous bouts of isolationism that preceded the two world wars. Small local wars have a tendency to become global wars, and in the nuclear age the results could be catastrophic. Ultimately, neither the United States, nor, for that matter, any other major international actor, can afford to be isolationist.
In the long term, the U.S. must continue to remain a major or even the major actor in the international system. To be consistent with its own heritage, the Americans will be called upon to make sacrifices for other groups who are deprived of freedom and are the victims of violence. The U.S. intervention in Panama was not only required by limited considerations of national interest, but also was a moral imperative.
The future direction of America's role in the world will be indicated by its actions in the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Noting that the Soviet Union is no longer a major actor, many in Washington, such as Senators Bob Dole and Robert Byrd, have called for lowering the profile of American involvement and reducing U.S. aid to Israel. The reality, of course, is that even without the USSR, the Arabs are still capable of buying all the weapons they need.
The superficial interest of the American news media in the
intifada and alleged Israeli human rights violations is a clear indication of
the lack of attention to detail and the tendency to dismiss complex issues with
a policy which can be termed "a plague on both your houses." Further development
of this policy would be a clear signal of growing isolationism in America.
THE RECENT attempt to smuggle electronic nuclear triggers into Iraq shows that Baghdad's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons continue unabated. Although these efforts may be slowed for a few more years through the enforcement of technology-export regulations in the U.S. and Western Europe, eventually Iraq will no doubt add nuclear weapons to its arsenal of chemical weapons and ballistic missiles.
As the inexorable march up the "ladder of escalation" in the Middle East continues, however, the states involved will soon find that the development of unconventional weapons does not improve their own security. Rather, it threatens to bring total destruction.
For the past 42 years, while the Arab states have waged a series of conventional wars against Israel, these have been mainly fought far from their own cities. The civilian population and the economic infrastructure have largely escaped major destruction. Even the Iran-Iraq War, including the use of chemical warfare and small-scale missile attacks against cities, was limited; and both sides have been able to rebuild quickly.
However, the continued development of nuclear, chemical and missile forces means that the period of limited warfare in the Middle East will soon be over.
For the first time, Baghdad, Damascus, Tripoli, Riyadh, Mecca, Cairo, as well as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, are potential targets for total and complete destruction. A country that possesses, and is thought likely to use, those weapons of mass destruction is itself a prime target for such an attack. Their destructive power makes careful control imperative, but, as the U.S. and the USSR have learned, absolute control is difficult to achieve and maintain.
WITH THE deployment of those weapons, crises and war in the Middle East will be characterized by the types of fears and instabilities that were familiar in the darkest days of the Cold War.
In 1961, during the Berlin Crisis, and during the confrontation over missiles in Cuba of October 1962, the U.S. and the Soviet Union faced the prospect of mutual nuclear destruction like "two scorpions in a bottle." Throughout the atomic era, including periods of detente, the deterrence policy of the two superpowers led to the continuous prospect of surprise attacks, accidental war, and false alarms which could have resulted in nuclear war.
The U.S. and the Soviet Union, and indeed the rest of the world, were lucky to have escaped this period without a nuclear war. In part, this was the result of the limited scale of the Cold War. The U.S. and USSR clashed on the basis of ideology and interests, but the type of ethnic, religious and nationalist conflict and intolerance characteristic of the Middle East was largley absent.
More importantly, the threat of large-scale atomic destruction and "nuclear winter" led Moscow and Washington to seek, and eventually develop, various forms of limitation and arms control measures. Despite the depth of the ideological conflict, both sides realized that neither could gain, or even survive a nuclear exchange. Various crisis-management and confidence-building measures were developed, and eventually this led to the more formal strategic arms limitation agreements (SALT) beginning in 1972.
THE LEADERS and populations of the Middle East are still quite far from the realization that the types of weapons being developed lead to instability, mutual fears of first strikes, preventive attacks, retaliatory forces, and ultimately, the possibility of total destruction.
Neither Gaddafi in Libya, nor Iraq's Saddam Hussein shows any indication of understanding that each step along the nuclear and chemical path increases the possibility of, and plans for, preventive attacks and first strikes against their own cities.
Similarly, the Saudis, who are financing the Iraqi efforts and have purchased and deployed long-range ballistic missiles purchased from China, do not seem to have grasped that these moves are part of the process that endangers not only the survival of Saudi Arabia, but also the entire Islamic and Arab civilization.
Some efforts to develop a form of strategic arms control in the Middle East have been undertaken, but without any success. The 1988 Paris meeting to control chemical-weapons proliferation were used by the Arab states as propaganda forums to attack and isolate Israel.
Iraq and other countries have sought to circumscribe the safeguard system of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is designed to provide a framework for the implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. . (This activity, and the failure of the world to respond, led to the Israeli attack on the Iraqi reactor complex in 1981. )
In order to escape the vast destruction promised by nuclear and chemical weapons, as well as ballistic missiles, both the Arab countries and Israel will have to take the issue of arms control and negotiation seriously.
To survive, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc., must change
the policies which, until now, have led to a complete refusal to negotiate with
or even recognize Israel. Until these basic steps are taken, it is not only
Israel which is threatened, but also the survival of the Arab and Islamic
AS AN Israeli I agree with Senator Dole's call for reducing the level of U.S. aid to Israel.
I am embarrassed that Israel requires over $3 billion a year, and that this sum, along with a similar amount for our Egyptian neighbours, consume a large amount of U.S. foreign aid. Like Senator Dole, I would like to see some, or even all, of this aid freed for assistance to Panama, Nicaragua, and some of the newly democratic states of Eastern Europe.
It would not be very difficult for the U.S. to take this step. Most U.S. aid to Israel is immediately returned to the U.S. in the form of debt repayments. Over the past twenty years, Israel has bought billions of dollars in U.S. weapons to offset the weapons acquired by the Arab countries.
Without the oil wells of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Gulf States, Israel has been hard pressed to pay for these weapons and has been forced to go into debt. If the U.S. were to forgive these loans to Israel, Israel would no longer require large scale U.S. aid.
The rest of U.S. aid for Israel pays for weapons still being acquired from the U.S. Israel needs these weapons to offset the billions of dollars of sophisticated weapons which U.S. and European firms sell to the Arab countries every year. These weapons include M-1 and M-60A3 tanks, combat fighters such as the F-15 and F-16, Awacs, and thousands of missiles and rockets which would be used against Israel in the event of war.
If Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iraq, which maintain a state of war with Israel, were to stop arming themselves to the teeth with U.S. weapons, Israel would be able to reduce its defence budget significantly. In return for a total end to arms sales to the Arab states, Israel would gladly forgo the aid it receives from the U.S.
Economically, Israel would not really be in such bad shape, were it not for the huge defence burden which exceeds 50 per cent of the GNP. Despite the small population (4.5 million), Israeli firms are relatively successful in producing and exporting a wide range of goods, from agricultural produce to high-tech computer systems and diagnostic equipment.
Despite these accomplishments, Israel's ability to balance its trade is hampered severely by the Arab economic warfare. Since 1948, the Arab states have refused to purchase goods which have been made in Israel, or to allow ships which deliver goods to Israel to dock in Arab ports.
The Arab Boycott Office has sought to maintain a secondary boycott, threatening to prevent companies who trade with Israel from doing business in the Arab world. Intimidated by these threats, many of the world's largest companies have refused to trade with Israel. Many Japanese firms, including the major automobile manufacturers, still fear Arab retribution and avoid direct trade with Israel. Saudi Arabia is known to examine the major contractors and subcontractors who bid on construction projects to insure that no firms with links to Israel (or with Jewish participants) are involved.
AFTER SOME prodding, the U.S. government barred American firms from participating in this form of illegal economic discrimination. However, this anti-boycott legislation has been enforced sporadically. The U.S. has also failed to act to convince its major international trading partners in Europe and Asia, including Japan, and Canada to ignore the Arab threats.
Thus Israel still suffers billions of dollars a year in economic losses due to the Arab boycott. The U.S. could more than offset the costs to Israel of a reduction or even end to foreign aid by strictly enforcing the anti-boycott statutes and pressing "allies" among the moderate Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to end the their economic warfare against Israel.
In addition, the U.S. could help itself and Israel by making it easier for Israeli firms to sell products in the U.S. Until the U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation Agreements of the early 1980s, Israeli firms were essentially barred from competing for defence contracts. With the establishment of this framework, Israel began to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the U.S. military and large U.S. defence manufacturers, to offset, in part, the Israeli purchase of American weapons.
These cooperative efforts are beneficial both to Israel and the U.S. Israel is the acknowledged world leader in some aspects of military technology, including tactical weapons, battlefield communications, and in extending the lifetimes and upgrading existing weapons. As the U.S. defence budget decreases, older weapons, including tanks and combat aircraft, must be kept in service longer.
Instead of multi-billion dollar research and development programs, the Pentagon will have to adopt the Israeli method of smaller-scale and less expensive retro-fitting of new components. In cooperation with the major U.S. defence contractors, and with the lifting of the remaining political and bureaucratic obstacles, Israel could provide a great deal of expertise and experience in these vital areas and increase the efficiency of American defence spending.
Together, these measures, including the end of arms sales to
the Arab states which still threaten to invade Israel, the reduction of the
massive debt remaining from the purchase of necessary weapons in the past two
decades, more active opposition to the Arab economic boycott, and the extension
of the range of the cooperation in mutually beneficial efforts, would more than
make up for the end of U.S. aid for Israel. Adopting these policies would free
billions of dollars in aid money for other countries and, at the same time,
would allow Israel to prosper.
The difficulties which confront efforts to change the electoral system in Israel are, in large part, the result of the central role which the government plays in Israel society. Elections determine the balance of power in the government and it is the government which determines everything else.
In Israel, the government decides how much our money is worth, the pay we receive for our labours, the price of bread and milk, which land will be available for building houses, the rate and eligibility for mortgages, which farmers will receive subsidies for eggs, whose factories, yeshivot and hospitals will receive subsidies, which imported products we are allowed to buy, which restaurants receive a kashrut certificate, how long heart patients will wait for surgery, which television programmes we will watch, and even who will represent Israel in international song festivals and sporting events. The parties and coalition agreements determine who will receive employment in a government agency, as well as who will drive a Volvo at taxpayers' expense.
In this environment, there should be little wonder that those who hold power are so reluctant to give it up. Without the imposition of limitations on the role of government, and a change in expectations regarding the role of the state, changes in the electoral system will be very difficult to achieve, and, even if achieved, of limited consequence.
Historically, states were initially created to provide security and defence. To meet these requirements, taxes had to be raised, and this led to the development of public administration. In the 20th century, the welfare state was developed in order to provide citizens with employment, housing, food, and, in many cases, an equal distribution of wealth. While many of the excesses of unrestrained capitalism were curbed, the socialist welfare state has singularly failed to adapt to change.
The U.S. was founded on the principle that "the government that governs best governs least." This perspective led to the creation of a political system in which the powers of government are highly constrained. The American system of "checks and balances" was designed to prevent the state from imposing itself on the citizenry. After a period of increased government involvement in the wake of the depression of the 1930s, Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party returned to dominate American politics on the basis of a political platform which stressed limits on the role of government.
Following massive state intervention in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, in which the government tried to run coal mines and produce cars and jet planes, Her Majesty's loyal subjects also learned that government is inefficient and easily corrupted. It took the USSR over 70 years to realize that state control of the economy and society simply creates poverty, and even this is not spread evenly.
IN THE Israel case, the state, along with quasi-state agencies like the Histadrut and Jewish Agency, has been able to claim some notable, and even extraordinary, successes. Starting from almost nothing, they organized the creation of a state, defended it against attack, absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees, developed an industrial infrastructure, and provided social services that have served as models for the rest of the world in the areas of health, education and welfare.
Having accomplished these extremely important missions, however, the public institutions were unable to adapt to the changes which these very accomplishments had brought. For over two decades, Israel has stagnated, and the public sector, led by the government and the Histadrut, has failed to be a source of growth and continued development.
In Israel, as elsewhere, it is apparent that the public (and political) sector is by nature unresponsive to external change. The machinery of government and the political process move slowly, and as the pace of environmental change accelerates, those areas in which the role of government is greatest are the slowest to adapt.
Many Israelis thought that when the period in which Mapai and the Labour Party dominated public institutions ended, the stagnation would end as well. Thirteen years after the "revolution," it is clear that it is the system which encourages massive state control. Not merely the individuals or parties who control it must be changed, but this system itself.
The experience of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe showed that state control and involvement results inevitably in corruption and the development of a privileged administrative class (the nomenklatura), whose primary objective is to maintain its privileges and power through manipulation of the political process. Even in democratic countries, the ability to resist change is particularly strong in party-controlled systems in which authority and accountability is hidden behind "collective responsibility" and ideological excuses.
As long as politics is allowed to determine the distribution of national resources, and to regulate everything from television and sports to religion, reform of the electoral system is going to be extremely difficult. Even if a technical reform is accomplished (such as constituency-based elections for the Knesset or direct election of the prime minister), as long as the government maintains its all-encompassing role, the system is likely to remain unresponsive and inadequate. When the state has essentially unlimited access to public funds, politics and policy-making become contests for control of these funds.
The Israel government budget consumes most of the available national product (as well as funds which are provided from outside sources). The annual process by which the budget is allocated among the competing factions and ministries (and their respective parties) is essentially a reflection of the broader political contest and balance of power in the country.
Politicians use this process to funnel subsidies and funds to their supporters, including the kibbutzim and Kupat Holim, on the one hand, and the yeshivot and other institutions linked to the religious parties, on the other. They pack these institutions with their supporters and assistants, holding them ready for the next elections. Factors such as efficiency and national needs, which should determine the distribution of public funds, play almost no role in this process.
As long as the public sector remains all-encompassing,
and the state is expected to provide all services and disribute all available
resources, electoral reform will remain a distant dream. At the same time,
without a diminution of the role of government, electoral reform will bring
limited relief. To bring about necessary change, the primary target should not
be electoral reform, but rather a change in the concept and role of the public
sector, and an understanding of the limits of the state in Israel society.
THE IRAQI invasion of Kuwait did not demonstrate any new strategic or military capabilities, particularly with respect to Israel. Kuwait's military forces were insignificant in comparison with those of Iraq; the ability to overwhelm this tiny state does not mean that Iraq could take on Israel.
In fact, in its war with Iran, Baghdad's military capability was shown to be quite limited. In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran following the chaos of the overthrow of the Shah, when Teheran was at its weakest. The commanders of its army had been shot, its ranks were composed of young, untrained "Revolutionary Guards," and Iran was without any sources of weapons or spare parts. Nevertheless, Saddam Hussein's army barely scraped through with a draw. Even with a million men under arms, thousands of tanks, hundreds of fighter aircraft, missiles and chemical weapons, the Iraqi military is far from invincible.
At the same time, a war with Iraq would be costly for Israel; in general, it is better to prevent war through deterrence, rather than pay the high price of proving military superiority. The recent events raise important questions about Israeli deterrence policy. Saddam Hussein's actions can be interpreted as either those of a clever and even audacious gambler, or of an impulsive and irrational maniac. A calculating risk-taker can be deterred from taking certain risks, but an irrational dictator cannot.
If the Iraqi leader is a calculating gambler, inclined to take risks that are likely to pay off, he can be dissuaded from attacking Israel if he is convinced that the price he would be forced to pay would be too high. In the case of Kuwait, the short-term risks were clearly minimal. A few American warships and the prospects of a marginal and ineffective economic boycott constituted far too small a cost to deter the Iraqi invasion. The American threats of military intervention were simply not credible enough to be taken seriously.
In dealing with Israel, however, Saddam has been far more cautious in his actions, if not in his rhetoric. Despite repeated threats, he refrained from retaliating against Israel after the IDF destroyed the Iraqi nuclear weapons plant in 1981. Rationally, he would have to conclude that the Israeli military's qualitative edge over Iraq would make any attack on Israel highly dangerous. As Yitzhak Rabin has stated repeatedly, Israel has the military capability to destroy Iraq.
YET, IF the Iraqi leader is indeed a calculating gambler, it might be prudent for Israel to take measures to strengthen the credibility of its deterrence. Even the most calculating gamblers often get carried away by their successes, and make costly mistakes. While such a mistake may cost Iraq dearly, Israel should try to prevent the need to prove its superiority on the battlefield. Deterrence fails when the consequences of aggression and of military action are misunderstood and too early dismissed.
To prevent such a failure in deterrence, some form of limited Israeli military action or the highly visible test of advanced weapons might be called for. In the past few years, Israel has conducted a series of missile tests which have also served as thinly veiled warnings to Iraq and Syria.
At the same time, Israel has maintained its policy of nuclear ambiguity, admitting to a "nuclear potential," but not to the possession of nuclear weapons. (This policy was based on the hope that nuclear arms control was still conceivable in the Middle East.) The occasional hint of a nuclear capability has been thought sufficient for deterrence.
Some analysts, however, have argued that this policy is too ambiguous and limits the credibility and deterrence value of the Israeli capability. In the current situation, these analysts might view the demonstration or test of a nuclear weapon as a necessary reminder of the terrible risks inherent in an attack on Israel.
On the other hand, if Saddam is entirely irrational, the strategy of deterrence are insufficient and unreliable. In such cases, deterrence and even the promise of assured and complete destruction is insufficient. War may, in the long term, seem inevitable. If this is the case, military strategy becomes based on actions which directly weaken the opposing force. These may include pre-emptive and preventive attacks.
Therefore, if the Israeli leadership concludes that Saddam Hussein is not likely to be influenced by the threats of "massive retaliation" and "assured destruction," the possibilities of Israeli military initiatives against Iraq increase. It is in fact in Saddam's interest now to convince Israel that he is rational and understands the "rules" of mutual deterrence.
There is no doubt that in taking on Israel, the Iraqi tyrant sees himself as the undisputed leader of the Arab world. In 1967, Nasser also sought to claim this title by threatening a war of "total destruction" against Israel. Nasser lost his war, and Egypt, and well as his Jordanian and Syrian allies, paid a very stiff price.
In attempting to follow in Nasser's footsteps, Saddam is
inviting the same fate. Only this time, the result could reduce Baghdad to
radioactive rubble. Perhaps a quick and forceful lesson in history will be
sufficient to remind the Iraqi leader and his supporters that, for their own
survival, it is time to acknowledge the realities and limitations of mutual
deterrence and to strengthen regional stability.
MANY ISRAELIS have a tendency to disparage American military capability and political willpower. American forces did not acquit themselves well in Vietnam, and political opposition to the war eventually forced the U.S. to withdraw. For over a year, Washington was paralyzed when a few of its citizens were held hostage in Iran, and when U.S. Marines set up shop in Beirut, terrorism made them leave in a hurry.
In addition, the Americans seemed to swallow Yasser Arafat's propaganda, despite the continued terror, until the May attack on our beaches led to a reluctant change in policy. The fuss and hype which accompanied the "victories" over minuscule armies in Grenada and Panama seemed to show how little America knew about a serious military engagement.
As a result, "experts" expected George Bush to make some noise and then acquiesce in the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait.
It is true that some analysts were surprised by the size and speed of the American deployment in Saudi Arabia. By coercing that kingdom to provide bases, and moving thousands of troops in just a few days, along with hundreds of fighter aircraft and a full range of bombers, Washington seemed to show some spine.
However, after waiting for two weeks without action, these commentators are again talking about the weakness of American commitment, the likelihood of a long standoff which will allow Iraq to consolidate its hold on Kuwait, and the new hostage problem. According to this view, Americans are afraid to attack the Iraqis, and will grow weary of sitting in the desert. With Congressional elections in November, followed by the holiday season, the traditional isolationism will return, and demands to "bring the boys home" will grow.
THIS MAY be a sound argument, but it is not an accurate reflection of the current situation in the U.S. If the U.S. backs down, the West and the industrialized world will suffer economic consequences far worse than the Great Depression, and the U.S. will lose its historic position as leader of the West. George Bush knows that in any finale short of victory, he would lose the next election, and would be remembered as one of America's worst presidents - even below Carter. Thus, despite the hostages and the costs and risks of war, the U.S. has no alternative but to stay the course until Saddam Hussein is removed.
Washington cannot afford to allow Iraqi troops to stay in Kuwait, and cannot leave the scene as long as Saddam Hussein is still in power and able to launch missiles and chemical weapons attacks. Militarily, it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of the U.S. armed forces. Although the ground and naval forces are made up of "volunteers," including a disproportionate number of poorly-educated minorities (blacks and Hispanics) who have not found employment elsewhere, they are still far superior to the Iraqi troops. In the past few years, the average educational level has increased, and the drug and discipline problems have been reduced significantly.
It is true that the U.S. forces are outnumbered by over one million Iraqi troops, but with every passing hour, the goal of amassing up to 250,000 troops is closer to realization. And whatever deficiencies may exist in the quality and quantity of the ground forces are more than outweighed by American technology and firepower. The U.S. has the benefit of real-time intelligence, communications systems allowing commanders to pinpoint targets, and other battlefield technology. American tanks are far more modern, mobile and precise than most Iraqi tanks, and the same is true for helicopter gun-ships, artillery and other systems being deployed.
While it has been the case that, in small operations and training exercises, the U.S. has had trouble maintaining and operating this hi-tech battlefield equipment, in a real shooting war, many of these problems would be overcome. The most critical aspect of modern warfare is air power, and here the U.S. holds all the cards.
In the Gulf War, the Iraqi Air Force did not demonstrate a high level of professionalism, and even though Iran had only a handful of operating aircraft, they were able to penetrate Iraqi airspace on a regular basis to bomb Baghdad. The U.S. Air Force and naval air units are based on highly professional and motivated personnel, equipped with everything from Cruise missiles to Stealth bombers and fighters, and should have no trouble gaining and maintaining control of the skies.
This will allow the U.S. to bomb strategic targets with precision, putting the chemical weapons and missile facilities out of action quickly, and destroying military command centers. The U.S. will also be able to provide close air support for ground troops, should this be necessary.
IN THE PAST, many tyrants and would-be conquerors made the fatal mistake of trivializing American power and determination. At the outset of World War I, Germany did not take into account the possibility that isolationist America would become involved. Indeed, the U.S. entered the war slowly and reluctantly, but once it was committed, no effort was spared and American power tipped the balance against the Germans.
Again, at the outset of World War II, both Hitler and the Japanese totally misread America. Japan had expected to reach an agreement with the U.S. which would have given Tokyo control of the Pacific. But, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. refused any agreement short of total Japanese surrender. Similarly, in Europe, no compromise with Hitler was possible.
The proper analogy for examining American policy in this current crisis is not the Iranian hostages nor Vietnam, but Pearl Harbor. Americans are angry, morally outraged, and willing to make sacrifices. The stakes are very high, U.S. interests are directly involved, and America is ready to fight and make sacrifices for as long as necessary.
In taking on Iraq, the risks and costs are far lower than were involved in World War I or II, and the Americans cannot afford to leave until the job is finished, even if it takes 20 years.
As the Congressional elections in the first week of
November get closer, the danger to George Bush and the Republican Party will be
from opponents who charge that the U.S. policy is too weak, and that the
president is "acting like a wimp," as his opponents charged during the 1988
election campaign. If anything, U.S. public opinion and the elections will prod
the administration to be more forceful and to take military action, even if this
causes casualties and endangers the hostages. Americans know that the
alternatives are far worse.
ISRAELI PREDICTIONS regarding an imminent outbreak of war between Iraq and the U.S. are not part of some evil effort to foment war, as hostile elements in the foreign media have claimed. Rather, they reflect a combination of professional advice and analysis, mixed with a gnawing fear that the U.S. might be tempted to withdraw and leave Israel to face Saddam Hussein's deadly arsenal of chemical weapons and missiles alone.
Israel's military experience can be simplistically reduced to two opposing models based on the events of 1967 and 1973. In May 1967, the Arab states, led by Egypt, mobilized their troops and surrounded Israel. Nasser declared it was time to "drive the Jews into the sea." After weeks of attempting to seek a diplomatic solution, the Israeli Air Force struck first, putting an end to the threat posed by the Arab forces.
In contrast, in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria again mobilized and prepared to invade, the U.S. advised Israel to wait, with near-disastrous results.
The Israeli military has thus learned that it does not pay to wait for the other side to strike first, and this is the advice they would pass on to the Americans. Given the choice, they would opt for the 1967 model.
However, the situation for the U.S. forces facing Iraq is quite different. While Israel has only a few kilometers in which to stop an Arab attack, the U.S. Army has hundreds of kilometers in which to retreat into Saudi Arabia. In reality, America's strategic depth stretches all the way across the Atlantic. Those who advise the U.S. to attack quickly forget that, in contrast to Israel, America can afford a long period in which to build and maintain its forces. The longer the U.S. and its allies wait, the stronger the forces in Saudi Arabia become. Thus there is no military necessity for a swift attack.
Politically, however, those who advise "getting it over with quickly" fear that as time goes on, a "diplomatic option" may be found which could provide an excuse for avoiding military action. Indeed, current diplomatic activity seems to reinforce this scenario. Perhaps the U.S. will succeed in forcing Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and release all the foreign hostages. It might then be forced to leave, or at least reduce its forces in Saudi Arabia.
WHILE THIS seems highly unlikely, if it did happen Saddam Hussein (or perhaps a new Iraqi dictator) would be free to turn his attention to Israel. An attack on Israel might well serve him as a rationalization for withdrawing from Kuwait (just as the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Iran was rationalized as necessary in the face of the threat from the Americans). This would leave Israel alone to face Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, missiles and massive conventional forces. And Saddam will also have nuclear weapons in a few years.
In addition, the U.S. has proposed selling even more advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia - a country still officially at war with Israel, whose leaders complain that instead of invading Kuwait, Iraq should have turned its attention "against the Zionist enemy." There is no guarantee that these weapons will not be turned against Israel at some future date.
Despite these fears, Israel has been very careful to avoid complicating U.S. efforts in building an Arab coalition to face Iraq. The Israeli government has not responded to Iraqi threats and efforts to involve Israel in the current conflict. The Israeli military, which eliminated Iraq's nascent nuclear weapons program in 1981, might have seen this as an opportunity to destroy Iraq's chemical weapons and missiles, but it held back. Moreover, although Jordan has become closely allied with Iraq both economically and militarily, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has even acted to support King Hussein's government and prevent further destablization in the region.
The Bush administration recognizes the legitimacy of Israel's fears and the responsibility Jerusalem has shown during this crisis, and American involvement will not end even if Saddam volunteers or is coerced into leaving Kuwait. Should this immediate problem be somehow solved, America will turn immediately to defusing the longer-term threat to stability in the region.
That stage will prove even more difficult than the efforts to solve the current crisis. Pessimists (or realists, as former defense minister Yitzhak Rabin calls himself) have expressed the fear that Israel will be asked to pay the bill for the alliance between the Americans and the Saudis, Egyptians and Syrians. In the effort to extract concessions from Israel, previous cooperation and the realities of the situation here might become forgotten, and so a policy based on skepticism and caution is still advisable.
Israel's problems will not end if Saddam Hussein withdraws
from Kuwait. They'll just be beginning.
Jews are chronic worriers, and often for good reason. The multi-billion dollar arms package the U.S. is selling to Saudi Arabia is a legitimate cause for concern.
Saudi Arabia refuses to recognize Israel, and has been in a technical state of war with it since 1948. Saudi Arabia regularly spreads anti-Semitic propaganda, and has urged Saddam Hussein to march on Jerusalem, rather than on Kuwait.
In providing these weapons, including highly-advanced aircraft and missiles and main battle tanks, the U.S. has violated previous agreements which promise to maintain Israel's qualitative edge over the Arab states.
Given the tremendous quantitative advantage of the Arab states and the millions of troops they can deploy, the Israeli technological lead has always been considered essential to maintain stability and balance in the region.
Israeli military leaders must take into account the "worst possible case" in developing strategy and operational plans. In such a scenario, Saudi arms could be used in a combined Arab assault against Israel, similar to the 1967 and 1973 wars.
In 1967, despite conflicts with Nasser, the Saudis joined the Arab military coalition against Israel. In 1973, the Saudis also provided aid to the Egyptian and Syrian forces. The Saudi arsenal now represents a tremendous source of weapons for any future assault against Israel. In addition, internal conflicts in questions about the stability of the Saudi regime raise the prospect that a radical anti-Israel and even anti-Western government could inherit these weapons.
In the past, Israel has requested and generally received compensation for major weapons sales to major Arab countries. However, for this current - and unprecedented - deal, involving a wide range of advanced technologies, it is difficult to determine appropriate compensation.
Israel does not have the economic resources to pay for billions of dollars in new weapons. Any new weapons would have to be paid for with increased U.S. aid.
The IDF is generally already operating with the most advanced technology available. The Americans could sell Israel more Apache helicopters and the Patriot missile defense system could be provided, but these are small measures in comparison to the Saudi deal.
Israel could also benefit greatly if the U.S. provided technology for real-time reception of reconnaissance satellite information, but this technology is very closely held by the Americans.
Many U.S. officials note that the weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia are intended for use against Iraq, not Israel. However, over the past 20 years, advanced American weapons and technology have repeatedly fallen into the wrong hands.
When U.S. forces left Vietnam, they turned their weapons over to their "loyal South Vietnamese allies." In 1975, a huge arsenal was seized by the North Vietnamese forces when they overran Saigon. In 1979, after the overthrow of the Shah, Iranian revolutionary forces seized advanced American weapons left behind.
Stinger missiles provided by the CIA to anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan were sold to Iran and used against the U.S. Last month, the Iraqi military provided Saddam Hussein with several American weapons systems from Kuwait, including Hawk air-defense systems. (Had the U.S. already delivered the F-18 jets and accompanying missiles Kuwait had ordered, the damage would have been much greater. )
IN ASSESSING the impact of the arms sale, it is important to note that some fundamental changes have taken place since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2. This time, the weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia are not simply designed to provide a source of prestige or be stored for possible use against Israel. Rather, these systems will reinforce the anti-Iraq military force in place on the ground, and anything which strengthens this capability is in Israel's interest.
Also, the Saudi forces are incapable of operating most of the new weapons to be transferred; they rely on foreign contractors, mainly from the U.S., to operate and service most of the advanced weapons, including the Awacs planes, which are already part of its arsenal. In other words, the new weapons and technology to be sold to Saudi Arabia will provide additional weapons for the American forces.
As long as the U.S. maintains a strong military presence in Saudi Arabia, there is very little danger that the weapons to be sold will pose a threat to Israel. Since the Americans are likely to stay in the region in large numbers for many years (perhaps longer than the lifetimes of most of these weapons), the long-term danger to Israel is quite limited. If war breaks out, which seems likely now, and Iraq is defeated, the major threat to Israel will have been eliminated.
Nevertheless, the concerns of Israel's worst-case planners are legitimate and should be addressed. Given the instability of Saudi Arabia and the history of revolutions in the area, it is important for both the U.S. and Israel that the operation of these advanced weapons systems be safeguarded to prevent diversion.
It is vital that Israel be provided with the ability to monitor the deployment of these weapons, and with early warning of diversion and preparation for use. If the U.S. is reluctant to provide satellite information directly, it could help Israel deploy its own system by helping to reduce development costs.
Even before the current crisis and the sales of billions of dollars of weapons to the Saudis, Israel was reaching the limits of its ability to compete in the escalating conventional arms race in the region. The defense budget had already reached a point where it consumed a major portion of economic resources in Israel. American aid was frozen, while Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other states were continuing to spend billions annually on their conventional forces.
The Israeli qualitative edge was slowly undermined by the sale of advanced technologies to the Arab states (although Israel maintained a strong edge in training the manpower needed to operate and maintain these weapons).
In response, Israeli policymakers were beginning to increase their reliance on unconventional weapons to defend against and deter massive conventional attacks. If the current arms sales to Saudi Arabia are used to threaten Israel, either now or later, the Israeli response will be to consider using these unconventional weapons.
In order to avoid this and the accompanying decrease in
regional stability, the U.S. will have to convince Israel that whatever weapons
are sold to Saudi Arabia will stay aimed at Iraq.
ONE OF THE major causes of the tragedy of the Arab world, and the Palestinians in particular, is the strong attachment to political mythologies.
In much of the Middle East, Saddam Hussein is regarded as a great military leader, capable of taking on not only Israel but even the U.S. and the entire Western world. The reality of the Iraqi military's weak performance against Iran in the Gulf War, and the dubious evidence from the conquest of a largely unarmed Kuwait has not prevented the growth of this belief.
In the eyes of much of the Arab world, Saddam has taken on the trappings of a modern Saladdin facing the Western world. The rhetoric and the symbolism have obscured the military and political realities.
Historically, the propagation of such myths has propelled the Arab world and the Palestinians into a series of disasters: from the 1920s, the Arabs have totally denied the deep historical links between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel. In Arab propaganda, the Israelis are seen as modern Crusaders; a temporary exogenous presence in the region.
If, like the Crusaders, the Zionists were merely foreign colonialists, Israel would have given up the struggle against war and terror long ago. This myth ignores the central role of Israel in the Jewish religion and culture, which led to the continuous presence and tenacity of Jewish communities in Israel, and the constant efforts to re-establish and strengthen these communities since the exile 2,000 years ago. Without understanding the sources of these links, it is impossible to understand the motivation and strength of Israel over the past four decades.
BECAUSE OF the strong belief in the Crusader analogy, the Arabs have historically scorned all compromise efforts. In 1947, the Palestinians and their Arab allies rejected the UN Partition Plan, which the Zionist leadership had accepted, albeit reluctantly. When the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and the Palestinians invaded, the new State of Israel was expected to collapse quickly.
If Israel were indeed "an artificial creation" with no deep roots in the region and no staying power, continuous war and terror would have been enough to lead to a loss of motivation and growing weakness. The Arab forces were completely unprepared for the resilience of the Israeli military. By clinging to the myths, the Palestinians have continued to avoid dealing with the reality of Israel and the need for compromise.
In 1967, the Palestinians enthusiastically joined the Arab world in support of Nasser's pledges to "cut Israel in two" and "push the Jews into the sea." When the Egyptian leader ordered the removal of the UN buffer force in the Sinai, announced the blockade of Eilat and mobilized the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, the Palestinians and indeed much of the Arab world cheered wildly.
Had they examined Israel military capabilities, they might have realized that Israel was prepared and determined to defend itself against the combined opposing armies. However, the myths of the Arab world did not allow for that possibility. The result was not the destruction of Israel, but a crushing defeat for the Arabs.
Rather than examining the fundamental beliefs and perceptions and accepting the reality of the permanent and legitimate presence of Israel, the Arabs invented yet another myth. Immediately after they were defeated in 1967, Nasser declared that it was not Israel, but American pilots who flew the planes that destroyed the air bases in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
Indeed, Egypt and Syria broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. on the basis of this charge. Defeat by the U.S. was acceptable; it allowed them to maintain the myth that Israel was really a weak and temporary problem.
SINCE THEN, the Palestinians have convinced themselves and much of the world that the "occupied territories in the West Bank" were the result of "Israeli aggression and expansionism." They even convinced a part of the Israeli population that this was the case, at least until the Palestinians decided to support Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and threats to "incinerate half of Israel."
This myth, which blames Israel for the "plight of the Palestinians," entirely ignores the enthusiasm which the Palestinians showed for Nasser's threats to destroy Israel, which led to the 1967 war.
These beliefs have been strengthened by the support which they have received in the rest of the world. Palestinians have become accustomed to hearing the international chorus which also blames Israel for the "occupation" and the violence of the intifada.
If the BBC and the American television networks think Israel is responsible for the tragedies of the Palestinian people, then perhaps the Palestinians are right. In other words, the myths and propaganda which were invented in the Arab world have been repeated and propagated so widely that they have returned to the Palestinians as "accepted facts."
Some Arab leaders, such as the late Anwar Sadat, realized that this faith in mythologies and unwillingness to face realities was the root cause of repeated and growing disasters. Every war with Israel has brought new calamity to the Arabs and the Palestinians; if there is another war, it could be far more devastating than 1948 or 1967. Israel will be able to defeat an Iraqi attack, but the Palestinians would be smack in the middle of such a war, and may well be its major victim.
If there is ever to be peace, the Palestinians and their supporters must first abandon their own failed mythologies and begin to face reality. In 1977, Sadat came to Jerusalem, acknowledging the permanence of Israel and the need to accept this reality and reach a stable peace agreement. He also accepted the historical legitimacy of the Jewish state and the responsibility of the Arab world for much of the warfare and terror which have been directed against Israel. However, the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world denounced Sadat and continued to cling to the old fictions.
As long as these myths and the denial of Israeli rights to sovereignty continue, Israel has no incentive to negotiate or compromise with the Palestinians. Unless these beliefs are abandoned, any Israeli concession will only be used as an advanced base for more war and terror.
Thus, in order to make progress in the peace process, the Palestinian community as a whole must reject the Crusader analogy and end the propaganda which denies the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in Israel. The efforts to rewrite history, and to blame Israel for the wars of 1948 and 1967 and the problems of the "occupied territories" must also be recognized as false mythologies. Before mutual acceptance and compromise is possible, the realities of Israeli legitimacy must be fully accepted, and the propaganda and distortion of history must end.
The rejection of these strongly-held and widespread myths
will take a great deal of effort and time. Generations of Arab children have
been indoctrinated with these beliefs. Their leaders have come to power by
espousing these mythologies and encouraging their followers to ignore and reject
reality. For their own survival, the time has come for the Arab and Palestinian
leadership to come to terms with the Jewish state, and to accept Israel's
legitimacy and permanence.
THE DEATH and destruction which took place on the Temple Mount on Monday was, above all, a major political victory for the Palestinians and Saddam Hussein, assisted by Israeli ineptness. The Arab attack at the time when the plaza below was filled with tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers gathered for the "priestly benediction" was clearly designed to generate a maximum reaction from the police. Over 20 "martyrs" were created when the police sought to stop the Arab activists from hurling boulders, bottles, and other weapons on the Jews at the Wall. Their deaths became the major story of the day, providing Palestinian and Iraqi propagandists with one of their greatest successes.
In planning their actions, the Palestinians hoped to provoke Israeli forces into overreaction, thereby diverting world attention from the Iraqi rape of Kuwait and the crisis in the Gulf. Israel would be portrayed as a "brutal occupier of Arab lands" and usurper of the holy places in Jerusalem. Well before the violence, the PLO had prepared a resolution for the UN Security Council which condemned Israel for violence and "attacks on the Moslem holy places," and called for UN observers to be sent to the region. The Saudi Arabian and Egyptian governments would be forced to pressure the United States, which, in turn, would exert pressure on Israel. The riots in Jerusalem might even cause a split in the international force arrayed against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. This strategy was highly successful and the Arabs marched to victory without any Israeli opposition and even helped by Jerusalem's incompetence.
The events of the day should never have been allowed to happen. There is no excuse for the small force of police which was deployed near the Western Wall at such a critical time. There is also no excuse for allowing thousands of Arabs above to enter the area with an arsenal sufficient to kill many of the Jewish worshippers below. In such a sensitive location, which has been used many times in the past for the creation of provocations and tensions between Moslems and Jews, every action must be carefully monitored and preparations must be made for all contingencies.
Perhaps more importantly, once the rioting began, the Arab propaganda machine was able to act without any interference from Israel. The Palestinian leadership planned this media event with perfection; they had news releases ready before the first casualties were taken to the hospitals. The major radio and television networks around the world broadcast the Arab reports verbatim. Every hour, the BBC World Service told its listeners that the violence began spontaneously when "Israelis sought to lay a cornerstone for the Third Temple on one of Islam's holiest sites." Armed with such reasonable-sounding propaganda, few journalists bothered to find out that Gershon Salomon's motley crew had never gotten close to the Temple Mount and had left long before. Arab political planners, of course, have followed this tragi-comic script on every Jewish holiday, and knew that the Temple Mount Faithful were not going to be allowed anywhere near the area, but they also knew that few reporters would be bothered with such details. The fact that the plaza below was packed with Jewish worshippers, who were attacked by the Arab mobs from above, was also missing from the Arab press releases, and thus from the reports filed by many of the foreign journalists, who finally had a good story to file.
Israel's leaders, in contrast, were silent for the entire day. The Palestinian versions of events and propaganda were broadcast around the world many times, while no Israeli leader made himself available to correct the distortions. The only Israeli who appeared on camera and in radio interviews was Gershon Salomon! For many crucial hours, there was no word from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Police Minister Ronni Milo, Foreign Minister David Levy, or Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Israel was under a major and well-planned attack, and these officials should have been on camera and providing press briefings within a few minutes of the events, and not eight hours later.
When some of these leaders finally did make an appearance, it was another case of "too little, too late." After 12 hours, when the BBC finally acknowledged that the Arab attacks may not, as initially reported, have occurred spontaneously, and that the riots may have been planned to provoke a massive police response, it was too late. The PLO had timed its press conferences to meet the deadlines for the newspapers and television reports in the U.S. and Europe; by the time the Israelis got around to filling in the facts, the reporters had filed their stories. At most, a few papers might run small corrections in the back pages of the next day's editions, noting the Israeli assertion that the riots in Jerusalem were well planned and that the rumors of actions by the Temple Mount Faithful were merely an excuse. Even when these corrections appear, they are worthless. By the time the Israeli politicians realized the magnitude of the defeat which they had suffered, they were powerless to correct the damage.
Even after the magnitude of the tragedy and disaster had become apparent, many Israeli politicians still demonstrated little understanding of the importance of the media and the political factors in determining the future of Israel's position in the Middle East and the international community. In his belated press conference, Police Minister Milo noted that, with so many casualties, the Arabs had been taught a lesson and would not undertake a similar exercise again. Milo seems to have missed the fact that for the Palestinian leadership, these casualties were not the tragic victims of their own violence, but new "martyrs" for the cause; "cannon fodder" for the Palestinian propaganda machine. Far from regretting the events, and making sure they are not repeated, the Palestinian leadership can be counted on planning a repeat performance at the earliest possible date.
This is not the first time that Israeli leaders have been caught unprepared in the face of a well-planned Arab propaganda attack. This is not a party issue; the Labor Party leadership, under Peres and Rabin, was no better in dealing with the media, political "ambushes" and surprise attacks, than the current crew. Israeli leaders may be too insulated and unable to understand the importance of the media in the rest of the world, or simply arrogant. Whatever the excuse, they have been unable or unwilling to develop sophisticated means of dealing with journalists, sound-bites, and instant responses. If the past is any guide, the disastrous political defeat which Israel suffered on the Temple Mount and the evening news will still not force these leaders to finally develop a professional response in dealing with the media.