Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Is The US Preparing To Ditch Israel?

That is a question that will be considered heresy by large sections of the Left for whom the two countries are not only seen as joined at the hip, but for whom there is also an implication that it is Israel that is the dominant partner; a very small tail, wagging a huge dog. For a Left, much of which has not come to terms with the fact that large numbers of former colonies have won political independence, and which searches after some straw to grasp, to justify its belief that these countries are still in some sense “Neo-Colonies”, Israel plays a central role, in the Middle East, of acting as an enclave for “Imperialism”, and a means by which its “Neo-Colonial” rule is implemented throughout the region. However, its on the question of just how much the US needs Israel today that this turns.

After WWII, the US set about applying pressure to ensure that the old European Colonial Empires were broken up. During the War, Roosevelt, who considered Churchill a drunken, old Colonialist, had even proposed to Stalin, that they should form an alliance to bring about such a break up. Of course, although the US had some historical and philosophical grounds for opposing Colonialism, having fought its own War of Independence against Britain, its real reason for wanting to see that break up was not altruistic. Colonialism was a political form appropriate to the overseas rule of parasitic forms of Capital – Merchant and Money Capital, and Landlordism. Each derived their income by draining Surplus Value created in production, and in doing so impeded the expansion of Capital. But, the US was the home of productive Capital par excellence. Its most developed form was the multinational corporation that sought the right and freedom to settle anywhere in the globe, to build plants and exploit new, cheap sources of labour, and to sell its products. The Colonial Empires and their feudal monopolies on trade were an impediment to that development.

But, we shouldn't forget that in 1945, the US did not have, and certainly was not as confident in, its position of hegemony as we might think it to have been today. In the 1920's, when the US was still only a rising power, like China is today, it believed that the next global war would be between itself and Great Britain. The US, began a massive program of building its navy, in order to challenge the position of the British Navy, on the high seas, which gave it global reach. In 1945, the US authorities, and economists, still believed that the ending of War production would cause the economy to go into a massive Depression. They had not counted on the effects of the Long Wave Boom, which, in fact, lifted, not just the US, but economies throughout the globe. In part, the Marshall Plan was geared as a piece of international Keynesianism to assuage that fear of Depression, in the US, as a result of ending war production. In part, it utilised what the US had lots of – Money Capital, and Capital Goods – to both restart markets in Europe, and to ensure its economic dominance over them.

At the same time, its position was challenged by the USSR. In the 1930's, whilst Europe and North America had been mired in Depression, the USSR was growing like topsy. Economists like Mises and Hayek had begun by claiming that economic planning was impossible. By the 1930's, when that had been disproved, they changed tack to argue that economic planning necessarily led to totalitarianism, an easier line to advance given what was obvious in the USSR and Germany. Its interesting, though, that at the time, they did not even make the case about lack of efficiency of planning, because that certainly could not have been claimed at the time. On the contrary, their general belief was that the democracies were going to be economically overhauled by the centrally planned economies of the USSR and Germany.

The strength of that planning was demonstrated during the War. It allowed Germany to construct a hugely powerful military-industrial machine, that swept across most of Europe in a matter of weeks. It was only because Hitler continued to hold out hope of doing a deal with the British ruling class via Lord Halifax and others that he refrained from chasing the British Expeditionary Force across the Channel during the fiasco of Dunkirk. He was content to leave Britain holed up in its island prison, while he turned to his main target, the USSR. But, the even more effective planning system of the USSR, together with its huge expanse, its huge manpower resources, and the lingering beliefs of a people who had thrown of their class oppressors, and still believed the state to be theirs, was an even more powerful force than that of Germany, despite Stalinist bungling.

The Tank Battle at Kholkin Gol in 1939 was one of the
biggest in history.  The Japanese were heavily defeated.
That bungling allowed Hitler to spring Operation Barbarossa on an unprepared USSR. The consequences were dire. The USSR lost 25% of its territory, and production capabality. But, it managed to physically move factories and workers across the country to safety, and quickly restart production. The USSR, several years before, had massively defeated Japan in a huge tank battle, at Khalkin Gol which is why Japan decided the US would be an easier target. That left the USSR free to move men and equipment to the western front, and in December 1941, to turn back Hitler's forces from outside Moscow, and to keep pushing them back until the end of the War.

The US saw, this power of the USSR, and its ability to roll over countries in Europe and Asia. According to General MacArthur, the reason Japan surrendered to the US was not the atom bomb, but fear that they were about to be overrun by Soviet forces! When Khruschev announced in the 1950's that the USSR would overtake the US, he wasn't kidding, and the US at the time thought it possible. They thought it even more possible as the USSR conquered space, and continued to lead the US in the space race for the next decade or so.

So, there was every reason for the US not to consider its position hegemonic at the time. It had every reason to try to enhance its position against potential enemies and rivals. Breaking up the Colonial Empires was a part of that. When Britain, France, and Israel invaded Egypt in 1956, to regain control of the Suez Canal, the US saw an opportunity. It ditched its wartime allies, and aligned itself with the Arabs who had been the former subjects of those states. Britain and France were mortally wounded in the region, whilst the US was provided with the opportunity to strike up its own arrangements, with Arab rulers, for the provision of oil, and for the expansion,, of the US oil companies, into the area. At the same time, the message was made clear to Israel, that the time for the European Colonial powers had passed. If it wanted security, it had to look to the US. As the USSR gained strategic advantage, in its relations with Nasser, and other Arab Nationalist leaders, in North Africa, the role of Israel for the US became more significant.

The idea that US policy is driven by Israel is nonsensical. It is a form of anti-semitism, a version of the worldwide Jewish conspiracy. There is a powerful Jewish lobby in the US. Its power comes from the fact that the Jewish Community has traditionally, within the diaspora, held together as a community. Given that, some members of that community, over the centuries, have specialised in trading, and money dealing - often arising from Medieval Christian limitations on such activities that did not apply to non-Christians – that is backed up by the power of money. In a country where Money talks louder in politics than in many other countries, that is not an unimportant fact. But, there are lots of people with lots of money in the US. Jews are only a tiny proportion of them.

The consequences are being drawn out more clearly in the current Presidential Election. Mitt Romney is courting the Jewish Lobby, whereas its being argued that Obama has not given the attention and support to Israel that previous Presidents have done. Obama, clearly has little time for Netanyahu. Romney has to court the Jewish Lobby. He has little chance of winning over social liberals, who have been turned off by the extreme right-wing shift of the Republican Party, on social issues, such as Abortion, and its growing dominance by the Religious Right. If Romney is to win over any of Obama's former support, it will be amongst those blue collar workers that Obama's economic policies have failed, and who generally speaking tend to be more socially conservative.

At the same time, Romney has a problem with his own Party and supporters. For the Tea Party Right, Romney is too liberal on economic policy. For the religious Right he has the disadvantage of being a Mormon, which is for some of them close to being a Devil Worshipper. It is an odd feature of US politics that the biggest supporters of Israel come not from the Jewish Community, but from the 7 million or so, extreme Christian Fundamentalists, the end timers, who honestly believe every word of the Bible and look forward to the day when the world will be destroyed at Armageddon. These nutters, actually want to see a full scale war in the Middle East, because they believe this is part of the Plan for the Second Coming.

If, Romney wants to win over these people – and Bush did, he tried to win over this Constituency, and McCain did. He appointed Sarah Palin as his running mate, who reportedly attends a Church run by these nutters – he has to be an ardent supporter of Israel. That is what he is doing. But, what Romney is doing to win an election is not likely to determine what he does in that regard were he to win the election. Still less does it tell us the direction in which the US State is moving.

Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal is one of the
 largest investors in the US.  He frequently appears
 on US CNBC.  Here he gives Giuliani a
$10 million cheque for 9/11, and also
 used the occasion to call for the US
to adopt a different attitude in the Middle East,
 particularly in regard Palestine.
Over the last twenty years or so, an increasing centre of economic power has been the Gulf States. Not in the sense that these economies are themselves huge centres of industrial or high-tech production. Mostly they are not. Most of them, even to run their oil industry rely on huge numbers of foreign rather than domestic workers. Nearly half of Saudi Arabia's 27 million population is made up of foreign workers. Some of them such as Dubai, have become regional trading hubs, and financial centres, but mostly they continue to rely on extracting Rent from their oil wells. No, their economic power has come from the ability of a tiny ruling group to amass fantastic amounts of this oil wealth, and to use it to invest in the global financial markets, and to buy up foreign Capital, particularly in the US. If it was Jewish Money that formerly ensured a hearing for the Jewish Lobby, then the much larger amount of Gulf Monarchy money, is obtaining an even greater hearing in Washington. The links between George Bush, and the Bin Laden family, are just one indication of that.

The US strategy in the region for a long time rested on two pillars. Its relation with Israel in the North, and with the Gulf States in the South. That strategy began to fall apart with the downfall of the Shah, a situation the US quickly tried to reverse by supporting Saddam, and promoting the Iran-Iraq war. The US had a problem in trying to replace Saddam with someone more reliable and effective. The most likely forces capable of overthrowing him were the Shia in the South, and the Kurds in the North. Neither were acceptable option for the US, which is why they refused to support them after the 1991 Gulf War, and left them to their fate. As, has, in fact happened, if the Shia were to come to power, they would inevitably gravitate to their brethren in Iran. That is the very opposite of the strategic solution the US desires. Moreover, they would be likely to oppress the Sunni Minority in the country, a situation the Sunni Gulf Monarchies had set their face against. If the Kurds won, even independence, that would set an example to Kurds in Turkey, the US's other important ally in the region and a member of NATO. The Kurds are the world's largest nation without a state of their own. To prevent them obtaining one, Turkey has waged a long war against them, including bombing them in Turkish and Iraqi Kurdistan, without any condemnation from the West.  Already, Kurds in Iraq have established a high degree of autonomy.  Just today the Iraqi Government has imposed sanctions on French Oil Company Total, for having signed a separate deal with Kurdistan.  At the same time, as Syria falls apart into warring sectarian areas, the Syrian Kurds have taken advantage to establish their own area, to protect themselves against potential attacks from incoming Sunni clerical-fascist forces.

Having lost Iraq to Iran, the US is left with another cleft stick. It needs even more to rely on Israel, but also upon its Gulf Allies. The main strategic goal of the US is to overthrow the regime in Iran, and to prevent it from becoming a regional power, more than it already is. Certainly, the US wants to ensure that it is not able to develop that position on the basis of a strategic alliance with Russia and China, which represent the main global challengers to US power. The US would settle for chaos in Iran, as opposed to instituting its own dictator, so long as it prevented Iran acting as a regional power. In this the interests of the US with its Gulf allies are symbiotic.

The Gulf States apart from Bahrain, are overwhelmingly Sunni – about 80% of their population. But, compared to Iran, Iraq, Syria,, these Gulf States have tiny populations. They are at risk if ever a war began between them, and Iran and Iraq. The recent conflict in Bahrain, where the Sunni regime attacks, Shia protesters, and the outbreak of fighting in Shia dominated areas of Saudi Arabia itself, as the regime opens fire on protesters, are an indication of how such a conflict could begin. Any, attempt by the US to simply open hostilities against Iran would be likely to provoke a conflagration of Shia revolts across the Gulf, and to re-open conflict by Shia forces such as Hezbollah. The US needs to isolate Iran, and to cripple it, hoping to promote revolt from inside. That, of course, what it hoped would have happened in Iraq, a coup from forces within the regime itself.

In order to isolate Iran, the US has sought to weaken those forces and regimes connected with it. A price of that is to place a heavier reliance on the forces of the Gulf Monarchies. In some ways, what we have is a situation rather like the way wars were fought in Europe during the Middle Ages, where the Catholic Church sat in Rome, and enlisted mercenary armies to go and fight its battles. The US plays a similar role to the Catholic Church, making alliances first with this, then with the other Prince. Given the importance of Gulf Oil to the US, given the importance of Gulf Arab Money in bankrolling US debt, and their investments in major US companies, given their strategic role in opposing Iran, it is no wonder that the US has shifted its emphasis away from Israel, which costs its billions of dollars a year to support, and whose actions in refusing to come to a settlement with the Palestinians continues to create political problems for the US, with its other allies within the region.

The influence of Russia in North Africa has long since gone, except for Syria. It is this crescent running up from Iran, through Iraq, and Syria that now poses the strategic problem for the US to solve. It appears to be solving it, by throwing its eggs all into the basket of the Sunni Gulf Monarchies, and their ability to mobilise clerical-fascist militias, such as Al Qaeda, to go and fight wherever they are required with money and weapons provided by the Gulf States, alongside their own Special Forces, and more advanced weapons and logistics provided by the US via the CIA.

Just as they did in Afghanistan where they used the clerical-fascist Mujaheddin fighters like Bin Laden to oppose the USSR, or as they did in Kosovo, where they used the clerical-fascist, and Mafia type gangs of the KLA to whip up ethnic violence, so that seems to be the chosen route of the US in North Africa. The gamble appears to be that these clerical-fascist forces, be they the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or even the Salafis, or even as in Libya and Syria, the Al Qaeda linked groups, can be used to overthrow the existing regimes, and can then be reigned back, and controlled by their paymasters in the Gulf. Well good luck with that idea, given the experience of Afghanistan!

Yet, the US, seems prepared to risk that strategy in order to break apart Syria, and thereby using its remaining bases in Iraq, to isolate Iran, before finding some pretext to begin yet another bombing war. There are already plenty at hand, including the potential nuclear capacity. In that process, Israel has effectively been sidelined. In fact, its likely that Israel was told NOT to bomb Iran, precisely because it would have provided a pretext for Sunnis and Shia to unite against it. But, there is good reason then for Israel to be worried. If the US has thrown its lot in with the Gulf Monarchies, then a price to be paid may well be that Israel is left to its own devices. Al Qaeda began not as an opposition to the US, but to those very Monarchical regimes, which it argued were corrupt. In order to preserve themselves, those Monarchies will need to continually find the mercenaries another target. The most obvious target is Israel itself.  All in all Israel may have felt its position more secure with Mubarak, Assad and Gaddafi as neighbours.

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