A Case for American Support for Israel
By Eric Wessan
Currently, the Middle East is aflame. It seems to be only fitting that the flame of revolution was sparked by an act of self-immolation. Countries as large as Egypt are realigning themselves, and not necessarily in a pro-American manner. As we contemplate the emergence of a new world order, we realize that the dictatorial regimes of the Middle East are not the only ones dumbfounded by the sudden spark of democratic initiative. This conundrum is also causing much trouble for the Obama administration in the U.S. As countries that range from Egyptian style faux-democracy to open dictatorships such as Libya and Yemen face pressure from revolutionaries, questions arise as to where U.S. loyalties are supposed to lie. A tension arises of idealism against pragmatism, of supporting a tyrant friendly towards the United States, or of supporting an oppressed people's drive for democratic governance. However, there is one country in the Middle East that the United States need not worry about. One country that has proved to be an island of stability in the midst of the tumult and that, according to Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remains "a vital ally and a cornerstone of our regional security commitments." This country is Israel.
Israel is a liberal democratic nation in the Middle East that General David Petraeus claims is "an important strategic ally of the United States." It is for this reason that Israel must be treated as a valuable component of ensuring the safety of America and its forces overseas. Recently, claims have resurfaced that supporting Israel is more of a hindrance than help. This charge is not new. In fact, Secretary of State George Marshall first made this claim when Israel was founded in 1948. It was made during the Nixon era, when Israel was seen as an obstacle to détente. It was made at the end of the Cold War when Soviet support for the Arab states ended, and the case for supporting a democratic ally in the Middle East became less defensible. It was raised after 9/11 when Israel was portrayed as an impediment to greater support during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it is raised now again as the Middle East is in turmoil. Articles posted on websites ranging from Huffington Post to BBC Online even try to posit that supporting corrupt autocratic regimes is better than supporting free Israel. This, quite simply, would be a disastrous move not only for the United States, but for the cause of liberty and democracy the world over. Israel guarantees in its constitutional analogue, the Basic Laws, freedoms that are not seen anywhere else in the Middle East. Israel holds transparent, free and open elections in which members of any race or religion can be represented, and has party system that allows all voters, regardless of their social standing, to have a voice. Israel is a modern parliamentary democracy. Israel is undeniably more democratic than its neighbors.
One way in which Israel has been a vital partner to the United States is in dealing with matters of military strategic importance, especially in regards to the Middle East. Officially starting in 1983, the United States and Israel have had high-level military cooperation in a variety of ways. In addition to the Israeli Defense Force and Pentagon being in constant contact, groups such as the Strategic Dialogue group and the Defense Policy Advisory committee help to form reasonable ideas and solutions to problems that plague both the United States and Israel. Last year, Craig McKinley, head of the United States National Guard, visited and advised Israeli Home Front Command as part of a long-term partnership program promoting shared accord between the two nations. This past June, the Defense Policy Advisory Group made recommendations concerning Iran and Islamic terrorism, two existential threats to the state of Israel, as well as problems capable of posing quite a threat to American interests at home and abroad, using knowledge based on American-Israeli cooperation. Bob Detzel, a training officer in the United States Navy, explained the relationship as a "transfer of information. They tell us how to conduct operations and we tell them how we run our operations." Israel has also shared its extensive intelligence on Iran's nuclear capability with the United States shortly after the Iranian Nuclear program was deemed to be a threat by the United States, allowing for the United States to build off of the groundwork already done by Israel. Without Israel's help, valuable time would have been lost in the search for information already gathered. The U.S. military actually actively depends on Israel for human intelligence, especially where pertaining to terrorism and radical Islamic movements, in part because of Israel's proximity to our numerous enemies and in part because of Israel's extensive intelligence apparatus. Israel allows the U.S. to focus its efforts in a more efficient and efficacious manner.
In addition to valuable strategic advice, Israel also helps with United States security through a sharing of technology, savvy and general know-how. One example of this would be the joint creation of missile defense systems. The developed systems are often tested in Israel, protecting civilians before being expanded to protect Israeli and U.S. troops alike. The recently-concluded Operation Juniper Cobra served as testing-grounds for the new Arrow missile system. This system can shoot down incoming missiles at high altitudes traveling at supersonic speeds, and now the United States and Israel can effectively use the system in order to defend their nations' borders, something particularly important given Iranian nuclear ambitions. But the joint exercise, which occurs once every two years (Operation Juniper Falcon takes place in the intervening year), is always valuable for both countries.
Another exceedingly relevant example of U.S.-Israeli cooperation is the digital defenses being developed that will be able to better protect the American people. The ability to communicate seriously has always been of absolute import during war time; Herodotus, the father of the study of history, wrote about runners who had to go 150 miles from Sparta to Athens in order to keep lanes of communication open during the Persian Wars. While there may be more modern conveyances today, the importance of communication cannot be overstated in places of conflict. Israel has developed and shared a system of computers, cameras and other digital devices that allow for significantly improving communication between troops and their officers. Israel also has been at the forefront of drone and unmanned aircraft research, helping the United States advance even further in a field promoting relatively safe missions that can help neutralize and track terrorists without risking nearly as many American lives. This is especially important when battles are fought in unknown areas where the enemy has the "home advantage". Drones have also been of enormous use in mountainous terrains of Afghanistan, allowing us to explore regions previously impenetrable with minimal harm. Improved technology allows for big picture thinking occurring simultaneously within the heat of battle, reducing significantly the infamously deleterious fog-of-war.
As dictatorships flourish and wither in the Middle East, one American ally stays strong and constant. There is only one country in which the American flag is raised with admiration and respect. There may be wide spread democratic revolutions in Lebanon or Saudi Arabia, as there have already been in Egypt and Tunisia, but one country which already has the freedoms being clamored for elsewhere is Israel. The State of Israel is an important strategic ally for the United States that shares not only the Western Democratic ideals of the United States, but makes a real and concrete contribution to American national security. Cooperation with Israel has made the United States a safer place, and has enabled the United States army to remain at the apex of international strength. Israel's partnership and determination to maintain a state of free democracy surrounded by dictators is not only admirable, but it is also important for U.S. security.