Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Great James Baker

'I think the Secretary of State can be forgiven for not looking forward to this year's [AIPAC] conference with any great relish.

Perhaps she, like me, is thinking about James Baker. For 21 years ago he stood where Hillary will stand on Monday morning and told his stunned AIPAC hosts that it was time, in his words, "for Israel... to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel. Foreswear annexation; stop settlement activity".'


Is this, by any chance, the same James Baker who has been on the wrong side of pretty much every major foreign policy blunder of the late twentieth and twenty first centuries? Is it the James Baker who advised George Bush the First not to get rid of Saddam Hussein when it would have been easy peasy, and let him continue his grotesque reign for reasons of 'realpolitik'? Is it perchance the same James Baker who advised Bill Clinton not to bother with intervening in the local spot of bother in Rwanda? Is it by any chance the same James Baker who sat on the Iraq Great and Good Bore-a-thon Study Group, which said Iraq was over all bar the shooting, and we should just accept a Kurdistan, Sunniistan and the Shias ending up a province of Iran?

Yeah, he's a fucking genius.

Definitely take his advice.

'Israel should give up its vision of Greater Israel'. Why? It already exists. It has existed de facto since 1967. You and who's army gonna change that fact?


Sophist said...

"You and who's army gonna change that fact?"

Good question, the US Taxpayer provides a subsidy equivalent to 15% of the military expenses of Greater Israel. Surely, if the US government really objects to the policy of the Israeli Government they be discussing withdrawing this subsidy. Either the US is paying lipservice to Palestinian demands, or the US is beholden to pro-Israel lobbyists.

Edmund Ironside said...

Israel has spent most of its existence fighting for its life without US or UK support. France and Czechoslovakia (as was) both have a better claim to being Godparents of Israel than the US. It is only since the mid-eighties that the US has been a fairly decent ally to Israel.
The idea that the US and the UK are Zionist Entities last great hope are Palestinian propaganda. Read some histories of the 1967 War. Lyndon Johnson would not commit to helping Israel even though there was every chance it could be swamped by a joint Egyptian/Jordanian/Syrian invasion. There is some evidence that the Israelis attacked the US spy ship 'USS Liberty' as punishment because of the complete lack of assistance from the US. Overall, the US has been extremely ambivalent about Israel, just like it is in 2010. But Israel is still there. That was my point.

Sophist said...

I don't dispute that Israel could survive without the friendship of the US, plenty of rogue states do: Cuba, North Korea, Iran. My point is that I can't take America's commitment to the peace process seriously if America is not prepared to exercise the power it does have over the Isreali Government. After all this week the Brits expelled a diplomat. I don't know the reason for this lack of commitment, domestic politics or diplomatic ruse. My feeling is though, to allow Israel to embarrass the US over the issue of settlements is bad policy, to the US's antisemitic enemies it does appear that 'the Jews' are controlling American's foreign policy.

Edmund Ironside said...

Yeah, Israel is like North Korea, Cuba and Iran. Rogue state. Uh huh.

Edmund Ironside said...

Why would any sane person care what the 'US's antisemitic enemies' think about Jewish control of American foreign policy? I suppose you would also advocate determining anti-terror policy on the beliefs of 9/11 Troofers, and Space policy on the beliefs of UFO fanatics...

Sophist said...

"I suppose you would also advocate determining anti-terror policy on the beliefs of 9/11 Troofers, and Space policy on the beliefs of UFO fanatics..."

Neither the 9/11 Troofers nor UFO fanatics are blowing anybody up, so it's not clear how anti-terror policy applies to them. Antisemites and those opposed to Israel are.

In general I would advocate taking the beliefs of your enemies - and those that support them into consideration - this is called the battle for hearts and minds.

Edmund Ironside said...

There is no battle for the hearts and minds of conspiracy theorists that I know of. Nor will there be. Anti-semitism is a long-standing conspiracy theory which is only tangentially related to actual Jewish people and what they do. Indeed that even may be too strong. Most of the vile things Jews are accused of are the same things which Jews were accused of two hundred years ago, three hundred years ago, five hundred years ago, eight hundred years ago. They were propagated by many nations at many times, by the Roman Catholic Church and by millions of ordinary europeans, arabs and americans.
So what? No rational foreign policy decision would be made on the basis of these longstanding prejudices; and pandering to them would not be called 'winning hearts and minds', it would be called pandering to the believers a conspiracy theory to win some kind of dubious approval.
By the way, that absolutely happens in nations like Iran, Egypt, Syria and the islamic Maghreb, very often as a way for disgusting, brutal regimes to somewhat legitimize themselves with their anti-semitic populations.
If America has stooped to the level of the islamic Maghreb in its behaviour, that is big news.

Sophist said...

Though there are antisemitic conspiracy theories, I don't agree that you can reduce antisemitism to a conspiracy theory. For example, most Hungarians I know are antisemitic, but none are conspiracy theorists. They think that Jews have a loyalty to other Jews and to Israel that precludes a loyalty to Hungarians and Hungary. This argument could be extended to the Israel lobby in US politics.

Nor do I agree that not "allowing Israel to embarass the US" is "pandering" to these long standing prejudices. For one thing I think the US should everywhere be more unequivocal and more even handed about expressing its power (see for example, the fuck-you attitude of the Chinese over Google, and industrial espionage).

Given the level of development of Israel, the US gives it an astonishing amount. As you have pointed out, Isreal would survive as a democracy without this aid. This raises the question of what the US is buying with all this aid. I think a little respect is the least the US can demand.

Edmund Ironside said...

How silly of me to conflate Hungarians beliefs that Jews are greedy, underhand, conniving traitors with a conspiracy theory! Of course, Hungarians picked up this knowledge through personal day-to-day contact with the millions of Jews living in Hungary.