For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue, some people claim that the “Israel Lobby” shapes US foreign policy in the Middle East. I disagree, and the reasons why I disagree are explained in the following commentary. There are two accompanying written pieces which are cited. The first, here, is an orphan fragment from an abandoned draught dealing with attributes of US imperialism. Grafted on to the end is another orphan fragment about the qualities which made Iraq a natural target for US genocide in the imperial context. And here is a second piece which deals with US neocolonialism with the most relevant part (at the start) describing the reasons behind the US tendency to align with kleptocratic and violently authoritarian client regimes. A few other interesting links can be found in the transcript below.
The audio can be downloaded or streamed at A-Infos and comes in 32Kbps or 128Kbps.
I have already received a comment that it seems as if I am accusing all users of terms like “Jewish Lobby” and “Jewish Money” of being hateful racists in this commentary. I don’t mean too, but I do stand by my use of the term “bigotry”. This form of usage (e.g. “Jewish Money”) marries a prejudicial negative connotation to a particular group of people – hence it is bigotry. But I don’t mean to suggest that everyone who employs such language is a bigot. They may quite innocently be partaking in a discourse of bigotry without actually thinking through the implications of what is being said or written. The hazard is in letting that sort of thing stand unchallenged, which is how deep-seated bigotry can often take root.
What I wanted to suggest in my commentary is not that you have to hate Jews to believe the W&M thesis, but rather that people who do hate Jews find it really, really attractive. I was genuinely shaken by how quickly my online disputants back in 2006 turned to racism. I think that Israeli policy is creating a whole new generation of anti-Jewish racists in many countries around the world, and I think that in the US the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis gives them a very sharp and dangerous focus in providing a discourse of treason against the United States. Zunes is absolutely correct to point out the parallels between this and that scapegoating of Jews that has occurred historically.
Zunes articles on the Israel lobby issue can be found here and here and here.
I know that this is going to confuse people, but here is where I stand: I support a one state-solution in Palestine; I support the BDS movement; I believe that the Israel lobby has a ridiculously disproportionate influence over US domestic politics at the congressional level and, more importantly, at the street level, but I firmly believe that the idea that the Israel lobby determines in any manner or degree US foreign policy is utterly stupid. I admire Jeff Blankfort and Noam Chomsky; Stephen Zunes and Stephen Gowans, but see ways in which every single one of them is guilty of inadvertantly (though sometimes rather wilfully) becoming apologists for and ideological supporters of US imperialism. On the other hand I see nothing admirable, nor even excusable in Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who are not only more fatuous than the aforementioned, but also, given their Professorial positions as political scientists and so-called “neo-Realists”, do not have any excuse for being such idiots.
So, how did I get to be this “neither fish nor fowl” creature? And how can I persuade you to join me in this annoying world where weighty matters are not reducible to sound bites? Firstly I can point out that there is a simple way of looking at these things. The idea that a tiny state such as Israel, a virtual dependency of the US, dictates US foreign policy is silly. It is that simple. It is the very same far-fetched excuse as those who suggest that the US was drawn into the Korean War by the machinations of Syngman Rhee, and drawn into Indochina by systemic inertia. This is blatant apologism for repeated acts of genocide whose fundamental similarities alone are enough to indicate intentionality. But I am aware they my simply stating this stuff leaves much to be desired and much to be answered, particularly “what are the drivers of US foreign policy?”, and why do I so confidently discount the role of the Israel lobby in this when it is demonstrably powerful in US politics?
Before I start however, I want to have a bit of a self-pitying whinge. I’m aware that I’m probably making no friends by taking a stance which contradicts everyone else’s stance. But instead of getting angry at me for taking much the same line as Zunes and Chomsky, remember that I am also alienating those people who agree with Chomsky on the subject of Palestine (a dying breed, admittedly). Before you write to gainsay my claims I would ask that the following matters be of consideration: One, that you ask yourself, can your stance be reconciled with the pattern of historical events (including analogous situations) such that you are not claiming some peculiar exceptionalism for US society that you would find unreasonable in other societies? Two, is there a theoretical consistency to what you are claiming, or does the attempt to translate into theoretical terms expose contradictions which once again are suggestive of an insupportable claim of exceptionalism. You might ask yourself, “what theory? What is this guy on about?” The fact is, however, that each time you link a cause with an effect, you are doing so in theoretical terms. What I am concerned about is those who have a world view wherein theories contradict themselves.
On last thing remains with regard to the fact that I chose to comment on matters where I disagree with everyone. I could do otherwise, I could choose a more agreeable path of greater agreement, but the result might be a little bit like – “so I hear that the Earth actually circles the Sun, I reckon that’s probably true, so that’s maybe something we can agree on. They tell me that the majority of dogs have four legs and, well its only anecdotal, I know, but almost every single dog I’ve seen has four legs, and I’ve seen quite a few dogs. They also say that Hitler wasn’t a very nice person. I’d more or less agree with that proposition. They didn’t give him a Nobel Peace prize, which is probably a good thing I think we can agree. I mean, they must have been tempted, if they’re like they are now. You know, that whole non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, I reckon that nowadays that’d probably have netted Hitler and Stalin a peace prize each. Hitler, instead of killing himself, could have simply pointed out that he was sincere, that he sincerely believed that Jews were a form of demographic Weapon of Mass Destruction and that Poland was in possession of millions of Weapons of Mass Destruction with the potential to reach as far as New York city, if they weren’t denied entry. He could have become a peace envoy just like Tony Blair, trying to find common ground in decolonising struggles such as in Indonesia or Indochina. Ahh, if only they were as civilised then as we are now….” Sorry, got a bit off-track there, but hopefully you get my point, which is that if I talked about what I agreed with, it would be boring and pointless and then I’d just start making stupid jokes just to relieve the tedium.
At this point I was going to introduce matters with a brief summary of what I had written in another context about the US empire, but it is too complicated and it can’t be presented in theoretical terms because existing theory, as we shall see, is woefully inadequate. So I have created a pdf from the exerpt with a grafted on bit about why there was a strategic imperative for the US empire to commit genocide in Iraq. OK, it’s massive, but at least look through it and I will summarise the pertinent bits for you here and, hopefully, you can see that my reasoning is based on solid evidence.
The US empire is based on power structures which are now often referred to, not unreasonably, as corporatist. Corporatism is as good a word as any, but it should not be linked explicitly with Fascism per se. Structurally it is akin to feudalism in that it accords so-called “regnal rights” to entities which are not theoretically sovereign. Indeed US “corporatism” is the continuity of that form of regime which has persisted through transitions from feudal, to early modern mercantilist, to liberal. In the year 1900 its highest expression was in the liberal British Empire. There was no “revolving door” at this time, government and private interests only separated when circumstances dictated that they must. The supposedly sovereign governmental structure constituted far, far less than half of the state power wielded in the imperial polity. In 1902 John Hobson noted that the British Empire was a drain on the wealth of the majority of the people of Britain and the majority of the capitalist enterprises of Britain. He wrote: “Seeing that the Imperialism of the last three decades is clearly condemned as a business policy, in that at enormous expense it has procured a small, bad, unsafe increase of markets, and has jeopardised the entire wealth of the nation in rousing the strong resentment of other nations, we may ask, “How is the British nation induced to embark upon such unsound business”; The only possible answer is that the business interests of the nation as a whole are subordinated to those of certain sectional interests that usurp control of the national resources and use them for their private gain.”
But the nature of these “certain sectional interests” was far from random: shipping, coal, arms, finance, and military contracting. These were the beneficiaries of empire, but they were also the tools. These are strategic industries. They were the British military-industrial complex – the empire complex if you will. None of these interests were separable from the Crown, nor, more to the point, was the reverse the case. The English had transitioned from feudalism by transforming it into mercantile terms (awarding charters and patents and so-forth) and into liberal Locke-ian terms by allowing enclosure and outright ownership to effectively deepen privilege, rather than challenge it. It is true that they instituted direct rule in India and ended private imperialism through the East India company, but this was occuring at a time of the expansion of scope, depth and complexity of state power and much of it was in non-governmental hands (The Bank of England serves as a good example here). After this British corporate rule was part of the “informal” empire which included more-or-less the entirety of South America, and semi-formal possessions like Egypt. These places were run by private British finance interests, interpenetrated with other empire complex interests which were of course interpenetrated with Her Majesty’s Government and could rely on military incursions and other interstate actions when required.
If there were strategic sectional interests making up the empire complex, there were also strategic resources. Mainly this meant coaling stations at this level, and the British were able to use their naval supremacy to ensure their naval supremacy. Gold, however, was also a form of strategic resource, and it is important to note that the British view of gold was that strategic denial was a good as possession. If they couldn’t have it then they would make sure no one else would get it, thus bolstering the value of their own reserves. Then the British discovered the potential of oil, a strategic resource like no other. While the French were bled white on the Western Front the British used the cover of the Great War to grab oil. By 1920 they had virtually cornered the entire world supply outside of the United States, but they had ceded financial hegemony to New York and Washington thanks to war costs.
An Anglo-US petroleum condominium later formed and became the basis of a shared empire complex in which the UK is the junior partner. Domination of oil meant the ability to deny all hard power (economic or military) to those reliant on those petrochemical resources. For complicated reasons (which you can read about if you want) the US also chose to tie its financial hegemony directly to its ability to militarily dominate oil resources. Nowadays the empire complex is far more expanded than that of the British empire. It includes a large array of “sectional interests” which are all of direct strategic relevance. Many are directly related to matters of life-and-death – arms and military; water; energy; pharmaceuticals and food – others are similarly fundamental to societal funtioning such as finance and media. It is not just about an “iron triangle” these are interlocking iron triangles and profit is both central and incidental at the same time. That is how it works. The “sectional interests” are the imperial state, but they cannot dominate the imperial state for some hypothetical private ends that are separate from imperial ends.
The other thing to note is that imperial elites are not tied to the interests of the mother state, nor the people thereof, nor the people of subjugated regions. They are almost entirely independent of the welfare of nations and their peoples and almost entirely dependent on the massive unrelenting centripetal coercive power which holds empires together. That is why they kill so many people and ravage whole societies and economies. That is, in very simple terms, why empires are as inherently genocidal as settler-colonial enterprises. This is also why many empires all but destroy their home economies. The Romans did, the Spanish did, the British did and now the US does with deindustrialisation, outsourcing and so forth. (There is also the need to maintain stratification domestically, which you may also read about at some length if you wish).
In theory terms what I am proposing here is a form of Realism, in that it doesn’t have anything to do with national character or ethics or specific ideologies and so forth. The power relations determine the behaviours. Traditionally Realism is often distrusted as being inherently amoral and for being a kind of apologism because it implies that horrendous behaviour is the result of inevitable laws. There is a logical fallacy in this, however, in that Realists might recognise potential ways of diminishing the capacity to inflict mass violence and the possible advantages to be gained through mass violence. What they tend to emphasise, however, is the continuity of strategic interests that are not altered by idealism or ideology; the personality of rulers or the theology of governments. Realism is about power relations.
One result of this is that it may have a “normative” aspect, which is the term used by academics to describe their own prescriptiveness. Thus a Realist might proclaim that it was a horrible mistake by France to alienate and attack the newly formed Soviet Union when they had inevitable shared interests. It is quite a strong Realist current that includes progenitors such as Hobbes and Machiavelli, but in modern self-professed “Realists” it does tend to beg the question of why (if reality is failing to live up to allegedly “Realist” norms) the term Realism is applied to what, in the final analysis, is the promotion of an ideal of amoral power relations. The fact is that if you are going to call yourself a “Realist” then more than a tiny bit of normative content indicates a broken model. Realism, by its very nature, should be able to accommodate actuality within its analytical framework and, to be quite honest, it could only be academics that might seriously take real political actors to task for not acting “real” enough.
So proper Realism requires a model which reflects actuality. Realism evolved in a fairly empirical manner, as a counter to mythologised anthropomorphism and idealism. It was clear that changes in regime and ruler did not prevent repeated patterns of behaviour. I planned to say more on this, but I’m going to have to cut it short. Suffice it to say that Realism evolved from being centred on the nation-state to neo-realism (or structural realism) which posits constraints on nation-state behaviour through international structure, which has been built upon and challenged in various ways.
Standing apart from this are a bunch of lowercase realists – people who are basically realistic, but not aligned to a given dogma. The most obvious one of these in Noam Chomsky, who takes a clearly realist stance, but one that emphasises elite interests and elite power over the nation-state and its security. Others are similarly realistic in outlook, but unattached to a school of thought – they are agnostic realists and tend to look for confluences of imperatives and powers rather than impose a prior framework.
So here is where my stance fits in with all of that. And I apologise for any jargon and over-simplification, but this is all taking too long to explain as it is. 1) Nation-states belong in the classical Realist model to a large extent. 2) Empires do not. 3) The world and its people do not function under a paradigm of relative gains (except in some immediate circumstances), but imperial power does. 4) Nation-state elites are tied to the welfare of the nation-state and its people; imperial elites are less so, or not so, or even benefit in relative gains terms from immiseration. I’m using “nation-state” here to stand for any unitary polity which, in some degree, might even include some historical empires, but if you squint your eyes, you’ll see what I’m getting at.
You can see a good example of this in Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts wherein the British Empire destroyed communal economic resources and famine protections causing many millions to die, when neighbouring princely states, though much weaker and poorer, saw no famine despite a devastating drought.
So, I am saying in realist terms that empires are run by imperialists who cannot but serve the imperial interest, such as it is. The US empire has committed genocides in Korea, Indochina and Iraq and each time Pollyanna’ish opponents have squealed that such things are not in the “national interest”. Well, maybe not, but as the US continues its rollout of new regimes in the Middle East and bullies most of the states of the world most of the time into doing its bidding, it is very difficult to see how so much power was accrued through so many “mistakes”.
“Security” is often fetish for political analysts, and not just Realists, which I believe has more to do with a desire for vicarious drama and a sense of self-importance than with actual issues of security. There is a whole bunch of academics who I tend to think of as the “security geeks”. They style themselves as latterday players of the “Great Game” on the “Grand Chessboard”, living out peurile fantasies of power and relevance. Most of them are uppercase Realists, and they tend to be in think tanks or University departments with “Strategic” in the title. These people believe that US, UK and NATO actions are undertaken for genuine security reasons. If not security reasons they are inclined to accept humanitarian intervention or reject it, but they don’t question its sincerity. In other words, these people are hopelessly naïve and easy prey for ruthless political and military leaders. What makes them more to be loathed than pitied is their unbelievable arrogance. Iraq is the perfect example – a security threat that even these idiots couldn’t believe in. When faced with the plain and very clear fact that political leaders were lying about a security threat…. No, let me be very specific – when faced with the fact that political leaders were engaged in a very complex systematic attempt to deceive not only through lying but through misrepresentation, dissimulation, and the manufacture of fraudulent evidence – when faced with that, did they say “Oh my goodness! These people are lying to us. They are making huge efforts to try and deceive us. They must be covering something up”? No. Not a chance. They smugly pronounced that they were not deceived, unlike the political leaders who were so incredibly less intelligent than clever people like them that they believed their own lies.
Well done guys. You spotted that Iraq wasn’t really a security threat (even if some of you were a bit slow on it). That’s right, not a big security threat to the United States like all of those other really threatening poor countries such as Laos, Haiti, and Panama. Let’s not forget that tropical menace to world peace known as Grenada. What about Nicaragua and Reagan’s assertion that if the Sandinistas weren’t defeated there would be Soviet tanks rolling across the Rio Grande? Do you remember Jack Nicholson in that movie saying “You can’t handle the truth!”? The “truth” referred to, and embraced by the movie, was that only savage men like Nicholson could “provide freedom”. How? By occupying Guantánamo, that well known bastion of freedom. According to the movie, lives are saved by vicious thuggish frontiersmen who have to face down the iron disciplined and robotically fanatical Cubans – yes the Cubans, all of that rum and jazz and partying is just a front – in an eyeball to eyeball macho contest. But if Cuba is such a threat, why exactly do they continue to allow the US to occupy part of their country? Surely, if they were really all that, they could chuck Jack Nicholson and any number of wannabe Davy Crocketts out.
So, these Realists and assorted security geeks (all of whom probably love that movie and think that it raises substantive issues) get all tetchy at people like George W. Bush, because he’s so frustratingly stupid. Not smart like them. Imagine a weedy self-important accountant sneering at Tony Soprano because he had failed to claim on the hardhats in his construction business and thus had paid several hundred dollars more tax than required. The US has used international mass violence so many times since World War II that it really is impossible to quantify. It would be fairly impossible to point to any one of these and say with any sort of assurance that they made the US more secure, yet there are many instances when a fairly robust argument could be made that they made the US less secure. Hmmmm…, nearly 70 years of frequent interventions that don’t make the US more secure? Maybe, I know this is a bit of a weird thing to say, but maybe US security is not the goal. Let us not forget also, that despite 50 years of very clever people pointing out that the US empire is destroying itself with its hubris and over-reach, it is now quantifiably more strategically predominant and far more comfortable about acting outside of international law, defying the bulk of other nations, and enforcing its will on the majority, if not the entirety of the planet. Personally, I do believe that this is the high tide mark, and the beginning of the end, but I also know that others in the past have misinterpreted the active consolidation of imperial power as weakness, failure and loss, because of the naïve beliefs I have already mentioned.
There is another matter, in that, in the US it seems that some of those who would oppose imperial aggression feel that they must point out its wrongheaded counterproductive stupidity. Again, their ability to believe themselves so much more intellectually able to determine policy than those who actually do so is quite something to behold, but I feel too that there is an element of fear that accompanies this arrogance. The fear seems to be that any suggestion that there might be an ounce of rationality and purpose in US aggression would be to concede far too much in the battle for the hearts and minds of “Middle America”. It is always funny that the bourgeois fear the fascist instincts of the working class (who don’t tend to have any) while ignoring the growing tendency of their own kind to be goosestepping around the place.
This, to me, is where Walt and Mearsheimer come in. The first aspect of their appeal to anti-imperialists is that they tick this box, the box that says that the Iraq invasion was a horrible mistake from the perspective of maintaining US power in the international arena. But that is far from the end of it. There is an unreasonable and quite irrational tendency to give these guys far more credit than they deserve and the causes are actually quite broad.
Firstly there is their academic standing. On this, I would have to say that they are actually letting themselves down as much as anyone else. It is not their theoretical content that is at fault (though clearly insufficient) it is this silly, naïve understanding of US interventions, the basis of which is both the academic arrogance I have already discussed, and a chauvinist and ultimately exceptionalist reading of US interventions.
The next reason for cleaving to Walt and Mearsheimer is the nature of their most strident critics. Who doesn’t want to believe these guys when their critics include Dershowitz, Kissinger and Albright? That is only scratching the surface of repugnant people who criticise them and the nature of these criticisms tends to be exactly the same sort of specious bullying that is systematically used to silence real criticism of Israel and Zionism.
Then there is anti-Jewish bigotry. In 2006 I debated the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis on comment sections online, and it didn’t take very long before those I was debating tended to forget that they were supposed to be referencing Israeli policy and Zionism and started referencing “The Jews”, sometimes with supplementary epithets. I was shocked. These young educated people obviously hated “The Jews” and weren’t that reticent to show it. Two things were obvious from this: one was that Israeli policy was fueling hatred of Jews (this was obvious from the context of what was written); and also that the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis is immensely appealing to people who hate Jews. But there is another aspect of anti-Jewish bigotry which is more subtle and widespread. Perhaps it is ironic in a world where one may be accused of being a Nazi just for supporting Palestinian human rights, but a sort of anti-Jewish bigotry is widely accepted. One, it seems, can talk about individual or collective US Jews with the inextricable inference that they are supporters of Zionism and Israeli aggression and oppression. The discourse of the “Israel Lobby” over and over again references “Jewish backers”; “Jewish money” and “Jewish voters”. This is a form of prejudice generally known as bigotry. The weird thing is that US Jews are increasingly cool towards Israel, while Zionists (including non-Jewish Zionists) are very keen on suggesting that to be Jewish is to support Israel and to oppose Israel is to hate Jews.
The last thing that causes people to love Walt and Mearsheimer so much is the thing that disturbs me the most. What seems to be a desire to avoid facing up to the reality of US genocides, a need to cling on to the myths of childhood. I’m not just talking here about a need to see the US as the Good Guys, I’m talking more than that about the need to see the cartoon villain behind genocide. Genocide needs to be committed by sadistic brutal twisted Nazis; fanatically inhuman communist Asians; or brutal bestial savage Africans. I honestly think that this need to find some sort of exogenous force to explain US brutality makes people very irrational.
Let us be very clear: the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis is that the US national interest was harmed by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and that it happened because of the pernicious and powerful Israel lobby. Listen to these excerpts from the 2006 Working Paper:
Most recently, the Bush Administration’s attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurgency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman. With so much at stake for so many, all countries need to understand the forces that drive U.S. Middle East policy.
The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy. For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security.
…[T]the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the “Israel Lobby.” Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.
So the US was trying to turn the Middle East into a “community of democracies” was it? Does that sound sensible to you guys? I don’t know whether I need to refute Walt and Mearsheimer or whether, in the cold light of day it is obvious to anyone listening or reading that they are talking utter crap. I also love the way they slipped in a racist swipe at the democracy hating Arabs and Muslims.
The problem with the Walt/Mearsheimer paper is its depiction of the United States. Israel is described in realistic and accurately cynical terms, its myths debunked fearlessly, but the US is in no way analysed in such terms. The vision is instead of a Disney version of the US, benevolent not because it tries to be, but because it is inherently so. Doing bad things is abberrant, not natural to the US. Israeli apartheid is against US “core values” and so forth.
W&M actually use the term “tail wagging the dog” to explain US Middle East policy, but what do they think real US national interest is? In some matters, there’s room for debate that their simple-minded approach just does not acknowledge. So, for example, they decry the antagonism generated amongst the Arab populace when, in fact, an inimical “Arab street” is probably of more use to US empire than a friendly one. In other matters they just simply have it back-to-front. For example, they condemn US policies which drive up oil prices, but not only have these high oil prices brought about an extraordinary run of record profits for giant oil companies (in which Bush administration members had very strong interests) but the high prices and continued control of oil resources (including options for strategic denial) has maintained US dollar hegemony and ensured the continued interdependence of China with the US.
So let me once more emphasise that “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” is not serious analysis. Call it silly, call it fatuous, call it fantasy – it is junk, just like junk science or junk economics. O.K. these guys probably weren’t paid to come up with this, but junk humanities like this are often paid for at the bookstand. This stuff belongs alongside Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations; or The Tragedy of the Commons; or Niall Fergusson; or Max Boot; or Thomas Friedman.
Obviously I have a problem with the fact that W&M do not distinguish between national interest and imperial interest – which has been THE driving force in US foreign policy even before it was formalised when NSC-68 was adopted in 1950. More than that however, the problem is that they portray the Iraq invasion of 2003 as some sort of outgrowth of an aberrant Middle East policy – the result of the tail wagging the dog. But how abberant is it? Iraq is the third genocide committed by the US since World War II in which they have systematically killed civilians in the millions. Much of the death comes about through repeated systematic bevaviours extended over periods of years such that the orthodox denials of intentionality are simply ludicrous. In Korea, in Indochina and in Iraq the systematic mass murder of civilians has been a central policy of the US, and this is beyond dispute. (Iraq is problematic in that there was no self-evident systematic intense aerial bombardment specifically aimed at civilians, but along with the established fact of systematic killing though sanctions, mortality data from the occupation period indicate systematic, if atomised, killing by occupation forces induced to commit acts of murder by deliberately created situational, procedural, and psychological conditions). These are just the three most obvious and most deadly genocides by an imperial polity that is genocidal by inclination and whose interventions are usually somewhere along a genocidal spectrum even if the term “genocide” itself is reserved only for certain cases. Of its own accord, or through proxies, the US has an many occasions encompassed the deaths of thousands, tens of thousands or sometime hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is also a central actor in a global system of structural violence which has taken tens of millions of lives and which Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed argues is a system of “structural genocide”.
So here is my synthetic bit. I propose that the dog wags the tail. Israel is a strategic asset to US empire and that is why the “Israel lobby” is allowed so much influence domestically. More than that, the “Israel lobby” is a strategic asset to the empire complex within the US itself, as a means of disciplining legislators and countering democratic forces. Suitably, since democratic forces are so seldom a major driver of legislators’ actions, there is a far more important accompanying movement to silence dissent at the community level, in the media, within universities, and so forth.
How then is Israel a strategic asset? There is more to this than just the MENA region, but that is as good a place to start as any. When the British first decided to give support to Zionism in Palestine, there was dissent and differences of opinion, but one of the most important strains – really a deciding one even as far back as 1916 – was the belief that a Jewish state surrounded by Arabs would be an inevitable dependency and a strategic asset against those Arabs. Remember that this came when the British had decided that they wanted to control all of the world’s oil. According to W&M Israel was of limited strategic utility during the Cold War, but now only fuels Middle East instability and Islamic extremism. But the US empire relies on Middle East instability and, for similar reasons, has quite a love affair with Islamic extremism. After all, it is getting a little difficult to sustain this line of Al Qaeda as the quintessential existential enemy when the US is so often aligned with or even providing material support for them and affiliate groups. They’ve inherited this love of fundamantalist Islam from the Brits, who used it to head off secular modernism and Islamic modernism in Egypt, first in the late nineteenth century, then in the twenties and thirties where their support was crucial in the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the same as Israel’s role in the formation of Hamas. Sure, these Islamists don’t make great clients, but they make much better enemies than secular nationalists and socialists. The US even helped steer the Iranian revolution into the hands of the theocrats, creating a fantastic enemy and one that totally hated the Soviet Union to boot. Quite a strategic coup really, and the US still reaps the benefits today.
Once again let me say that the US needs instability. It can’t intervene without instability and it can’t threaten to intervene. The US doesn’t spend loads of money “projecting power” into the region with air, naval and ground troop presences to prevent the Red Army from taking over, it does it to make sure that oil profits are spent on US military hardware or used to buy US treasury bonds or kept in Western financial institutions as US dollar reserves. Iraq, for example, is aiming to have 110 billion in US dollar reserves in 2013. Imagine that, a country torn by strife, riven by poverty and unemployment and they just put all of that money into the US treasury. Wow! I guess they learnt a lesson somewhere along the line.
US military presence is also to ensure that oil is only sold for US dollars so that an other surplus producers also maintain dollar reserves. Having Israel there, a very well-armed military dependency constantly claiming to be existentially threatened by its neighbours, is a massive strategic boon to the US. It is a classic divide-and-rule strategy in a form not dissimilar to the manner in which the US chose Christian minorities as clients in Korea and Indochina and privileged landowners as clients in Latin America. Choosing a privileged minority to form a “comprador” class is a very old imperial tactic dating back at least as far as the Han and Roman empires. I’d be very surprised not to find evidence going as far back as the Assyrians who had the first empire as we would understand it. The British practised it as a matter of course, and while their alignment with the Sunni Arab world is an exception which I am not informed enough to explain, it is both noteworthy and fateful firstly that this choice would later allow the imposition of Sunni client monarchies in areas where Shi’i happened to inhabit the oilfields; and secondly that long before any thought of Zionism in Palestine the British acted to separate Jewish populations from the other peoples of the Middle East, notably in Baghdad.
This isn’t a secret either – this is enunciated doctrine. The Nixon Doctrine, which was a doctrine of informal imperialism, was translated by Melvin Laird in its applicability to the Middle East as support for “cops on the beat” explicitly there to discipline Arab populations. But Israel’s utility is also outside of the region. Israel is the tool which the US uses for dirty tricks in many parts of the world, parts in which Israel has no discernible interest at all. These include a history of providing support for apartheid South Africa and arms and support to authoritarian Latin American regimes when the US (and other Western nations) could not allow itself to provide direct support.
Now, I would like to remind people here that what I am discussing is the Israel Lobby’s influence on US foreign policy. The influence of bullying Zionists on the political discourse within the US is not something I would seek to deny or minimise. But let me now put the decision to invade Iraq into context. Let’s start with neoconservatives. Yes, neoconservatives are vehement supporters of Israel. Yes, disproportionate numbers are Jewish. But if you actually look at the history of the neoconservative movement, it is not just about Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol. The whole public intellectual side of neoconservatism has always been married to an institutional side, which predates it, dedicated to extending US influence into global domination. Most prominently it uses organisations like the Committee for the Present Danger or the Project for a New American Century to create the illusion of threats or idealistic goals as a means of justifying brutal imperialism. Using false pretexts, such as the defence of Israel, is bread and butter for these people. Now let us look at Richard Perle. This is a guy who is a born-and-bred Usaian, who has dedicated his political career to spreading US global dominance. So what is more striking – that whilst serving in the Bush administration he is actually formally giving policy advice to Israel or that he has dual citizenship and therefore might possibly be of dubious loyalty.
But the neocons and the Israel lobby were not alone in supporting the invasion of Iraq. In fact, despite the ostentatious enthusiasm of the neocons, it is worth considering the other interests that stood to gain from the Iraq invasion and had obvious influence. Take the oil industry. The Bush administration was so tied to the oil industry it isn’t funny. In 2005 Exxon Mobil became the largest corporation by revenues on the planet and posted world record breaking annual profits 5 times. Then there is the military-industrial complex. The arms industry not only has capacious lobbying power, it has penetrated every single congressional district as an employer. It is not hard to see what effect that has on congressional voting behaviours. But that isn’t all, because really there is an empire complex bigger than the direct military-industrial aspect. During the war in Indochina, the US government inducted certain non-armaments industries into a war economy based not on the exploitation of conquest, but solely on funneling taxpayer monies to these corporations under the guise of prosecuting war. Prominent among these were Halliburton (which owned Brown and Root); Dow chemical; Monsanto; and Bechtel. Need I belabour the interconnection here with the US government in general, or the Bush administration in particular?
And then, there is the government itself. In the lovely little fantasy land that W&M infest, the US national interest is best guarded by robust, but fundamentally honourable means. Off course, sometimes you’ve got to break eggs to make an omelet, but on the whole, despite their hard-nosed pretensions, W&M are suckers for the US pretence of fundamental righteousness. Many within the bureaucratic state apparatus share that belief, but the actual tenor of US strategic behaviour is different, and it is not hard to perceive that difference. US imperial policy has quite aptly been compared to pre-WWII Japanese imperial policy. There is a putatively defensive purpose, but translated into unlimited aggression by a belief that only unchalleged dominance provides security. Global “Full Spectrum Dominance” is an official policy aim. Obama’s rhetorical shift towards multilateralism does nothing to change that underlying fact. Believing that the US can attempt to achieve “Full Spectrum Dominance” without committing genocidal mass murder is like believing that the Third Reich could achieve its desired Lebensraum without genocidal mass murder. So it is the people who are willing to take the steps which the vast majority would reject as morally unacceptable who dictate policy despite the qualms of their colleagues, and they do so by dissimulation (as with the neocon pretence of a fanatical desire to spread democracy).
So how does the Israel lobby stack up against these forces? It doesn’t. It is puny in comparison. What makes the W&M hypothesis even sillier is that they themselves claim that Israel doesn’t benefit from the the policies dictated by the Israel lobby. I’m not kidding. For Jeff Blankfort (and I should say here that despite disagreeing vehemently on this issue, I have as much respect for Blankfort as I have disdain for Walt and Mearsheimer), for Blankfort the fact that Israel does not benefit from US foreign policy supposedly dictated by the Israel Lobby justifies the label “the Jewish Lobby”. Why is that acceptable? Because the backers and lobbyists are Jewish, so forget Jewish people because only the rich scumbags actually count? If that’s the “Jewish Lobby” imagine what the “Caucasian Lobby” must be like!
So here is my synthetic contribution: the Israel Lobby is as powerful as it is because it is a dependant subsidiary of the Empire Lobby, which is the enforcement arm of the Empire Complex, the part used to ensure that any vestigial remnants of democratic governance are fully suppressed. It is not entirely an original idea. Norman Finkelstein incidentally but unavoidably showed the historical evolution of the Israel Lobby as subservient to US imperialism. He documents this in his book The Holocaust Industry which can be downloaded for free, so I suggest actually reading it rather than dismissing Finkelstein because of his wrongheadedness over the BDS movement and the idea of a one-state solution in Palestine.
This brings me to my final point, more an addendum than a conclusion. I am taking a stance which puts me in some unfortunate company. It is not that I have anything against Norman Finkelstein as a whole, he has done some fantastic work. But his BDS stance is silly. Likewise Chomsky, who is still astute on most issues at 84, sounds like he is completely senile and out of touch every time I have heard him discuss Palestine in the last few years (not least because he devotes more attention to what activists should be doing than what Israel and the US should be doing). I think that maybe they fear that a bottom-up movement will cause a sudden collapse of the Zionist apartheid state which will cause chaos and suffering. I too fear that that might be the case, but I know that the continued push for a so-called “two-state solution” through the “peace process” is nothing but camouflage for slow cruel genocide. It is a risk, but we must bet that the better aspects of human nature will win through if we empower the people, because the institutions that are currently empowered are inhuman by nature.
Then there is my closest ally on the subject of the Israel Lobby, Stephen Zunes. OK, so I’ll begin with what I think is wrong with Zunes. I’m not sure when I read his book Tinderbox but, naturally, I didn’t have a problem with him pointing to Zionism as the driving force behind US policy in the ME as being a red herring. But he had his own red herrings. He kept on about how much of a policy mistake it was to alienate the Arab Street and how they inadvertantly or through short-sighted amoral expedience keep accidently promoting Islamist terrorists. OK, I have already mentioned this stuff, but let me be quite clear – from what I think is a more rigorous theoretical position the US empire benefits from a hostile Arab mass (preferably alienated from an elite who are dependent on US support to maintain their dominance – another common imperial practice perfected by the US which you can read about at the blog if you so desire) and the US empire gains a great deal from the existence of credible Islamist terrorist organisations whose efficacy is greatly exaggerated to justify attacks on peoples in Muslim dominated countries. You can argue that my theory reads too much into US intentions and that (and this is often reported by insiders) things are much less co-ordinated and much more myopic in the actual halls of power. I would counter this by saying that my theory actually coincides with real observed events – you cannot explain decades upon decades of consistent systematic repetition as being a series of errors.
(A quick aside here to say that theoretical approaches positing some systemic cause for a systematic but unintentional and counterproductive sequence of actions and policies are completely untenable. Without directed and knowledgeable human intent, such systems would be destroyed or derailed very quickly by changing circumstances. In my honours thesis, which you can read at the On Genocide blog, I demonstrate this with regard to such theories when applied to the US genocides in Indochina. Like a Law of Large Numbers, you can be certain that within any large polity with complex power structures, someone with influence intends that an action taken have the foreseeable outcome which follows. Thus, systemic theories should explain how structures reliably empower certain agents over others, not seek to say that structures themselves cause events. That sounds obvious when I say it, but believe me it is a point that escapes political scientists regularly, and I think that this is driven by the psychological imperative to avoid at all costs the realisation that our own peers commit the inexcusable acts that we like to ascribe only to those whom we dehumanise and demonise).
So that was my problem with Zunes’s Tinderbox. It had the same sort of built in apologism as Walt and Mearsheimer (albeit to a lesser extent) because instead of acknowledging full US culpability for its most heinous and bloody acts it is constantly portraying them as errors. This isn’t a minor point, either. The idea of blundering (whether the motive is idealism, venality, or amoral realism) is THE central prop of US public diplomacy. Look at any insider exposé that criticises US policy but which does not result in the author being hounded, prosecuted, persecuted, exiled and/or bumped off. You will not find a single one of these that does not frame everything as a series of mistakes, and in most cases (to ensure the point is taken) these books are even given titles that tells the reader that without even having to open the book.
Stephen Gowans has also levelled criticisms at Zunes with which I concur. Zunes promotes US imperial interests by critiqueing Third World enemies of Western Imperialism and supporting so-called “democracy-promotion” efforts which are aimed at destabilisation and regime change. Previously, when discussing Amensty International, I dealt with the tendency of some supposed critics of US foreign policy who so bend over backwards to demonstrate an even-handed ability to critique enemies of the US that they actually become vicious interventionists promoting war crimes. The regimes targetted are not necessarily the most pleasant, but in 1939 Poland had an oppressive authoritarian government and supporting German effort to destabilise it would not have been morally justifiable. No Third World regime is so bad that the Balkanised, destabilised, neoliberal, neocolonial fake democracy that the West seeks to impose would not be far, far worse. Look at Iraq. Saddam Hussein was one of the most horrible murderous dictators of the era, yet his crimes against Iraqis pale in comparison to those committed by the US and UK. This applies to Syria and Libya, where Western inflicted suffering has only just begun. This applies to Sudan, now split into two countries with two sets of civil wars. As Gowans points out, Zunes is involved in organisations which are controlled and funded by proven scumbag imperialists.
Where Gowans goes wrong is in overegging the case. In a 2008 article he made wildly exaggerated claims which portrayed Zunes as being “tightly connected to Western governments and ruling class activist foundations” and as a systematic promoter of Western imperialism. I would invite listeners and readers to check out Zunes’s work and see whether they think that this is feasible. Listen to the recent interview on KPFA’s Flashpoints and ask yourself – is this really an imperialist?
No. Sorry. The idea is stupid. And because of the wrongheadedness of Gowans’s over-reach, Zunes wrote a very robust rebuttal of Gowans’s 2008 article, and didn’t even have to deal with the crux issue of aiding US imperialism by supporting the destabilisation of US enemies. Now Gowans, and others of a similar inclination are convinced that Zunes is “the enemy” though his stupidity or worse, and that they can respond to his contentions with ad hominem dismissals. That’s just crap. Get a grip people, and a sense of perspective. Zunes is clearly a cogent and effective critic of US imperialism, whatever mistakes he might make. Likewise, anyone who has a profile dominated by persuasive anti-imperial influence cannot be treated as being a crypto-imperialist. We all make mistakes, and most people are actually at least a little compromised by institutional affiliation, but Gowans’s attitude towards Zunes is a bit like those who claim that Noam Chomsky is actually in the pay of the Pentagon (a rumour Chomsky inadvertantly started many years ago by highlighting the irony that he worked from a building built and furnished with Defense Department money).
So that is why I don’t accept ad hominem attacks on Zunes (because they mischaracterise him) but I should remind you that ad hominem arguments are widely considered invalid in any respect. If someone is right, they are right. Stephen Zunes writings on the Israel lobby are analytically sound and have an empirical backing (in that he actually tests W&M’s contentions by looking at campaign contributions, congressional voting records, and electoral circumstances). If anyone knows of any actual contending analysis – not gainsaying Zunes on ad hominem or baseless theoretical grounds – let me know and I will read it.
There I will have to leave it.
16 thoughts on “The Israel Lobby Thing – A New Improved Formula Commentary, Now with Hitler Jokes and 18% More Verbiage at No Extra Cost!”
It occurs to me that the architects of cruelty and madness probably like it just fine that angry Americans don’t know who to aim their anger at. It serves them to let the anger be directed somewhere other than at them. The anger is justified, people are being abused and taken advantage of. People feel resentful. When they witness disgusting scenes of congress and Obama literally on their knees before Netanyahu pledging their undying
loyalty to Israel instead of making America their first priority they feel outrage. And who do they blame? “The Jews”.
It reminds me of somebody finding out their spouse is cheating with someone else and instead of getting angry at the spouse they focus all the rage and blame on the person they’re cheating with. The responsibility belongs to the cheating spouse, the one with the obligation to be faithful. But when emotions are so strong critical thinking does not enter into the picture. If responsibility is fully focused on the cheating spouse there is an overwhelming threat of the marriage being destroyed. As this is an unbearable thought, blaming the lover for trying to steal the spouse is the natural response. It’s not a rational response but it’s the only response they can emotionally handle. This situation suits the powers that be very well. They are free to continue playing empire as another wedge is driven between people and the Jews get scapegoated again, which plays perfectly into historical antisemitism. It’s really quite ugly.
What’s necessary here is recognizing the righteous anger, and not dismissing it, while making clear who is really responsible for the wrongdoing. To add insult to injury by tagging someone with a rightful claim to anger as antisemitic or bigoted can only
increase the likelihood that real bigotry will develop.
I think it’s important to approach this entire situation with empathy to defuse it long enough to then be able to apply reason and facts in a way that is unemotional. This situation in particular is so heavily laden with strong emotion that I can’t think of any other subject that makes it so hard for people to express perfectly justified anger. This is what makes it so dangerous, and so difficult to handle. It needs to be expressed over and again who is responsible for all of this and to make sure people understand that “the Jews” are not the Israeli government, or the corrupt bankers. You are right, it must be challenged. The tricky part is to challenge it in a way that is going to encourage positive and constructive change instead of making people feel even more resentful for having their legitimate pain criticized and dismissed. This is a tinderbox that can easily ignite, and we’re up against it. But common sense and reason are powerful and they must be applied, along with empathy, because we can’t fight fire with fire. We want to put out the fires, so clearly we have to go another route.
Ang originally sent me the above as an email, but I told it was a pity she hadn’t posted it as a comment as I find it very interesting. She then obliged me by posting it as a comment. She blogs at http://thinkorbeeaten.blogspot.com/.
This is how I responded to this comment:
“I do believe that there is a real purposive effort to get some people to scapegoat Jews. US politicians are so “in your face” about demonstrating obeisance to AIPAC that it reeks of incitement. I think that a lot of this is actually aimed at the Arab and Islamic world as well as domestically. Cons work by telling you what you want to hear, and scapegoating any distinct group that isn’t mainstream US helps reconcile US actions with the empathic identification with the US people that the US entertainment media has created.
The fact is, though, that any nice satisfying narrative that explains the way the world works should automatically be suspect. It is not often that one can cite The Smurfs as a great source of wisdom, but before it was a TV cartoon, the first Smurf book was a Swiftian political satire using a Lord of the Flies-ish narrative to explore the abuse of political authority. One of the characters, “Jokey Smurf”, as well as remaining aloof from all of the increasingly dark civil strife, had an important lesson to impart: if someone hands you a box with with everything all packaged beautifully and tied with a bow – expect it to blow up in your face.
What is hard for me to understand is the sense of anger that you cite. Yes, the US government sucks. Governments all around the world suck. Our job is to try and fight to democratise our societies so that our governments suck less. They sell their people out to oligarchs all of the time, and only a small minority of those oligarchs are Jewish or Zionists. Is this sense of anger due to the betrayal of a myth of the US which is in itself unhealthy? Or is this perhaps related to an unconscious resentment of Jews actually created by the “Holocaust Industry” and its harnessing of the mythologised Holocaust for imperial ends? In this, I mean to ask if the very unacceptability of “antisemitism” and the misuse of the social taboo to support Zionism actually backfires and primes people to lash out against what, in the final analysis, is a set of chains?”
Ang wrote and even more interesting response to this, part of which was a very powerful cri de coeuer exploring the anger generated by what is happening in the US and the helplessness one feels in the face of government injustice.
Just because Walt and Mersheimer’s American exceptionalism is wrong does not mean that they are also wrong about the Israel lobby’s power.
Yes, modern Western imperialism is the biggest problem we face. But what is its under-pinning? And whom is it in the service of?
I think that you will find that those who control or dominate the Western media, academia and financial sectors wield more power in London and Washington than Syngman Rhee ever did.
In case you missed it (I know, it’s a really long read): http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/
I realize that these substantive realities may not seem as obvious in New Zealand, but drill down into the settler colonial moral bases and you quickly run into ancient tribalist myths. Even in New Zealand.
I think that you are right to question the notion of the power of the Israel lobby and hope that you continue to do so (at least for awhile).
One weak point in your analysis I might cite is the necessity of militarily dominating regions of oil production.
Western imperialists control oil profits through the commodities trading bourses in London and New York. They also dominate the transport, refining and retailing of petroleum products. Administration of nations where oil is pumped from the ground is entirely unnecessary. Besides, the US has complete dominance of all global shipping lanes. There is also the reality that commodity producers are far more dependent on the sale of their good than the Western nations are had “over the barrel” relying on suppliers. OPEC being a Western construct originating at a country club in Scotland and primarily benefiting big oil. Also, oil and gas are simply super-abundant and widely sourced. To control them as you suggest is to control the whole world anyhow. That’s like controlling coal, corn or wheat.
I notice that you turn also to the “war against oil” (wars for high oil prices) thesis which I always found more compelling but still lacking as a primary imperative behind what has been happening this century.
I find your juxtaposing imperialism and nationalism interesting. For all its faults, nationalism has very real advantages over imperial order.
I absolutely love you description of the arrogant Strategic Realists. I hope you write an essay or something along those lines.
As to your experience with commentators who exclaim “the Jews”, perhaps you could see their using that term as similar to others using thee term “the Christian right”. In any event there are 52 American Jewish organizations, all of which are Zionist. And supremacy and Zionism are based in the scripture. And, as an Aletho News commentator points out; nobody has to be Jewish.
I, myself don’t necessarily single out Jews for criticism either. Christian adherence to fundamentalist old testament thinking is almost as abhorrent.
How does the Israel lobby stack up against the MIC? It doesn’t have to, it has JINSA. It is one and the same.
I think that you might take a more critical look at the assumption that “instability drives US arms sales”. Have not regimes such as that of the Shah or the Saudis always recycled petrodollars into US arms regardless of stability?
Lastly, is not “spreading US global dominance” also just spreading Jewish supremacy?
Thank you so much for this thoughtful response. I’m so glad you found some of my commentary interesting. There are a couple of points that need clarifying, and I am afraid that the first point is one that I have to ask you to clarify. I don’t understand the relevance of the “Myth of American Meritocracy” article. There is absolutely nothing in it which would cause me to rethink my stance and I am unsure about the meaning of you own words “I realize that these substantive realities may not seem as obvious in New Zealand, but drill down into the settler colonial moral bases and you quickly run into ancient tribalist myths. Even in New Zealand.” Maybe if you explain what you mean in the US context I could better grasp the comparison to New Zealand (Aotearoa). We have some pretty interesting myths about our place in the world, but “ancient” and “tribalist” are not words I would apply.
Maybe Aotearoa might serve as a good example of the role of Judaism and Zionism in Western societies. Our Prime Minister had a Jewish mother. This, by traditional definition, makes him a Jew but, as he puts it, he is more of an “agnostic, verging on atheist.” He is pro-Israel, he is a Harvard graduate, the former global head of foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch, and an all-round fuckwit. None of this prevented Aotearoa from voting for Palestinian statehood, because individuals like John Key don’t count for anything in such matters of foreign policy. Unlike fellow Anglophone nations the UK and Australia, NZ has never voted with the US and Israel on Palestine issues at the UN. In fact it is only on the odd occasion that the UK and Australia have voted with the US (usually it is just very small nations who are subject to rather disproportionate coercion and inducement). How does this fit in with theories about “Jewish supremacy”? The US and Israel stand alone apart from occasional symbolic support from their closest military allies.
So it is more or less the US unilaterally supporting Israel, with no explanation as to why the Zionists can’t exert similar control over any other state. I mentioned Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry in my commentary. I should have provided a link in my transcript. The book can be downloaded at http://archive.org/details/HolocaustIndustry. I can’t cite page numbers, because the version I have doesn’t have any, but the relevant section is the first part of Chapter 1. He demonstrates the subservience of Jewish leadership in the US to US foreign policy. That all changed in 1967, and therein lies your answer. The US cultivated Israel for strategic purposes and cultivated the pro-Israel right-wing Jewish leadership – giving it inflated power, but power firmly subordinated to US imperial uses (which, as even Blankfort and W&M point out, is often counter to Israeli interests).
I know that that is only half of the story – in fact it is quite instructive to divide this into halves. The above half is the story of the right-wing and the national security/governmental establishment, that is more-or-less the artificial aspect of the Zionist lobby. But it works with a foul form of synergy (dysergy?) with a complementary left-wing and intellectual establishment based pro-Israel discourse. (At least that is the tradition – I don’t think that there is any real left-wing support for Israel remaining.) This left-wing, liberal and academic Zionist strain dates from before US strategic attachment to Israel. Jewish prominence in the intelligentsia – especially as leading humanists – in combination with their over-representation in left-wing and liberal politics made very fertile ground for Zionist sentimen. The Shoah gave a strong impetus and urgency to Zionist arguments. It is not surprising then that rejection of traditional prejudice against Jews was of paramount importance and this mostly accompanied a “never again” sentiment which led, rather unreflectively, to support for a Jewish state.
So, for a long time the left was blinded to the fundamental humanity of Palestinians. They eagerly swallowed Israeli lies because those lies allowed them to fulfil their desire to support Israel in what they believed to be good conscience. I will repeat, however, that the real left-wing no longer supports Israel. However, the real left-wing has virtually been abolished from the public discourse in the West. Instead we pretend that liberals are left-wing. This is rather like saying that Nazis are left-wing. Some people genuinely claim that the Nazis had a left-wing aspect because of their left-wing rhetoric. I prefer to look at the reality of their actions. Nazism was very, very right-wing. Liberalism is a largely right-wing ideology. (At some point I plan to do a commentary about what left-wing actually means, and I will propose now that it is not a relative term).
So, this is something I acknowledge and decry, the overweaning influence of Zionism amongst a lot of what passes for socially conscious movements or organisations. I just read something about Zionist domination of the Anglican church, and I can totally believe it – at least at the leadership level. But, as I already stated, this sort of thing affects poxy liberal dominated organisations of the sort that never make serious efforts to fight injustice, but like to claim victories against injustice as their own.
Not only has the real left-wing abondoned the Zionist camp, the intellectual establishment is moving away from it too, though powerful forces are pushing back against this. Zionist bullies attempt to censor the academic world with considerable success, but the very fact that they are visible demonstrates the failure of the organic thought control system within academia to maintain boundaries of allowable expression on this issue. As an interesting side note – if you look at the epitome of Zionist bullying himself, David Horowitz, he is highly condemnatory of opponents of US foreign policy even if they are completely silent on the subject of Israel. I can also personally attest that at least 15 years ago (and maybe still to this day) there was an effort made outside of the US to say that criticism of US foreign policy was a form of “anti-Semitism” in itself! (And I can add that despite the Iraq sanctions, much of the criticism of the US at that time had nothing to do with the Middle East and could not in any conceivable way be linked to Israel).
Now I must clarify a couple of points from my commentary which you seem to have misapprehended. You deny “the necessity of militarily dominating regions of oil production” but I don’t think you quite understood what I was suggesting. I am aware that “Western imperialists control oil profits through the commodities trading bourses in London and New York. They also dominate the transport, refining and retailing of petroleum products.” And that “…the US has complete dominance of all global shipping lanes.” But even the US can’t actually get away with just attacking international shipping because they don’t want it transporting oil to a particular place – well, they kind of can but only in certain specific cases. In most instances the international community would really kick up a stink. All the international community asks of the US is a lame pretext, but there has to be some pretext. That is part of the reason why garrisons are so essential. They are not just a logistical framework for “power projection”, though they are that, they are a ready source of pretexts, provocations, false-flag events and “terrible mistakes”.
You see, in order to intervene somewhere you need both hard power (which the US has in spades) and the soft power, or at least a vaguely presentable casus belli. This is partially why the US has been rather busy in many places for the last couple of years fomenting conflict and instability. As mentioned in the commentary, a cursory glance at the recent history of the Eastern Congo shows that neocolonial extractive processes can now be maintained in what is now referred to as “failed state” conditions. ‘Taint so with oil though – pipelines are too easily blown up. That is not a problem for the US though with regards to what you refer to as “the ‘war against oil’ (wars for high oil prices) thesis”. The brilliance of imperial garrisons in this instance is that they are a constant source of friction and antagonism with the locals. In some instances this may be a bit of a pain, which is why the US got the Brits to exile all of the Chagos Islanders from their homeland. In this instance it is a boon. It makes destabilisation and provocation simple. It creates an economic flow which can create a dependent comprador class – and so forth.
You make it seem that US military bases are not needed, but then one must ask why there are so many of them? This is quite an expense to go to if you don’t have a serious purpose in mind. A simple counterfactual might give an example. You see, some places like the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Circle have oil which requires a great deal of expertise and expense to extract. Other places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran have oil that is much easier to get at. What happens if you have nothing to threaten these countries with? (OK, I do understand that there are other options, but regime change through covert action can fail, economic warfare can be withstood, and containment requires a consensus that – to be frank – the rise of the BRIC states makes nigh impossible). Saudi Arabia has a cosy relationship, but only by opposing the regime to the people – meaning that reform and revolution both pose threats. If Iraq, or even just Arab Iraq, unites nationalistically what is to keep them in line? As it is now, the major oil companies of the former IPC are not necessarily getting much out of Iraq (exept in Iraqi Kurdistan). What’s to stop some movement taking over Iraq, rewriting the constitution, and starting to use oil money for Iraqi development? The US can’t control it, but they can stop it.
And what about Iran? Israel keeps lying about Iran’s nuclear programme, but so does the US, the UK and a whole bunch of other Western states. Israel’s lies are just shriller and sillier. Obviously this is either a pretext to facilitate military intervention, or a bluff to convince Iran that the pretext is sought. Either way, proximate military forces are a necessity. I know that some people say that Israel is the tail wagging the dog on this one too – but no one ever explains what Israel stands to gain from this. I could go through the list of red herrings, but to cut it short the only real motive for Israel can be to prevent the development of a deterrent nuclear capability which would only really make sense if a) they had a fairly surefire plan to neutralise Hizbullah or detach it from Iran and b) their current actions actually were a way of convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear programme (when they seem more likely to motivate Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability). These issues are really not that easy to solve or ignore. The US motives, though, are readily apparent. Bad things that Iran might do from a US imperial perspective include: use oil money to develop own economy; develop own oil infrastructure; deepen ties with China, Russia or (and let us not forget this possibility) the EU; develop transport and financial networks in conjunction with others which allow for oil trading which is entirely outside the realm of US control. All of this can be stopped simply by fucking Iran up, and the process has already started with sanctions. Let us hope that the sanctions regime cracks soon, and that major military intervention never happen.
Now allow me to turn to two points which you made with which I must disagree (unless you were just being ironic). The first is the idea that referring to “the Jews” is like referring to the “Christian Right”. It isn’t. “Zionists” is. “The Jewish elite” would probably just about scrape in. But to refer to “the Jews” in this manner is to deliberately conflate diverse peoples and to attribute to them a single character – in this case negative – which has no basis in reality. You yourself have posted articles decrying the equating of Islam with terrorism, and how can you say this differs? Moreover, the words “nobody has to be Jewish” make me extremely uncomfortable. You also shouldn’t imply that all Jews must take the supremecist aspect of the scriptures seriously. There are plenty of Jews who reject that stuff, and plenty who reject Zionism including quite a number who do so on the grounds of scripture. There are also those who reject religious belief and yet still feel themselves Jewish because it is part of their ethnic identity which, in all people, is composite and multitudinous.
I have left to the last the most important thing of all, which regards your own last sentence. You ask: “Lastly, is not ‘spreading US global dominance’ also just spreading Jewish supremacy?” The answer to that is no. More important, however, is the question it raises: “what Jewish supremacy?” Look around at the world we live in. It is a white supremacist world. It is a world where European languages and culture have come to dominate. The US has become the successor of Europe as Western master of the globe. As the richest country on the planet, its capital dominates. Through this it maintains an unparalleled ideological and propaganda apparatus, particularly through entertainment and marketing. It retains a military dominance which beggars belief. And the religious identity with which it identifies itself – over and over again – is Christian. Bush Jr. cited divine guidance as a reason for invading Iraq, and a very large proportion of US personnel saw the conflict in religious terms and fought, in part, because they felt it was to the benefit of Christianity. After Christianity, the major US ideology of relevance was liberalism. “New atheists” also supported the “crusade” launched by Bush, and the official party line spouted by such folks became that Christianity was more inherently liberal that other religions, like yucky Islam and suchlike.
I know that there is a lot of Jewish involvement in the entertainment industry, and a fair amount of US capital is in Jewish hands, but if they are so supreme, why so little impact? Why isn’t Judaism one of the great world religions?
To recap – US imperialism is a continuation of Western imperialism and it represents: White supremacy; Eurocentrism; hegemony of European language and culture; partial hegemony of Christianity; global dominance of liberalism and of Western capital. These are real things that can be observed around us at all times. There is not need to seek out something hidden in this instance, because anything of this nature that it is even possible to conceal is of vastly lesser significance.
I should have been more specific.
In the Myth of American Meritocracy piece are figures which chronicle the expulsion of non-Jewish European Americans from the ranks of the elite directors of US institutions and policy makers etc… any powerful career path. I presume that such a phenomenon is nowhere near the same in N.Z. This is significant in that it provides evidence of a level of supremacy adequate to shift control to members of not just a tiny elite economic class but also a tiny minority cultural/ethnic group. This fact alone, even without control ove,r finance should answer your question about the difference in domination over the US relative to some European states.
When one considers that all of the major centers of US power, be they political, economic or cultural, are dominated by this one tiny minority which also has a lockstep allegiance to Jewish supremacy (such as Zionism), one must accept that anything that furthers US power also furthers Zionism and, in fact, Jewish supremacy.
US imperialism may indeed be an extension of European imperialism, but you might discover that European imperialism also served the very same minority group which held sway over the royal purse through domination of finance. In Giovanni Arrighi’s writing one learns that capitalist finance was foreign to Northern Europeans. It arrived as a mobile entity which passed through Venice to Genoa to Amsterdam to London. The powerful owners of capital being free to abandon entire imperial orders and move on to another host which provides new opportunities for exploitation or new populations to dispossess.
Real power is always concentrated. Majorities are almost always only nominally in charge. Think about it and you will see that there is nothing about majority rule which is true. Otherwise the working class would wield power the world over. The elite don’t want you in their group, they want to exclude the other. If a religion is involved in proselytizing it surely is not that of the upper caste. Do Brahmins wish to make Dalits into Brahmins?
I, personally, would not use the term “the Jews,” as you complain a commenter elsewhere does, but my comparison was meant to shed light on their probable intent. However, when a scripture tells followers that gentiles are like beasts to be used, hewers of wood and haulers of water, and when it demands that you destroy nations which do not submit, this has to be addressed. Just as Christian Zionism was at fault in the Monroe doctrine and the N.Z. settler’s beliefs, Judaism is the ideological basis of Zionism. It is real words on real paper. And if one abandons their religious doctrine then one is left with deism or agnosticism and their national identity. Judaism is a religion, not a race. It is not my practice to focus on religion but I am aware of these aspects of both Judaism and Christianity. I also have to condemn Islam for accepting these same screeds as “the word of god.” That said, this is not what Aletho News is about. There are atheist promoting sites out there, I don’t even visit them.
I disagree entirely with the Finklestein and/or Chomsky claim that Jews only came to achieve influence after 1967. If that were true the US would not have been the first nation to recognize Israel, minutes after its declaration. In previous decades Jewish dominance may have been better concealed and better shared with another tiny WASP subset but there is ample cause to believe that it did have final determination over US foreign policy. Consider the timing of the US entry into WWI along with the Balfour declaration as one example.
I see an Iranian nuclear capability as the death knell for the Zionist project not a prerequisite for using oil money to develop an indigenous economy, something that Iran has already been doing for decades and which, in fact, the sanctions imposes on Iran.
US military bases are for military purposes, not oil. No oil transit can possibly occur without the acquiescence of the US navy. There is nothing on the horizon that could possibly free Iraq, Iran or any other country from this reality. It requires no control of lands or even administrations. This power is very real and explains why Japan became so desperately dependent on nuclear power and why Germany has wasted hundreds of billions on inefficient solar and wind installations.
I like your presentation of Liberalism being more right wing than Nazism. In many respects this is of course true in my estimation. But then I am open minded enough to also notice that the Old Testament is more racist and violent than Mien Kompf. The real ideology is reflected in economic policy and the Nazis were Keynesians, just like today’s Liberals.
Hi. Thanks again. Interesting stuff. BTW I actually meant to suggest that Liberalism was less right-wing than Nazism, but still pretty right-wing. I agree about the existence of small elites in one sense, but different forms of power are distributed in different ways and each is subject to constraints as well as conveying certain privileges and abilities.
– As for Jewish dominance of finance – it shouldn’t be exaggerated. Gentiles became dominant in finance long before finance became dominant in Western societies. If you have a look at the Rothschild history you’ll see that after the 1814 coup in GB, as they moved into North America, their clients, peers and rivals were gentiles. North American finance was dominated by Dutch and English protestants, and by the end of World War I, they were the ones in the driving seat of global finance. As a single family and a single power the English Rothschild’s might stand out, and they certainly did promote Zionism and Anglo-US imperialism, but their peers and rivals were collectively greater than them, and they were not Jews.
– As for the annexation and settlement of Aotearoa, Zionism just does not enter into it in any way. Many settlers were racist and/or ruthlessly land hungry. British elite discourse was racist and chauvinist, but revolved around strategic problems (they rather stupidly feared a French annexation) and what passed for humanitarianism. Most missionaries supported the British annexation (with notable exceptions) but their interest was in converting Maori, not in Christianisng the land by putting a bunch of white people on it.
– As for the haste of US recognition of Israel, they just beat everyone to the punch that is all. The Soviet Union was the first to give formal recognition, but everyone who voted in favour of the UN partition plan was endorsing Zionism. US haste doesn’t signify anything. The interesting thing is that the UK held off for a year, trying to put some distance between themselves and their culpability for crimes against Palestinians.
– As for Jewish dominance in the top Ivy league schools, I don’t see that as being of overweaning significance. It comes from three things: 1) US Jews are almost all white; 2) they had made inroads in these institutions due to historically high academic performance and the fight against discrimination; 3) as an ethnic group, Jews have risen to very high in relative status within the US. But let’s face it, those at the top are fast assimilating.
– I see why you reject the Finkelstein/Chomsky assertions, but I think that you are focussing on something different than what they are describing. They don’t “claim that Jews only came to achieve influence after 1967.” They are describing the manipulation of the mass of religious Jews through religious and community leaders who have power within that community. They are not referring to Jews who are part of the national elite. They are describing an act of co-optation and not one of empowerment.
– I feel that I should reiterate that those powerful figures who lend fanatical support for Israel in the US lend even more fanatical support to the US and US imperialism. Maybe there is such a level of jingoist nationalism in the public political discourse in the US that it somehow seems normal, but all of the leading US Zionists are screaming mad insane warmongering US imperialists.
– If it is secret manipulative power you want, then look no further than the US. Declassified CIA documents, not to mention Cablegate, reveal that the US has systematically infiltrated Aotearoa in many areas including the government and higher education. In the 1950s the CIA bagan implementing a plan to emplace pro-US lecturers in our universities, and I can attest to the fact that in the academe it is still unacceptable to make serious critiques of US foreign policy (though Dubya and his cronies did open a window of opportunity for a while there, once Obama was elected it became heretical again). The US has bullied Aotearoa on many occasions and it is the US that bears the primary responsibility for forcing Aotearoa to adopt drastic neoliberal “Washington Consensus” economic policies and systems of governance. Aotearoa has gone from one of the least unequal counties in world history in terms of wealth and income, and is now nearly as unequal as the US. We’re a neocolony. And guess what? The same sources reveal that the US has done this to most countries in the world. Imagine that – most countries in this world are under US neocolonial domination and then there are many that are subject to even more overt US control. And guess what else? I notice that Israel has had the same neoliberal policies forced on it.
– You don’t explain why Iran nuclear capability means death knell for Zionism. Any nuclear weapons capability (and its a fair bet that they only want capability not actual warheads) would only give deterrent ability to Iran. Even then it is not really a full deterrence against Israel’s arsenal. The only threat I could see would be added impetus to the imposition of a ME nuclear free-zone, which still wouldn’t diminish Israel’s massive conventional forces.
– I guess that much comes down to the oil and militarisation issues. I don’t exactly know what you mean by “US military bases are for military purposes, not oil.” What military purposes? Why are some many forces deployed around oil assets? Why is there a Carter Doctrine? Why, through the creation of the Rapid Deployment Force, which foreshadowed CentCom, was it concern for oil supplies that spawned the creation of a formal global system of military hegemony? I tried to explain the strategic sense of this as it relates to oil as a strategic asset, and I won’t reiterate here. But even if you reject that theory, you can’t reject the simple undeniable facts of the nature of US military deployments.
– Finally, I must bring up the fact that there are real dangers to promoting hypotheses of Zionist or Jewish supremacy. I’m very glad that you don’t personally single out Judaism and its scriptural basis for criticism, and equally glad that you don’t equate a religious identity with race. But look around at what sort of reaction this discourse provokes in others. The US people have been made far too invested in myths of US superiority, and they are being very cruelly betrayed by a klepto-corporatist elite. They are far too well primed for scapegoating. There may never be a US kristallnacht, but it is only too easy to see some mentally unstable person taking this too far – a US Anders Breivik. I know that the truth is the truth, and one cannot hide from it because of potential negative consequences, but are we talking about a Truth, or a truth, or a partial truth with nuances? Or is the “Israel Lobby” thesis more of a comforting myth that allows people to continue the avoidance of confronting the true nature of US empire?
– Ive been seeing fairly consistent reports of 50-60% Jewish representation on Wall Street as well as in campaign finance which is a solid majority as well as a 2,000% over-representation. Enough to dominate. Especially when one considers the likelihood of the balance of the members of the elite going along rather than creating conflict.
– I won’t argue the 19th century settler mentality. Perhaps it differs from hemisphere to hemisphere. Across the North American West, as well as in New Russia (present day eastern Ukraine) fundamentalist Christianity including Zionism was the ideological basis for dispossession of indigenous Turkic peoples and Native Americans.
– I don’t think that there is anything controversial about the fact that Truman received a substantial and decisive campaign contribution as a quid pro quo for the Israel recognition. It seems widely accepted as factual and not seriously in debate.
– It seems as though you have yet to take in the entire “Myth of American Meritocracy” article. Sorry about having to propose that you read such a lengthy piece.
– Of course, I would just point out that the “screaming insane pro-American jingoism” on the part of Neocons is simply that the exercise of US power is the furtherance of Zionist aims. Ditto for worldwide academic infiltration etc…
– A strategic deterrent in the hands of a resistance state such as Iran would mean that Israel would eventually face conventional military resistance to its aggressions. Israel relies on a preponderance of force or destructive capability. Without the freedom to expand territorially and seize water assets such the Litani river for example the Zionist project is not at all achieving its goal. In fact, many Jews would become leery of Zionist militarism and opt for safer digs.
– Is there any analysis of excess US military basing near oil or just mantra? Disinformation. It appears that the big numbers of troops and planes are in Italy, Germany, Japan and Korea. A collection of more oil poor states would be hard to assemble. Russia seems to be of primary concern as well as Iran, two countries whose militaries are not under US domination. While Russia may indeed be an energy powerhouse, I have yet to hear an argument that the US is bent on seizing Russian oil and gas. Iran of course is an impediment to Israeli domination over Syria and Lebanon, not to mention Gaza. Not much of an oil story there when looked at objectively.
– I don’t view the Israel lobby as an excuse to avoid confronting American exceptionalism etc… If anything it may help people to recognize it.
I’m sorry but I’m going away for a couple of days so I cannot really address this properly now. Thanks for giving this so much thought and effort, however, though much of what you say has substance some of it is nonetheless merely gainsaying what I have argued. I have given quite a lot of detailed reasoning, at considerable effort, and I feel that it would advance our discussion greatly if you reciprocated fully. Would you consider writing a proper article laying out your stance and reasoning? Anyway, it’s summer here and I’m going to stay by the beach for a couple of nights during which I will probably spend as little time thinking of this stuff as possible.
I apologize for not giving this discussion as much time as you have. I dedicate so much time to aggregating content for Aletho News etc… that it makes it difficult.
Enjoy your time at the beach and when you return you might look at these timeless analyses:
Militant Zionism and the Invasion of Iraq
Zion-power and War: From Iraq to Iran
and, in case you only skimmed it, this one is very pertinent to the question:
Are They Really Oil Wars?
Perhaps you will find more informative newer articles posted at Aletho News in the future as well.
Let me just say that I quite like Ismael Hossein Zadeh in general terms. The first supporting material I linked from the transcript of my Israel Lobby commentary (here) cites The Political Economy of US Militarism and in my master’s thesis I cited him around half a dozen times. But here he seems to concentrate all of his weaknesses in one place – in fact he displays an obtuseness with regard to this topic that he does not otherwise seem to possess leading me to conclude, yet again, that there is a strong psychological imperative driving the Israel Lobby discourse.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but Zadeh is using a broken paradigm, just as I described in the commentary. This can be seen from the fact that he is raising questions, but not only is he not answering the questions, but he does not acknowledge that there is something to answer. Primary and symptomatic among these is his assertion that old forms of colonial domination are no longer used (as if we didn’t already know that). Zadeh knows that there is a successor neocolonial order, and he knows very well that it is a militarised one. Somehow, however, he feels in this instance that asserting that old school colonialism is inapplicable means that he can dismiss the issue. He doesn’t understand the mechanics of the current US imperial system, and in fact his understanding of direct colonialism is too reductive, so he pretends there aren’t any, even though he knows better.
Zadeh knows that the US adopted a “relative gains” paradigm of essentially global imperial dominance during World War II (as George Kennan put it to maintain a “position of disparity”). This is why the Bretton Woods institutions mount sustained attacks against the poor states of the world. This is why the debt crisis that Zadeh mentions, but somehow, even though he knows that it is true, he neglects to mention that the “oil shocks” of the 70s and 80s were essential to creating that debt crisis – just as he strangely neglects to mention that these oil shocks were manufactured in the West – pitched through the CFA’s Foreign Affairs and then prolmulgated at a Bilderberg meeting, believe it or not, and implemented through US client states Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Ask yourself, then, what would a populous, strategically placed, historically hegemonic state like Iraq have become if the US had not: 1) lured it into attacking Iran; 2) deliberately extended and controlled the tempo of the resulting conflict in order to maximise damage to both states and both peoples; 3) provoked the invasion Kuwait (I can’t provide all details here, but they did); 4) unleashed genocide – a bombing campaign followed by a sanctions regime with further bombing which inflicted incredible human suffering, social disintegration and economic destruction; 5) continued genocide through another bombing campaign, an invasion and an incredibly broad and complicated destruction of everything Iraqi involving the fomenting of strife, the destruction of intellectual and cultural life, and massive economic degradation. What would Iraq look like if the US hadn’t done that? What would it look like if, in addition to that, the US hadn’t backed the 1968 coup and Saddam Hussein’s 1978 takeover? What would Iraq be like, and how the hell could that be reconciled with US imperial domination.
That’s the thing, Zadeh, like so many others, barely grasps the strategic significance of oil for the imperial power, and keeps going on pointlessly about the straw herring of oil company profits (I love his quote from some French exec “A few months of cash generation is not a big deal. Stable, not volatile, prices and a $25 price (per barrel) would be convenient for everyone” – “a few months”? – try ten years. Zadeh knows too, from his reading of Engdahl, whom he cites, that previous oil shock prices were used for geostrategic ends (i.e. North Sea oil and the Alaska pipeline) and the same is occuring now with tar sands exploitation, Keystone XL, and the massive expansion of fracking.) But not only would an unattacked Iraq fall outside of the system of imperial domination, it would pose a virus risk far greater than that posed by a united nationalist Vietnam.
So Zadeh is not really grasping the neocolonial imperial structure, and equally, for someone who wrote a whole book on US militarism, he doesn’t seem to grasp the nature of US military interventions. He is not alone in this, and that is why I devote so much of my energies to trying to point out that post-WWII major US miltary interventions are not “wars” but genocides. Even Korea had only a façade of war – an odd façade, but understandably convincing for those having to fight. Indochina, Iraq, and Afghanistan are no more “wars” than the Armenian Genocide was. Remember that to this day most Turks, and all Turkish officials, will tell you that there was no genocide, just an unavoidably brutal war against insurgent guerillas.
Here are some of Zadeh’s words which back up my contentions far better than they do his:
“Contrary to the claims of the proponents of Peak Oil and champions of war and militarism, the current oil price shocks are a direct consequence of the destabilizing wars and geopolitical insecurity in the Middle East, not oil shortages. These include not only the raging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the threat of a looming war against Iran. The record of soaring oil prices shows that anytime there is a renewed U.S. military threat against Iran, fuel prices move up several notches.
The war also contributes to the escalation of fuel prices in indirect ways—for example, by plunging the U.S. ever deeper into debt and depreciating the dollar, or by creating favorable grounds for speculation. As oil is priced largely in U.S. dollars, oil exporting countries ask for more dollars per barrel of oil as the dollar loses value. Perhaps more importantly, an atmosphere of war and geopolitical instability in global oil markets serves as an auspicious ground for hoarding and speculation in commodity markets, especially oil, which is heavily contributing to the recently soaring oil prices.
As much as 60% of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price. . . . Since the advent of oil futures trading and the two major London and New York oil futures contracts, control of oil prices has left OPEC and gone to Wall Street. It is a classic case of the ‘tail that wags the dog.’
Wall Street financial giants that created the Third World debt crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the tech bubble in the 1990s, and the housing bubble in the 2000s are now hard at work creating the oil bubble.”
“Many of these countries (including, yes, Iran) would be glad to have major U.S. oil companies invest, explore and extract oil from their rich reserves. Needless to say that U.S. oil companies would be delighted to have access to those oil resources. But U.S. champions of war and militarism have successfully torpedoed such opportunities through their unilateral wars of aggression and their penchant for a Cold War-like international atmosphere.”
“But the major reason for the persistence of this pervasive myth seems to stem from certain deliberate efforts that are designed to perpetuate the legend in order to camouflage some real economic and geopolitical special interests that drive U.S. military adventures in the Middle East. There is evidence that both the military-industrial complex and hard-line Zionist proponents of “greater Israel” disingenuously use oil (as an issue of national interest) in order to disguise their own nefarious special interests and objectives: justification of continued expansion of military spending, extension of sales markets for military hardware, and recasting the geopolitical map of the Middle East in favor of Israel.
There is also evidence that for every dollar’s worth of oil imported from the Persian Gulf region the Pentagon takes five dollars out of the Federal budget to “secure” the flow of that oil! This is a clear indication that the claim that the U.S. military presence in the Middle East is due to oil consideration is a fraud.”
As for the other readings: I did read “The Myth of American Meritocracy” and it is very interesting and there are grounds for concern (I’d be more worried about the attack on those public schools which have challenged the Ivy League for prestige), but when it come to foreign policy I’ve got to say “so what”? I also have doubts about the “on Wall Street” claim, but again, so what? It is top exec’s, directors and major shareholders you should worry about, not people like traders or lesser execs. Just look at who really owns things and runs things, it is not that Jewish at the very top. As for Petras, I find that he has a tendency to naïve fatuousness in any event, and it is no surprise to me that it crystalises into a big ball of stupid when he address the Israel Lobby issue.
The point Zadeh makes that you question is that, in the neo-colonial paradigm, oil and commodity prices in general are no longer set administratively and supplies are no longer dedicated to specific spheres. Cyrus Bina has written at length on this topic.
The neo-liberal successor order to that which existed prior to the 1970s is even more globalization of both trade and finance. This global economic structure fails to require military control over oil fields.
The fact that the oil shocks of the 1970s were engineered in the West is extensively dealt with in Bina’s work and well known to Zadeh. This in no way conflicts with Zadeh’s analysis regarding “war for oil”.
What would Iraq look like if the US had not destroyed it?
Probably a lot like Turkey, a perfect client state with a very attractive investment environment.
However it also would have been the worst nightmare for the Zionist entity.
The geostrategic end that you see in the oil price shocks is actually the creation of a global economy that can function in the absence of Persian Gulf oil. This is a Zionist aim, not an imperialist imperative. I delve into this question in
Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA
As far as Wall Street is concerned, I think that you will find that Jewish domination in the higher ranks is even more consolidated than in the financial sector as a whole. Just look into the top positions at Goldman Sachs over the past many decades now, or for that matter almost any of the “too big to fail” outfits that have now displaced even more of the rest. Look at US Treasury Secretaries, Fed Chairmen and other top appointees. These positions have been in the %100 Jewish category for decades. What are the odds?
You need to take a fresh look at the empirical evidence.
You write “The point Zadeh makes that you question is that, in the neo-colonial paradigm, oil and commodity prices in general are no longer set administratively and supplies are no longer dedicated to specific spheres.” No I do not question that point. Have you actually been reading the thousands upon thousands of words which I have devoted to answering your assertions? Do you really think that the only paradigm in which military violence is used for imperial domination of strategic resources involves this sort of command economy stuff? The British empire didn’t work like that. Nor the Spanish. Nor the Portuguese. Nor the French. Nor, for that matter, the goddamned Roman empire. So what you are basically saying is the US empire is different because it almost never does what was almost never done by previous empires.
“This global economic structure fails to require military control over oil fields.” In fact, the US needs to exert a credible threat of military intervention over more than just oil fields. Oil is of more than usual significance as I will address below, but it is not the only reason for intervention. You know as well as I do that the US has a very widespread garrisoning policy as I mentioned previously. You know also that US military interventions are incredibly common. Do you seriously explain them all as being in the service of a greater Israel? Perhaps the Zionists are also responsible for France being in Mali, n’est-ce pas?
“The fact that the oil shocks of the 1970s were engineered in the West is… well known to Zadeh.” Of course I know this. I would have thought that it was pretty obvious, and I again must wonder if you are giving due attention to the things that I am writing as a conscientious considered response to your own statements.
“The geostrategic end that you see in the oil price shocks is actually the creation of a global economy that can function in the absence of Persian Gulf oil. This is a Zionist aim, not an imperialist imperative. I delve into this question in ‘Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA ‘” You don’t explain why this “ is a Zionist aim, not an imperialist imperative”. If this were the case then you would be implicitly suggesting that Thatcher was beholden to extremist Zionists in 1979. I don’t think that you can sustain that suggestion. Also, your last paragraph is not actually evidentially linked to anything preceding it. I don’t want to be too silly, but it could have as easily read: “An outcome of energy independence would be greater freedom to initiate wars of aggression across Central Eurasia region that would destroy any potential threat from Russia against a resurgent Poland. Brzezinski’s Polish origins and well known antagonism towards Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe may shed some light on his advocacy of these policies.”
You end by urging me to embrace the empirical evidence. Do you mean something like this list of the top 50 finance CEO’s (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-highest-paid-ceos-at-the-largest-us-based-financial-companies-2012-6?op=1), or this list of billionaires (http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/), or this list of the top investment banks (http://www.businessinsider.com/bloomberg-markets-magazine-the-20-investment-banks-that-took-in-the-most-money-in-2011-2012-3?op=1)?
I’ve got some other empirical data for you. Check out this data about life expectancy in Iraq (http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/iraq/life-expectancy-at-birth). Notice the dips? Especially the male life expectancy, right? Now check out Turkey (http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/iraq/life-expectancy-at-birth). No dips. Hmmm. And, Iraq had a higher life expectancy than Turkey in 1978. Hmmm. Now lets look at some more development indicators. According to the CIA “Following the war with Iran in 1988, Iraq was ranked 50th out of 130 countries on the 1990 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). This index measures national achievements in health, education, and per capita GDP. Iraq was close to the top of the “medium human development” category, a reflection of the Government’s continued investment in basic social services. By 1995, Iraq had declined to 106th out of 174 countries and by 2000 it had plummeted to 126th, falling behind Bolivia, Egypt, Mongolia and Gabon and close to the bottom of the “medium human development” category.
According to the HDI, an Iraqi born in 1987 could expect to live 65 years while citizens in bordering Jordan had a life expectancy of 67 years. By 1998 an Iraqi was expected to live only 63.8 years while a Jordanian saw an increase in life expectancy 70.4 years in 1998. Compared to Jordan, where the literacy rate rose from 75 percent in 1985 to 88.6 percent in 1998, Iraq’s had dropped from 89 percent to 73.5 percent. In 1990, Iraq ranked three places above Jordan on the HDI. In 2000, Iraq placed 34 below Jordan.” Bear in mind that 1990 was 10 or 12 years after Iraqi progress had been reversed which maybe, just maybe, could sort of be linked to the US supported 1978 takeover by Saddam Hussein and the US fomented and sustained war against Iran. Do you seriously think that left alone Iraq would have been “a lot like Turkey, a perfect client state with a very attractive investment environment”? Iraq would have broken through to developed country levels of wealth and industrialisation, and it is not some tiny Emirate or something. The Brits couldn’t run the place as a client state and nor could the US. They both tried and unequivocally failed. Even after a two decades long genocide, the US can’t impose its will on Iraq, and reverts to “dual containment” (with Iran) and destabilisation. That is why I keep trying to get you to think about how strategic denial works and about how a subordinate relationship can be created when relying purely on veto power backed by credible threats of one sort or another (which is the most significant tool in informal imperialism and neocolonialism anyway).
In the end, there seems to be a fundamental omission in your conception of oil as a strategic resource. You seem unable to escape a paradigm wherein the strategic significance of oil lies in imperial possession, control and exploitation. But the oil doesn’t disappear just because it isn’t under US control, nor does its strategic significance end. This is especially so with more easily and cheaply exploitable oil such as the Iraqis possess.
On a different subject, Jeff Blankfort has written: “That Stephen Zunes and Steve Niva have been the only ones that I am aware of willing to take on the challenge to defend their opinions is in itself a tribute to the power of the lobby. And the consequences? Having been dismissed as relatively unimportant by the pundits previously mentioned,. the lobby has been allowed, like a professional football team up against a high school opponent, to run up and down the field and score at will. Indeed, they are the ones who have been providing the lobby with protective cover and the anti-war and Palestinian solidarity movements have tragically followed their lead.” So, the people who provide “protective cover” to the lobby are scared to defend their positions against enemies of the lobby (like Blankfort) because of the power of the lobby? How does that work? I think there was a bit of a logic failure there, but I am beginning to suspect that there might be other reasons why people will not debate adherents of the Israel lobby thesis. With that in mind, may I once again humbly request that if you should choose to respond to this, that you do so by engaging with the material I have provided.
Finally, I feel I must reiterate the stakes here. Not everyone is as committed to peace as yourself. Not only are there hateful people out there, but there are also vulnerable people. People who are hurt and disillusioned may want nothing more than the security of the sort of myth that the Israel Lobby thesis provides, and that is dangerous to them and others. More than that, however, I also feel acutely that it is essential to avoid providing the excuses and red herrings that are so essential to continued US acts of aggression and genocide. This is an imperial polity that thrives on dissimulation and misdirection. You did not accept my comparison with blaming Syngman Rhee for entrapping the US, but the discourse was nigh identical. It served the same purpose in concealing brutal imperial criminality, and it is still taken as credible to this day in some circles. The fact that there are a number of powerful people within the US of Jewish origin, does not alter the disparity of power between Israel and the US.
I now see that your (Zunes’?) explanation for US policy is giving primacy to the “demonstration war” argument for US military intervention in the Middle East. The recent quintessential examples being Granada and Panama.
I my judgement, this argument fails due to the fact that the US has only shown that it is incapable of imposing its plans even given a decade of brutal occupation. What has been demonstrated?
Devising a global economy that can function in the absence of Persian Gulf oil is obviously NOT an imperialist agenda. If the Western economies were not benefiting from trade with the Gulf states they could simply alter the arrangements or freely withdraw from their patronage.
It is plainly obvious that, for Israel to remain more powerful militarily than the rest of the region, massive destruction of the Persian Gulf region, likely including significant closure of the Hormuz straits, will occur. In any event, Netanyahoo has been quoted stating that the goal is to develop solar technology that can displace Saudi energy exports.
What is the point of posting gibberish?: “An outcome of energy independence would be greater freedom to initiate wars of aggression across Central Eurasia region that would destroy any potential threat from Russia against a resurgent Poland. Brzezinski’s Polish origins and well known antagonism towards Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe may shed some light on his advocacy of these policies.”
It’s as though you refuse to recognize any Zionist conflict with Iran. So any analysis that recognizes such, is the same as gibberish.
Perhaps you find the Zunes talking points so appealing that you are shutting out the obvious.
– “Demonstration model”? Give me a break. Will you at least do me the courtesy of not putting ridiculous assertions in my mouth? I know I mentioned “credible threats” precisely once, but in order to create from that some belief that I am asserting some primacy of demonstration you have to have completely ignored everything I have addressed to the issues of the strategic relevance of oil and the strategic relevance of Iraq. And you have to have convinced yourself that I chose to leave bringing up my main point until now.
– You write: “Devising a global economy that can function in the absence of Persian Gulf oil is obviously NOT an imperialist agenda. If the Western economies were not benefiting from trade with the Gulf states they could simply alter the arrangements or freely withdraw from their patronage.” Wow! I actually directly dealt with that in the last comment I made (not to mention many times prior to that), but you aren’t even bothering to take in what I am writing.
– You ask “What is the point of posting gibberish?” The point is to show that, although your example does not seem on the surface to be as ridiculous, your assertion of a given state of affairs does not demonstrate anything. To give another example, you write: “It’s as though you refuse to recognize any Zionist conflict with Iran.” But I could replace Zionism and Iran with any number of other actors, silly or otherwise. I could write “It’s as though you refuse to recognize any Indian conflict with Pakistan.” It doesn’t mean anything, and that is particularly relevant because of the way you constructed your article. You seemed to think that you were giving evidence of Zionist involvement, but in fact you were showing that you had already made that conclusion based on evidence which was not given in the article – hence the Zionist aspect was entirely without evinced foundation.
– Will you please stop mischaracterising what I write? You should revisit it with an open mind. I know that some of it is complex, difficult and often inelegantly phrased, but I’m only too happy to elucidate on parts that are not understood. We can only have a constructive discussion on this topic if you are engaging with my actual thesis. I have far more thoroughly addressed your own comments than you have mine, and I think it is really past time that you return the courtesy by revisiting some of my substantive claims.
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