I have just returned from briefing a high-ranking official of country X on the
Middle East. We kept coming back to a vital theme: the incredibly shrinking
power of the United States. Try to explain American behavior to neutral,
open-minded third parties for whom US policy activities have become just plain
I have just published an article about how terrorists, including the
murderers of four American officials in Benghazi, are literally laughing at the
United States and its inability (or unwillingness) to do anything effective to
defend its interests.
This item in a CBS News report particularly caught
my eye: “US officials [in December 2012] lamented the lack of cooperation with
the governments of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in their ongoing investigation into
the [Benghazi] attack, saying most of the suspects remain free.”
• Tunisia, where the US government supported not only the overthrow of a
regime allied to itself but also elections that led to a Muslim
Brotherhood-dominated government. Helpful hint: You should have intervened
behind the scenes to get the four non-Islamist (secular, if you wish) parties to
work together, run their campaigns successfully, and win. They got 60 percent of
the vote but lost the election.
• Libya, where the US government
installed the current regime, which is basically an American client regime, by
military (NATO, technically) force and pumped in support yet feared to send in a
rescue mission to Benghazi.
Obama should have called the Libyan leader on
the evening of September 11, 2012, and said, “We’re on our way and expect your
cooperation.” And the only reason for not doing that would have been knowing the
Libyan government could rescue the Americans, which it was unable to do or even
to try doing.
• Egypt, where the US government was cheerleading for the
Muslim Brotherhood as early as Obama’s Cairo speech and backed it all through
the revolution. There was the alternative of backing the military to get rid of
Hosni Mubarak and then make reforms. Or there was the alternative of backing the
disorganized, under-financed moderates (and helping them to unite, get money,
and be effective).
But Obama did neither and his administration for all
practical purposes endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood.
And now we see that
these three governments won’t even cooperate in getting terrorists responsible
for murdering Americans.
Remember that Tunisia and Egypt, even if they
are Islamist-ruled, have no direct interest in helping these terrorists – the
Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t like al-Qaida – but won’t help due to
anti-Americanism, a generalized Islamic solidarity, and knowledge that they can
stick their finger in America’s eye and taunt, “What are you going to do about
it?” How the mighty have fallen! But what’s most amazing is that this isn’t
murder but suicide. It is voluntary. Is it reversible? Nobody knows, but it
isn’t going to be reversed in the next four years.
You have to
understand, I tell the diplomat, that there’s been for all practical purposes a
revolution in the United States, at least in terms of its governance. Regarding
foreign policy, all the old rules don’t apply – credibility; punishing enemies
and rewarding friends; deterrence; don’t leave your men behind to die; don’t
appoint a muddleheaded fool to be secretary of defense. In each case there is a
nicely crafted rationalization for going against centuries of diplomatic and
security practices. But so what? It’s still wrong.
Obama is too busy in
apologizing for real or imagined past US bullying, proving he only believes in
multilateral action, has so much respect for local customs, and trying to
demonstrate to those that hate it that America is their buddy in order to win
The language above is harsh, but it is also true.
upon a time there were two superpowers, the United States and USSR, in the Cold
War. Then there was one superpower, the United States. Now there are
And yet what this means from Israel’s standpoint may be very
different from what you’d expect.
Israel can cope with this situation,
especially since it continues to receive US military aid, some diplomatic
backing, and nice rhetoric about the ironclad special relationship between the
And those assets rest on a foundation of public and
congressional support for Israel in the United States.
Indeed, it is
clear that Israel is the only – the only – factor that Obama doesn’t like that
has been able to preserve its interests while other seemingly far more powerful
forces – the health industry, the energy industry, the National Rifle
Association, for example – have been battered into defeat or are
Moreover, Israel can defend itself. It is willing to take
unilateral action and can succeed in doing so.
That’s why, as I know from
first-hand observation, that it is a myth that Israel’s government has done
anything to undermine Obama. People who make such charges provide no proof or
even references to specific events.
On the contrary, the Israeli
government consciously developed the policy of seeking to avoid any friction
with Obama and his government. One key reason was that it knew coexistence with
Obama was possible. The other was that it knew avoiding making the situation
worse was imperative.
The seemingly most obvious exception – building in
east Jerusalem – was based on a prior secret agreement with the US government.
The other apparent exception – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to a
joint session of Congress – came after Obama ambushed Netanyahu by changing US
policy toward Israel while the prime minister was on a plane to
And here’s a powerful item of proof on the other side: not a
single pro-Israel Democrat in political life has turned against Obama. If Israel
is so influential, why did a supposed anti-Obama campaign not change anyone’s
position? In fact, pro-Obama American Jews, who comprise a large majority of the
community, and pro-Israel political figures have either reconciled the
discordant information (Obama is Israel’s best friend); kept their mouths shut;
had other priorities; or tried to keep relations as good as possible.
in practice – a point on which Obama’s supporters are correct – there have been
no real, material, huge problems in direct US-Israel relations. What they leave
out is that this was also largely due to Arab, Iranian and particularly
Palestinian intransigence. These forces lost the opportunities Obama offered
them to undercut Israel and the US-Israel relationship because they didn’t rush
to seek deals on much better terms.
If they had done so, Obama would have
pressured Israel to make big concessions and would have been far more
antagonistic if Israel refused. Israel’s enemies threw away that chance and it
will not come again in his second term.
By the same token, it is equally
foolish for some to criticize, for example, President Shimon Peres for giving
Obama a medal or Israeli leaders for lauding Obama on every possible
opportunity. And the same applies to AIPAC not objecting to Chuck Hagel as
secretary of defense, never criticizing Obama, and inviting him to speak at its
annual meetings. Whoever is president or secretary of defense, AIPAC and Israel
will have to work with him.
All of these people, then, are doing their
jobs properly by avoiding entanglements in such internal American
Israel needs good relations with the United States.
is the president of the United States twice elected by the American people and
he will be president for the next four years. It is not the task of Israel’s
government to interfere with America’s internally made choices. It is the job of
Israel’s government to live as best as possible with those rulers, minimize the
disadvantage, and wait out this period by agreeing, smiling, giving in on small
things, and doing everything possible to protect the nation’s
And thus Israeli leaders should applaud Obama, say what a good
friend he is, and do everything possible to maximize cooperation on the critical
issues that both countries face. These include continued military and
intelligence cooperation as well as the maximum possible support on Iran and
other issues. In this context, Israel – like every other country friendly with
the United States able to do so – retains its independence of action while
People like me are free to express our views about
the damage he is doing. That damage is first and foremost to US national
interests; second to the lives of people in Arabic- speaking countries, Turks,
and Iranians; and only in third place to Israel.
The author is the
director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA)