U.S. policy toward Israel and the Muslim world appears dangerously confused – “dangerously so” because the absence of a clear message makes Washington look pathetic and disoriented, even as it sends unpredictable messages in all directions and invites adversaries to pick on a weak-looking superpower.
Washington has reportedly decided in recent days to give F-16s to Egypt and replenish the bombs Israel just used to kill over 180 Palestinians in Gaza. Arming Egypt with offensive arms and delivering them the very day Israel plans to hold elections, as War Sclerotic noted, seems pretty clearly designed to warn Netanyahu against further warmongering; replenishing the arms he just used to slaughter more Gazans clearly sends exactly the opposite message – that he has a blank check for not just warmongering but actually going to war, at his personal convenience, regardless of how harmful it may be either to U.S. national security or the long-term prospects of the Israeli people.
Muslim Brotherhood or not, at the moment Cairo represents a force for stability in the Mideast, in contrast to Tel Aviv’s militant bullying of every state that takes an independent stance and Tehran’s combination of cautious but inflammatory arming of its allies and advocacy of a restructured international system. So Obama signals on Israel’s election day that he finds Cairo’s foreign policy more consistent with the national interests of the U.S. than Israel’s. This seems to be a far more subtle message than we are accustomed to getting from Obama, not to mention anyone else in Washington. Unfortunately, its message is erased by the encouragement Washington simultaneously gave to Israeli insistence, once again, on solving all problems with brutal force.
Furthering this self-contradictory mish-mash, the State Department responded to Israel’s most recent expansion of illegal housing in the conquered West Bank colony by stating it is “deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action” [Democracy Now 12/19/12]. Replenishing bombs dropped on cities to demonstrate our “deep disappointment” in another country’s “provocative action.” That’ll teach those Likudnik provocateurs a thing or two!
Whatever lessons the provocateurs learn, there is a side effect of Washington’s confused policy toward Israel: contradictory policies implemented at breakneck speed looks like utter confusion, and confusion equals weakness. The inability of the Obama Administration to give even the superficial appearance of a consistent policy toward Israeli “provocations” [the Administration’s word, note you!] constitutes an open invitation to all adversaries, who cannot but see Washington as very easily confused.
Replenishing Israel’s bombs as fast as they are dropped on helpless Palestinians sends confirmation that he can still bully Obama and get away with it, indeed get rewarded for it. Expect a surge of Israeli militarism over the next four years. If you enjoyed the Iraq war and the Afghan war, you will no doubt find Obama’s second administration quite pleasant.
If a long-term logic consistent with U.S. national security exists to explain what appear to be two Mideast policy mutually contradictory examples of shooting from the hip, I’d like to hear it. At the moment, it looks more like the collapse of a reasoned foreign policy toward the Mideast. With reelection in his pocket, Obama has no excuse for looking so panicked.
Further evidence of the Obama Administration’s confused Mideast policy requires going back no further than…Libya:
On the other hand…
Another view is possible. The above article reviews some of the “confusion” evident in the public record. But analysis of the private record, based on various “revelations” and some hard logic, suggests a possible alternative interpretation of U.S. foreign policy that is much more sophisticated. Perhaps the best elucidation of this alternative view so far is given by Ira Chenus.