Wednesday, October 14, 2009

America and the Middle East: Part 3 - Birth of a Nation

So here were were in 1948.

Locked in one of those wrestling matches with the Soviets where you can't let go because you're afraid the other guy is gonna pound your head into Wheatina as you break.

Needing ever more petroleum, which we're finding is gushing like a TV tabloid/Jessica Simpson nonsense riff from the Arab countries of the Middle East.

And rushing into former European (read: British and French) colonies in order to keep those damn Commies out, trying to scrounge up locals and form "organizations" to help us like NATO and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

At this point we need the support (or at least the complacence) of the new post-colonial Arab countries as much as we ever have. So what do we do?

We help plunk down nearly a million European Jews on the coast of the Levant in the middle of an Arab land (part of the former Ottoman Empire).

In the exact location of the former crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.

What the hell would make us do something like that..?

One huge reason was Harry Truman. I'm not sure if Truman felt exceptionally guilty about his former boss FDR's unwillingness to do anything to save Europe's Jews during WW2, whether he just thought that Jewish Israelis would be better allies than Muslim Arabs, or he just thought that Omar Sharif was a smarmy little schwarma-licker and had it in for camel-beaters. In the words of the Truman Library:

"When President Harry S. Truman took office, he made clear that his sympathies were with the Jews and accepted the Balfour Declaration, explaining that it was in keeping with former President Woodrow Wilson's principle of "self determination." Truman initiated several studies of the Palestine situation that supported his belief that, as a result of the Holocaust, Jews were oppressed and also in need of a homeland."

Why Truman felt that this homeland needed to be on the east side of the Mediterranean as opposed to, say, Bayonne, New Jersey is not recorded. Maybe he thought that he might lose Raritan County to the Republicans or something.

It's worth noting that both the U.S. War Department and State Department were somewhere between violently opposed and "Have you been smoking CRACK!??" about this. They felt - who'da thunk! - that backing a Jewish state in the Middle East would set this country against the Arab states until further notice. The U.S. Middle East "hands" also worried that our backing of Israel would drive the Arab states to look to our enemies - the Soviets - as their friends. They worried about the strategic and economic consequences of reestablishing a Western-supported European ministate in the Levant. They worried that they might not be able to get invitations to Damascus and score those cool Lawrence-of-Arabia headscarf things anymore.

May 14, 1948, the new state of Israel was founded. Truman issued an immediate statement recognizing the new government. The Arab states mobilized, and the First Arab-Israeli War was on...

It's interesting to note that not everything was sweetness and light between the U.S. and Israel early on. Eisenhower kicked the Israelis out of Egypt in 1956 for their part in "Operation Musketeer", the Anglo-French attempt to undo Nasser's takeover of the Suez Canal. But then the Arabs attacked in '67, and since then we've been pals forever...

Now I'll be the first to admit that the Israelis seem to be good people and that Israel, as a functioning democracy is a pleasant anomaly in the Middle East. But our position as Israel's Pimp Daddy has put us a difficult position in the Middle East.

In fact, I'm going to claim that it has put s in a paradox we cannot solve.

But that's for tomorrow.


  1. Actually, Israel attacked in 1967.

    One can debate whether Nasser would have attacked, but Israel clearly pre-empted that possibility.

  2. I need to stand up (very slightly) in defense of Mr. Truman.

    Yes, he decided to support the Balfour Declaration (a left-over appendage of the Versailles treaty) but that was the end of US decision-making.

    Balfour and his buddies agreed that it made sense to allow the Jews to end their diaspora as the Roman Empire and the statute of limitations had run out about 1500 years earlier.

    The Jews started moving into the Palestine region almost immediately but in small numbers. The Arabs don't seem to have had much opinion (or many options) but seemed to have been calm about the situation because:
    a) the Jews brought much-needed cash and development technology
    b) the Arabs vastly outnumbered the Jews

    The events of WWII, however dashed hopes for peace in the region because the militant Jews had done a whole bunch of things right including:
    a) providing troops to the Brits in North Africa (scored big brownie points, training, and were able to keep some of the gear)
    b) assisting the British in keeping the Arabs under control in Palestine when the Germans started inflaming Arab nationalist sentiments (but seriously provoking the neighboring Arabs at the same time)
    c) shouting out to all of the holocaust survivors to come over and jump in the Palestinian pool cause the temp was just fine
    d) getting all of the major Colonial powers (plus the US and the SU) on board with the existance of a Jewish state (although they had to fight a sharp short guerilla war against the British to show them who was boss)
    e) arming themselves for the coming (and now inevitable) conflict against the arabs

  3. Pluto: I loves me some Israelis - in the nutzo world of the Middle East, they have traditionally been the hardheaded - and hearted - realists. The founders - Ben Gurion, Meir and the reast - realized that after Hitler if anyone did anything for Jews it would have to be Jews. So they got strapped and kicked Arab ass. Like I said; the "right" of Israel to exist is the same "right" that the Normans and the Mongols and the Zulu had - the right to take what they needed and keep it if they were strong enough.

    But we don't HAVE to hold their coat every time. They're really a greater geopolitical cost than they are a benefit to us, and we would be smart - not good, not kind, but smart - to move closer to neutrality in the ME. We don't really have a dog in the Israel-Pal fight, and our only real interest there is economic, and the Arab states control the economic good we are interested in.

  4. Actually, the conquest game has changed.

    There used to be a "right" of conquest. With nuclear weapons, the world decided that the power of might was too dangerous a game to tolerate.

    Israel was founded just after the new world order kicked in. In this framework, Israel's right to exist is defined by it's presence as a full member of the united nations.

    Note that Israel was welcomed to the new world order by a vote in the general assembly. This welcome was predicated on Israel's promise to allow refugees to return to their homes.

  5. Chief:

    What's that rug rat doing with the fuze of the Pig Projo????

    Caption.....The IDF, having been plagued by desertions of late, is forced to resort to draconian means, vis-a-vis recruiting.

    Here we see young private Binyamin Cohen, leading student in his 3rd grade class, setting the fuze on an artillery shell; this in preparation for the ongoing "Operation Shitstorm over Gaza, part 28."

    Hey, this looks like an old fashioned HE; since you have a Gun Bunnyesque past....Do the old Fuzes have a piece (Like in the 81mm mortar) in the side that go "Sproing," after the shell is heading for max ord, has turned so many revolutions, and its attendant self jetisoning action is what arms the fuze, and thus the shell?

    Cuz if so, someone needs to bite that kid's sandwich clamps, and Quick.

  6. I believe the child is writing a message on the shell. A tedious propaganda stunt borrowed from the dismal past

    The fuse has some internal weights which spin around and open a channel after 200m or so, arming the weapon.

  7. Ael: the photo was from the 2006 mini-war with Hezbollah in S. Lebanon. The kids were writing something like "Hi, Nasrullah, give my greetings to Hell". And, yeah, it was kinda a sad version of "Hello, Tojo".

  8. Oh, sorry - I meant the above comment for Fasteddiez. And what Ael said; the fuze is inert until spin-armed, assuming that these are 155 common.