An expert on the “Israel lobby” sheds light on China, but what was he wrong?

In 2007, two American academics wrote a book on “The Israel Lobby and United States Foreign Policy,” denouncing Israeli-American relations. One of the authors, John Mearsheimer, then gave a strange talk focusing on Israel and American Jews.

He spoke of “the future of Palestine, and by that I mean the future of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, or what was called Mandatory Palestine a long time ago.” He went on to note that “American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories. The first two are what I call the “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners,” which are clearly definable groups who think about Israel and where it’s fundamentally headed. ”

This bizarre lecture was yet another stop on an obsessive critique of Israel and its policies. He said at his 2010 conference on the “new Afrikaners” that “nevertheless, the Palestinians will not have their own state anytime soon. Instead, they will end up living in an apartheid state dominated by Israeli Jews. At the time, Mearsheimer was identified as the “R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago.

He is now the author of a new article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Inevitable Rivalry: America, China, and the Tragedy of Great-Power Politics”. He begins by pointing out that “Three decades ago the Cold War ended and the United States won. It was now the only great power on the planet. Scanning the horizon for threats, American policymakers seemed to have little reason to worry, especially not about China, a weak and impoverished country that had aligned itself with the United States against the Soviet Union. for over a decade. But there were worrying signs.

Mearsheimer has for years warned against the rise of China. In 2015, a review of his work indicated that “Mearsheimer believes containment is the only way the United States can prevent China from achieving regional hegemony.” He continued to warn against China while slamming Israel.

Ethnic Uyghur protesters take part in an anti-China protest in Istanbul, Turkey, October 1, 2020 (Credit: REUTERS / MURAD SEZER)

In the new article, Mearsheimer asserts that “the commitment [with China] was perhaps the worst strategic mistake a country has made in recent history: there is no comparable example of a great power actively promoting the rise of a comparable competitor. And now it is too late to do much about it.

The expert’s concern is that US policymakers have failed to contain China’s rapid rise. Now China could be even more powerful than the Soviet Union once was, according to the article, according to Foreign Affairs. In his article, he focuses on how they embraced a liberal international world order but ignored the rise of China.

He also ignored how the adoption of China did not make China a liberal democracy, but in reality China “became even more repressive and ambitious as it rose.” Indeed, the world now sees this aspect of China today. Today, a dangerous security competition is developing between the United States and China, he says. “Washington has allowed technology to flow with few limits, allowing China to challenge US dominance in the critical area of ​​innovation.” Now it may be “too late to do much about this”.

Max Abrahms, professor of international security, noted that “some academics were too busy writing books about the dangers of US-Israel relations.” This shows that Mearsheimer was busy talking about the Israel lobby and also criticizing the “new Afrikaners” as China rose.

While some might say there is no contradiction in criticizing Israel’s policies while claiming that the United States has not taken China’s rise seriously enough, others might wonder. why some have advocated redressing Israeli-American relations at a time when the United States needs allies and partners in any global struggle with China.

The Israel Lobby Book asserted that “no lobby has succeeded in diverting US foreign policy so far from what the US national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and Israel are essentially the same ”and as the lobby resulted in“ the enemies are weakened or overthrown, Israel has a free hand with the Palestinians and the United States is mostly fighting, dying, rebuilding and paying.

In the original article in which they criticized Israel, the Israel Lobby writers claimed in 2006 that “this not only means that Washington should give Israel a free hand in its dealings with the Palestinians and not force it to make concessions until the end of the day. ‘That all Palestinian terrorists are jailed or dead, but that the United States should go after countries like Iran and Syria. Israel is thus seen as a crucial ally in the war on terror because its enemies are America’s enemies. In fact, Israel is a handicap in the war on terror and in the broader effort to deal with rogue states. ”

In 2006, the authors argued that Syria had lost its “Soviet boss”. In fact, today Russia strongly supports Syria, and Syria is poised to win a ten-year civil war with Russian backing.

The authors appear to criticize Israel for being a strong military power and note that while advocates think the United States should support another democracy like Israel, “the United States has overthrown democratic governments in the past and supported dictators while it was supposed to advance their interests – today he has good relations with a number of dictatorships.

The 2006 article that served as the basis for the book argued that “American Jewish leaders often consult with Israeli officials, to ensure that their actions advance Israeli objectives.” They argued that “the Israeli government and pro-Israel groups in the United States have worked together to shape the administration’s policy towards Iraq, Syria and Iran, as well as its grand plan to reorganize the United States. Middle East “. The article portrays an image of American “neoconservatives” with ties to Israel leading the war campaign against Iraq in 2003.

The authors noted that “one could argue that Israel and the Lobby have not had much influence on Iran policy, because the United States has its own reasons for preventing Iran from going nuclear.” . There is some truth to this, but Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose a direct threat to the United States. If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China, or even a nuclear North Korea, it could live with a nuclear Iran.

If only Syria could be an ally of the United States, the 2006 article seemed to argue. Equally disturbing, the Lobby’s campaign for regime change in Iran and Syria could lead the United States to attack these countries. , with potentially disastrous effects. We don’t need another Iraq. At a minimum, the Lobby’s hostility to Syria and Iran makes it nearly impossible for Washington to enlist them in the fight against al-Qaida and the Iraqi insurgency, where their help is indispensable.

Now, many of those fantasies about the United States working with the Syrian regime have passed. The United States worked on the same side as Iran against ISIS in Iraq, but that did not make Iran an ally of the United States. Now Mearsheimer seems more concerned about China. It is unclear how his arguments against the US-Israel relationship would have helped in the long run regarding his concerns about China. The weakening of Israel and the United States working with Iran and Syria probably would not have reduced China’s rise to power. Today Israel has more friends in the Middle East, especially among America’s major partners in the Gulf, Greece and India. It’s unclear how pushing Israel out of the US system of allies and partners would have helped the US in the long run when it comes to China. It appears in retrospect that Israel’s obsession with the “lobby” was not in American “interests”, and there is no evidence that weakening Israel and working with countries like Syria would have helped interests. Americans in the Middle East.

The larger question concerns a division in US foreign policy that dates back to the 1950s. While some have argued that Israel is a “responsibility” or that US support for Israel has upset would-be American friends in the region, others saw Israel as the cornerstone of America’s security network in the region and around the world. In general, the argument that the United States should have dumped Israel to work with hostile extremist regimes does not appear to have worked. Why would the United States have preferred Saddam Hussein’s regime, propagating war and gassing minorities, to Israel? Would the Nasser regime have been better, or the Muslim Brotherhood and the extremists who found themselves with Al Qaeda. Extremist regimes have tended to become weak and chaotic states, like Pakistan after Zia ul-Haq, or Turkey under Erdogan. Moderate and stable states were more useful for projecting security. Why would the United States have been better served by working with Iran, rather than working closely with Israel.

Israel has become a technological innovator, and Israeli technology is helping American forces. Consider the role of the Trophy system for American tanks or Iron Dome, or other systems made by Israel that are now part of the helmets of F-35 pilots, or the wings of F-35s. All of this shows that US-Israel cooperation on various fronts, now including tackling drone threats, is important.

There is no evidence that if the United States had pivoted to Iran and Syria, that it would have received Iranian defense technology that would aid American tanks or that Syria would have built an iron dome system. . The point is, Syria and Iran are close to Russia and China and were never going to be allies of the United States. Rather than saving money there, the United States worked closely with Israel and prospered.

In the long run, the United States is reducing its footprint in the region and has left Afghanistan. This makes Israel’s partnership more crucial. Would some experts have preferred the American withdrawal while having the Assad regime as an ally and partner in the region? If the United States is to face China in the coming decades, the ability to rely on a strong Israel has been confirmed.

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