Obama In The Lion's Den Norman Birnbaum
The prophet Daniel entered the lion's den confident in the power of his faith. Senator Obama, confronting the political failures and moral contradictions of our nation's policies in the Mideast, has renounced faith in his own judgement. Suspected of being insufficiently enthusiastic about Israel, depicted as too prone to negotiate with Iran, he has defended himself by repeating the simplifications and distortions of conventional readings of our role in the Mideast. Yet his appeal to millions of voters has been his insistence that unconventionality is needed.
Speaking to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he declared Jerusalem indivisible---a position which the Palestinians cannot accept and a considerable number of Israelis are ready to revise. . He exempted Israel from any responsibility for the deprivation, oppression and turmoil in the occupied territories—and its own unending beleagurement. He depicted an Iranian threat in the lurid terms used by Bush , and declared military action against Iran an option. . .
Now two of his closest foreign policy advisors, former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and former assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice have joined some McCain supporters in a statement giving Israel, in effect, veto rights over US policy toward Iran. The statement, issued by the Institute for Near East Policy, could have been written (and perhaps in part was) by the Israel Foreign Ministry. Israel, it declares, will not agree to the deterrence of a nuclear armed Iran by the threat of severe retaliation . Israel will demand preemptive action of the United States---whose next President should make a priority of educating the American public to the Iranian menace. The statement did not mention Israel's own nuclear weapons. It depicted Israel as threatened with extinction by an Iran which knows neither rules or restraints.
Its release was exquisitely timed, as Solana in Tehran was reporting the beginnings of progress in negotiations with Iran. The message to the EU (and to everyone else),is clear. With respect to Iran in particular and the Mideast in general, the US knows only one indispensable ally and that is Israel.
One sees the point. Israel's intransigence re the Palestinians is an indispensable element in the US exercise of power in the Mideast. Israel is our forward line of defense against Pan-Arab or Islamist movements.Our Arab client states, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, know this and profit from a tacit alliance with Israel. That requires the ultimate arbitrage of the US. The problem is that Iran, with Hezbollah in the Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and the Shiites in Iraq is as intransigent. The recent Israeli defeat in Lebanon and the subsequent recomposition of Lebanese politics demonstrates that the US and Israel short of total war cannot alter the Mideast's political map. The American catastrophe in Iraq shows that it is entirely unclear that the US and Israel could win such a war, or control its consequences. . The EU leaders know this. A considerable segment of the American political elite knows this too, but is under pressure from the Israel lobby not to say so.
The alliance with Israel is a very essential element in the global stategy of the US.
The Israel lobby (which includes the Protestant Biblical literalists, far more numerous than Amerian Jews) gives domestic support to the entire set of American imperial policies. Above all, it supports the arms budget and the propagation of an ideology of threat (the "war on terror" with a changing cast of "terrorists" which invariably includes the Palestinians) to justify it. Many voters supported Obama rather than Clinton because they thought he would terminate the Iraq war and refrain from new military adventures. Obama has taken their votes, but given them no new hopes of an altered foreign and military policy. "Yes we can" does not extend to a gradual reduction of US military power in a world increasingly sceptical of the American use of the rhetoric of democracy and morality to disguise far more profane projects. .
These problems will confront Obama at the Denver Democratic convention, in August. Many of his own delegates will demand anti-imperial policies in the party's electoral program. Insistence on withdrawal from Iraq will be joined to a demand for serious negotiations with Iran. Obama's managers will attempt to reasssure his disappointed early supporters. Once elected, they will say, the real Obama will begin a reconstruction of the entire American politial edifice. Once elected, however, Obama may ask for quiet until the election of 2012. The man who promises a new public ethos, a break with the past, cannot in a critical area of foreign policy achieve even a nuanced version of the old politics. Obama has withdrawn from his former church. Nothing, however, prevents him from pondering the lessons delivered to Kings and Princes by the Old Testament prophets