BEST CASE SCENARIO

Posted in Quick Hits on November 21st, 2012 by Ed

While I am far from an expert on the subject I would like to think I have an above-average understanding of the conflict in the Middle East, at least from the creation of the state of Israel onward. Being an American takes a lot of the value out of the term "above average", of course. Nonetheless I feel like, if pressed, I could give a half-decent explanation of the background of the current (and seemingly endless) conflict.

Today Israel is to the United States what North Korea is to China. We prop them up and rush ahead of them to put out the fires after they get a little too unhinged. The similarities don't end there. Both nations have heavily militarized populations and practice a vicious brand of foreign policy that sees violence as the first, most preferred option. There are obvious political and economic differences – namely that Israel is not a poor, backward cesspool insulated from the outside world – but they both play the agitator/wildcard role in American and Chinese foreign policy. They act erratically with the understanding that we have their backs.

What I don't understand at all is this: What exactly does the United States get out of its relationship with Israel? I mean, in an absolute, perfect, ideal scenario, what is our endgame? Certainly we are not so dumb as to think that the conflict will end or have a winner in the traditional sense. Other than some nebulous idea like peace or stability, what would our leaders describe as America's goal in offering clear and unwavering support to Israel while simultaneously advocating for an end to violence in the region?

Israeli foreign policy is emboldened by their understanding that no matter how many times they do the opposite of what will enhance peace in the region, we will still rush to their side and re-affirm our unwavering commitment to supporting them. I think this is the textbook definition of a moral hazard. So the second question is: Why must our support be so unconditional? What are we getting out of this relationship to make it worth the cost, both financial and in terms of foreign policy headaches?

Like many people I have quit trying to figure out how to solve the problem in the Middle East. I'll settle for figuring out what exactly my country is hoping to get from being the great patron to one of the belligerents.