FRIENDS LIKE THESE. Yglesias directs us to this diavlog between Reza Aslan and Eli Lake, in which they discuss Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's new book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, specifically Walt and Mearsheimer's claim that there is no strategic advantage for the U.S. in the special Israel-U.S. relationship. It's pretty entertaining watching Eli Lake fumble his way through to the conclusion that there really is no good argument for the $3 billion which Israel gets from U.S. taxpayers every year, apart from the fact that a lot of pro-Israel lobbyists want Israel to have it.
What I find really interesting, though, are the similarities between Lake's argument for Israel's current strategic value to the U.S. and those made during the Cold War. Lake claims that Israel is on "the cutting edge of asymmetric warfare," and thus provides valuable intelligence and experience in counter-terrorism with the U.S. During the Cold War, Israel's partisans similarly argued that Israel was on the front line against Soviet-backed Arab states, providing valuable information on Soviet hardware and doctrine. In other words, even according to its advocates, Israel's strategic value is and has been purely a consequence of Israel's insecurity, of its being in conflict with its neighbors and with its occupied Palestinian subjects. Given that even this argument would collapse were Israel to come to a secure accommodation with its neighbors, it's not hard to see how this situation could give rise to some rather perverse incentives.
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