Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.—Pericles (Athens, c. 430 BCE)
America hasn’t been invaded since 1812, and after the Civil War (which only peripherally involved other nations), all of its wars were fought on battlefields comfortably far away. The Imperial Japanese came the closest to striking America at home, but were not able to follow up their successful attack on Pearl Harbor with an invasion. Americans have been almost uniquely isolated from the rest of the world, and especially the tribal complexities of the Middle East until very recently, and in general they still tend to be remarkably ignorant about them. Even presidential candidates.
Andrew McCarthy noted recently that Donald Trump, for all his attitude, has trouble distinguishing his ass from a hole in the ground in this connection. Some of the other candidates, like Bernie Sanders are not much better. And Hillary Clinton, while she certainly is better acquainted with the players, may or may not be on the right team.
Here in Israel, security is the number one issue in politics, for obvious reasons. The US hasn’t reached that point yet, although its enemies are pushing it harder and harder. But the American in the street and some in Congress are often less well-informed than even The Donald.
Not that the Middle East is simple. Several years ago I asked the late Barry Rubin why Shiite Iran was helping the Sunni Hamas in Gaza, while it opposed the ideologically similar Muslim Brotherhood. This was despite the fact that Iran’s deadly enemy Saddam Hussein was close to both Hamas and the PLO. Arafat famously took Saddam’s side in the first Gulf war and got Palestinian guest workers kicked out of Kuwait, and the families of Hamas suicide bombers received stipends from Saddam. Rubin just laughed and said that when I understood that I would understand the Middle East.
The broad Sunni-Shiite struggle is reflected in American politics, too. Historically, the US has been on the Saudi (Sunni) side, a result of the Saudis’ massive purchases of influence with American politicians and academic institutions. Sometimes working through oil companies and sometimes by promising huge sums of money (payable after a politician leaves office) as in the case of Jimmy Carter and the Clintons, the Saudis seemingly locked up the US. Even the supposedly tough Israel lobby couldn’t beat the Saudis when they went head to head (as happened when the US sold AWACS aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s).
When Barack Obama was elected, everyone expected that he would maintain the cooperation with the House of Saud like Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes. But in a move that shocked many, Obama turned against the Saudis and toward Iran, making a deal that greatly strengthened the Islamic Republic in its bid to replace the US-Saudi axis as the dominant power in the region.
One explanation for this shift in policy is that Obama seems to have bought into the 2006 Iraq Study Group report, lock, stock and barrel. The report argued that in order to stabilize the Middle East, the US had to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating a Palestinian state in the territories, and engage with Syria and Iran. The report was wrong-headed, both in its misunderstanding of the objectives of Iran and its acceptance of the idiotic ‘Linkage Theory’, in which the root cause of Mideast problems is Israel’s occupation of territories captured in 1967. In any event, it became the keystone of his foreign policy.
To be fair to the authors of the report (one of which was Obama advisor Ben Rhodes), they may not have intended to translate ‘engagement’ as ‘surrender’. But that is how Obama sees it, with his ideology of apology, his belief that most of the world’s ills are due to the use of Western, particularly American, power. He wishes to engage in order to withdraw.
America’s abandonment of the Middle East is a major change in a policy that has been more or less constant since the end of the Second World War. It will probably be the one thing that students of history 50 years hence will know about the presidency of Barack Obama, in addition to the fact that he was the first ‘black’ president. But we will see the fruits of the deal much sooner, probably within the next five years, in the form of a regional war in the Middle East, a massive increase in worldwide terrorism, and perhaps even ‘man-made disasters’ in the US.
Although Hillary Clinton endorsed the Iranian nuclear deal and claims to favor ‘engagement’ with Iran, she did not actively campaign for it. She did not take part in the negotiations with Iran; she was replaced by John Kerry in February 2013, and the initially secret channel with Iran was opened in March of that year. Maybe she stepped down in advance because she did not want to participate in this process.
Why wouldn’t she? Well, the Clinton Foundation had recently received $25 million from Saudi Arabia, and multiple millions in grants and speaking fees from other Gulf states worried about Iran. Bill and Hillary Clinton have reported to have been paid over $125 million (and there may be more payments that were unreported) by companies and foreign governments since 2001, many in the Middle East. She is certainly in the Saudi corner.
She also might be smart enough to realize that nothing good can come from the deal, and doesn’t want to be associated with it when the fallout hits the fan.
She has been very guarded about what her actual policies would be if elected, and she is not – how can I put this delicately – someone known for excessive truthfulness anyway. From an Israeli point of view, some of her connections, like Sid Blumenthal, Thomas Pickering and of course Huma Abedin are troubling. And there is a long list of more-than-questionable things said and done by Ms Clinton in connection with Israel over the years.
The coming presidential election will be immensely important, because it may not be too late to reverse the course set by Obama. As an Israeli, I care that the American president be one that will reassert power in the Mideast – and one that will support Israel. And as an American, I want one that understands the danger that the civilized world faces from expansionist Islam of both the Sunni and Shiite variety, and who will keep America safe from the very real threats that Obama pretends not to see.
That certainly isn’t Trump, Clinton or Sanders. It might be Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. Choose wisely.
There are I believe a few principles that might help in understanding the Middle East. The first is that no one is to be trusted. The second is that hatred resentment insult greed humiliation and honor are governing psychological elements. The third is that there is Israel and everybody else if the word Democracy is to be used in any meaningful way. A fourth is that it is important to have friends, even if they are temporary, hypocritical and not likely to remain friends forever. The fifth is that tribalism of various kinds is a fundamental organizing principle, and basis for loyalty.
With all this in mind it is impossible to exaggerate the degree of threat to Israel, and Israel’s precariousness of situation.
Considering this it now seems to me that there is no guaranteed good candidate for Israel. Sanders is a disaster moving Clinton further to the left. She is a supporter of the Iran deal moving closer to Obama’s positions. As Secretary-of-State she pressured Israel unduly. She does not promise to be the uncompromising supporter Israel needs. Trump is largely ignorant of the world and his pro-Israel positions are not based on solid knowledge of the area. Rubio seems to me the best at this point but he is untested and what he will do is unclear. The U.S. has enormous problems of its own and the Middle East is far from being the first among them.
I would hope that the next President would be good and strong for the U.S. and in so being also strengthen Israel.
The meaning of the upcoming US election from an American sympathetic to Israel…
The United States has been under relentless and sophisticated attack for over 20 years, and, in the same vein but with much less sophistication, has been under attack since the 60’s. This does not contradict your point about not being physically invaded since 1812, nor overrate the Pearl Harbor and World Trade Center attacks for importance. The difference is that the attacks referred to here are financial and ideological–largely because military attacks would be foredoomed–, and though they are perpetrated by America’s enemies, they largely occur with the complicity of elected and appointed officials here and a heavy blanket of misdirection, disinterest from the media and the public; the relative importance of these is often minimized and disputed, or inverted entirely and attributed to ourselves. Which is not to excuse our passivity either. We have been active participants in our undoing.
The plan for Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Gulf oil states, Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and the George Soroses of the world is to attack us at every point, refine the weapons and use them again and again, weakening us more on each attempt. Included in their arsenal are any weapons that attack the economy. As they conceive it, when our financial ruin occurs, power shifts to them. If it doesn’t happen quickly, the attacks are multiplied, acquiring more sophistication, and are re-perpetrated endlessly.
These financial attacks are outlined in a superb book by Kevin Freeman, called ‘The Secret Weapon’. Mr. Freeman shows very convincingly that the events that caused the housing bubble to burst in 2008, the disintegration of large banks, brokerages and insurance companies requiring their bailout by the American taxpayer (who was also called to stand in for European firms that faltered during that same time and whose wealth had just taken such a huge hit), and the same events that catapulted Barack Obama into the Oval Office were largely engineered and opportunistically worsened by our enemies, with accomplices in our officials who ignored warnings before, during and after. This is a well-researched and documented precis of the events leading up to 2008-2009. The usual suspects–the Saudis, Middle East emirates, Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Venezuelans opportunistic and often conspiratorial in their speculations and abetted by many others, including Europeans–all participated in worsening the effects on the US economy even as their motivations were different. By far the most determined and capable of the enemies have been the Saudis and all the Gulf Oil States that create and employ their Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) to control the movements of vast sums of money that cannot be traced back to individuals, and are indeed concealed through naked short selling and out-of-control speculation accompanied by massive credit default swaps, that facilitates the spread of shariah-compliant finance (SCF) using our markets to game them and weaken us. The SWFs’ same tactics worsening our housing bubble’s bursting were not executed by these enemies for the first time then, and they are not stymied or deterred for future attacks. Read this book and you will see that these groups have been at this for a long time. They send their sons and daughters here to learn how to move the levers of finance, then on return harness their capabilities to benighted ideologies and turn it upon us. As the US economy has been attacked and the officials charged with preventing this behavior have failed to stem it and in many instances have ended up facilitating it, our ability to look beyond the costs to the preservation of culture and ideology has been lessened. We end up having to bargain with an enemy to keep the clothes on our backs.
The same wealth that empowers SWFs, as you mentioned, has endowed universities and bought politicians–the Clintons chief among them–, peopled small towns in America with Muslim families through refugee resettlement, quieted the independence of the Press, and corrupted the culture. The US children get the Radio Free Saudi Arabia or Radio Free Islam version of world history from cradle to grave and through media and schooling, and this hurts Israel every day; the will to speak against the lies is just plain shut down. It becomes dangerous to say simple truths…, sort of like free speech’s version of wearing a kippah in France.
On a recent Sunday, I googled a video of Michael Ledeen speaking at a venue that you also have graced… Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. It was several years old (May 2013), but Mr. Ledeen, a marvelous impromptu speaker, very engaging, can speak knowledgeably about Iran at length, and he was holding forth in a way that felt timely here in 2016. He said early on in the clip that, ‘the war is on’, meaning that if you were a serviceman, or a parent or relative of one (Mr. Ledeen is the father of two Marines), you had no illusions that active hostilities were taking place around the globe and that American men and women were being put in danger to deal with enemy combatants and were dying regularly. He put the blame on Radical Islamists allied with Radical Leftists.
With unceasing economic and external attacks of this sort imagine the effects on Israel and on our election: A felon, Ms. Clinton, is running for election, not pleading for mercy in a courtroom. A knavish fellow speaking what the people are saying about not wanting their culture hijacked and not allowing people into America who do not prize being Americans and certainly keeping out those who use Islam as cudgel for bringing us down, is given the full court press from Left and Right to just shut up, but gains in popularity. The previews for this opera are going on in Europe right now. Overrun by persons who will not be assimilated, the entire governments of countries do exactly the opposite of what the people desire, and there is an unspoken fear that a Hitler-like individual is brewing to fill the void, rather than that the governments are not accountable. Netherlands is up in arms about the ‘asylum seekers’, but Rutte is still the Prime Minister. Geert Wilders’ stock goes up and up, but the refugees are a fait accompli and there is no will to have the government fall and expel the interlopers. While everyone was living and raising their kids and paying their bills, entire governments were taken over by the worst sort of education and a sympathy for the wreckers of Western civilization. To such an extent are the rulers in charge of destroying their countries, that one may not speak about the obvious without fines, imprisonment, loss of income and general shaming. Sweden is the rape capitol of the world, and Swedish men may not say anything about it. Their leaders have decided to subsidize their own destruction. In this atmosphere, while their countries are being subsumed into Eurabia, like the trains continuing to run to Auschwitz, the EU will come after Israel, with instigation by Obama, even when there is no more EU. They will do this with fervor until the very last European city has submitted to Islam, and with even greater ferocity afterwards. Canada has decided to go this way in the figure of Trudeau the Younger. America could always be relied upon to resist the destroyers of its culture, but it is being undone by determined Lilliputians. Berating Israel for not having better hasbara, while commendable, understates the severity of the effort to undermine truth and culture around the globe. Israel is the enemy of our enemies, and until Obama we enjoyed her alliance with us.
So… to respond about the nature of our election and how it goes, refer to a thoughtful essay by Mario Loyola in National Review recently, that declared the current climate of the typical American voter (the ‘low-information’ voters that supposedly elected Obama are not a majority yet) as absolute disgust with all politicians. We actually have about 2 dozen superb House members, and maybe 3 superb Senators, at the present time, but the ire for the process and the politicos general disregard for the people’s will is all-pervasive, and Mr. Trump is the beneficiary. Once the typical American reaches the point where every institution is doubted for its honesty and a civic and fair professionalism, we will be descending into tribalism, one group pitted against another… the very opposite of the American frame of mind, shared history and desired public behavior. This separation has received jet-charged impetus amongst American blacks from President Obama, but it has been occurring amongst Latinos for quite a while and we are turning into a fickle horde that will follow the strongest, rather than the best.
Where is the quality in the field of candidates that can take the battle to Islam and the Left, that will protect the economy and keep out the dangerous and un-American and insist on transmitting American values to our children and stand up for our allies and our economy, and that will deal harshly with our detractors? As Mr. Freedman says, picking a strong President will benefit Israel, but we are far from having a menu with that sort of person on it.
I have never in my adult life voted for a President I wanted, only for the lesser of two evils. It does not figure to change now. How Israel makes its way, if we get lucky with another Abraham Lincoln, or must endure another Obama, it must tread carefully because we Americans are unlikely to be able even to help ourselves for a while. And the battles, economic and physical, will start breaking into the open and the consciousness of all Americans soon. After Obama, either the gears of a once great democracy will engage again or we will all have to hunker down.
Maybe it’s supposed to be a struggle, for us and for you.
Keefe, bravo. Excellent analysis. Wish I could offer a word of cheer, but I cannot.
My own perspective as a 54-year-old American Jew who is a highly vocal advocate for Israel, living in the American heartland of Ohio, is this:
As I have written about at length elsewhere, I consider the root cause of America’s political cultural disabilities as being the Vietnam era. I take the highly politically incorrect position that on balance, the war was in fact justified, and that we should have fought to win it, and what is more, we could have won it. It was not an “unwinnable war”, as is popularly believed. The fact that, in spite of this, we walked away, we in effect, “let the bad guys win”, has warped our political culture in a way that has led to increasing decline, to the point where an Obama has become possible. I cannot overstate the historical significance of what Obama represents: For perhaps the only time in history, a major power – perhaps any sovereign state – has allowed a leader to ascend to the highest office in the land, who hates the country he is leading. The way I describe this to Israelis unfamiliar with the U.S. is this: Imagine if Ilan Pappe became PM of Israel. That is what Obama is to us.
I would even go so far as to say that for the time being, as a functional political cultural entity, for all practical purposes, at the national and international level, America is in a coma, a state of suspended animation, or perhaps even dead. Yes, dead. There are still Americans, but no more America. Right now, those of us to whom what America has traditionally stood for has meant something, are now living inside of a political cultural corpse. Many of us warned our fellow citizens that if Obama were to be re-elected in ’12, America would be finished. It is possible that what we are witnessing today is what “finished” looks like. Arguably, we were “finished” in ’08, when Obama was first elected; that no legal or ethical obstacle would be allowed to stand in the way of his re-election seemed very apparent at the time. Living in the swing state of Ohio, it was clear to me that the ’12 election was massively rigged. It would not have mattered whom the GOP had run; the outcome was already determined, as surely as it is in “elections” held in places such as Venezuela or Cuba.
In 1974, a U.S. president resigned for the first and only time in history, under threat of virtually certain impeachment and removal from office due to a third-rate burglary of the national headquarters of the opposing political party. No one was killed, Nixon did not enrich himself in any significant way, but what he presided over was wrong and he deserved punishment for it. And the system worked. And he resigned in disgrace.
In 1998, a U.S president was impeached for only the second time in history, for lying about an affair with an intern. Even I thought this was over the top, that an official reprimand from Congress for ‘behavior unbecoming a president’ would have sufficed. But this received full press coverage, and created quite a stir at the time.
Today, we have a sitting president who colluded with a terrorist-led regime – Morsi-led Egypt – in order to have the latter arrange for the violation of sovereign U.S. territory (our embassy) and the kidnapping of our staff in order to have the same ransomed with the release of a vile murderous Egyptian terrorist still held in a U.S. prison, in order for the U.S. to cement in the relationship with this putrid regime in Egypt. The script went out the window when two former U.S. Navy SEALs showed up to defend the embassy, killing over 60 terrorists, who, when they finally overran the embassy, were in no mood to take hostages; they wanted and got blood revenge. If this sounds outlandish, consider John Clapper’s (now the CIA director) testimony before Congress when asked if what had happened was a “kidnapping gone bad”…and HE REFUSED TO ANSWER. I have seen this footage with my own eyes. Consider the stand down order given U.S. forces during the siege of the embassy…WHY was this order given? I know for a fact that it was because I personally know U.S. military personnel who had been mobilized for a rescue mission, and who were ordered to turn back. The version of events I describe here is the ONLY rational way to explain this incredible stand down order. Look at how this has been ignored/covered up by the U.S. media, how prominent journalists have been FIRED for trying to investigate this…the idea that the mass print and broadcast media of the U.S. represents a “free press” today is simply laughable.
Then there is the IRS scandal, the most flagrant and oppressive use of the IRS to intimidate and suppress any significant domestic political opposition to the president’s agenda, by far. This played a huge role in undermining effective political organization with respect to the ’12 election, and thus greatly aided Obama’s re-election. This by itself was far, far worse than Watergate, in the service of the same sort of goal. Except that it included the use of the highest levels of the IRS, and that in the case of Watergate, Nixon probably would have won anyway (the real tragedy of that stupid crime), whereas Obama probably would not have won (vote rigging aside).
Then there is the sham Iran deal, which Obama SPIED ON CONGRESS in order to prevent them from stopping him; this was reported in the Wall Street Journal!!! We’re not talking a third rate bugging/burglary, we’re talking about using the most sophisticated intelligence gathering apparatus in the world, the NSA, to spy on our own Congress, in order to prevent them from interfering with a so-called “deal” that not only sold out our most important front-line ally, but also the U.S. itself, on behalf of a medieval terrorist-supporting theocracy that is sworn to the destruction of both the U.S. and Israel. Is anything being done about this???!!!! NO. NOTHING.
Despite all of these outrages – and others I don’t even list here – Obama is not going to be impeached. Forget about it.
And even though there is much talk about it, I predict that Hillary is not going to be indicted over her flagrant violation of the most elemental national security procedures. There is also talk of mass resignations at the FBI in protest if no indictment is handed down, and that may happen, but Obama and Hillary simply won’t care. To them, a bunch of FBI agents quitting – i.e., a major pillar of our law enforcement and domestic security – means nothing. They’ll just say, “good riddance”, and replace them with a bunch of their own cronies.
I predict that Hillary will win the [rigged] ’16 election, too. Yes, this criminal, this traitor, this lying con artist, she’ll win. She’s got the dirt on Obama re Benghazi and that is why she won’t be indicted (and that is also why Biden didn’t run). She’s likely promised him that she’ll continue to pursue his twisted agenda – to include relentless pressure on Israel, what is most important to him.
Consider all of the above that I describe. Is THIS America???!!! NO, this is a cesspool that I describe, a third rate banana republic that might as well be called “Obamistan”. That is what is in place of America right now. Our national government, our press, our universities, all part of this ugly, horrible, perverse organism. People like me, we just live here, and endure, and try to hope for a better day, as hard as that may be with each passing month, with each new outrage.
The major wild card in all of this is Trump. I don’t like him much, either. I always considered him a self-important blowhard. He knows almost nothing about history, international relations, or military affairs, vital subjects for any head of state, and certainly for the most powerful state in the world. But he was not part of the “script”. He was totally unexpected, and appears to have the potential to throw the “plan” off the rails. He may or may not be able to pull this off.
There are many others in the field I would rather have than Trump. Cruz, in my view, is the most qualified, but I don’t know that he is electable in today’s America, assuming that we’d even have a clean election, a generous assumption to make these days. I think Carson, Fiorina, and Rubio are highly electable, and would clobber any plausible Democrat in a fair election, and are all more qualified than Trump to the the U.S. president (yes, even Carson, who is in fact highly knowledgable about the Islamist threat). But Trump has tapped into the growing anger and frustration of Americans who sense just how “fixed” this national political theater is, and who want a “wrecking ball”.
Trump may be an uncouth and ignorant jerk in a lot of ways, but he may wind up being the only chance we have, such as he is, to upend this horrible political cultural dynamic so well described by Keefe above. And as such, I’m not sure even his chances approach even 50% of being able to do so. At least he does seem to sincerely love America – a close second to himself – and that may be the essential ingredient, that and his lack of being beholden to anyone else, especially any faction of the Islamist Petrodollar Pimp Empire; he sure does seem to make the right enemies (e.g., Sheik Alwaleed Bin Talal, for one, who has demanded that Trump drop out the race, a demand he has made of no one else).
And if Trump – or Cruz, or Rubio, for that matter – really does look like they are going to win, and we are going to keep both houses of Congress in GOP hands besides, then I predict Obama will proceed to manufacture some unprecedented crisis so as to remain in power indefinitely, as a virtual dictator. He may not ultimately succeed, but in this case, it is going to take the U.S. military – upholding their oath to defend the U.S. Constitution – to ultimately remove him from office. This will be an upheaval like none seen in living U.S memory, the worst since the Civil War.
But Israel will make here way. She is small, but resolute and strong, with sterner moral fiber and resolve than ANY other Western country at present. A helluva burden for a country a fifth the size of Ohio with a population about the same as greater metro Chicago, but there you are, until comatose America can come back and banish “Obamistan”, you are the lone Leader of the Free World.
But you have the most powerful ally of all. Remember that. Always remember that.