Bush and Israel’s Alamo


In January of last year, I wrote an op-ed in Haaretz suggesting that Israel ought to beware of riding in President Bush’s back seat, precisely because his Administration is pursuing a Middle East policy that is anything but sober. The “friendship” he offers is hardly likely to help Israel resolve any of its security dilemmas. And listening to what Bush said in his address to the Knesset, today, sobriety clearly remains a long way off: “Masada will never fall again,” he intoned, as in, “Remember the Alamo!” Having visited the iconic site at which Jewish Jihadists of yore are said to have committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans, Bush was plainly moved to substitute war cries for serious policy. Long on the vacuous militancy that has characterized his entire tenure, Bush reprised the infantile posturing that compared talking to Hamas with appeasing the Nazis (uh, is that what Olmert is doing by negotiating a cease-fire with it via Egypt?), branding Iran the fount of global terrorism and warning that “Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations,” Bush told the Israeli parliament to mark its 60th birthday. “For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Don’t talk to Hamas or Iran, don’t allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, etc. etc. But what exactly is he offering? Is he going to bomb Iran? And then what? There’s no policy here, just testoterone. And the fruits of his posturing, as we noted yesterday, are abundantly clear just across the border, in Lebanon, where Hizballah is able to run the game on its terms, helped, not hindered, by a Lebanese government following Bush’s confrontational lead. And let’s not even talk about Iraq, where Bush’s chief accomplishment has been an unprecedented empowering of Tehran.

Here’s what I wrote in Haaretz last year, it seems to be as relevant as ever:

Olmert appears to be outsourcing Israel’s strategic decision-making to a White House that has repeatedly demonstrated a catastrophic failure to grasp the realities of the region. Betting Israel’s security on the ability of the Bush crowd to transform the strategic landscape in the Middle East is rather like leaving a party in the backseat of an SUV whose driver is cradling a bottle of tequila and slurring his words as he rebuffs offers by more sober friends to take the wheel.

Warning signs have been there for months: When Olmert stumbled into Lebanon last summer, he may have been expecting Washington to play the role of the big brother who would drag him, still swinging, off Hassan Nasrallah, having demonstrated his “deterrent” power without getting himself into too much trouble. Instead, he found Washington impatiently egging him on, demanding that he destroy Nasrallah to prove a point to the Shiite leader’s own big brother, and holding back anyone else who tried to break up the fight. As neocon cheerleaders like Charles Krauthammer made plain, the administration was disappointed at Olmert’s wimpish performance.

Clearly, the game changed when the United States blundered into Iraq, believing it could transform the region through the application of its overwhelming military force. Sober minds in Washington have concluded that Iraq is lost, but Bush is having none of it – as he made clear last week, he intends not only to up the level of force, but also to begin directing it at Syria and Iran. Those in Israel tempted to welcome this development may be suffering from the same geopolitical psychosis as President Bush: the belief that military force translates automatically into power. If anything, 2006 highlighted the fact that America’s overwhelming military advantages have failed to tip the region’s political balance in its favor; on the contrary, resorting to military force over the past four years has actually been accompanied by a precipitous decline in America’s ability to influence events in the region and beyond, much less impose its will.

…The failure to impose Pax Americana on Iraq or even Afghanistan has … had profound consequences throughout the region. The Iraq Study Group recognized that the United States is simply in no position to dictate terms to its rivals and enemies in the region, and instead advocated pursuing a new stability based on recognition of the real balance of power, rather than the fantasy one concocted by the White House. But Bush remains in denial, pressing ahead with short-sighted, aggressive strategies that will only compound and accelerate the demise of U.S. influence in the region.

Washington’s rejection of any talks between Israel and Syria has nothing to do with Israel’s security; it is based on U.S. power plays in relation to Iraq and Lebanon, games the United States looks unlikely to win.

…On the Palestinian front, Israel’s security establishment knows that the fundamental flaw in the U.S. effort to topple the Hamas government is that such efforts will actually strengthen Hamas politically and further weaken an already decrepit Fatah. Washington has looked on skeptically at Abbas’ efforts to form a government of national unity, and it has prepared for what it appears to assume is the eventuality that these will fail and he’ll get on with the business of destroying the Islamists – which is what the Bush administration prefers.

Rice’s attempts at social engineering in the Palestinian Authority are giddily detached from reality, and when they fail – as the United States has failed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon – it is Palestinians and Israelis who will pay the price. Moreover, throughout the region it has become clear that even U.S. clients such as Saudi Arabia simply ignore the American line when it doesn’t make sense – for example, in engaging with Hamas. Even the Iraqi government has made clear that it has no interest in backing U.S. efforts to confront what Washington calls Iranian “meddling” in Iraq.

So, the idea that the Bush administration is implementing a policy capable of turning the regional dynamic against Iran is equally deluded: No matter how much tacit support they garner from Cairo, Amman and Riyadh for an air strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, where would the success of such a strike get Israel or the United States? The lesson of Iraq is that wars of choice based on the suspicion of an opponent’s motives and capabilities can produce catastrophic unintended consequences – consequences that will likely be felt more painfully in Israel than in the United States. Military solutions to the region’s problems have, quite simply, exhausted themselves. Yet, the Bush administration has resisted recognizing that reality, preferring strategies whose implementation only serves to accelerate the demise of Washington’s influence in the region. The irony is that Israel’s security establishment is well aware of the folly of many of these U.S. policies. But still, they stay in the back seat.

Even if Washington is unwilling to engage with the realities of the region, Israel has plenty of incentive to independently and directly engage the powers that be in Damascus, Beirut, Tehran, Gaza and Ramallah, along the lines revealed by Haaretz last week in relation to Syria. The reason is simple: It’s a safe bet that Assad, Nasrallah, Ali Khamenei and Hamas will be there long after Bush, Rice and their fantasy are wheeled off the stage.

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40 Responses to Bush and Israel’s Alamo

  1. Think Outside of Israeli Lobby Box

    We have had 60 years of experimenting about the Israeli- Palestinian struggle. The region would need help before we will be dragged into a World War III.

    No one can reject the fact that creation of Israel on the land of Arabic nations has created tremendous political and economical problems for the United States. We may have to look outside of the box to diffuse the problems. One solution would be for Israel joining us as a member of the Unites States’ Common Wealth.

    Would Israel consider joining us as a member of the Unites States’ Common Wealth?
    What are costs and benefits for US?

    We are already supporting Israel economically, politically and by sharing intelligence and military hardware. In addition, some Israeli Americans with both Israeli and American citizenships serve in the Israeli Armed Forces. Israel never would have to be fearful of any other nation; our great American Armed Forces will protect the common wealth as they would the homeland.

    Would it be politically more advantages for the United States to manage the Jewish state as a member of our Common Wealth?

    Would it be economically more advantages for Israeli people to be a member of our nation?

    The Israeli Common Wealth will be free to exercise the religious freedom that our great nation would offer without being isolated among the hostile Arabs.

    Should the Common Wealth include the Arabs who were forced to leave the land when Zionist invaded the land?

    Should the area of the Common Wealth include all of the Palestinian Land?

    Would really two nation model for Palestinian and Israeli work in the future?

    Should we be looking at the region as a Federal States with one government elected by all of the people?

    We have been forced into one box by the Israeli Lobby; we need to look outside of this box. What do you think?

  2. Bernard Chazelle says:

    You have Tom Friedman calling for a new Cold War (with Iran) and Congress passing a $300 million covert offensive program. And now Bush violates Godwin’s Law right there in the Knesset in reference to Iran.
    And I hear he’s going to Masada. (I hope he gets to ride that cool cable car, which I understand the evil Romans built before they suicided everyone. Almost as bad as the Persians.)

    Now think of this:

    A well-timed attack on Iran would get McCain elected.

    Yes, I know, Bush would never think of starting a war against a country that hasn’t attacked us…
    Why would I ever think such a thing?

  3. Steve says:

    Have you ever visited the Alamo? As it turns out, the people defending the Alamo against Santa Ana and his auxillairies were mostly first generation immigrants fighting for the Texas Republic, not the US and A. The hagiography is about as misleading as Masada (although Jewish Jihadists?).

  4. Y. Ben-David says:

    Tony, I am constantly amazed at how someone who is as educated as you can have such a jumbled, confused understanding of Judaism and Jewish history—– JEWISH JIHADISTS of Metzada?! Where did you come up with that one? I presume you are lined up with those like Yitzhak Rabin, Uri Avnery and others who take a dim view of Judaism and Jewish tradition who claim the two rebellions against Rome were wrong which is why you called the fighters of Metzada “Jihadists”. Well, the fact is that both rebellions had wall-to-wall support of the Jewish community of Judea (Eretz Israel) at the beginning. The first tragically deteriorated into a civil war, dooming it, and the second also failed. However, how does that make the fighters “Jihadists”? They were fighting to free themselves from an alien, imperialist power that was only interested in exploiting them. The were not fighting like todays Muslim Jihadists to spread Islamic rule around the Middle East and other places or to re-establish the Caliphate. If the Jewish fighters were “Jihadists”, then so were those who fought against the white government of Rhodesia, which I presume you supported. Or did you say then, “they are too strong, don’t fight against them”? Did you support the fight of the ANC against the Apartheid regime? That also cost a lot of lives. Did you call them “Jihadists”?
    Regarding the fighters of Metzada who killed their children, obviously there are mixed opinions about this, but you should know that during the pogroms of the Crusades and Middle Ages in Europe when the embattled Jews were offered the choice to convert to Christianity or die, many families also decided to kill themselves and their children. Maybe this is offensive to your sensibilities, but maybe some Jews think there are things worse than death, like letting Judaism itself die (maybe you think that might be a good idea, but others don’t, otherwise there wouldn’t be a Jewish people around at all today).

  5. DBracewell says:

    I respect your writing but this:

    “The lesson of Iraq is that wars of choice based on the suspicion of an opponent’s motives and capabilities can produce catastrophic unintended consequences”

    simply falls short of the reality. No wars have been undertaken by Bush’s government based on such suspicions. They ahve taken palce for the securing of US and Israeli hegemony.

    Your analysis that the US has lead Israel into a disaster has some merit, but Israel and AIPAC have shared in this self-delusion and Israel is no wallflower when it comes to inflicting needless war and dragging the US in to make everything alright.

  6. Otto R says:

    Jewish Jihadists is a valid use of the term. Zealot, fanatic, etc. A muslim jihadist is protecting the body of fellow believers just a jews protect one another as a group. It’s tribal existentialism. Violence either direct or by proxy is very much part of the cultures of the middle east as it is of the great part of humanity. Violence just has a more religious value to justify predatory violence like what we see in the invaders of the West Bank which call themselves settlers. We have a separation of church and state while while we have become involved in the support of a rediculous entity created by the zionist cult which has called itself the state of Israel. It is not Israel of promise. It is a false dawn and a cloud without rain. It is a lie, theft, and murder which continues to poison the whole of humanity and will continue to do so till it is judged for it’s many crimes which continue to mount up to heaven. Anyone who’s religion requires the sword or rack or bribery and intimidation of officials will fail. There are many Jews, Muslims, and Christians who abhore violence and should be faithful and patient. They that live by the sword will die by the sword. Zionists created the state of Israel to establish a racist entity and that is what they have. It is immoral. The thousands of men women and children in prisons in Palestine can testify. The graves of innocent men women and childtren murdered to maintain the status quo testify. Demolished houses and whole villages razed to the ground testify. Hungry bellies and sallow gaunt faces testify. Gaza is the world’s largest prison. It is the shame of Jews everywhere to remain silent while this is. It is a shame our politicians are intimidated and remain silent but it is still terribly wrong. It is a shame our media keeps these truths unacknowledged. If a suicide bomber succeeds the media immediately interviews everyone and counts tears but the people of Palestine languish in a terrible darkness. Howl and cry bloody murder till true justice and peace comes to the middle east. Ignore the zionist propogandists that poison these discussions with falsities. They are everywhere.

  7. richard vajs says:

    I don’t see any future for Israel as a Jewish only enclave in the middle of the Arab world. As one half of the population of historic Palestine, the Jews can’t have 93% of the land and total control of the water, air space, etc. Zionist Israel can be maintained only by force (mostly American). America is rapidly bankrupting itself, so Israel cannot count on it in the future and Israel-centric Americans like Bush are unlikely to be in total power again. Unless Israel makes major amends, the 60th anniversary will be the high water mark in retrospect.

  8. minemule says:

    The sooner the US goverment becomes bankrupt the sooner it will be unable to support the State of Israel, and the sooner the State of Israel no longer receives support from the US goverment the sooner the State of Israel will cease to exist, and the sooner the State of Israel ceases to exist, the sooner peace can return to the Middle East, and the sooner peace returns to the Middle East, the sooner peace can return to the rest of the world.

  9. Figaro says:

    Why is it OK for Israel to pursue nuclear developments but not Iran?

  10. William Burns says:

    Y. Ben-David,

    That was a moving defense of the right of people to violently resist their oppressors. However, you forgot to explain why it doesn’t apply to Palestinians.

  11. Matthew says:

    William: Normal rules of morality do not apply to the People Who Chose Themselves.

  12. Michael says:

    Steve you may continue your historical education here : http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/masadamyth1.htm

  13. Simplicimus says:

    The Middle East could stand a few decades of benign neglect on our part. We’ve got lethally serious problems to attend to in this country. besides which the the Middle East pales in importance to what we face in Asia. Israel needs to grow up and act like an adult nation instead of a whining brat demanding its grossly excessive allowance, provoking its neighbors knowing that Americans will do the fighting and dying. Well, 60 yrs of childhood is enough. Cut them loose.

  14. Earl Divoky says:

    Steve, actually the flag the Texans flew over the Alamo was a Mexican Flag with the numerals “1824” superimposed on it. They were fighting for the Mexican Constitution of 1824, which Santa Anna had abrogated, robbing the Texans of their rights. The Texas Congress declared independence during the siege.

    I wonder how voluntary the mass suicide at Masada was, since most of the people were killed by others. You’ll notice that noone holds up the mass suicide at Jonestown as something to be emulated, although we say of partisan zealots, “he drank the Kool-Aid.”

  15. andy says:

    ok so maybe jihadists is not the best term. in fact the romans probably considered them terrorists. and terrorists should all be crushed like bugs. i’m sure you would agree with that.

  16. Arie Brand says:

    Ben-David wrote:

    “Well, the fact is that both rebellions had wall-to-wall support of the Jewish community of Judea (Eretz Israel) at the beginning.”

    Ben-David, in order to rectify Tony’s
    “jumbled, confused understanding of … Jewish history” turns to the most conventional of Zionist narratives to show his superior insight.

    The Masada myth has, however, been exposed to critical treatment, namely in Ben-Yehuda’s book of that title, which goes far to justify Tony’s term ‘jihadists’.

    This is how Sasson and Kelner summarise Ben-Yehuda’s main thesis:

    Ben-Yehuda argues that a “strict reading of Josephus,…, would lead to the conclusion that Masada’s defenders were not Zealots (Kanaim) who fought valiantly in Jerusalem, sustained their rebellion from the desert fortress at Masada, and then made a heroic last stand when confronted with defeat. Rather, they were Sicarii – a band of Jewish extremists known for their embrace of political assassination in their struggle against those Jews who promoted a more pragmatic line against Rome. During the latter days of the Second Temple, the Sicarii rushed headlong into a hopeless rebellion against Rome, dragging their unwilling
    Jewish compatriots with them.”

    The term Sikarii apparently comes from the Greek “sikarioi”= “dagger men” and
    refers to their lovely practice of frequenting public places with hidden daggers to assassinate those who took too friendly a line to Rome in their view.

  17. Pat S. says:

    No mention of throwing slime for the domestic campaign in front of a foreign government? In more normal times that would be the height of tackiness, but then with this crew it’s just par for the course.

  18. American Jewish says:

    I can’t believe Hilary Clinton. Didn’t she agree to the rules before the race started that Florida and Michigan would not count? And now she speaks as if she cares so much about our votes counting. What about people like me who didn’t vote because we were told it wouldn’t count anyway?

    GO go for Obama-.

  19. Saint Jordi says:

    -One solution would be for Israel joining us as a member of the Unites States’ Common Wealth.

    Saint Michael :That solution has been though before, but at that time it was to sent Israel to the Pampas of Argentina.

  20. Helen says:

    Why does Hillary Clinton continue on when Barack Obama now has a majority of pledged delegates and her campaign is almost $20 million in debt?
    Counting Florida? to destroy Obama with the pretense you are doing it for the women of the world. I am one of your former women supporters, Hillary. Get out!

  21. Lesa Pointue says:

    Helen, Hillary is like the American Idol contestants who really think they can sing and then get angry at Simon Cowell for telling the truth. She knows the truth, but refuses to let go and admit it herself. In her mind she’s saying, “I’m Hillary Clinton and nobody will get in my way and I’ll win by any means necessary.”

  22. Markus says:

    Uh, because despite being in debt, and having more blunders during the primaries, Hillary’s “more electable”?

    At this point, all she has left to lose by staying in is her future credibility within the Democratic party.

  23. Markus says:

    Hillary is a Republican pretending to be a Democrat. She is looking to make a deal to benefit herself. She has an agenda and will do what she has to do to get it done. This is called politics.

  24. james johnson says:

    I just saw Clintons’ speech in Florida. I wouldn’t have belived it if I hadn’t seen it myself. She is being the most Divisive, and win at any cost, person I belive I’ve seen. This speech should convince the Superdelegates to throw all their votes behind Obama, to save the party from her and McCain. I’m a registered Republican for 30 years whom will be voteing for Obama this season. I’m totaly disgusted with my party. McCain has done an about-face, and shows he can’t be trusted. I and my wife will be changing to Independants this year.

    Hillary can’t let go of her ego. If the delegate totals were reversed Hillary would be singing a very different tune when it comes to Florida and Michigan. All candidates agreed with the rules and now that she is losing she thinks things are unfair. She needs to get out of the race, quit whining and get a life.

    By the way, if Hillary can’t run a campaign without debt, how would she run the country?

  25. Jason says:

    Great article but by blaming Bush’s testosterone for his idiocy is unfair to testosterone!!

  26. Pauli Ojala says:

    Sir & Sirius,

    You might be interested on the “Sins of the fathers” in the Bush family. Prescott Bush and his father-in-law George Herbert Walker were running the slave coal mines that needed Jewish and other camp laborers in Poland. Bush continued his business transactions with Fritz “I Paid Hitler -author” Thyssen even after US had been in war with the Nazi Germany already for a year.
    http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Bushism_sins_of_the_fathers.htm

    I think GW Bush was repenting over the sins of his fathers during his era. But “Thou Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless whosoever uses His name in vain”, said the decalog, Ten Commandments to the hypocrite fake believers. Not to your own ends. I pray for the Republican quasi-royal families, I wish them all good. An analogous process of blood money laundring was going on in the richest family of the “impartial” Sweden, the Wallenberg’s. They invested in the Nazi’s during the hyperinflation at the 1920’s, when money from abroad determined who’s gonna get the power. SA was a private and PAID army with its 350,000 x2 arms. They were no boy scouts but demanded money. Four times larger private army than the Wehrmacht field army of Germany!

    A longer version in English with Scientific backround of Western race hygiene in general (first a scanned text from a classic volume of professor Daniel Gasman, then my own 50 page research with 100 references):
    http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Gasman.htm

    Currently, “A new wave of ethnic cleansing is going on in Iraq,” Iraqi Christian representative Behiye Hadodo told the gathering. “If these atrocities continue, the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian communities there will be wiped out altogether, creating a new catastrophe for humanity.” Yet nobody seems to care. Boycotts, divestment and other initiatives are directed only at Israel. Iraq’s Assyrians are a non-Arab ethnic minority located mainly in northeastern Iraq, and adherents of Christian denominations including the Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox churches. A 1987 census recorded 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but the numbers began to drop after the 1990 Gulf War, reaching around 800,000 before the U.S. invaded in March 2003. Persecution at the hands of Islamic radicals — killings, church bombings, kidnappings, forced conversions and harassment — has prompted hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee the country since 2003. Although accurate statistics are unavailable, researchers believe the community may have been halved in the past five years. Within one or two generations, he said, Christians in the Middle East – the birthplace of Christianity – may be reduced to a negligible number, having been forced to flee radical Islam.

    Be it either the civilian Obama or the 5-year Viet-Kong suicidal captive admirals son McCain, please mention the forgotten Iraqi Christians…Do not attack Iran…

    Recovering from hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of the brain,
    Pauli.Ojala@gmail.com, evolutionary critic
    Helsinki, Finland
    Biochemist, drop-out (MSci-Master of Sciing)
    http://www.helsinki.fi/~pjojala/Dinoglyfs.htm

  27. mersin emlak says:

    Hi there…Man i just love your blog, keep the cool posts comin..holy Thursday

  28. Hillary can’t let go of her ego. If the delegate totals were reversed Hillary would be singing a very different tune when it comes to Florida and Michigan. All candidates agreed with the rules and now that she is losing she thinks things are unfair. She needs to get out of the race, quit whining and get a life.

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