The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft think tank launched last November. It has recently issued a roughly 15,000 word manifesto entitled “Ending America’s Misguided Policy of Middle East Domination.” For those who would find ten thousand words plus intimidating, the paper includes a more digestible 1,221 word executive summary which fairly accurately summarizes the document’s conclusions.
I have written about Quincy before, here and here and here. In short, while I would applaud a restrained foreign policy, particularly for the Middle East, I find Quincy unconvincing. It claims to promote “ideas that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace” and further takes some pride in being non-partisan, though bipartisan might be a better description. To be sure, Quincy’s two major donors have been reported to be the highly controversial George Soros on the globalist left and the equally notorious Koch Foundation on the libertarian-lite right.
Soros in particular has been much in the news of late given his alleged propensity to fund and otherwise support groups and organizations that many would regard as conspiratorial or even violently radical, to include black lives matter and Antifa. Soros, a Hungarian Jew who is now a U.S. citizen, has been especially engaged in interventions to bring about “regime change” through “democracy movements” in Eastern Europe and he has exhibited a particularly animosity towards Russia, making one suspect that his cash will influence what Quincy is allowed to say about the Kremlin.
The new Quincy report was co-authored by Paul Pillar, Andrew Bacevich, Trita Parsi and Annelle Sheline. I am not familiar with Sheline’s work, but Pillar, Bacevich and Parsi are all highly respectable and very knowledgeable about both national security and developments in the Middle East. To be sure, the paper includes a lot of useful information and insights into how various policies have evolved plus some very positive suggestions for extricating the U.S. from the Asian quagmire. But one should also accept that what is included in its agenda and how it is framed might be shaped by outside considerations, to include how Quincy is funded. It is not so much a matter of what the contributors write, but rather how it is spun and what is either minimized or not even addressed at all.
The ability to write about the Middle East in an even-handed “realistic” fashion, which is what the new article seeks to do, is based on the premise that there is equivalency among all of the players involved. That is, of course, nonsense. Many observers would note that the United States currently is in the Middle East and playing the role that it does mostly due to the immense power of Israel and its domestic lobby operating largely out of Washington and New York City.
Israel’s ability to make American presidents and the U.S. Congress do what it wishes is clearly visible wherever one chooses to look. The American people have gained nothing from giving Israel hundreds of billions of dollars and an endless supply of weapons while also looking the other way as Israel stole nuclear secrets and spied on the U.S. more than any other “friendly” country. What did the U.S. gain in recently moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, in allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to annex the Golan Heights, in approving the bombing of Syria and Iran, or in permitting the systematic Israeli dehumanizing of the Palestinians?
A recent article by Professor Bacevich entitled “President Trump, Please End the American Era in the Middle East” appears to a precursor study to the current longer Quincy report. It is a good example of how self-censorship over Israel by authors works. The article particularly focused on the foreign policy pronouncements of Bret Stephens, the resident neocon who writes for The New York Times. Stephens, per Bacevich, has been urging constant war in the Middle East and worrying lest “we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the American era in the Middle East.” Bacevich correctly described how “in the Middle East, the military power of the United States has played a large part in exacerbating problems rather than contributing to their solution.”
The overall message is sound, but in this case, it is interesting to note what Bacevich left out rather than what he included. He cited Iran seven times as well as Saudi Arabia, but, strangely enough, he never mentioned Israel at all, which a number of commenters on the piece noted. It rather suggests that there is a line that Bacevich is reluctant to cross. The omission is particularly odd as Israel is absolutely central to and might even be described as driving American policy in the Middle East and Bret Stephens, whom Bacevich excoriates, is a notable Israel-firster who once worked as the editor of the Jerusalem Post.
Bacevich also has produced an op-ed entitled “Foreign governments are messing with our elections the old-fashioned way” in the Boston Globe. It again fails to mention Israel at all in spite of that country’s enormous influence over the U.S. electoral process through the political donations provided by dual loyalty billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban to Republicans and Democrats respectively. In fact, Bacevich has clearly indicated that there will be red lines, that the Quincy Institute won’t focus on “highlighting pro-Israel organizations or donors.” In other words, it will not criticize Israel’s Lobby as a key driving element in America’s interventionist foreign policy.
Bacevich is a smart man who knows perfectly well what Israel and its lobby represents but he also knows that anyone who wants to be a player in Washington DC has to avoid the Israel hot wire. The Quincy report includes, for example, lengthy separate sections on Iraq, Syria, Iran and Yemen but nothing similar on Israel. I have, however, excerpted all the citations of Israel in the full text. They are:
“U.S. military assistance—most prominently to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, but also to armed proxy groups in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya—exacerbates abuses that contribute to instability… Unconditional U.S. military support for Israel has facilitated its continued occupation of Palestinian territory (potentially culminating in the annexation of the West Bank) and reduced incentives to pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”
The bombing of the U.S. “embassy in Beirut, [was] a direct response to U.S. military intervention in Lebanon, which, in turn, was an attempt to deal with the consequences of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon a year earlier.”
“The Israel–Palestine conflict has been an especially salient example of such an issue, as underscored by how Palestinians opposing the Israeli occupation were in the forefront of the wave of international terrorism that began in the late 1960s. International terrorism sponsored by Palestinian organizations abated once the U.S. and Israel began engaging the Palestinians in the late 1980s.”
“In other cases, U.S. support for a militarily superior partner has tended to reduce that country’s incentives to resolve conflicts and instead opt to safeguard a status quo favorable to its interests but not to regional stability and U.S. interests. As the only state in the region with nuclear weapons and as a highly effective conventional military power in its own right—and with a qualitative edge conferred over many years by the U.S. and effective weapons development and manufacturing capacities—Israel no longer needs the U.S. to guarantee its security. Yet the U.S. sends Israel $3.8 billion in military aid annually. As of 2019, Israel had received $142.3 billion from the U.S. since 1949 —significantly more than any other nation.40 American military aid is sent regardless of whether Israel tries to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. By persistently bolstering Israel’s qualitative military edge no matter what direction Israeli policy takes, U.S. assistance as currently structured does not incentivize Israel to pursue compromise, whether with the Palestinians or other neighbors.”
“…persistent U.S. antipathy creates a security dilemma for Iran. U.S. military support for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE causes Iran to perceive itself as under threat and to respond by trying to enhance its own security, partly by investing in paramilitary groups beyond its borders.”
“In Israel, where the well-reinforced assumption that unquestioning U.S. support will continue no matter what Israel does, it has long been evident that this has encouraged destructive Israeli practices such as the continued building of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.”
“Such a rights-respecting policy would include making military assistance to Israel—for decades (and still) the largest recipient of such assistance—conditional on Israel ending its routine violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These offenses include ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and attacks in Gaza that have failed to fulfill obligations to protect civilians. Israel is a nuclear and military superpower in the region that does not need American military aid to defend itself. As such, it should arguably not be a candidate for military aid in the first place. To the extent military aid should be provided to Middle Eastern states, priority should be given to those at risk of becoming failed states. If Washington decides to continue aid to Israel, it should be conditioned on changes to Israeli policies that advance stability and U.S. interests.”
“A consistent rights-respecting policy embedded in a broader approach to the region, one that emphasizes core U.S. interests, problem-solving diplomacy, and engagement with all relevant regional actors, would have consequences for how the U.S. has traditionally managed the Israel–Palestine conflict. The shortcomings of the U.S.–led peace process have become increasingly evident, all the more so as the Trump administration has abandoned any pretense of serving as an honest broker. It is a process that ill-serves U.S. interests as well as Israel’s long-term well-being, let alone its failure to help the Palestinians.”
“…there would be greater space for advancing negotiated and diplomatic solutions to various conflicts in the region, notably in the Saudi–Iran and Israel–Palestine cases.”
“For the United States, this means a significant reduction of arms sales, primarily to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE.”
Some of the citations regarding Israel are bundled with other countries, most particularly as related to arms sales and regional conflicts. Other excerpts correctly note that the status quo with Israel serves no American interests and is not even good for Israel, but the problem is that the solution is lame, or to describe it more properly, irrelevant. Distancing the U.S. from the region’s quarrels depends solely on disengaging with Israel first as American hostility towards an unthreatening Iran, Lebanon and Syria is a result of successful advocacy by the Jewish state. And serving as an “honest broker” vis-à-vis the Palestinians is sheer fantasy as it has never been the case for any U.S. administration due to effective Israeli pressure. If the Quincies were being honest, they would concede up front that the so-called peace plan currently being floated is a complete sell out to Israel. Any kind of shift in policy also assumes that Israelis want peace with the Palestinians, but opinion polls suggest otherwise, with many Israelis routinely referring to the Arabs as “terrorists.”
The only suggestion with any teeth to it is making military assistance to Israel conditional on its human rights record towards the Palestinians, but that in turn exposes the fundamental flaw in the arguments being made. The problem for the U.S. is not Israel per se but rather the enormously powerful domestic Israel Lobby which will make sure that nothing will be done to alter the status quo. The American government and media are completely dominated by Jewish billionaire-funded organizations that have repeatedly demonstrated that they have sufficient clout to stop any defections, witness the recent affirmation of the U.S./Israel relationship in the Democratic Party electoral platform and Joe Biden’s proud declaration that he is a “Zionist.” Quincy is delusional if it thinks that it can reorder the Middle East based on “realism and restraint” without the cooperation of Congress and the White House, which are bought and paid for and totally resistant to change.
So, Quincy has a lot of interesting ideas and the basic premise of non-interventionism is sound. But regarding the real fly in the ointment, Israel, it is pointless to urge “realism” in a situation that has not been realistic since 1947. Unfortunately, in America everything has a price and Jewish groups have been canny enough to buy Congress, the White House and much of the media at bargain prices to make sure that Israel stays protected. If you are not addressing that issue out in the open you are wasting your time. Not surprisingly, it would seem that any concerns over the reorganization of the Middle East as proposed by Quincy are most definitely not going to keep Benjamin Netanyahu awake at night.
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected].