America Faces Israel Scenario - By Mark Ames.
A reporter for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, traveling with the US forces
as they pushed up from Kuwait towards Baghdad, compared the American
soldiers' shocked and bewildered reaction to unexpected Iraqi resistance to the
opening phase of the war in Lebanon, where seemingly invincible IDF troops
met unexpectedly fierce resistance in 1982.
The comparison is significant for a lot of reasons. Israeli eventually
lost that war and was driven out of Lebanon. The goal to drive out Yasser
Arafat and his PLO from Lebanon also failed; within fifteen years, Arafat had
taken over parts of the occupied territories. Lebanon was not only a military
defeat, it shattered Israel's brief Golden Age, its paradigm of moral
righteousness and military invincibility. Specifically, it brought terror
to Israel in a way never dreamed of before the invasion. It brought the
suicide bomber, courtesy of the Shiite Hezbollah.
The Lebanon war, although battle-by-battle a victory for Israel, was a
PR disaster. The Israelis bombed Beirut, killing thousands of civilians in
their drive to oust Arafat. Whereas before much of the world admired
Israel for its Holocaust beginnings and its idealistic struggle to create a
lasting social-democracy in a sea of brutal autocracies, now the world saw Israel
as brutal, militaristic and the inverse of the ideals that had once won it
so much sympathy.
Israel became increasingly isolated from the world, including the West.
At the same time, its military vulnerability inspired the once-docile
Palestinians living under occupation to rebel like never before. Today,
Israelis are easily the most isolated citizens of a democratic government
in the world. They have problems traveling to most countries in the world.
They are not safe wherever they travel. They are not safe on their own
streets, in their buses or cafes. Most of the world's public opinion is strongly
against Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. The more Israel has
become isolated, the more it has swung to the right, voting for policies
that further isolate it, which in turn further fuel support for the
far-right. At the same time, small chinks in Israel's military armor
exposed in the Lebanon war, however slight, were an inspiration to terrorists on
a scale Israel had never had to deal with before. The result: Palestinian
suicide terror, which led an increasingly isolated and right-leaning
Israeli public to lurch even farther to the right. The farther right, the harder
the crackdown. The harder the crackdown, the more sense of injustice, which
fuels more terror, and at the same time, more public scorn from the
This vicious cycle of increasing isolation and militarism, the Israel
Scenario, is exactly where America is headed. Military superiority
exhibited in Afghanistan and in the generally successful war against Al Qaeda,
along with world sympathy following 9/11, gave the Bush Administration hawks
far too much confidence in their invincibility (mirroring the position
Israel was in on the regional and world stage before Lebanon). The Bush
Administration has since managed to make America the most loathed,
isolated democracy in the world-after Israel. Americans in all parts of the world
are reporting increasing harassment, while in entire regions it is too
dangerous to even travel.
Now the military part of the equation is unfolding: sucked into a
quagmire that was supposed to be easy, the US has already faced its first suicide
bomber and thousands more are promised. TV images of the victims of
American bombing are beamed around the world, further increasing anti-American
rage. Even though the war is technically being won so far by the US, the first
chinks in its armor were revealed after more than a decade of awesome
invincibility. The Arabs are overcoming their fear and disunity. In
response, Donald Rumsfeld has already announced that Syria may be
targeted next. Syria: which controls Lebanon and the Hezbollah, who introduced
the art of suicide bombing to the Arabs, including the Iraqi officer who blew
up four American soldiers on Sunday.
The enemies of both America and Israel use terror to instill fear in the
hope that they will either force their enemies to change their policies,
or destroy them. As a rule, terrorists work to radicalize both the
aggrieved population and the perceived oppressor. The oppressor is forced into
becoming ever more brutal, and through its brutality, the local population
(in this case the Iraqis) becomes further radicalized until the situation
becomes unbearable for the occupier. This is what drove out the Israelis
But it is the broader effect in the home country that is more frightening.
I remember the first time I went to Israel how surprised I was by the lack
of enthusiasm most of the young Israelis I met had for Israel. They were
tired of war, tired of isolation. They wanted to lead normal lives, not to be
pariahs of the world. That was in 1991, during the first Intifadah. The
salad days by comparison. When I returned to Israel last May, the
deterioration was incredible. Now the Israelis barely venture outside of
their homes. They live in a constant state of siege. Moreover, they have
lost all moral legitimacy in the eyes of basically every country on
earth except for America. Most of the world views them as something between an
apartheid regime and the Gestapo, the very inverse of everything Israel
was supposed to stand for. Israelis and their supporters defensively label
their critics anti-Semites; the isolation is furthered, the positions even
Wherever you stand on the issue, if there's one thing America does not
and should not want to become it's Israel. Isolated, loathed, fearful, under
Or does America want that? Put it this way: why does the Bush Administration
seem to have such an unusually cozy, warm relationship with Sharon? As
Israeli prime ministers go, he certainly stands least for the liberal values
that America was founded on. Sharon was always considered an anathema to
mainstream American politicians.
The far-right always prospers from the fear promoted by terror and the war
against terror. Without terror, fear, a state of siege and isolation, Sharon
and his coalition of racist freaks could not count on staying in power. On
the other hand, without Sharon and his ethnic cleansing ministers, the
terrorists would have a hard time growing their own power base. The two
complement each other. Even economic decline under Sharon hasn't dampened
his support, in the same way that America's economic decline hasn't hurt
Bush, so long as fear keeps his support strong.
Bin Laden creates the fear that heats the Bush Administration's popularity.
The Bush people have become addicted to that fear, and addicted to feeding
it to its citizens. When America grossly mishandled the diplomacy leading up
to the Iraq War and wound up isolated, Americans, like Israelis, lashed out
at former allies, accusing them of being "anti-American." Boycotts started.
The more isolation, the more the population finds itself in bed with the
It's no coincidence that the Bush Administration is leading America into the
Israel scenario. The strategy was designed, literally, by Americans working
for the Israeli right.
The leading architects of the new war in Iraq - Richard Perle, Douglas Feith
and David Wurmser - were hired in 1996 by Sharon's Likud government (then
headed by Benjamin Netanyahu) to devise policy papers under the auspices of
the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. The policy paper
the three helped pen, titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the
Realm," recommended exactly the current administration's policy: "Israel can
shape its strategic environment...by weakening, containing and even rolling
back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in
Iraq...Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East
profoundly." The paper went on to advocate breaking off peace talks with
Arafat, launching "hot pursuit" strikes into Palestinian territory and
"reestablishing the principle of preemption." It was too much for Netanyahu;
he rejected it.
Today, Richard Perle, until recently the chairman of the Pentagon's
highly-influential Defense Policy Board, is widely acknowledged as the prime
architect of the war on Iraq. Feith is undersecretary of defense for policy
and Wurmser is a State Department special assistant.
What they couldn't sell to Netanyahu, they pushed on Bush, who bought it
hook, line and sinker. Under Sharon, parts of the plan have been
implemented; the big jobs - the conquests of Iraq and Syria - have been left
The Israel Scenario is already here for Americans. As anyone who has
traveled to Israel and witnessed its dark slide into increasing isolation
and siege will recognize, America's descent has just begun. It can get a
hell of a lot worse. And it will. Which isn't so bad, so long as you're part
of the American Right.