Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Obama Foreign Policy a "Disaster" Says Author of "The Strong Horse"

On February 28, inFOCUS Editor Matthew RJ Brodsky interviewed Lee Smith (photo right), author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations. The interview is posted at the website of the Jewish Policy Center, which publishes inFocus. I found his views to be profound and intriguiging, and look forward to reading The Strong Horse. Mr. Smith does not criticize the concept of engagement with the Arab and Muslim world, but rather the way in which President Obama has gone about implementing that policy.

In particular, in this interview, he deflates the idea that U.S. support for Israel has weakened its relations with Arab nations, or that the U.S. can strengthen its ties with the Arab world by distancing itself from Israel. Paradoxically, he notes, the appearance of lessened support for Israel by the United States actually discourages Arab nations from being perceived as American allies. Mr. Smith notes:

Washington has relations with virtually every member of the Arab League. The amount of money that U.S. taxpayers have spent protecting our oil-producing Arab friends in the Persian Gulf dwarfs the amount of aid we've given Israel. So, no, our relationship with Jerusalem does not come at the expense of our many Arab allies.

There are lots of reasons we're not liked in the Middle East, and yes, backing Israel is one of them. This hardly means, as some counsel, that we should check our support for the Jewish state. This is not a realist argument, but a preposterous one. Imagine the consequences: it would set a precedent for anyone who doesn't like U.S. policies that the easiest way to get what you want is kill American citizens and threaten to kill more unless Washington changes its policies.

Martin Kramer is someone who makes a genuinely realist argument: it is because the Arabs know that our reliable Israeli ally is strongly backed by Washington that has kept the peace in the Eastern Mediterranean and prevented the outbreak of state-on-state wars since 1973. Kramer argues that our problems in the Persian Gulf – Saddam, al-Qaeda, Iran – are because we have no ally there like Israel.


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