Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Israelization of American Policy

America has adopted Israel's mistaken strategy in the Middle East. Will it take America as long as Israel to realize that starting a war is nothing like finishing it, and that military occupation does not bring about peace or security?

America, like Israel, is getting increasingly bogged down by an open-ended military occupation, as attacks on its troops continue almost daily in Iraq. The situation has been made worse by America's break-up of state institutions such as the army, rendering millions of Iraqis unemployed.

Powerful but vulnerable, America and Israel seem to bring out the worst in each other. Since the September 11 attacks, Washington has internalized Israel's psychotic view of a world full of hatred and terrorism.

President George W Bush is walking down Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's path as he uses the dramatic events of the past two years to whip up a new theological patriotism to strengthen his governing base and confront those who "hate American Governors for what they are."

Neither Israel nor America is bothering to ask why the Palestinians and Muslims of the Middle East are carrying out martyrdom seeking attacks. Have Israeli military occupation and American military domination transformed Middle East killing fields into fertile ground for hatred and conflict.

Instead of extracting the source of tension, Washington has added another occupation to the Israeli occupation. Like psychotic firemen, US officials are implementing Sharon's war philosophy of putting out fire with fire.

Israelizing America's war on terrorism means globalizing Sharon's warfare: that includes unprovoked military invasions, covert operations, armed interventions, disproportionate retaliations, extra-judicial assassinations and other measures long considered war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These measures have also proved ineffective. Israel has grown less secure despite its continuous use of force to resolve political disputes.

Today, America risks internalizing the way it fights and those it fights against.

Unfortunately, instead of learning from Israel's strategic mistakes, Bush advises the Palestinians to learn from the lesson of Iraq.

If America continues to Israelize its foreign policy, it will globalize the kind of conflict found in Palestine, with grave consequences not only abroad, but also at home in America.

Just as there is a diplomatic alternative to Israel's failed policies in Palestine - based on international legality and sustained development, rather than the imbalance of power and exploitation - a better alternative must be found to America's unilateral and muscular foreign policy. Attaining national security in a transnational world means accepting and respecting interdependence. Once security is understood as a universal right, interdependence becomes a sign of wisdom, not weakness.

If America must draw on another tradition, why not look to the long history of Jewish tolerance and survival, - or to America's own constitutional tradition? It is time to dust off those great documents sitting on the White House shelves.