For anyone who wonders why so many people around the world criticize American and Israeli foreign policy and militarism, this has been a valuable learning week. I refer to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense, and the twin Israeli attacks against military targets in Syria.
The juxtaposition of these two events clarifies again two core trends in American and Israeli foreign policy: their insistence that they are above international law and can use their military anytime, anywhere in the world, if they feel this serves their security interests, regardless of the credibility of the evidence they use to justify their attacks; and, the unwritten rule that American policies in the Middle East should conform above all else to the dictates of Israel, before considering the interests of the United States itself or the 700 million other people who live in the Middle East.
My gut reaction to watching some of the Senate’s Hagel confirmation hearings is to thank the American Founding Fathers for implementing the doctrine of the separation of powers and checks-and-balances among the different branches of government. For if some of the ideological zealots, intellectual wrecks and pro-Israel songbirds who sit on the foreign relations committee were ever to assume executive power, the world would be a much more violent and dangerous place.
The manner in which some Republican and Democratic senators hammered away at Hagel for his positions or past statements on the Iraq war, Israel and Iran only exacerbates long held and widespread worldwide concerns, which I share, about how the United States unilaterally uses its military power around the world. The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 — doubly criminal for not being sanctioned by the UN Security Council and for being based on lies and false evidence — was a major point of contention at the hearings, especially whether Hagel thought the 2007 “surge” in American troops was a success or not.
The senators largely ignored the much more important evaluation of the full consequences of the war on Iraq and its neighbors today, including the shaky unity and stability of the country, Iraq’s transformation into the biggest generator of militants and terrorists since the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, millions of refugees, and many other problems that still plague the country and have often spilled over to our entire region.
The premise behind the anti-Hagel senators is that the United States was right to invade Iraq, that the war deserved the full, unquestioning support of every senator and every American, and, by extension, that Washington could use its military with impunity, as it desired, around the world, as it is doing now with its drones assassination squads. Hagel was one of the few officials who had the courage to speak out against some of these moves, and to question the wisdom of the 2007 surge and other aspects of that war.
The link here with Israeli actions is clear and troubling. Israel, like the United States, claims the right to use its military or assassination squads to attack, destroy and kill any person or facility anywhere in the world, if it feels that such actions would enhance Israel’s security. Its history of such attacks is long, and continuing. Israelis claim that they attacked Syrian targets in order to prevent the transfer of sophisticated missiles from Syria to Hezbollah and to cripple a plant that could have produced non-conventional weapons. Only the Israeli suspicion of these things was required to carry out the attacks, and the Israelis will not be held accountable before international law.
This kind of loose cannon militarism combined with gangland foreign policy principles totally contradicts and discredits the extensive talk by Israeli and American officials of their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, which they use as a major justification for both their foreign policy conduct and their self-proclaimed exemplary status in the pantheon of nations. Their dilemma, however, is that the actual pantheon of nations, unlike their imagined world, sees American-Israeli assassinations and unbridled militarism as largely going against international legal principles of permissible self-defense, and also as predominantly counter-productive in many cases.
Such American-Israeli behavior tends only to generate new and greater political opposition to the United States and Israel, and active resistance to them in some cases, while badly denting their respect among large swaths of the world. It is no surprise, therefore, that many global polls indicate that the United States and Israel are seen as among the top security threats to the rest of the world — not just because they kill, destroy and create lasting havoc as they wish, but also because of their colonial-like arrogance in justifying their right to do this at will, and the human rights and rule of law of anyone who is not an American or an Israeli-Zionist hawk be damned.
Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. You can follow him @ramikhouri.
Copyright © 2013 Rami G. Khouri — distributed by Agence Global