On both the far left and far right a curious sentiment has arisen. It goes like this: We should be a great friend of Israel, but we need to cut defense spending, cut foreign aid and retreat from conflict. Unfortunately, those two sentiments are inherently contradictory. In fact the worst possible thing for Israel is a power vacuum left in the wake of U.S. retrenchment.
Let’s look at a couple concrete examples. If we don’t modernize our Navy, then we won’t be able to put carriers in the region to deter aggression. If we refuse to act in Syria, then Hezbollah surges in and threatens war on Israel’s northern border. If we race for the exits and fail to work out a status of forces agreement in Iraq, then we empower and encourage the genocidal Iranian regime. In the 1960s and early 1970s, as U.S. power ebbed, the Soviet Union moved into the Middle East to bolster and encourage Israel’s enemies.
Conversely when we do act, we advance our own self-interest and that of Israel. In the case of the Yom Kippur war, we supplied and resupplied Israel and raised the alert status of our nuclear forces to fend off the Soviets; not only did Israel survive the war but also Egypt’s defeat helped dislodge Anwar Sadat from the Soviet orbit and make peace with Israel. In that case Israel had a willing partner in Sadat, but without U.S. resolve in the Yom Yippur war it is hard to conceive of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
This isn’t to say every intervention is wise or that we haven’t made mistakes in managing wars and choosing friends. Intervention is not always appropriate. The need for a forward-leaning U.S. foreign policy doesn’t resolve the dispute over the advisability of the Iraq war (although only in the aftermath of the U.S. action did the Iranian mullahs turn off the centrifuges). But it does not mean President Obama’s policy of retreat, avoidance and retrenchment is good for us or the Israelis. Take a look at the Middle East if you have any doubts. Sure we can say we have Israel’s back; but Israel is safest when the U.S. is the predominate super power in the region.
When diehard leftists and right-wing conservatives say we can’t be the “world’s policeman” what that really entails is leaving Israel and our other allies on their own. In sum, isolationism is incompatible with being a reliable ally to Israel.
There is no more frightening or comical sight than Secretary of State John Kerry lauding the prospects of a peace conference on Syria. Even a high school history student knows that successful diplomacy requires the hard power to back it up and the credibility that we will enforce the terms of a deal.
Obama has been the worst president from Israel’s perspective not only because he bullied Israel on the “peace process,” but also because his left-wing isolationism, military retreats and broken promises have left Israel exposed and vulnerable to growing forces in the region who have opportunistically acted while the United States turned a blind eye.